Holland America: ‘Quantum Leap in Product and Experience’

Frits van der Werff

“With the Pinnacle-class ships we have taken a quantum leap in the product and experience we deliver to our guests,” Frits van der Werff, vice president, hotel and food and beverage for Holland America Line, told Cruise Industry News aboard the new Rotterdam.

“The standard is that we can deliver a premium product, but still have a ship that is what we call perfectly sized. We can deliver the experience of the small luxury ships but also have all the entertainment and activities you find on larger ships. Our food and beverage, our hotel product, is on par with what you find on the small luxury ships.

Having restarted six ships at the time, van der Werff said: “The COVID protocols have made us rethink our product experience from A to Z, making sure we have it right. It has also made us fast-track some initiatives we had in the planning stages.

“Thus, we have taken the Navigator app further and are looking at how we can engage our guests even more in the digital platforms in terms of their onboard experience. We are seeing close to 100 percent participation and thus having guests immerse themselves in the cruise experience before they go on the ship.”

The embarkation process has also been redone, speeding it up substantially, van der Werff said, and as a result he is seeing some of the highest embarkation and disembarkation satisfaction scores ever for the brand.

During the past 18 months, Holland America also reorganized its hotel department. “Where we before had a hotel director, for example, we have changed the title to hotel general manager, which we believe is more suitable for that position. And we created an assistant hotel general manager who takes care of all the guest services, housekeeping and onboard revenue. We never had that close oversight and we want to drive our onboard revenue.”

Dining is another high-priority area. The Rotterdam’s dining options feature the main restaurant, the Dining Room, and the Lido Market, included in the fare, and the specialty restaurants Rudi’s Sel de Mer, Pinnacle Grill, Tamarind and Nami Sushi, and Canaletto, at an extra charge, in addition to Club Orange for suite guests and guests who choose to opt into that experience.

With the restart of Holland America, the brand also initiated a promotion called “Have It All” – and is seeing about 40 percent of its guests opting into this and that includes a specialty dining experience.

“The more we can get our guests to partake in these restaurants, the greater their cruise experience will be because now they are enriching themselves with something other than the Dining Room or the Lido Market and some of the other complimentary options,” van der Werff said.

“When you expose guests to all these options, they generally become happier and more loyal to your brand. And when you layer that into a ship like this that has so much variety, our guest satisfaction scores jump.”

Food sustainability is also a huge component of the business, according to van der Werff. “We think carefully about every item we bring aboard and also down the line how this will impact our waste stream,” he said.

Holland America was already at a 75 percent served buffet experience before COVID-19 and has now taken that to 100 percent.

“We are very proud to have that name (Holland America) on the side of the ships and we love to sprinkle in some Dutch treats and touch-points like Club Orange and the Grand Dutch Cafe, van der Werff continued.

The brand has set its own course for entertainment, as well, with dance, voice and music venues. “Someone new to us may think we are untraditional, but if you look at the grand scheme of things, we touch on every type of performance or show that guests are looking for,” he said.

“Our service level may be second to Seabourn, but only marginally. We are able to deliver a product and service that is almost as close as their intimate smaller ships, and we are able to do this on a much larger scale,” van der Werff added.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2021-2022 

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