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Holland America Expands Alaska Up Close Program

Holland America Expands Alaska Up Close Program

Alaska Up Close, Holland America’s immersive experience offered on all Alaska sailings, has been enhanced for 2023 with additional experiences and programs.

Holland America Line has announced the expansion of its Alaska Up Close program. The cruise line will introduce new facets of the program throughout the 2023 Alaska season.

As part of the existing program, guests on HAL’s Alaska cruises are immersed in the local culture with informative onboard programming, sea-to-table dining, and award-winning shore excursions. The cruise line stated in a press release that the new elements introduced to the program this year will offer “an even more engaging guest experience”.

Guests on Holland America’s cruises in Alaska can experience local culture and heritage with the expanded Alaska Up Close program (image courtesy of Holland America Line)

Alaska Up Close now has expanded programming

On each Alaska cruise, passengers will now find new localized cuisine, cocktails featuring authentic glacier ice, an Alaska-themed brunch, a Huna native presentation, and wildlife experts to help guests spot and identify indigenous animals from the ship’s deck.

The program will continue to offer workshops and lectures, EXC Talks that explore the tales of real Alaskans, and dining events that highlight the region’s culinary heritage.

“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 Michael Smith, HAL’s senior vice president for guest experience and product development.

“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,” enthused Smith.

Alaska Brunch will highlight local flavors

All dishes on the new Alaska Brunch menu in the Dining Room, which is available once each cruise, have been inspired by fresh, local Alaskan and Pacific Northwest ingredients. Sweet and savory options include:

  • 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 and Alaskan Reindeer Sausage
  • Home Smoked Gulf of Alaska Cod Benny
New local flavors at the Alaska Brunch include Biscuits with Gravy and Alaskan Reindeer Sausage (image courtesy of Holland America Line)

A Taste of Alaska in Lido Market

The casual Lido Market provides special cuisine and theme nights on Alaska cruises. Guests can enjoy a Salmon Bake and a Seafood Boil pop-up dinner, as well as a Gold Rush dinner on sailings of 14 days or longer.

Sustainable seafood aboard Holland America in Alaska

Holland America was awarded Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) certification in 2022, making it the first cruise line to do so by providing only fresh, certified sustainable, and traceable wild Alaska seafood.

The company serves 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 on each Alaska voyage.

All menus emphasize “Taste Alaska” by highlighting regional meals and fresh fish choices.

Related: Holland America’s Culinary Teams Will Be Alaska Seafood University Certified

HAL will offer new cocktails, some featuring real glacier ice

Four new drinks include genuine Alaska glacier ice, gathered by state permit among floating glacier bergs in Prince William Sound and prepared under Alaskan authority.

Holland America Line is the only cruise line that serves glacier ice, providing cruisers the unique experience of safely tasting actual glacier ice from Alaskan waters. Cocktails made with glacial ice include:

  • Juneau Gin & Tonic featuring Juneauper Gin produced in Juneau, Alaska
  • Alaska’s Blue Ice with De Kuyper Blue Curaçao, X Rum, pineapple juice, Velvet Falernum, and dry vermouth
  • Blue Iceberg with Juneauper Gin, apricot brandy, Blue Curaçao, and lime juice
  • Black & Blue with a choice of Johnnie Walker Black or Jack Daniels Black Label, served over glacier ice
The Alaska’s Blue Ice cocktail includes responsibly-harvested glacier ice from Prince William Sound (image courtesy of Holland America Line)

Holland America will now also serve new hot cocktails during scenic cruising in Glacier Bay, Tracy Arm, and Hubbard Glacier:

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

You may also like: Holland America Line Installs SpaceX’s Starlink Wi-Fi on First Ship in Alaska

EXC Talks and presentations bring Alaska to life

With engaging narrative and expert commentary, Holland America’s EXC Talks continue to bring each location to life. Guests on Alaska cruises can learn more about local culture and customs by attending “Ancestral Memories,” “Breaking the Ice Ceiling,” “Pacific Giants,” “The Iditarod,” and “We Are Alaska.”

