Holland America Line Looks To The Future

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World StageHolland America Line announced new partnerships and fleet enhancements designed to attract younger customers who like to ?touch, feel and taste? the cruise destinations they choose. The 142-year-old Seattle, Wash., cruise line says it will spend $300 million to enhance its existing fleet over the next few years, $40 million of which will be invested in suite enhancements.

Holland has long been associated with an affluent, 70-plus-year-old demographic. Under the 11-month-old leadership of African American CEO Orlando Ashford, the company is beginning to rewrite its story while still affirming the best of what is traditional and classic about its brand.?

?Classic is about passing the test of time, remaining relevant, by basing what you do on a core set of values and principles, and at the same time creating room for that modern twist to take you into the future. So there?s lots of things that are classic about Holland America Line: the mid-size ships, the blue hull, our service culture, the wrap-around teak decks, and a number of things on a list that would be is too long to mention,? Ashford said at a press conference in New York City on Oct. 29.

?On the flip side, enriching journeys is really the core of our message today? We spent more than a year undergoing extensive research and effort to help us further understand our customers and our guests ? what they like about cruising with us, how we compares to other cruise lines, and how we can make their travel experience better ? as well as attracting customers. We learned many things, some validating what we know works well and are already doing, and we also found some opportunities,? he added.

The addition of new vessels is part of the mix to exploit those newly found opportunities, one of which is attracting younger demographic. The MS Koningsdam, scheduled to arrive in April 2016, will be the first ship in Holland?s Pinnacle Class cruises and the line?s largest ever. It will house a World Stage theater featuring a two-story, 270-degree high-definition LED screen, and will offer live nightly music on three stages (Lincoln Center Stage; B.B. King?s Blues Club; and Billboard Onboard) in a Music Walk partnership with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

A second Pinnacle Class ship is scheduled for the fall of 2018.

In addition to new vessels, Holland?s Culinary Council has been enhanced to form ?an innovative team of top-name chefs from around the world to help enrich our culinary offerings and share some of their signature dishes with our guests on board,? Ashford said. He also announced partnerships with AFAR, a multimedia platform company dedicated to experiential travel; Utrip, a travel planning software platform that makes it easy for travelers to create their perfect trip; and BBC Earth.

AFAR?s localized curated content will be made available on Holland?s website in the form of destination guides to help travelers plan and prepare for a perfect vacation. The first destination guides will be on our website by the beginning of 2016.

?AFAR will utilize its vast network of local experts to curate the content, providing travelers with authentic recommendations for up to 20 top attractions, restaurants and shopping experiences in each destination,? Ashford said.
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Holland will integrate the Utrip?s technology into its website, providing travelers what Ashford describes as ?the most comprehensive and interactive personalized planning tool in the cruise industry.? Building on AFAR?s destination guide content, travelers will be able to select ports of call, local highlights and activities and receive customized recommendations for their itineraries.

The BBC Earth partnership, meanwhile, will enhance the onboard cruise experience with its best programming about the destinations being visited.

With new ships, new partnerships in the music space, partnerships with the line?s Culinary Council, and brand new partnerships to enrich the journey and destination experiences, Holland America Line clearly is being aggressive in competing for a bigger share of the global cruise industry that expects to see some 22 million guests this year alone.