Holland America Line carries thousands of cruisers to the Caribbean each year who are drawn to the region because of its tropical climate and relaxing lifestyle, but there’s more to the islands than meet the eye.
When planning a cruise to the Caribbean, you’ll likely think of the typical snorkeling, sailing and other beach-related excursions that the area is famous for. But with a past packed with imperialism, immigration waves and ancient civilizations, historical tours in the Caribbean make stories fly off the pages of your grade-school textbooks.
Rich with cathedrals, plantations and traditional colonial architecture, the Caribbean has preserved so much of its history for visitors to enjoy today. Almost every destination offers a historical tour, so no matter where your ship may visit, be sure to check out the historical excursions available. These tours offer a chance to get off the beaten path, take a break from the beach and plunge into all of the history the islands have to offer!
Here are six of the fascinating historically themed tours offered by Holland America Line:
1. HISTORY & LEGENDS IN KEY WEST
If you get the chance to stop at Key West, Florida, the “History and Legends” tour is a self-guided experience offering over 100 points of interest to pick and choose from, spending as much or as little time as you want at each destination. Enter the home of the famous author Ernest Hemingway, learn about Key West’s unique role in the Civil War, explore the vacation home of former President Truman and play with the Hemingway polydactyl cats. The visible influence from Spanish explorers and railroad development in the 1800s are nestled within this uniquely historical and tropical location.
2. HISTORICAL ISLAND EXTRAVAGANZA ON ST. LUCIA
The “Historical Island Extravaganza” tour at Castries, Saint Lucia, offers a full day of diverse locations and experiences showcasing the best of the island’s history and culture. You’ll travel to a valley packed with banana plantations and small villages, then see breathtaking views as you drive down the Atlantic Coast to the Balenbouche Estate. One of few surviving original plantation houses in St. Lucia, its colonial architecture dates back to the early 1800s. See the island’s history come to life as you explore rooms furnished with antiques, rock basins and petroglyphs on the banks of the nearby Balenbouche River, and a collection of ancient artifacts including stone axes, tools and crafted clay pottery. Cool down with some refreshments before heading to the gardens, and then find the perfect souvenir at the Choiseul Craft Market selling indigenous arts and crafts. Next on the itinerary is the Caribbean’s only drive-in volcano, Sulfur Springs. After a day filled with traveling and exploring the beautiful island, relax with a delicious lunch at the Morne Coubaril working plantation, then enjoy a ride to the jetty with magnificent views of the Pitons.
Take the “Historical Trujillo” tour at Banana Coast in Honduras and learn about Christopher Columbus’ landing there in 1502. Explore the Santa Barbara Fortress then revel in the 19th-century Spanish and French colonial architecture that make up the city.
4. LES SAINTES IN GUADELOUPE
The Les Saintes tour at Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe starts with a 30-minute boat ride to Terre de Haut where you’ll find Fort Napolean. Originally built for defense against British invasion, the fort was later used as a penitentiary. Enjoy panoramic views and vibrant flower gardens before retreating to enjoy a traditional Creole lunch and some beach time.
5. ST. CROIX’S WEST END HIGHLIGHTS
The West End Highlights tour includes a visit the Whim Plantation Museum at St. Croix in the Virgin Islands to admire the 18th-century ambiance. Hear stories of former residents of the Great House, take a walk through the 16-acre botanic gardens dating back as far as 100 A.D., then finish this tour with a trip to the island’s largest distillery where the famous Cruzan Rum has been produced for the last 300 years.
6. MARTINIQUE’S HISTORIC STROLL
“A Stroll Through Historic Fort-De-France” in Martinique explores the city’s narrow streets and features the island’s history, architecture and local flora. You’ll stop at Fort St. Louis, the War Memorial and La Savanna. Pass the Schoelcher Library, named after the island’s most famous abolitionist who labored to free Martinique’s slaves. Imagine yourself in the colonial era at Maison Bougenot, a traditional home from that time. Pause and energize with some fresh local juice or mineral water before your last stop touring the St. Louis Cathedral, then you’ll be set loose on the main street for some retail therapy!
Veendam is calling at Key West and Banana Coast in early February on a Seven-Day Western Caribbean cruise. If it’s the southern islands that captivate your interest, Oosterdam will visit Basseterre, Fort-De-France and Castries in the fall on a 21-Day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer/Seafarer cruise, then Maasdam will visit Basseterre, Fort-De-France and St. Croix in the spring on an 11-Day Southern Caribbean cruise.
If you’re interested in visiting these locations, remember that the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you’re sure to get the tour of your choice.
If you’re thinking about a cruise to the Caribbean, now is the time to book. Be sure to take advantage of savings up to $1,000 per stateroom with the Fall Finale promotion that highlights 2015 itineraries. At least 60 different sailings, including many Caribbean cruises, are eligible for this deal if booked by Sept. 10, 2015, with a $60 deposit.
If you want to cruise next year or beyond, the Explore 4 special also is in full swing. Benefits for guests booking any category stateroom include a free Signature Beverage Package valued at up to $1,400, a free Pinnacle Grill dinner for two, reduced cruise fares for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom and 50 percent reduced deposits. Bookings must be made by Oct. 31, 2015. There’s never been a better time to book one of the many Caribbean cruises included in this promo!
Which of these historical tours interest you the most? Have you been on any already? Let us know in the comments below!