Holland America Line will also welcome a Huna Native interpreter to the EXC program to introduce cruisers to the history of the Tlingit with “Native Voices: Stories of the Tlingit People“.

Wildlife experts and park rangers will be on board

A new wildlife expert on board will help guests view the magnificent species seen in Alaska. Humpback whales, orcas, bald eagles, moose, sea otters, caribou, black and grizzly bears, Dall’s porpoises, and other wildlife can be seen. Daily schedules will note set times to meet the wildlife expert on deck to go in search of the creatures in their natural habitat.

A sea lion haulout is a common sight in coastal Alaska (image courtesy of Holland America Line)

Holland America is also introducing a Wildlife Spotting Guide on Alaska cruises. The document points out native animals found along the cruise route and includes a map with the best places to spot each species. Between 8 AM and 5:30 PM, all wildlife sightings will be announced so guests can enjoy viewing from the deck.

The cruise line will continue to host a Glacier Bay National Park Ranger for the day during Glacier Bay scenic cruising to connect with guests and talk about Alaska’s most famous national park.

All roundtrip Westerdam voyages from Seattle include a presentation by the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka. One of the center’s Avian Care Specialists joins the wildlife expert on the World Stage with a raptor (eagle, hawk, owl, etc.) to provide insights on Alaska’s spectacular birds.

Related: Best Things to Do in Sitka Alaska on a Cruise

On Deck for a Cause: Alaska’s Parks

For the 2023 Alaska season, HAL is donating proceeds from its On Deck for a Cause event aboard ships in the region to Alaska Geographic, the nonprofit education partner of Alaska’s parks, forests, refuges, and conservation lands.

With the new “On Deck for a Cause: Alaska’s Parks,” guests on all Alaska cruises are invited to donate $25 to participate in a non-competitive 5k fundraising walk aboard every sailing. 

Read more: Holland America Line Partners With Alaska Geographic For ‘On Deck for a Cause: Alaska’s Parks’

How to take part in Holland America’s expanded Alaska programming

Holland America Line has six ships exploring Alaska in 2023 on seven- or 14-day cruises from Seattle, Vancouver, and Whittier/Anchorage, along with cruisetours of up to 18 days, which combine an overland journey to Denali National Park and the Yukon plus a cruise. 

HAL has six ships sailing in Alaska for the 2023 season (image courtesy of Holland America Line)

For 2024, the company will also be sailing longer voyages in Alaska. Find out more: Holland America Line Announces Longer Alaska Cruises for 2024

Resources for your Holland America cruise in Alaska

Latest news about Holland America Line

Have you sailed in Alaska on Holland America (or any other cruise line)? What do you think about HAL’s new offerings for the Alaska Up Close program? Let me know in the comments below!

Carrie Ann Karstunen


Monday 19th of June 2023

I've been looking at options for Alaska cruises for the last few years and I keep seeing that Princess cruise line is the best choice. But now I see all of the things Holland America is doing and now I'm on the fence. Is Princess still better? Am I missing something here that I didn't consider? Please help. I'm planning a big family cruise with my husband and I and my adult kids and their spouses and my grandkids. The youngest is 5 and the oldest is 11. My daughter says I'm in charge but this is overwhelming. Thanks for your help.

Carrie Ann

Tuesday 20th of June 2023

Hi Linda, this is an excellent question. Princess has historically been the best cruise line to take in Alaska when it comes to the big ships, but HAL have absolutely been battling for that title recently! If it was just you and your husband cruising, I'd say give Holland America a try. But in my opinion, Princess beats HAL for family cruises in Alaska right now. Plus Princess' Ocean Medallion technology makes it really easy to find everyone in your party on the ship, especially when you have a big family group cruising together. I hope you all have an amazing Alaska cruise, and feel free to reply with more questions if you have any!