Georgina Cruz, a seasoned traveler and frequent Holland America Line guest, recently cruised on back-to-back Veendam cruises to Canada/New England. Read her Cruise Diary to hear why she chose two cruises with repeating itineraries.
Remember the old ad slogan for Doublemint chewing gum? It invited us to double our pleasure, double our fun. When it comes to cruising, doing so is easy: just take back-to-back cruises!
Often my husband Humberto and I have said to ourselves that just when we are getting our bearings around a ship after a week-long or shorter cruise, it is a shame that it is time to disembark. But we recently came up with a solution: enjoy the feeling of being well-acquainted with the ship a bit longer by staying on board for the next cruise!
We got the idea to book back-to-back voyages while we were sailing in the Southern Caribbean on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam this past winter. The ship’s cruise director, Christina Purcell, asked her afternoon team trivia participants on the last day of the voyage how many of them were not disembarking, but staying on for another run. To our surprise, about a dozen hands shot up! Curious, we asked them why they were staying on. One guest who raised her hand said she and her husband just liked longer cruises and making a long voyage out of two shorter ones suited them well. Another one told us she booked back-to-back cruises because it was still too cold back home in New York to return after just one voyage. Every winter, the New Yorker added, they leave their home, spend a few days pre- and post-cruise in Florida and book back-to-back cruises for 20-plus days. When they return home, spring is just around the corner. “It’s a great feeling!” she said.
It made a lot of sense to us. Since we are Floridians, we do not need to escape winter but figured we could use a break from Florida’s heat and threat of hurricanes in the summer. As we live on a barrier island where there is mandatory evacuation during hurricanes, we would have to leave our home anyway. So, why not go cruising? We booked two 14-day back-to-back cruises on Holland America Line’s Veendam, calling on New England and Canada ports from Boston to Montreal and back to Boston. During those 28 days we enjoyed temperatures in the 70s instead of in the 90s and had to unpack only once and incur travel expenses to meet the ship (flights, transportation to the airport, baggage fees and porter tips) only once – as opposed to two or more times if we took two or more cruises at different times during the year instead of back-to-back voyages.
In the case of those guests on the Koningsdam doing back-to-backs, their two itineraries featured some different ports (many ships do vary their itineraries to encourage passengers to book back-to-back cruises to be able to explore more ports and thus get to know a region more in depth). In our case, on Veendam, we were visiting the same ports again, which we also like as we were able to explore more at each stop.
For example, on a typical call in Bar Harbor, Maine, most guests would be able to visit Acadia National Park only and not have time to go whale-watching or seal watching or take a lobster boat tour or explore the quaint town in a leisurely manner, visiting museums as well taking the time to enjoy such local delights as a cone of lobster ice cream. We had ample time to visit Acadia National Park with Oli’s Trolleys, and took a Sightseeing & Nature Tour with Acadian Boat Tours and encountered seals, eagles and porpoises, and photographed the beautiful “cottages” on Millionaire’s Mile and the lovely Egg Rock Lighthouse, and we took a Seal Watch & Lobster Tour with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company – to learn more about the delicious crustacean – in addition to exploring the town, enjoying the lobster ice cream at Ben & Bill’s, and visiting attractions like the Abbe Museum showcasing the history of the area.
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, we could opt for a full day tour to the pretty fishing village of Peggy’s Cove with arguably the most photographed lighthouse in North America on one of our days there, and take in also the sights in Halifax itself, including its impressive Citadel fortress on another day and explore its quaint waterfront with its “Drunken Lampposts” and the city’s Maritime Museum with its Titanic exhibit.
In the pretty-as-a-picture and very French Quebec City, one day we could take a walking tour to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old City with its narrow cobblestone streets – one of them, the Rue du Cul de Sac with many colorful umbrellas overhead! And we were able to enjoy the tea ceremony with sandwiches, homemade scones (heavenly warm and flaky), jams and Devonshire cream and other delights at the elegant Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, and on another day take a tour to beautiful Montmorency Falls. We had often said while on a cruise that we would love the chance to return some time to a port we had liked – well now we were returning to the ports on our itinerary, and very soon!
Additionally, and just as importantly, we had more time on the ship, to linger longer by the pool, participate in more activities including the America’s Test Kitchen culinary demonstrations and classes, and enjoy more meals at the lovely and oh, so elegant, Rotterdam Dining Room as well as delight in more visits to the alternative restaurants of the Pinnacle Grill (Pacific Northwest cuisine) and Canaletto (Italian).
And in addition to having to unpack only once and having extra time on Veendam and on ports or visiting more ports, there are yet other advantages – perhaps less obvious, but nonetheless real – to booking two back-to-back cruises. Things like having some of the same trivia questions in team trivia contests on the second run – and dazzling your newly arrived teammates with your prowess! And being able to buy port t-shirts and wearing them ahead of the ports in the second run (this is an instant ice breaker as people want to ask you what you thought of the port and what you recommend they should see). Also, when passengers find out you are on your second cruise on the same ship, they want to ask you about things such as if you liked the food at the alternative restaurants. And not to mention the comfort you enjoy of familiarity with your cabin (we got the same one on both sailings) your surroundings and your stewards, as well as knowing your way around the ship from the first day on the second voyage.
Another thing to keep in mind and to check is if there are any discounts on the fare for booking two cruises back-to-back or if there are any special perks, like free air tickets, for the time when you wish to sail on your two-in-one voyage. One special feature we thoroughly enjoyed was a sumptuous complimentary Indonesian Rijstaffel Luncheon at the Pinnacle Grill on the turn-around day in Montreal for passengers on back-to-back voyages. The meal included such delectable dishes as Gado Gado (a green salad with steamed green beans, hard-boiled egg and creamy peanut dressing), Soto Ayam (lemongrass and lime leaf flavored chicken soup with glass noodles and coconut milk), and a combination plate with Ayam Kecap (sweet and spicy chicken), chicken sate with peanut sauce, beef Sumatra, pork in sweet soy sauce, crispy shrimp and Java-style fried rice. Delicious! Wine was complimentary and the restaurant’s entrance was beautifully decorated for the Indonesian Luncheon – a festive and memorable occasion!
Our experience of back-to-back cruises was so wonderful that we have decided to do it again soon and we have booked two consecutive 14-day cruises on the Nieuw Statendam in the Caribbean next year. And who knows? Perhaps we may even expand on the idea: we think that the only thing better than back-to-back cruises is back-to-back-to-back voyages!
If you like the idea of booking back-to-back cruises, ask your travel agent or Holland America Line reservations about our Collectors’ Voyages that are back-to-back non-repeating itineraries … or do what Georgina did and take two repeating cruises so you have more time to explore the ports.