Onsite: Holland America Buoyed by Marketing, Fleet Upgrades; Eurodam to Host

AT SEA--Holland America Line is putting up quite an investment in itself: more than $425 million, almost double the amount it initially put into its ships for renovation. "We thought we'd start and be done with it," Rick Meadows, executive vice president of marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America, said aboard the 1,848-passenger Oosterdam for the company's annual Centurion cruise, which honors its top 100 producers.

When Holland America embarked on the Signature of Excellence program to upgrade its fleet, the company had no idea the renovation program would become its tagline and mantra. "It's now taken a place of permanence," Meadows said.

Many of the ships already have completed upgrades and Prinsendam is set to receive its makeover next month, which will add closet space in the staterooms and marble vanities in guest bathrooms, as well as a card room to replace the golf simulator and a new Explorations Cafe.

Refitting ships is only one facet of Holland America's strengthening and redefining its position in the market. The line is also embarking on a marketing campaign encompassing redesigned brochures, a greater use of e-brochures and a framework to attract a younger clientele. "We are looking to challenge the perception that Holland America is just for older people," Meadows said. "We want to connect with others beside the boomers."

Early returns on Holland America's new marketing content are favorable. Almost half the respondents to a study conducted by the cruise line said that Holland America's new advertisements piqued their interest, and 61 percent said they would take action toward booking.

This all sets the line up for 2008 and its biggest news: the July addition of its first Signature-class ship, the 2,104-guest Eurodam, which, when joined by a sister ship in 2010, will raise Holland America's capacity 22 percent. For a closer look at Eurodam's evolution, agents are urged to check out Holland America's blog at [http://www.eurodamnews.com].

All the additions and changes are making Holland America that much more enticing to customers and easier to sell for agents, who now have more incentive to concentrate on the line. Holland America announced on Sunday that next year's Centurion cruise would be on the launch of the Eurodam in Southampton. Visit [http://www.hollandamerica.com]. (DE)