With a storied history spanning 145 years, Holland America Line has always played to guests who love that heritage and tradition. "Not a lot of companies exist that long," Orlando Ashford, the line's president, told reporters attending a press presentation onboard Eurodam at Port Everglades, FL, on Sunday.
But while the company "does a lot of things right," Ashford said the premium line also seeks to "try and innovate on top of that. I see that as a balance of what we've done and where we're going."
During the past several years, it's done much to attract new generations of guests -- creating a more innovative, modern, creative product with everything from the Music Walk entertainment corridor, enhancements to its culinary and wine program, partnerships with BBC Earth and "O, The Magazine" and hands-on, high-tech EXC spaces onboard and adventurous EXC programs ashore.
But Ashford took it to the next level on Sunday, announcing more new programs and initiatives in Eurodam's theater, just prior to the kick's off of the Seatrade Cruise Global 2018 conference at the Broward County Convention Center.
New Culinary Council Member: Since 2016, Andy Matsuda, a renowned sushi chef, has been training and sharing his knowledge with Holland America Line’s shipboard chefs. On Sunday, the line elevated him to membership on its Culinary Council — a group of elite culinary collaborators, led by Holland America’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin.
The esteemed group (introduced onboard with executives and other VIPs, as shown in the photo above) now includes international chefs Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner, Andy Matsuda, Ethan Stowell and Jacques Torres
New Dining Experiences: In other culinary news, the line said that now each of the members of that culinary council would be entrusted with a designated dining experience onboard. For example, Elizabeth Falkner will introduce lighter fare onboard.
At the press luncheon in Pinnacle Grill on Eurodam, Travel Agent dined on Falkner’s tasty “Roasted and Raw Carrot Salad with Omega seeds” featuring touch of labneh cheese, oranges, mint and cilantro. It had a superb mix of textures and flavors. Here’s a photo below.
In another example, Jacques Torres, the council’s chocolatier, will created desserts for all dining venues. So, for example, here below is a look at his dessert, a “Chocolate Puff Pastry Craquelin.”
New Wine Curator, New Fleetwide Wine List: Holland America Line has tapped wine critic James Suckling as its official "Wine Curator" to curate an extensive new wine list that will be featured on all ships in the line’s fleet.
Suckling will lead the design and development of the premium line’s wine offerings and provide wine selection tips on the menus and wine lists of all shipboard dining venues and bars.
Suckling is working to review and craft a new vision for the wine program. When that work is completed, a large majority of the wine selection will have a rating of 90 points or higher — based on Suckling’s own 100-point scale.
Holland America expects to have the new list in place fleetwide by the end of 2018, in time for the launch of Nieuw Statendam.
New Planet Earth II in Concert: On Sunday, Holland America also premiered “Planet Earth II in Concert’ for reporters. Cruisers can expect breathtaking video footage and live music in partnership with BBC Earth. This video presentation follows the line’s previous collaboration with BBC Earth, entitled “Frozen Planet in Concert.”
The video shows acrobatic primates in Madagascar, hunting lions in Namibia and stormy seas and penguins in the Great Southern Ocean.
In particular, one thrilling sequence with dramatic live music involved video of just-hatched marine iguanas in the Galapagos trying to escape a deluge of attacks from long, fast snakes; some didn’t, but the audience clapped in relief when several baby iguanas sped, leaped high onto rocks or simply spun out of a snake's grasp to safety.
"Planet Earth II in Concert” is rolling out across Eurodam, Koningsdam, Maasdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Oosterdam, Rotterdam, Veendam, Westerdam and Zuiderdam, and will be onboard all of those ships by late April.
The line’s Alaska-bound ships will revert to showing “Alaska in Concert,” developed last season with exclusive Alaska wildlife footage, for the duration of the season. For Holland America Line’s 70th anniversary season in Alaska in 2017, BBC Earth launched the “Alaska in Concert” production that combined live music set against backdrop footage from the BBC Earth television series “Wild Alaska.”
New Retail and Photo Experiences: Holland America Line is introducing a new multi-faceted retail plan that introduces an expanded logo collection, locally cultivated items, a new Fujifilm photo space and new supplier partnerships.
The retail roll-out began with Veendam and expands to Maasdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Oosterdam, Prinsendam, Rotterdam, Westerdam and Zaandam over the coming months. To launch and oversee the new program, Patrick Kells joined Holland America Group as director of retail, reporting to Kelli Coleman, vice president, onboard revenue, photo and retail.
“Over the past several years we have significantly elevated our entertainment, enrichment and culinary programs to enhance the way our guests experience the global destinations we visit,” said Ashford. "With more premium products and selections that reflect the destinations they are visiting, plus an interactive and engaging new photo area, our guests will enjoy more meaningful keepsakes from their cruise.”
For the new retail experience, Holland America Line tapped into the expertise of California-based Sofia Fiori, a luxury brand recognized worldwide for its designs, to operate the premium line’s new fine jewelry and watch area.
In addition, to better integrate the line's destination experience into the onboard shopping experience, Holland America will begin selling creations from local artisans and designers from places the ships visit around the world.
Guests can also expect an expanded Holland America Line logo collection – from custom apparel to locally made artwork. Ashford made it clear the new items will go beyond traditional cruise logo souvenirs and that the clothing will be stylish and high quality.
The shops will also feature co-branded merchandise from such Holland America partners as Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club, BBC Earth and America’s Test Kitchen.
Holland America Line also is partnering with Fujifilm for a new, interactive, onboard photo space that will enable guests to immediately print their photos from their devices or memory cards using autoprint machines.
Guests also will be able to share cruise memories by creating keepsake souvenirs featuring images from their cruise on product offerings such as photo books, mugs, shirts, keychains, magnets, mousepads and more. Keepsake mementos will be produced offsite and shipped to guests upon returning home from their cruise.
The onboard photo experience hadn't changed that much in the past 25 or 30 years, Ashford told reporters but, now, with the enhancements planned, Holland America is shifting into a more innovative, personalized, customized mode.