Holland America Line Expands and Upgrades

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MS Koningsdam, The first ship of Holland America Line’s new Pinnacle Class, will set sail next April.
MS Koningsdam, The first ship of Holland America Line’s new Pinnacle Class, will set sail next April.

At an Oct. 29 press conference, Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford announced enough news for 5 or 10 press conferences. Here are some highlights:

Upgrades, Upgrades
Holland America Line will spend $300 million between 2016 and 2018 to refresh its existing fleet. The line’s logo has also gotten a refresh, albeit a subtle modernization that retains Holland America Line’s emphasis on classic style. The new slogan: “Savor the Journey.”

New Luxury Ship
The first ship of Holland America Line’s new Pinnacle Class, the 2,650-passenger MS Koningsdam, will set sail in April. Its interiors were conceived by superstar decorator Adam D. Tihany with the curves of musical instruments (think violins), and Ashford explained that this ship will further the company’s mission to help passengers “lean back” in luxury and “lean in” toward authentic experiences and cultural immersion.

The “lean back” part includes the collaboration of respected chefs, a Culinary Arts Center, the first wine-blending venue at sea, a kids area that’s both entertaining and educational, and superior entertainment in three theaters. One theater will offer chamber music performances programmed by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, one will feature roots music from the B.B. King Blues Club empire, and a third will offer popular music of the last 50 years enhanced by LED technology.

The “lean in” part is not just equally important, but maybe more so, because people who choose this line are destination-driven travelers who, in Ashford’s words, “want to touch, feel, and taste destinations.” In other words, ziplines are not the point. Which brings us to Holland America Line’s new partnerships…

The interior of Holland America Line’s new MS Koningsdam, including the Queen's Lounge (pictured) was inspired by the curves of musical instruments.
The interiors of Holland America Line’s new MS Koningsdam, including the Queen’s Lounge (pictured), was inspired by the curves of musical instruments.

A Plethora of Partnerships
Agreements with other entities to enrich the experience(s) offered by all Holland America’s ships include:

  • BBC Earth, which will bring extraordinary nature films (Ashford showed some footage at the press conference), shows, children’s activities, and theme cruises, etc. onboard.
  • AFAR magazine will supply the cruise line’s website with destination guides for all 400 of Holland America Line’s ports of call and scenic cruising areas. Each guide will feature up to 20 suggestions of things to see and do.
  • Utrip has designed a user-friendly tool with which people can search for AFAR content and shore excursions based upon their interests (e.g. cuisine, history, art, etc.) and then personalize their itinerary. What’s more, said Ashford, “You can change your preferences for different ports. For example, in this city I’m interested in food; in this city I’m interested in history.”

Where Do Agents Fit In?
“We have a new promotional tool kit that allows agents to personalize emails, place banner ads, and more, and that’s the portal for agents,” said Ashford. When asked if the AFAR and Utrip partnerships might encourage consumers to book without agents, Ashford declared, “We’re absolutely committed to travel agents. I don’t see this as competitive. It’s an opportunity to enhance the credibility of agents. Agents can use AFAR in their own travel materials. Win-win.”

Postscript: After the press conference this reporter asked Joseph P. Slattery, senior vice president, global marketing & sales, what percentage of Holland America Line’s bookings these days come in via retail travel agents. “I can’t give you the exact numbers,” he replied, “but I can say that the vast majority of our bookings are through agents. Many people go to our website to research their vacation, but they book through another channel.” For more information, visit hollandamerica.com/travelAgentHQ/Main.action.