Two weeks ago Bloomberg Business ran an article with the headline Holland America: We are not the geezer line, suggesting that Holland America has long battled the perception that it’s the cruise line of choice for the “geriatric set at sea”. The line has been quietly conducting market research over the past year and found, among other things, that serving too many senior passengers can turn away younger cruisers.
So it’s time for a few changes at Holland America, starting with a new tagline – Savor the Journey (replacing Signature of Excellence). It’s designed to highlight the immersive nature of Holland America voyages, which tend to be longer and more port intensive than most. And they are looking for their share of the spotlight. “I think we’ve been very quiet. We want to be a little louder,” said HAL President Orlando Ashford. But Ashford has made it clear that they don’t want to damage the line’s reputation and alienate their customer base, so the changes will be “an evolution, not a revolution.”
“All brands are constantly going through an evolution and sometimes this speeds up,” Tony Archbold, director of sales and marketing for Holland America in Australia, told Cruise Passenger. “This is a time when we’re making some big announcement and moving forward, but the general brand and feel is not changing. We’ve always been destination focused, experience focused and service focused to satisfy our guests.”
HAL is one of the oldest lines on the water, so is looking for a balance of old and new. “With 142 years of history behind us we want to be true to the heritage that gives us the right to be classic and traditional, but with a modern twist,” Archbold said.
Holland America is investing $300 million in its fleet over the next three years, starting with drydocks for Eurodam next month and Oosterdam in April. $40 million of that will be spent on the suites, upgrading all furnishing, linen and bathrooms to the equivalent of similar hotel suites on land. It’s a sound investment. Because HAL passengers tend to take longer cruises than those on other lines (an average of 23 days in Europe and 12-15 days in Australia) they gravitate towards suites, says Archbold.
HAL is also focusing on partnerships, both on and off the ships. A new website will launch in January with destination content provided by hipster San Francisco based travel media company AFAR. Local writers will provide 400 unique port guides with more than 8,000 recommendations for passengers, giving first timers an overview of the destination or providing experienced travellers with new ideas. The content will work with a software platform from UTrip that allows potential passengers to browse cruise itineraries according to their preferences. Archbold says Holland America are the only line offering this type of interactive website.
Onboard, a partnership with BBC Earth will extend beyond TV screens and into live talks on stage, music and kids’ programs. Wine buffs can create their own blend from barrels of Chateau Ste Michelle varietals, bottle it, label it and drink it with their dinner. Musicians from BB King’s Blues Club in Memphis and the Lincoln Centre in New York perform exclusive on Holland America ships. “People are after experiences, not just gathering goods or ticking a destination off their list,” says Archbold. “They are looking to be educated, to immerse themselves in a destination through longer and more involved itineraries, and to come into contact with the culture of a destination.”
Holland America will also be launching its first new build ship in six years in 2016, MS Koningsdam. Archbold describes it a big step forward for the line, with a range of new features onboard that aren’t found on any other ships. A second Koningsdam, currently referred to as K2, is set for 2018.
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