Driving Innovation

Frits van der Werff, vice president of hotel and food and beverage services for Holland America Line.

This year there will be quite a big focus on enhancing the experiences with guest services and embarkation. What can we do to streamline it, make it smoother and make it shorter; mobile applications are being tested for boarding,” said Frits van der Werff, vice president of hotel and food and beverage services for Holland America Line.

The company piloted mobile boarding at Port Everglades over the winter and hopes to bring it to Seattle this summer, backed up by the Navigator mobile app.

“If you can come to the ship and have everything in the app, it becomes more streamlined for the guest,” said van der Werff. “We’re pushing this in partnership with some sister brands but the majority is driven from our end.”

Trials have shown embarkation is significantly faster using the app, with the cruise line working with Customs and Border Protection to set up facial recognition. Once onboard, all guests have early access to their staterooms.

Adding to his title late last year and assuming hotel responsibilities, van der Werff is now also looking after housekeeping, guest services, provisioning, certain aspects of controllers along with food and beverage

“It’s all about authentic experiences,” he told Cruise Industry News. “Everyone is trying to deliver a personalized experience; what makes it different for Holland America is making it unique and authentic. Meaning when a guest has an interaction with a stateroom attendant, it’s an authentic conversation, its meaningful and a value-add to the guest.”

A big focus has been on the new-to-brand guests, he continued, meaning driving a premium cruise experience and converting them into repeat customers.               “Authenticity of product,” van der Werff noted.

With trends picking up steam faster and faster, guests are expecting certain items aboard the ships immediately.

"Sometimes we’ve been lagging in getting certain aspects on ships,” van der Werff said. “That is a big push for my team and I.

 “If there is a trend toward low alcohol or no alcoholic beverages – we should not be lagging six to 12 months because you know, that’s been the nature of the business (to get it in the supply chain).”

That means working faster and leveraging better interactions with vendors to make changes happen.

Guest-facing plastic water bottles are a thing of the past, now replaced by glass and aluminum fleet wide. Plastic straws are also gone, replaced with paper and pasta straws. Corn-based straws are under testing for the future.

“The hardest part has been cling wrap,” van der Werff explained. “We’ve all been accustomed to using it anywhere and everywhere.”

Plastic wrap is now almost long-gone too, with new covers for trays, and new pots and pans making their way across the fleet.

“You won’t find a piece of it being used in the galleys, restaurants or bar locations. We have found alternative covers for pots, pans and boxes that are within USPH compliance. There is no need for us to use it unless there is a real rare occasion.

“The challenge is you have to source, contract and get new items to the ships fleetwide.”

A cancelled cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam saw the Seattle-based company donate much of the fresh fruit and produce from the ship to the Feeding South Florida food bank.

The ship donated 11 pallets of fruits and vegetables, and a Holland America vendor – Freedom Fresh – picked up the food from the ship and delivered it to Feeding South Florida. The ship’s Food and Beverage Director Ron van Vliet and Executive Chef Sinu Pillai, along with van der Werff, selected all of the produce and got it all loaded onto the truck for delivery.

The big goal, however, is to reduce food waste onboard by 20 percent by the end of 2021.

Much effort has taken place with the crew, launching a new program Feed Your Body, Not the Bin.

All ships are now weighing food waste daily by venue.

“We know where it’s coming from, and based on that, if we need to make menu changes we will,” van der Werff added.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2020

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