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Shore Excursions Introduce A World of European Wines

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Wine is among the oldest human indulgences – dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. Bottles of wine were buried in the Pharaoh’s tombs so they could entertain guests in the afterlife, the most elite ancient Greeks had access to wine, and the Romans created a beverage industry with wine bars and exports.

Today we refer to European wines as “Old World” varieties, for their ancient practices, vines and soil. Holland America Line offers terrific access to vineyards and experts to give guests a fabulous taste of the old world, while experiencing the beauty of each region. From Portugal to Croatia and bubbles to digestifs, there is something for every wine lover.



Great wine is a part of Italy’s heritage. On Italian itineraries guests can tour Medieval Siena and then enjoy an Italian lunch and wine tasting overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Or pop Prosecco in the Marca region, and gaze upon the vineyards at Matsaxlokk, Malta.

If you’ve been to Florence, Pisa and Lucca before this is a great alternative excursion. The owners of the winery were welcoming and the food and wine (which kept coming) were excellent. Our guide Alessandro kept us amused on the journey with light-hearted information about Italy.
-Milly, Herfordshire, England.

A Sommelier-Guidied Wine Tasting at Messina is a perfect opportunity to experience Sicilian Wines. The tour visits San Placido Caloneró Abbey and samples a red wine from the Faro DOC, a white wine from the Mamertino DOC, and a dessert wine from the Malvasia Delle Lipari.


Madeira, Portugal

Madeira, Portugal

Madeira is a fortified wine that is unique to Madeira Island, Portugal. Guests who call at Funchal, Portugal, have a chance to learn about and taste this well known wine in its home. The Wine Tasting at Sao Tiago Fortress takes a tour through the capital, visiting churches and walking the quaint, narrow streets before arriving at the Fortress of Sao Tiago for a lesson in Madeira wine.



The Spaniards are known for creating spicy reds, acidic whites and bubbles! A Taste of Valencia: Requena Wine Cellars focuses on the effervescent white white that the region is known for: Cava sparkling white wine. Requena is a small Gothic city located about 30 miles inland from Valencia with a rich history of wine making. The cellars have more than 100 years of production history. Here guests can tour the town and San Salvador Church, and dine on wine and light snacks. You can even bring a bottle back with you.

On the southwestern coast of Spain lies Cadiz. The climate in the area lying between Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa María and San Lucar de Barrameda in the province of Cádiz contains a special combination of soil (the chalky, crumbly, moisture-retaining albariza) from which sherry is produced. Guests can take the tour Cadiz, Sherry & Horses to not only taste great wine, but witness the phenomenal production of the Royal Andalusia School of Equestrian Arts. This is a lesser known bit of Spanish culture, an institution protected by the Crown where the best horses are taught to dance to music!

One guest said:

“This excursion turned out to be a highlight of our fantastic cruise. We had not expected to see the fabulous show in the arena featuring beautiful Andalusian horses. It was amazing!! We were also given time to see the horses up close. We also enjoyed the visit to the sherry cellar.”


Pauillac, Bordeaux

Pauillac, Bordeaux

The classic wine drinker will be thrilled to tour perhaps the most famous wine region in the world, Bordeaux, France. The meticulous Médoc region, just north of the city, produces wines that are nothing short of divine — Moulis, Listrac, Saint Julien, Saint Estèphe, Pauillac, Médoc and Haut Médoc, as well as Margaux, with the celebrated château of the same name.

The St. Emilion Village & Vineyards is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the heartland of the Merlot grape, one of the most popular in consumption. The vines on the “hill with a thousand châteaux” reach right up to Saint Emilion’s 13th-century town walls and surrounding moat dug out of solid rock. Members of the local wine brotherhood, the Jurats, proclaim the vintage banns in much the same way as their ancestors did during the reign of Richard the Lionheart.

Those looking to taste something a bit stronger can head to Cognac and sip its famous namesake brandy. This tour includes a trip to Hennessy, the instantly recognizable brand of Cognac enjoyed worldwide.



