Holland America Destination Focus Evolves, Three Bold Ways


The ships of Holland America Line visit about 400 ports of call and scenic cruising areas around the world.  Once there, cruise travelers find Holland America destination experts have curated a number of shore excursions from which to choose. In the past, that effort has helped make the most of our time at each place, resulting in a rich travel experience.  Looking to the future, that destination element will become even more focused with an injection of relevant content sure to please current and future fans of the line.

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When we plan a cruise vacation, a big part of the process is deciding where we want to go.  By ocean or river, there is probably a cruise line that will take us there.  It’s one of the first questions any decent travel agent will ask along with when we want to go, how many of us will be traveling and more; all aimed to match us with the right cruise line, ship and itinerary.  Like most other cruise lines, Holland America has devoted a great amount of attention to destinations, organizing them into Collections that have helped align what they offer with what we want.  Taking that core focus a giant leap forward, the Holland America destination offerings of the future will include a partnership with three unique organizations.

First, let’s take a look at the partners with a quick rundown of who they are and what they do.

AFAR Media (@AfarMedia) is a multiplatform media company dedicated to experiential travel, inspiring and enabling its audience to have deeper, richer and more meaningful travel experiences.

BBC Earth (@BBCEarth) is a global factual brand which seeks to inspire audiences in the UK and worldwide with the most incredible sights, stories and characters from the natural world.

Utrip (@UTrippers) is a travel-planning platform that brings together the best in artificial intelligence and human experience, making it easy for travelers to create their perfect trip.

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The New Holland America Destination Focus

In the very near future, cruise travelers will be able to visit the Holland America Line website, choose destinations and find not only Holland America ships that visit those places but what is offered for each individual to do there as well. That might not sound like much of a departure from what Holland America or any other cruise line is doing right now.  A new search engine that takes existing content and organizes it differently could address the perceived need.  Indeed, we saw such an effort unfold on a competing cruise line earlier this year.  Promoted as new, different and exciting, a few clicks past new introductory pages and users went right back to the same old places.  The Holland America effort runs much deeper.

“Holland America Line guests seek authenticity in travel, and studies have shown that travelers trust and value expert, third-party content above all else,” – Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line President.

Tapping the highly respected credentials of AFAR and the BBC alone brings far more than a promotion tool for a menu of shore excursions.  Add the social crowd-sourcing capability of Utrip and in one felled swoop, Holland America Line has bolstered it position with their core destination-focused passengers and made what they do relevant to all travelers.

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Here is how this effort is likely to play out, for a variety of different travelers:

50+ Couples and Solo Travelers
The group that currently fills Holland America ships will like that they can customize their experience in advance, based on elements of particular interest to them.

No longer will they be tied to hoping the actual experience of a shore excursion matches the catalog description.  Better yet, planners will like the customizable experience options brought by this evolved focus.

Just a  few years ago, 50+ travelers were just beginning to realize the relevance of Facebook in connecting or staying connected with family and friends.  Now 50+ travelers are fully embracing what was once a part of today’s world they had no interest in.  Connecting with other real people about places they might visit on a cruise promises to be the next step; much like a personal recommendation about a tour from a trusted source who has been there and done that.

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Multi-Generational Groups
Adding the new dimensions to Holland America’s destination focus brings more ability engage everyone from the grandparents to the parents and their children.

Bonus: Content from BBC Earth will engage Junior cruisers with an on-board explorer trail, fun workshops, and BBC Earth animal and dinosaur fact shows.  Younger guests will also have the opportunity to have film workshops with the BBC Earth YouTube team.

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Millennials
The evolution of the Holland America destination program along with the social focus brought by UTrip instantly brings current and future relevance.   Of the three partnerships, this one has the potential to bring the most personal impact.

Already familiar with current social ways of gathering information, the UTrip partnership speaks the language of millennials loud and clear.  Pairing familiarity with the klout of AFAR and BBC is nothing less than a brilliant move on the part of Holland America Line.  If all goes as planned, they synergy created by this trio of destination superstars could yield one of the best possible cruise vacation experiences possible.

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Dream – Plan – Choose – Prepare

One of the very best parts of the direction Holland America Line is going directly addresses the process cruise travelers already go through.  All of the above is set to deliver exactly what we want and need when dreaming, planning, choosing and preparing for a cruise vacation.  Holland America has paid attention, respected their past and positioned themselves for a bright future by putting into action a plan that delivers what travelers want and need from a cruise.

We talk a lot in this space about matching the right cruise line with the right traveler.  With the announcement of the new Holland America destination focus, our recommendation to ‘let the cruise line have their way with you’ becomes even more important.  Now, in addition to an onboard experience that is clearly defined they are taking the show to shore, addressing current interest and demand as well as positioning themselves for the future.

Interestingly, nowhere in all of the above is there any mention of any of this costing cruise travelers anything.  There is no charge for this or fee to pay for that.  This is a focused travel organization making tools available to current and would-be guests that will help them decide if what is being offered is of interest.

That’s bold.
That’s confident.
That’s exactly what we should be looking for in a cruise line.

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Coming up this weekend:
The New York City announcement of what Holland America Line is doing with destinations is just one part of the story and we have barely scratched the surface here.  Also announced, a new logo and tag line for Holland America that also respects the past while positioning the line for the future.  We’ll have more on that as well as the thought process that went into all of the above; an interesting story with far-reaching implications for how cruise lines may be operated in the very near future.  Stay tuned for all that and more.