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New EXC In-Depth Voyages Feature Zodiac Excursions for Up-Close Discovery

This September Holland America Line will begin an innovative approach to cruising for travelers who are looking for thoughtful and immersive ways to see the world. Offered on the 1,258-guest Maasdam, new EXC In-Depth Voyages explore some of the most fascinating corners of the globe on itineraries from 12 to 34 days, using world-renowned experts, local scholars and customized Zodiac tours in select areas to immerse guests in the experience.

With EXC In-Depth Voyages, each journey offers guests a variety of themes and choices to tailor their exploration: photography; science and nature; arts and culture; food, wine and spirits; history and perspective; and active exploration. Guests are free to focus on one area of interest or combine their passions through onboard enrichment and captivating shore activities. Guests can choose to do as much or as little as they like.

“We created EXC In-Depth Voyages to further enhance our guests immersion experience in a more personalized way in the exotic destinations featured on this series of specially designed itineraries,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “The addition of Zodiac tours will allow guests to be modern-day explorers, and Maasdam will visit many ports that we have never been to or haven’t visited in years; EXC In-Depth Voyages are truly unique.”


Maasdam will offer EXC In-Depth cruises starting in Sept. 2018.

Notable Experts Lead Workshops, Seminars and Learning Opportunities
From September 2018 through April 2019, EXC In-Depth Voyages expand on Holland America Line’s exciting Explorations CentralTM (EXCTM) programming by creating a total experience on board and ashore. Onboard enrichment is guided by a special resident team of subject-matter experts — covering such topics as marine and bird life, geology, cultural anthropology, history and more — who sail on all EXC In-Depth cruises, complementing each adventure with informative talks and insightful discussions of their own field experiences.

A sea day could include a lecture on Captain Cook (history and perspective), discovering the indigenous breadfruit (food, wine and spirits), growing coral (science and nature), DSLR Basics (photography) and a traditional tattoo design workshop (arts and culture). Additional EXC programming on board is designed to bring guests together with similar interests and will offer interactive activities, destination insight from location experts and EXC Guides, and cultural encounters to make each cruise more engaging and meaningful.

Since EXC In-Depth Voyages are designed with added emphasis on the destination and onboard learning, evening entertainment will reflect the local culture instead of mainstage production shows. America’s Test Kitchen is being replaced with local chefs, locally sourced ingredients and local traditions to enhance the culinary offerings appreciated by Holland America Line guests. Junior cruisers are welcome, but Club HAL kids’ activities will not be offered on EXC In-Depth Voyages.

Zodiac Inflatable Boats Amplify Up-close Experiences
Maasdam will carry Zodiac inflatable boats, the type popularized by famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, so guests may enjoy opportunities to intimately explore less-accessible sites and wildlife habitats in select ports as part of the ships EXC Tours program. A mix of onboard experts and local guides co-guide Zodiac outings to enrich the experience for guests. UPDATE: The zodiac tours will begin on itineraries starting from Nov. 11 due to the French Polynesian government not providing permission.

komodo dragon

Guests can go in search of the famed Komodo Dragon.

For example, guests might foray around sheltered islands to spot local birdlife including waders, oystercatchers, nesting cormorants and other species. Or venture up rivers to explore the history and sights of a region from a unique vantage. Perhaps they will uncover the beauty of nature reserves on a photo adventure that features rugged shores, blue waters, limestone cliffs and abundant wildlife. Zodiac tours are not included in the cruise fare.

Dr. Peter Carey, Holland America Line’s director of explorations, is currently scouting locations and refining plans for this innovative new series of voyages and Zodiac excursions. A zoologist who has traveled extensively throughout and researched the region, Carey will draw on his journeys and vast research into sea mammal behavior and seabird ecology to craft experiences that open up even wilder places for guests to enjoy and remember as the ultimate field trip. Carey is director of the Sub-Antarctic Foundation for Ecosystems Research and a contributing lecturer at the University of Canterbury and an affiliate professor with the Geography Program at the University of Alaska.

Other shoreside activities focus on offering memorable experiences like photographing the colors of a Tahitian market (photography), taking a guided walking tour of Komodo National Park in search of the Komodo dragon (active exploration), touring the Nukubalavu Village and seeing the Fijian kava welcoming ceremony (arts and culture), visiting famous ruins in Thailand (history and perspective) and watching the platypus playing in billabongs in Australia (science and nature).

making textiles

Cultural experiences come to life on EXC In-Depth cruises.

Islands and Ports Are Off-the-Beaten Track but Accessible to Intimate Maasdam
The ports on EXC In-Depth itineraries were selected to evoke curiosity and inspire wonder. Maasdam will visit 154 ports in 36 countries on 12 individual cruises with guests having the opportunity to explore far-flung locales like Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, Java, the Maldives, the Marquesas and Nuku Hiva. Twenty-eight ports are maiden calls or have not been visited by Holland America Line ships in years.

Ports are off-the-beaten track, but accessible to Maasdam guests.

EXC In-Depth Voyages Range from 12 to 239 Days
The first EXC In-Depth Voyage departs Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sept. 10, 2018, and sets sail for Papeete, Tahiti, via the Panama Canal. Along the way the ship calls at ports on the west coast of South America, sails across the Pacific Ocean to Easter Island, and visits several South Pacific islands during the 34-day voyage. Maasdam then spends October and part of November exploring the South Pacific before heading to New Zealand.

