Holland America is taking inspiration from the 1920s for another epic cruise.
The Seattle-based line on Tuesday revealed plans for a 42-night sailing from North America to the Mediterranean and back that mimics an ambitious voyage the line offered in 1925.
Scheduled to kick off on Nov. 9, 2024, the 42-day Ultimate Mediterranean & Atlantic Passage itinerary, as it’s being called, will offer North American travelers a chance to experience a grand tour of the Mediterranean without ever getting on a transatlantic flight — just like in the 1920s.
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Starting in Fort Lauderdale, the voyage — on the line’s 1,432-passenger Volendam — will include calls at 16 ports across nine countries, including multiple stops in Israel for visits to iconic Holy Land sites and in Egypt to see the pyramids and other famous landmarks.
Other stops include Horta and Ponta Delgada in the Azores archipelago of Portugal as the ship crosses the Atlantic, followed by a call at Tangier in Morocco. There will also be overnight visits to Livorno and Civitavecchia, Italy (the gateway ports for Pisa and Rome), and day stops at Naples and Catania in Italy. The latter stop is on the island of Sicily.
Piraeus, the port for Athens, Greece, is also on the schedule, as is La Goulette, Tunisia (the port for Tunis, where cruisers can tour the ruins of the ancient city of Carthage); Gibraltar; Cadiz, Spain; and Casablanca in Morocco.
The cruise concludes on Dec. 21 in Fort Lauderdale after a return trip across the Atlantic.
The 1925 version of the itinerary was similar, although it began and ended in New York City instead of Fort Lauderdale. That trip took place on the fourth version of the line’s Rotterdam (Holland America has had seven ships called Rotterdam over the years, including one currently sailing).
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Holland America says 550 passengers were aboard the original sailing, which departed from New York City on Feb. 4, 1925.
In an interview with TPG in advance of the announcement, the Holland America executive in charge of itinerary planning, Paul Grigsby, said he had already tasked the line’s itinerary planning team with creating an epic cruise from North America to the Mediterranean when he discovered a brochure about the 1925 itinerary among his private collection of steamship ephemera.
“I was just messing around in my archives, and I found this thing, and I said, ‘Wow, look at this,'” Grigsby said during a video call, holding up the original brochure that was used to promote the 1925 sailing.
Grigsby, who is Holland America’s vice president for revenue planning and analytics, said his itinerary planners were already well into the three of planning the Mediterranean itinerary when he found the 1925 brochure. But that didn’t stop them from pulling inspiration from it for the new sailing.
“We did tweak [the new itinerary] a little bit to get it closer to this itinerary,” Grigsby said. “We were able to kind of model … what was done back in that day.”
The original itinerary had 15 stops, nine of which are on the new itinerary, Grigsby noted. They could have mimicked the earlier trip even more if not for limiting factors, such as a size limit for ships visiting Monaco that wouldn’t allow Grigsby’s team to add it to the itinerary. Monaco was a call for the original sailing in 1925.
One big difference between the two itineraries was that the original sailing was a longer 67 days, in part because the ship spent a whopping nine days docked in Egypt for off-ship touring of the country’s many historic sites.
“In the brochure, it says accommodations at the best hotels with a complete program of sightseeing with optional Nile cruises, etc. Oh, man. So amazing, huh?” Grigsby said, sounding wistful about the grand travel of a century ago.
Another difference between the two trips is that the 1925 version of the voyage wasn’t a “closed loop” trip on a single ship — that is, it didn’t get its customers back to North America at the end of the sailing on the same ship that took them to Europe.
Instead, the voyage ended in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and passengers had to switch to another Holland America ship for the final transatlantic leg back to New York City.
“So, in a way, our current cruise is better because it takes you from Fort Lauderdale and gets you back within 42 days,” Grigsby noted.
Grigsby speculated that the travelers on the ship back in the 1920s would have extended their stays in Europe with land touring before taking the final leg back to New York. It was, after all, “The Great Gatsby” era of grand travel.
“You’d have to transfer [in Rotterdam]but I think people were like, ‘Fine, I’ll just go see more of Europe, and then I’ll take a transatlantic back to New York when I’m ready,'” he said.
The beginning of leisure cruises
Founded in 1873, Holland America was originally a shipping and passenger line known for transatlantic crossings that took people back and forth between North America and Europe. However, starting in the 1920s, it began to occasionally offer what today would be considered more traditional cruises, taking leisure travelers to far-off destinations such as the Mediterranean for sightseeing.
The February timing of the 1925 sailing to the Mediterranean would have coincided with the time of year when there was less demand for transatlantic crossings.
“They needed the ships doing transatlantics during the summer but not so much in the winter,” Grigsby noted. “So they put these ships on cruises.”
A ‘legendary voyage’ for Holland America
The new Mediterranean itinerary is the latest addition to a new series of so-called Legendary Voyages that Holland America unveiled in March. The extra-long sailings, scheduled to take place over the next three years, focus on a single region and range from 25 to 59 nights in length. They also have special programming.
The lineup of recently announced Legendary Voyages includes both previously offered routings and some all-new routes — the latter including an epic itinerary focused on Japan that will last more than 50 days.
In general, the voyages will focus on far-off destinations — including Australia and New Zealand, the Amazon and South America, the South Pacific and Hawaii, Greenland and Iceland, Asia, Alaska and the Arctic Circle. However, in a twist, most of the sailings are designed to begin and end in a North American port, meaning that North American passengers can reach distant places without ever getting on an international flight.
Related: Holland America to offer an epic, monthlong Alaska itinerary
The new lineup of long trips is designed to augment Holland America’s celebrated collection of even longer Grand Voyages — far-ranging, often world-circling sailings that typically are 70 nights or more.
The initial grouping of Legendary Voyages announced in March included 17 specific departures between late this year and early 2025.
Grigsby said Holland America hasn’t offered a voyage from North America to the Mediterranean and back for quite a few years. And never before has one of the sailings taken inspiration from one of the line’s first such sailings nearly a century ago.
That said, Holland America has long been known for longer sailings from US ports that got people to far-flung places around the globe. The new Legendary Voyages and an expanded lineup of other long voyages mark a doubling down by the line on such trips.
“When we first introduced the Legendary Voyages, our aim was to build on our success and tradition as really a leader in longer voyages and more-differentiated voyages,” Grigsby said.
With the new Mediterranean itinerary, the line is “just adding one more opportunity in that series of cruises and really one more region that we hadn’t covered as well with the Legendary Voyages,” he said.
Fares for the new 42-night itinerary start at $5,189 per person, not including taxes, fees and port charges of up to $435 per person.
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