HAL to Overhaul Fleet

Holland America Line’s changes will impact virtually every aspect of the company’s product.

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Holland America Line’s $225 million “Signature of Excellence” overhaul will impact virtually every aspect of the 12-ship company’s product.

“This is about the future of our company and everything we stand for,” said Stein Kruse, the line’s newly appointed president and chief operating officer. “A quarter of a billion dollars is a lot of money, and we’re not spending it lightly.”

The overhaul is designed to improve the line’s premium product, adding some touches commonly found on luxury liners such as exclusive shore excursions and bathrobes in every stateroom while incorporating new features that have been appearing on many other cruise lines, such as more dining times and early embarkation.

The makeover will center on what Kruse calls five pillars: dining, accommodations, service, activities and destinations.

“This is our opportunity to take lifestyles, trends and exciting concepts that are out there today and introduce them on our ships,” Kruse said. “We want to make sure we stay fresh and on the cutting edge of what people are looking for.”

The work will begin within weeks and take 24 months to complete fleetwide, he said.

The first ship to have all the elements in place will be the Ryndam in September, Kruse said. Some changes will be rolled out immediately, such as the addition of new hair dryers, premium mattresses, thicker towels and bathrobes.

The line will institute four dining times for evening meals tentatively set for 5:45, 6:15, 7:45 and 8:15 although tables and times will still be assigned.

“It will allow us to reduce the lines getting into the dining rooms, improve the flow of seating passengers and allow smaller-batch cooking that ensures even more freshness and refinement of food,” Kruse said.

One major change will be the elimination of the much-heralded “no tipping required” policy. Holland America will go the route adopted by most lines adding gratuities to shipboard accounts where passengers can adjust them. Tips also will be automatically added to individual bar tabs.

“We proclaimed the ‘no tipping required’ policy, but what we managed to create is confusion,” Kruse said. “Everybody tips, and they like to know who to tip and how much to tip. We had gone out of our way not to help them.

“What we’re doing now, and we haven’t decided exact details and amounts, is to say tipping is optional but it’s going to be more conveniently taken care of. Inclusion of bar tips is also new, but it will allow us to not increase bar prices.”

Some major hardware remodeling is also called for, including the creation of a Sidewalk Cafe/ Exploration Center along the wide hallways on the port side from the dining rooms forward. Currently, a series of rooms are along that corridor, including the library, puzzle corner, Internet Center and card room.

“Picture an elegant Starbucks with a Borders or Barnes & Noble-type location,” Kruse said. “We’ll have the same things but in a much, much different environment.” Wireless Internet connections and CD listening centers also are slated to be added.

Another new feature will be a Culinary Arts Program, which includes courses in a new cooking classroom incorporated into the Wajang Theaters. Partitions will separate the cooking demonstration area when movies are shown on the full screen.

Meanwhile, the line’s private Bahamian island, Half Moon Cay, will gain new activities, such as horseback riding, a stingray lagoon experience, a children’s water park and a designated area for using power watercrafts.

More details about the enhancements will be announced in the next few weeks.