This new Holland America cruise may be its most epic ever


It’ll be an epic cruise of a sort never seen before.

On Thursday, Holland America president Gus Antorcha revealed plans for an unprecedented 133-day voyage out of Fort Lauderdale that would allow U.S. travelers to visit both Antarctica and the Arctic in a single trip without ever getting on an international flight.

Kicking off on Jan. 25, 2025, the Grand Voyage: Pole to Pole, as the line is calling it, is essentially a world cruise that goes “up and down” instead of side to side.

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Instead of traveling around the world on its horizontal axis, as is typical for a world cruise, the Holland America ship operating the voyage, the 1,432-passenger Volendam, will span a good chunk of the globe in a circular motion from its top to its bottom.

After starting in Fort Lauderdale, Volendam will first head southward through the Panama Canal to the west coast of South America and on to Antarctica — getting about as far south as a Holland America ship ever gets.

After hitting its southernmost point along the Antarctic Peninsula, Volendam will then circle northward along the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa and Europe on its way to the Arctic.

Holland America’s new pole-to-pole itinerary. HOLLAND AMERICA

Following the visit to the Arctic (where the northernmost point reached will be Norway’s North Cape), Volendam will continue on a circular routing down the east coast of Canada and the U.S. back to Fort Lauderdale.

It’s an itinerary so out there in the world of super-long cruises that Holland America’s itinerary planning team still isn’t entirely sure if it’ll be a hit or not.

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“I’m really eager to see how the market responds to it,” Holland America vice president for deployment and itinerary planning Paul Grigsby told TPG in an exclusive interview in advance of the announcement.

“I think there’s a little experimentation [going on] on our part, [to] see kind of how this works,” added Grigsby, who oversees the line’s itinerary planning team.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Holland America ship

Whatever happens, Grigsby tells TPG that the sailing was a joy to plan. “It was fun to really put some creative thought into it,” he said.

One of the great challenges that Grigsby had in crafting an itinerary that would include both the Arctic and Antarctica in a 133-day stretch is that each destination has a very narrow window when it can be visited.

Due to the harsh conditions at the Earth’s poles, Antarctica is typically only accessible to ships from around November to March, and the Arctic is really only viable as a destination for a few months in and around summer.

That’s one reason why Grigsby didn’t start the cruise until late January. Most world cruises and long voyages from North America to South America start in early January.

“There was really only a curve of time that we could do this,” Grigsby explained. “We had to get to South America before fall turned to winter, and then we had to get up to the North Cape (in Arctic Norway) after winter turned to spring. So, we kind of were playing with the seasons.”

Related: 6 ways to travel to Antarctica in style and luxury

While a handful of expedition cruise operators, such as Hurtigruten Expeditions, have operated pole-to-pole voyages in the past, they have been one-way trips from one polar region to another that required long-distance flights to reach. They weren’t round-trip voyages or voyages out of U.S. ports that are easy to reach, and they haven’t been nearly as extensive in the number of countries and ports visited.

The new itinerary will mark the first time in history that a U.S.-based vacationer can travel commercially to both Antarctica and the Arctic on the same trip without boarding an international flight.

Antorcha announced the new itinerary on Thursday to passengers who were in the midst of a 128-day world cruise of the more traditional type via Holland America’s Zuiderdam. The ship was sailing between Amsterdam and Copenhagen at the time.

It was the first world cruise that Holland America has operated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and Antorcha wanted passengers on the sailing — some of the line’s most loyal customers — to be the first to hear about the new pole-to-pole itinerary.

2 epic Holland America cruises at once

In addition to the new pole-to-pole cruise, Antorcha announced on Thursday that Holland America also would operate a 124-day world cruise in 2025. It will circle the globe in a more traditional horizontal manner.

Also starting and ending in Fort Lauderdale, the sailing will circle the globe westward, with stops in South America, the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe. The trip will begin on Jan. 4, 2025, and take place on Zuiderdam, which holds 1,964 passengers at double occupancy.

The operation of both the 133-day pole-to-pole voyage and the 124-day world voyage at the same time will mark the first time in Holland America’s 150-year history that the line has operated two simultaneous voyages of more than 120 days.

In a twist, the two ships operating the new super-long sailings in 2025 — Volendam and Zuiderdam — will meet for an overnight celebration in Barcelona on April 24, 2025. The celebration is still being planned.

The 2025 world cruise. HOLLAND AMERICA

“We couldn’t help but have a little fun and intersect these two sailings,” Grigsby said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a big to-do as the two ships meet up.”

Grigsby said he took particular pains to make the Zuiderdam’s world cruise as exciting as it could be, too, “so that it would stand up to” the pole-to-pole cruise as an option for cruisers who love long voyages. For instance, he worked in visits to such little visited places as Easter Island and Pitcairn Island in the Pacific — the latter of which is famously home to descendants of mutineers from the Royal Navy’s HMS Bounty. The story of the 1789 “Mutiny on the Bounty” is the subject of many books and movies.

The voyage will also include visits to French Polynesia islands such as Moorea, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and destinations on the east coast of Africa — all of which should be highlights for the world cruisers on the sailing.

Grigsby noted that Holland America uses surveys of its passengers to hit on destinations that they most would like to visit. All of the destinations above rank high on their lists.

