Halloween is the spookiest day of the year when ghosts and goblins of all ages come out to celebrate by dressing up in their favorite costumes, going trick-or-treating and visiting haunted houses. But Halloween doesn’t have to be the only day to get spooked. On several Holland America Line tours, guests can explore old ghost towns, mysterious catacombs and eerie graveyards that put a chill in the air and leave a haunting memory.
Do you like to get goose bumps and feel a chill up your spine? Or do you prefer the ghost-free tours that are more relaxing and scenic? Which one of these spooky shore excursions would you like to experience?
The Ghosts of Old Quebec
As the skies begin to darken, your costumed tour guide strikes a match and lights his lantern. Anxious participants wait in anticipation, for they know they will be walking through the dark side of Old Québec, stepping into a gory and gloomy past. As you walk you’ll hear tales of more than 300 years of murders, executions, mysterious ghostly sightings, tragedies and hauntings. The cobblestone streets and ancient buildings set the stage for your fascinating visit to the dark side of this ancient spectral city.
Vieux Quebec is so old and with so much history, it absolutely must have ghost running about. It was an honor to be introduced to a few. — Guest Tacitus
Ghosts & Goodtime Girls Walking Tour
Step back in time with one of the funny and informative madams of the Red Onion Saloon. Lavishly costumed and highly entertaining, she will greet you at your ship with a souvenir garter and guide you on a walking tour through the back alleys and former red light districts of Skagway, where women of the evening brushed shoulders with notorious characters such as Soapy Smith and Frank Reid. Stories of Klondike Kate, Cad Wilson and Diamond Lil depict the lusty, adventurous and sometimes tragic stories of the women who stampeded north. You will pass historic and haunted Gold Rush buildings as you learn of Skagway’s rich history. Your experience culminates with a stop at the world famous Red Onion Saloon’s restored Brothel Museum. Here, join in a champagne toast and explore the hallways and bedrooms of this celebrated brothel, observing original relics and images of the ladies who worked there. You may even catch a glimpse of the resident ghost, Lydia.
The history was the best, hearing and seeing what the girls had to contend with and how the system worked. — Guest Oden
Convicts of Fremantle & the Maritime Museum
Fremantle (Perth), Australia
Photo of Fremantle Prison courtesy of experienceperth.com
Go directly to jail and do not pass go! You’re headed to Fremantle Prison — a fascinating and memorable UNESCO World Heritage Site. This incredible sandstone prison complex dates back to 1855, and was built using convict labor in Australia’s early days as a penal colony. Almost 10,000 male convicts were assigned to Western Australia between 1850 and 1868. Amazingly, this house of horrors remained in use until 1991. Today you’ll tour the main cellblock and the prison yard as the guide explains its history and relates tales of its famous inmates.
Then you’ll head to the Western Australia Maritime Museum. Western Australia boasts a long and colorful maritime history and the museum’s internationally acclaimed exhibits feature relics and artifacts salvaged from the coast’s many shipwrecks. Among these was the Batavia, which went down in 1929 with a cargo of silver coins. The last stop will be at the Fremantle Arts Centre. Convict labor was also used in the building of this neo-Gothic structure. The Centre’s exhibits and displays trace the history of Western Australia from colonization to whaling.
As the sun is about to set make your way to Bonorong Wildlife Park, where as the sun goes down the animals come to life! Most of the park’s animals are nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at dusk and dawn. The park will be closed to the general public and you will enjoy an extremely personal experience as you tour the park and have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals. You will have many photo and feeding opportunities that simply are not available during the day. The tour will include in-depth information from your park guide about the park animals including the Tasmania devil, quolls; wombats, koala’s and friendly free roaming kangaroos and wallabies. Return to your ship at the end of your tour.
Ghosts & Gravestones
Key West, Florida
Board the Trolley of the Doomed … if you dare! Key West’s frightful past comes alive with tales of murder, superstitions, betrayals, a mischievous doll named Robert, and a bizarre love story with a grave-robbing twist. As your Ghost Host guides you through the narrow streets aboard the Trolley of the Doomed, you will hear the tales that have been all but forgotten. Travel the narrow streets of Old Town, which is filled with 19th-century wooden houses that hold on to the secrets of their former inhabitants. Enter one of the island’s haunted Civil War forts which was once the quarantine barracks for suffering soldiers and is now home to Robert the Doll, who claims the title of the World’s Most Haunted Child’s Plaything. Your Ghost Host will add a pinch of humor to Key West’s dark side with tales of deathly love, tragic endings, scores to settle, wrongs to right, and ghastly folk, and you will see why the Travel Channel has identified Key West as one of America’s most haunted locations. Due to subject matter, this tour is not recommended for young children or the faint of heart.
Mysteries of Palermo
This excursion will start with a panoramic drive through of Palermo giving you the chance to admire its most beautiful monuments: Teatro Politeama, Teatro Massimo, the Quattro Canti, the Royal Palace and Piazza Pretoria. You’ll then visit the impressive catacombs of the Capuchin Friars where more than 8,000 mummified bodies of monks, noblemen and citizens are dressed in their original 15th-century clothes. The most disconcerting sight is the nearly perfectly preserved body of Rosalia Lombardo, who died in 1920 at the tender age of two. Your tour continues to the Oratory of Santa Cita, famous for the magnificent stucco work which adorns the interior. The stuccoes, executed by Giacomo Serpotta between 1688 and 1718, depict allegories, cherubs and the Mysteries of the Rosary. A short walk takes you to the Oratory of the Rosario di San Domenico. The interiors of this small oratory are regarded as a masterpiece on account of the beautiful stucco decoration executed by Giacomo Serpotta. On the walls are paintings by Pietro Novelli, Giacomo Lo Verde, Matthias Stomer and Luca Giordano depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary.
One guest from Rochester, NY gave full approval of this tour, saying:
“Corpse after corpse after corpse. Morbid? Of course. They’re dead! And many are in a rather crumbly condition. We supposed we would be, too, if we had hung on the wall for several hundred years. But rather than be repulsed, the scene left us spellbound, if not a bit amused.”