For a fabulous snapshot of Greece, Holland America offers a shore excursion that tours Ancient Olympia & Mercouri’s Vineyard’s. To the east of Katákolon lies the mystical site of ancient Olympia. Guests tour the great ruins of the temples, treasuries, porticoes and statues before continuing to Mercouri Estate to experience the beauty and charm of the vineyards, to see the old and new wineries and to taste the locally produced wines.

Renae from Houston, Texas, took the Ancient Olympia & Mercouri’s Vineyards shore excursion and said:

“Pretty fantastic. At the end of the winery tour, there’s a tasting underneath the trees with views of the ocean in the background. Our table had a bottle of red, a bottle of white and a lovely snack of salami, olives, feta, bread, olive oil, cucumbers & tomatoes. We were back in time to spend a couple of hours just outside the pier to explore shops & cafes. Ancient Olympia is a must see and it’s a bit outside of town so may as well take a tour. Our guide, Saskia, was wonderful!!!”

Holland America Line offers trips to expand your palate and your horizons! Have you visited one of these wineries on a HAL cruise? Let us know what you think in the comments!

  • Louis Beaudry

    You have to be kidding. You want us to purchase all these expensive shore excursions from HAL and then you turn around and tell us we cannot even bring back ONE bottle of wine to the ship??? Time for you to revisit your wine policy while we revisit our cruise line of choice policy.

    Louis Beaudry & Elizabeth Richardson
    4-star Mariners

  • Teresa Breininger

    I fail to understand why HAL is promoting shore excursions to wineries in light of its new restrictive policy of only allowing one bottle on wine per person at embarkation. It is counterproductive to offer a trip to a winery and purchase a bottle of wine that will be confiscated when returning to the ship. I, for one, will no longer participate in these types of tours.

  • Ken

    Wineries tours are great especially if at the end you can purchase a couple of bottles of good wine to bring back on the boat to enjoy. ……….Oh, wait, in the New Year you cannot do that any more can you and with multiple flights home I cannot bring them home either. Oh, well guess I will pass on those tours. Too Bad!!

  • Sue Gottscho

    We have in the past enjoyed excursions that included winery visits. I doubt that we will do them in the future as part of the fun is bringing back wine to enjoy with dinner as the cruise continues and Holland America has changed their wine policy to be so restrictive that this will no longer be allowed. Not a wise move on your part from my vantage point!

  • Bruce Shepard

    Nice wine excursion tours but why would one want to go on a wine tour if not able to bring a couple of bottles back on board to enjoy.

    In today’s world of travel one does not want to carry home wine in checked baggage.

    Allow folks to bring a couple of bottles of wine back from tour with a reasonable corkage fee and we would be interested in Hal wine excursions.

  • Julie

    Thanks to all for the considered comments. As is known, earlier this year in an effort to standardize our policies with industry practices, Holland America Line adopted a new alcoholic beverage policy effective on sailings departing on or after Jan. 31, 2014 (full policy details are posted on the HAL website at under the “For Booked Guests tab and Shipboard Life: Onboard Policies”). Wines or alcoholic beverages that are purchased in ports of call, on a shore excursion for example, or in our onboard shops will be held for safekeeping and returned to the guests on the last night of the cruise. Additionally, most wineries will happily ship purchases home for customers. We thank everyone for your feedback and invite you to always share your comments with us. In addition to commenting here you may also do so by emailing our Guest Relations team at We appreciate hearing from you on this topic and hope you enjoyed learning more about European wines. — Holland America Blog Editorial Team

  • Annette

    I have to agree with the above comments….. HAL went from having a liberal – adult – policy with regard to bringing wine onboard, to having the most restrictive policy. As someone who enjoys buying local wines and bringing a bottle onboard to enjoy at sailaway, I am not impressed with this. No way will I go on a HAL excursion to a winery in the future. I would have been quite happy to pay, for example, a corkage fee on any wine I brought back to the ship. I’d love to know if the World Cruisers are having the same restrictions placed on them.

  • Patricia Poulsen

    We have visited wineries independently while cruising and have often purchased bottles,paid the corkage fee and enjoyed the wine while still cruising. We have purchased HAL’s wine packages but like to supplement with bottles we have purchased ashore. We booked or next European cruise prior to the new wine policy being announced . I don’ t believe the new policy makes these winery tours as attractive an option as other tours.