Doubling down on long voyages

The new voyages come as Holland America doubles down on longer voyages out of U.S. ports, something that has long been a hallmark of the line. In recent months, the line unveiled plans for an epic new Alaska itinerary out of Seattle that’s four weeks long and an unusually long round-trip itinerary to the Caribbean out of Boston — a northerly port that normally doesn’t see round-trip sailings to the Caribbean.

Even longer “legendary voyages” that are new include a round-trip itinerary from Seattle to Japan that is 53 days long.

It’s all part of an ever bigger focus at Holland America on epic cruises for U.S. travelers that promise them the opportunity to “see the world from your doorstep,” according to Holland America chief commercial officer Beth Bodensteiner, who also sat in on TPG’s interview with Grigsby.

“I think these two [new world] itineraries together are really the grand outcome of that,” said Bodensteiner. “There’s this one period of time [in the first half of 2025] where you really will be able to see a large part of the world from Fort Lauderdale, which is pretty amazing.”

Bodensteiner said Holland America executives have placed bets, all for fun, on which of the two itineraries will be more successful.

Related: Everything to know about Holland America cruise cabins and suites

She said the timing is right for such voyages as revenge travel in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns still exists. People who didn’t get to go anywhere far off for a few years because of the pandemic want to make up for lost time.

“It’s a unique opportunity to offer two really long voyages at the same time,” shared Bodensteiner.

If it’s a hit, you can expect more.

“Who knows if [it’s] something that we’ll have the demand for year after year. I don’t think any of us know that at this point. But right now, we do know that people are just really hungry for unique experiences,” she said.

The polar regions plus 28 countries

Holland America’s new pole-to-pole itinerary is one of the most ambitious sailings any line has ever offered.

Featuring 68 port calls in 28 countries, its first half spends many weeks along the coasts of South America, including an overnight stay in Lima, Peru, and a visit to Salaverry, Peru (the port for Trujillo); eight stops in Chile and cruising in the Chilean fjords; and two full weeks exploring Brazil that include a trip up the Amazon River. That’s on top of four days in Antarctica and multiple stops in Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and French Guiana.

After a crossing of the Atlantic at one of its narrowest points, the voyage will continue with stops in Cape Verde, Gambia, Senegal and Morocco, with a call in the Canary Islands woven in, followed by three weeks of stops in Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Norway as the ship works its way north to the Arctic.

Destinations above the Arctic Circle on the sailing will include the northerly parts of Norway, Iceland and Greenland.

A Holland America ship transits the Panama Canal. HOLLAND AMERICA

Bodensteiner noted that Iceland and Greenland, in particular, were “really hot” right now with travelers, which she immediately noted was a strange way to phrase a comment on destinations known for being in an icy and cold part of the world.

“They’re kind of having a moment,” she said of the two destinations.

The final leg of the pole-to-pole trip will take passengers to St. Anthony and St. John in Newfoundland; the French island territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Canada; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Bar Harbor, Maine; and Boston.

The trip will end in Fort Lauderdale on June 7, 2025 — more than four months after it began.

In addition to the overnight in Lima, the trip will include overnight calls in the ports of Panama City, Panama; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio de Janiero; Manaus, Brazil (located up the Amazon River); Barcelona; Lisbon, Portugal; and Reykjavik, Iceland.

Due to the operation of the pole-to-pole trip, which includes a near circumnavigation of South America, Holland America will not offer a stand-alone circumnavigation of South America in 2025 — an itinerary that it typically offers once each year.

Early booking benefits

While the two new cruises were announced Thursday, they won’t open to the public for bookings until May 24.

That said, effective Thursday, travelers interested in either of the two voyages can call Holland America’s World Cruise Reservations Desk at 800-522-3399 (Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST) or contact their travel advisor to make a deposited Future Cruise Request. Would-be passengers who do so will get a priority booking confirmation prior to the voyages being officially opened to the public for booking.

As part of the announcement, Holland America said that passengers who book the pole-to-pole cruise by June 3 will get an early booking package that includes a free Wi-Fi package for use on board the ship, a $500 credit toward their airfare to fly to and from the ship in Fort Lauderdale and round-trip airport transfers.

Related: The 4 classes of Holland America ships, explained

All three of the above are new perks for Holland America passengers booking such long voyages, based on research the company did into what its long-voyage customers would most want as perks for booking.

Additionally, passengers who book by June 3 can qualify for up to $2,000 per person in onboard spending credits, depending on the type of cabin they book. To get the maximum credit, a passenger must stay in a Pinnacle suite.

Passengers staying in Neptune and Vista suites will receive a $1,000 and $750 per person onboard credit, respectively, if they book by June 3. Passengers in Lanai cabins and ocean-view cabins (marked category C to F) will get a $500 per person onboard credit. Passengers in lower-category ocean-view cabins and windowless inside cabins will not receive onboard credit.

The credits are all per person based on double occupancy. Solo travelers paying extra to stay in cabins meant for two people will get a higher amount of credit.

Other early booking perks include prepaid gratuities for most cabin types, complimentary laundry and free excursions for top suites.

Similar perks are available to passengers who book the 124-day world cruise by June 3.

For more information, visit the Grand Voyages page on Holland America’s website.

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