Come December, Maasdam journeys along the southern coast of Australia, featuring a special 16-day holiday cruise departing Dec. 21. The ship spends January cruising the northwest coast of Australia up to Singapore where it embarks on a 20-day adventure in the culturally rich Indian Ocean region. Following a 20-day Southeast Asia itinerary in February 2019, the ship explores the Spice Islands and ports along the northeastern coast of Australia, then sails back to the South Pacific and charts a course throughout the idyllic islands. The final EXC In-Depth cruise is a 24-day Polynesian Crossing ending at San Francisco, California, May 7, 2019.

Cruises can be combined to form longer voyages extending up to an incredible 239-day adventure that covers French Polynesia, the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Overnight calls are a highlight of the EXC In-Depth Voyages. Guests will have overnight experiences in Callao (Lima), Peru; Easter Island; Papeete, French Polynesia; Tauranga and Waitangi, New Zealand; Adelaide, Australia; Singapore; Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Halong Bay, Vietnam; and Hong Kong, China.


  • Jan H. Timmer

    Great maritime initiative !
    What chain of itineraries would take me from Java to North Australia via the Polynesian Islands back to San Francisco ? I live in Vancouver BC Canada.
    I am a former HAL customer, single senior, recently widowed.
    Is there a reasonable discount for a string subscription ?
    Look forward to hearing from you,

  • Julie

    Hi Jan, please call your travel agent or Holland America Line reservations for assistance. 1–877–932–4259. They can help you plan a fabulous cruise!

  • Jill

    I would to know if all the evening entertainment is going to be “local/folkloric” – rather than a mixture of local/folkloric and normal entertainers. I can not envision watching 35 nights of Polynesian dancing, singing and drumming. There is not all that much difference between the dancing between the Polynesian islands.

  • Julie

    Hi Jill, while emphasis on evening entertainment will focus on destination-themed programming, not all shows will be local.

  • John

    I am booked on the 48 daySeptember/18 sailing
    Will Zodiacs be in use to visit the Henderson &Pitcairn Islands?

  • Julie

    The zodiac operations will begin after departing French Polynesia.

  • Flo Vergeer

    Hi , What zodiac excurions are offered for the Oct 28, Polynesia Idyll.
    I suggest a guided photography excursion and… a snorkel on a remote pass and Motu? Hope to see some excursions soon on Hall,there is not much offered which is a huge disapointment

  • Joanne

    Hi, We’re looking forward to our upcoming sailings and to experience your new EXC program. What zodiac excursions will be available for the Oct 28 and Nov 11 sailings? When will the zodiac excursions be available for booking as they do not appear on HAL website?

  • Jay

    Will there still be dress up Gala Nights on the InDepth cruises. Any other changes to the current main dining room evening dress guidelines?

  • Elizabeth Leola Zink

    These changes sound very interesting – guess I’ll miss the first ones since I am on the 34 day cruise from FLL to PPT, but perhaps the food demos will change to local cuisine. Hope the offerings in the MDR also feature local cuisine choices.

  • Julie

    Hi Joanne, they are still finalizing the zodiac excursions. Some are online, others are still in development. Stay tuned! You’ll have an amazing time!

  • Julie

    Hi Jay, yes, at the moment there are still Gala Nights on Maasdam. Dress is the same as the other ships.

  • Mike

    When do you anticipate the zodiac excursions will be published for the Jan 6, 2019 departure from Perth?

  • Julie

    We don’t have an exact time yet. They are working to finalize as we speak.

  • Cathy

    Are the EXC In-Depth Voyages only for the 18-19 season or will they continue once Maasdam returns to the region in 19-20?

  • Julie

    Right now we have this 239-day exploration, and we have not released information beyond those dates at this time.

  • Jennifer


    We are scheduled on the 14 October sailing from PPT. Will this new programming and zodiac excursion be available during this sailing? It sounds fabulous.



  • Julie

    Hi Jenn, regrettably we were unable to secure permission from the French Polynesian government to operate zodiacs. The first sailing will be Nov. 11. However, there are plenty of other amazing tours that will certainly give you an immersive experience. Have a wonderful time!

  • eugene muehlbuaer

    Will there still be classical music evenings on the Maasdam?

  • Julie

    Hi Eugene, Adagio (which is a quartet playing classical music) plays 4 times every night starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Explorer’s Lounge.

  • Jenny Thurston

    When will the decision be made regarding the extension of this program through 2020 and how will we be informed? Is there a special mailing list?

  • Julie

    Hi Jenny, at this time there isn’t a special mailing list. But we are rolling out itineraries for 2020. When anything is official we’ll post it on the blog for sure!

  • Bryce Callahan

    Sailing Maasdam South Pacific in April 2019. Will the Ocean Bar Trio still have dance music nightly?
    Bruce and Linda

  • Julie

    Hi Bryce, yes, there is still a trio on board. Enjoy!

  • Mike

    Will zodiacs be offered on the Sea of Cortez cruises in April 2020?

  • Julie

    Yes they will! They are currently in development so not yet published. Stay tuned.

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