  • Sasha

    Yes, I would gladly pay a reasonable corkage fee to be able to enjoy a winery tour’s bottle onboard.

    I will not be flying with bottles of wine in my luggage, so if I can’t have the wine onboard, I won’t be taking a winery excursion.

  • Alan Ferber

    Julie, Thank you for repeating the company policy. For those of us interested in international wine tastings your response is unsatisfying. Wineries shipping internationally are often cost prohibitive and no one wants wine delivered to an empty house since we are often on an extended cruise. Receiving wine bottles on the last night of the cruise is only appropriate for those driving. You cannot carry wine onto airlines. You cannot enclose your wine in your luggage for luggage delivery by FedEx for example as that is illegal. I believe that these excursions were once part of what made HAL special. Taking these excursions without the ability to bring wine back to the ship to enjoy on the cruise would make these visits extremely frustrating and best avoided. Please reconsider or amend the published policy.

  • Jacqui

    It’s such a shame. We were planning on doing a couple of winery tours but, since we are not allowed to bring back wine (thanks, I don’t want to lug it home on a plane from Europe) there doesn’t seem to be a lot of point in going. I’m surprised that the wineries are still doing the tours. When they find out people won’t/can’t buy wine, they may lose interest.

    This policy is NOT making HAL consistent with other lines. – it is making it the most restrictive line out there. Celebrity lets you bring wine back for consumption if you are on their winery tours. Princess lets you bring it on and just pay corkage as do others

    We have already written and emailed HAL as have many others suggesting a different rule for longer cruises as well as permitting wine with a corkage fee. It was our hope that they would listen but obviously they choose not to. Very disappointing to say the least.

  • Sheila Heap

    We enjoyed visiting wineries on our Nieuw Amsterdam Mediterranean cruise and TA this fall…and enjoyed being about to bring wine back to the ship to enjoy. This was a highlight of our cruise. In view of your new wine policy, I can’t see any point in doing tis again. Celebrity, for one, allows guests to bring wine back to the ship from winery excursions…so your policy is not standardized. And, Princess and NCL allow wine brought on in ports to enjoy on board with a mere corkage charge per bottle. Please reconsider.

  • John L

    Like other commenters, we are no longer interested in taking winery tours where any wine purchased can not be consumed on the ship.

    My question, Julie, is why is necessary that HAL “standardize our policies with industry practices”? What is wrong with being a little different from everybody else? Please allow us to bring one or two bottles aboard in ports for on-board consumption by paying a reasonable corkage fee for that privilege.

  • Liz

    The tours sound lovely and I’d be delighted to join them IF I could bring back a bottle or two for consumption on board in the dining room or on my veranda. I’d be happy to pay a corkage fee when I reboarded.
    The idea of having wine shipped to me from the vineyard is a non-starter because I live in PA. And I refuse to try to wrestle bottles into my luggage and through the whole TSA security system; that’s just ridiculous!
    So as far as I can see, my alternatives are No Winery Tours with HAL or switching to a cruise line that has actually given some thought to their wine-related shore excursions! hmmm seems like a no-brainer to me!

  • Debra

    Sending a package home is not feasible for me. Aside from the fact that I legally cannot import alcohol from another jurisdiction, the costs incurred would be prohibitive.

    I will not be choosing a wine excursion. I feel strongly, too, that the limit to board the ship should be 2 bottles/person on embarkation, and 1 bottle/person at any port. Reasonable corkage fees would encourage my doing so. If a HAL sponsored excursion demands my relinquishing my purchases, perhaps it will be necessary to look at non-HAL excursions….just on principle.

  • Mr NW Guy

    I truly appreciate the advance notice HAL gave everyone regarding the wine policy change. I am looking forward to my next cruise on HAL and will take tours, buy wine both on tours and on board. I follow other blogs and cruise web sites closely and find that it is really a very small vocal group of bloggers who are making way too much of this.

    Keep up the great work HAL and all the dedicated folks that provide a unique cruise experience.

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