Opinion10 Reasons Why Your Cruise to Alaska Should Be on Holland America...

10 Reasons Why Your Cruise to Alaska Should Be on Holland America Line

I am currently on a seven night cruise to Alaska on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam. Although I have previously sailed on cruise ship, this is my first time cruising to Alaska with Holland America Line. I have visited Alaska with other cruise lines.

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Note: All photos in this article were taken during my cruise to Alaska with Holland America.

Koningsdam cruise ship in Glacier Bay
Holland America Line’s Koningsdam visit Glacier Bay

I am sailing with my wife and three year old son on this trip. We are sailing as guests of the cruise line with a group of media on board. You can read my previous review of Koningsdam here when I sailed on the ship a few years ago.

After spending nearly a week on the ship, here are 10 reasons why I think that your next cruise to Alaska should be on Holland America Line.

Cruising to Alaska Longer Than Any Other Cruise Line

Holland America Line has been cruising to Alaska longer than any other cruise line in the world.  Because of all of this experience, they are able to provide the best possible cruise to the 49th state.

Holland America Line has been cruising to Alaska since 1947, longer than most of us have been alive.

Our ship, Konginsdam, in Vancouver on embarkation day

Better Docking Locations

At every port that we visited, Holland America Line ships had the best docking locations out of all of cruise lines. We were often in port with one or two other of HAL’s ships.

A better docking location means less walking to get into town, and this comes in really handy since it will likely rain on one or more days of your cruise. Hey, that’s just the weather in Alaska.  It can be 70 and sunny or 40 and raining, more likely the latter.

While we were docked right in town, other ships were a good 15-20 minute walk away.

On our day in Juneau, it rained just about the entire day so having the best docking location was really nice.

Holland America Line always had the best docking locations during our cruise to Alaska. Photo is from our day in Juneau.

Fresh Fish Program

While I was onboard the ship, I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Stendebach, VP of Food and Beverage, and John Mulvaney, Director of Culinary Operations for Holland America Line.

The cruise line’s new fresh fish program offers the freshest fish you will find on any cruise ships in the world.

How fresh it is? On my Alaska cruise, fresh fish was brought on board in Vancouver, Juneau, and Ketchikan. It is never frozen and goes from fished to plate within 48 hours.

In Juneau, the fishing boats bring the fish to the processing plant that is 50 meters from the ship.  The fish is then brought on board and it is so fresh, it is never more than a few hundred feet inland.  No other cruise line offers fish this fresh.

They are also in constant talks with the fisherman and so they can adjust the menu based on based on the fresh fish that is caught. The menus are based on the fresh fish that is available, not on frozen fish that was caught weeks or months before.

Crew

While the crew on most ships are fantastic, there is one particular thing that happened during my Koningsdam cruise that really stood out.

One night while I was enjoying Billboard Onboard with my family, I walked over to Rolling Stone bar and asked for a Red Bull. The man working behind the bar said,

“We are all out, but I remember you also asking for one yesterday. I’m going to get you one, let me go find one for you.”

He then left and came back a few minutes with an ice cold Red Bull. In my 15 years of cruising, I’ve never had that happen before. We went completely out of his way to serve me.

He wasn’t the only crew member to stand out. Song, who works in the spa, did such a great job on my haircut, that my son also got one and she styled my wife’s hair. She really is amazing.

The crew members in the World Cafe remembered my son’s name from day one and always greeted him by it.  

I really can’t say enough great things about the crew members on Koningsdam.

Glacier Guarantee

Holland America Line recently added a Glacier Guarantee on all cruises to Alaska. If your ship does not visit a glacier, you will receive a 15% credit towards a future cruise.

They are the only cruise line to offer this. Their ships visit Glacier Bay, College Fjord, Dawes Glacier, Hubbard Glacier and the Tracy Arm Fjord’s Twin Sawyer Glaciers.

Access to Glacier Bay

Speaking of glaciers, Holland America Line has more permits to visit Glacier Bay National Park than any other cruise line.

Visiting Glacier Bay was a highlight of our cruise and I can’t imagine taking a cruise to Alaska and not visiting this national park.

Not every cruise line can visit Glacier Bay. In 2024, only five cruise lines have approval to visit with Holland America offering the most sailings.

You’re doing yourself a disservice if you book a cruise to Alaska without a stop in Glacier Bay.

They opened the bow of the ship on the day we visited Glacier Bay to bring you as close as possible to the glaciers.

Onboard Programming

With Holland America Line, you aren’t just visiting Alaska, but they also bring Alaska to the ship. The onboard entertainment and programming will immerse you deep into Alaska so you can make the most out of your cruise.

In the World Stage (theater), the ship had the following programming during the cruise:

  • Destination Alaska: The Route. The Ports. The Tours.
  • When and When to Spot Wildlife
  • Alaska Up Close: Pacific Giants
  • How to Use Your Binoculars
  • Alaska Up Close: The Iditarod
  • Alaska Up Close: Ancestral Memories
  • A Spectacular Day in Glacier Bay
  • Movie: Mystery Alaska
  • Glacier Bay Park Ranger Program
  • Native Voices: Stories of the Tlingit People
  • Salmon: Keystone Species

For specific Alaska related activities, they were marked with WE ❤️ ALASKA in The Daily so you could easily find them.

Creek Street in Ketchikan Alaska
Visiting the historic Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska

Ships Have Pool With Retractable Roof

All of Holland America Line’s cruise ships that are currently sailing in Alaska have a main pool with a retractable roof over it. This greatly enhances cruises for two reasons.

First, it allows this area to be used no matter what the weather is. As I mentioned earlier, the weather isn’t always the best in Alaska so the pool can be used for the entire cruise.

Secondly, it creates more area where you look out the windows and enjoy the incredible views in Alaska. On most ships, you’ll be cold or wet when the weather isn’t the greatest. On Holland America Line, they just close the roof and you have a more enjoyable experience.

The pool with the roof closed on Koningsdam

As an added bonus, the covered area by the aft pool on Koningsdam had heaters so you could enjoy the views and not be so cold.

Observation Lounges

All Holland America Line ships that visit Alaska have an observation lounge, aka the Crow’s Nest. This provides a climate controlled area where you can see both the port and starboard side of the ship.

Early one morning, they had a whale watching party here as this area provides 270 degree views from the top, front of the ship.

Wildlife and Wilderness Opportunities

A cruise to Alaska is unlike any other cruise and Holland America Line offers more wildlife and wilderness viewing opportunities than any other cruise line.  This includes nearly 180 different shore excursions that can take you on a wildlife or wilderness encounter. 

They have a wildlife expert on board to help you spot humpback whales, orcas, bald eagles, sea otters and black bears. Their daily program tells you what time you can meet the expert so you can see wildlife in their natural habitat.

Vancouver or Seattle?

When taking a cruise to Alaska, you have the option of sailing from Seattle or Vancouver. While many of the ports that you visit are the same, sailing from Vancouver has two distinct advantages.

The first is that you get to sail through the Inside Passage twice. As I am writing this, we are sailing through the Inside Passage and just a few hundred feet offshore. The views are spectacular as we cruise through this pristine wilderness.

The second advantage is that you don’t have to make a port stop in Canada. All round-trip cruises from Seattle to Alaska have to make one stop in Canada and that is usually a short visit in Victoria. It can be as short as three to four hours, which makes it pointless to even visit. However, it is required due to the Passenger Services Vessel Act of 1886.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
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