Holland America Line Adds New Dining and Cultural Opportunities to “Alaska Up Close” Itinerary

Guests aboard Holland America Line’s “Alaska Up Close” cruise will be fully immersed in the local Alaskan culture through specially-crafted onboard programming, sea-to-table dining opportunities, and acclaimed shore excursions. The cruise line will introduce these new additions to the itinerary throughout the 2023 Alaska season to offer an even more enriching experience for travelers.

“Since launching Alaska Up Close we’ve introduced incredible programming that brings an authentic Alaska experience to our guests like no other cruise line,” said Senior Vice President of Guest Experience and Product Development Michael Smith. “This season we’re growing the program to embed Alaskan fresh fish and wildlife spotting into the cruise on an even more expansive scale, from new localized cuisine and cocktails to exciting lectures and wildlife viewing. We want our guests to have experiences they can’t find anywhere else.”

Guests can enjoy new local cuisine, cocktails made with real glacier ice, an Alaskan-themed brunch, an Huna native presentation, and onboard wildlife experts to help travelers spot the local flora and fauna from the ship’s deck. Workshops, lectures, and EXC Talks showcasing stories from real Alaskans will also be included in the itinerary.


Enjoying Glaciers in a Glass

Four new cocktails will feature Alaskan glacier ice harvested by state permit from floating glaciers found in Prince William Sound. Holland America Line is currently the only cruise line using glacier ice in their cocktail menu, providing guests with a unique opportunity to experience the taste of authentic Alaskan glacier ice. The cocktails with glacier ice include:

  • “Juneau Gin & Tonic:” featuring Juneauper Gin produced in Juneau, Alaska.
  • “Alaska’s Blue Ice:” De Kuyper Blue Curaçao, X Rum, pineapple juice, Velvet Falernum, and Dry Vermouth.
  • Blue Iceberg: Juneauper Gin, apricot brandy, Blue Curaçao, and lime juice.
  • Black & Blue: guests’ choice of Jonnie Walker Black or Jack Daniels Black Label served over ice.

A new selection of hot cocktails for scenic cruising in Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm, and Hubbard Glacier will include:

  • Glacier Bay Coffee: Baileys Irish Cream and Malibu Coconut Rum.
  • Alaska Railroad Coffee: Jameson Irish Whiskey, Kahlua Coffee Liqueur, and cream.
  • Gold Rush Coffee: Grand Marnier, Coffee, and hot chocolate.
  • Northern Lights: Crème de Cacao, Kahlua, and brandy.

Brunch, Alaskan Style

The Dining Room presents a new Alaska Brunch menu, featuring a variety of dishes infused with the flavors of fresh, locally sourced ingredients from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Each dish, ranging from sweet to savory, is exclusively available once during the cruise. The menu highlights options such as: 

  • Alaskan Blueberry Pancakes 
  • Salmon & Potato Chowder 
  • Wild Forest Mushroom and Tarragon Crepes 
  • Kodiak Steak and Egg Skillet 
  • Crab and Hot Smoked Salmon Cakes 
  • Biscuits with Gravy
  • Alaskan Reindeer Sausage
  • Home Smoked Gulf of Alaska Cod Benny

Alaska in The Lido Market

Throughout Alaska cruises, the Lido Market offers a delightful array of unique culinary experiences and themed evenings. Guests have the opportunity to indulge in a delectable Salmon Bake dinner and a captivating Seafood Boil pop-up dinner on every cruise. Additionally, for cruises lasting 14 days or more, a memorable Gold Rush dinner awaits guests, adding to the remarkable dining options available on board.

Sea-To-Table Seafood

Holland America Line made history in 2022 by becoming the first cruise line to attain the esteemed Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification. This notable achievement is a result of their commitment to exclusively serving fresh, certified sustainable, and traceable wild Alaska seafood. During every Alaska cruise, the cruise line proudly serves substantial quantities of Alaska’s finest seafood, including: 

  • over 2,000 pounds of Alaska Salmon 
  • 1,000 pounds of Alaska cod 
  • 800 pounds of Alaska halibut 
  • 500 pounds of Alaska rockfish, and more 

The menus aboard the ship emphasize the essence of Alaska through the “Taste Alaska” concept, featuring region-specific dishes and an array of fresh fish options.

Onboard Wildlife Experts and Park Rangers

To enhance the experience of witnessing Alaska’s magnificent wildlife, Holland America Line has introduced a new wildlife expert on board. This expert assists guests in spotting and appreciating the awe-inspiring animals that inhabit the region. Among the creatures to be on the lookout for are humpback whales, orcas, bald eagles, moose, sea otters, caribou, black and grizzly bears, Dall’s porpoise, and more. The daily program includes dedicated times to meet the wildlife expert on deck, where guests can join in the quest to observe these animals in their natural habitat.

To further aid guests in their wildlife encounters, Holland America Line has created a Wildlife Spotting Guide. This guide identifies the native animals along the cruise route and includes a map indicating the prime locations for spotting each species. From 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., all wildlife sightings are announced, allowing guests to head to the deck and enjoy the mesmerizing views.

During Glacier Bay scenic cruising, Holland America Line continues its tradition of welcoming a Glacier Bay National Park Ranger on board. This ranger engages with guests and provides informative talks about Alaska’s renowned Glacier Bay National Park.

All cruises on the Westerdam ship will depart roundtrip from Seattle, with a special presentation by The Alaska Raptor Center taking place in Sitka, Alaska. Hosted by a wildlife expert, an Avian Care Specialist from the center joins the ship, bringing along a raptor (an eagle, hawk, or owl). Held at the World Stage, this presentation will provide guests with education regarding Alaskan bird species.

Contributing to Alaskan Environmental Education

In the 2023 Alaska season, Holland America Line is dedicated to supporting Alaska Geographic, the nonprofit education partner of Alaska’s parks, forests, refuges, and conservation lands. Through the “On Deck for a Cause” event, named “On Deck for a Cause: Alaska’s Parks,” the cruise line will donate the proceeds to this organization. Guests on all Alaska cruises are invited to contribute $25 and participate in a non-competitive 5k fundraising walk held on every sailing.

Holland America Line has planned six ships to explore Alaska in 2023, offering seven- or 14-day cruises departing from: 

  • Seattle, Washington 
  • Vancouver, Canada
  • Whittier/Anchorage, Alaska 

Additionally, they offer Cruisetours lasting up to 18 days, which combine an overland journey to Denali National Park and the Yukon with a cruise.

Will you be sailing on the “Alaska Up Close” itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

By Ethan Leckie