Running down the usual talking points about cruise travel, you know the drill: Compare going to the same places on a cruise itinerary without the ship. The price will be higher. The process less efficient. Safety more of an issue. The list goes on. Easy to document. Got it. These are basic elements all cruise lines share. Where the distinct differentiation comes is how each line delivers those fundamentals. The interesting evolution of Holland America Line is exemplary of how to do that right. And by right I mean with the traveler in mind. Just ask Oprah.
I’ll get to interesting thoughts about a new two-year Holland America Oprah partnership in a moment. First, a brief account of the events that brought us to this place. It’s important to be up to speed on some recent history because there are actually two stars in this story.
Holland America is a line steeped in history that goes back deep into the last century. We got a glimpse of that past on a visit to Rotterdam where the Holland Amerika Lune was first headquartered. This structure was the place where those on an adventure to the new world would begin their journey. Our visit was timed just before the arrival of new ms Koningsdam, a ship that encapsulated everything the current Holland America cruise experience is all about. On Koningsdam we would see the result of a relatively new direction, aimed to energize the traveler experience. Another part of this story is how that change was happening throughout the entire fleet. After all, Koningsdam was one ship. There are 13 others.
The First Star Of Holland America
To move forward from an experience safely weighted as ‘what we have always done’, a herculean effort would be required. That came as the result of a ‘collective intelligence’ focus that has weaved its way throughout the Holland America organization. Collective intelligence serves as a point of convergence that respects and leverages the skills of existing staff to affect change in a positive, functional way. Important in our ballpark: that effort always includes a positive outcome for cruise travelers.
Case in point: Comments from friends and readers who have sailed Holland America Line in the last few months for the first time:
- “In one word the cruise was amazing!!!! Holland America is a great cruise line with what seems to be wonderful dedicated crew members”
- “Will we do Holland again??? You better believe it!!!”
- “Great cruise Chris. Out of all the cruises we’ve taken this one with holland America stands out in all areas.”
- “It was a WONDERFUL, TERRIFIC, GREAT, Amazing, FANTASTIC cruise. going on and on will just dilute the pleasantness of it all”
- “The Holland America experience returned me the luxury and extravagance of the early … cruises we took. (industry changes has ‘chopped’ at that.) but HA here it all is !!*:) happy”
Those comments come after experiencing a Holland America product that has carefully partnered with brands that make sense. The nicely timed and efficiently executed plan includes the assimilation of:
- America’s Test Kitchen – a natural extension of what was being done with a display kitchen space on every Holland America Ship. Cruise travelers go home with skills.
- Lincoln Center Stage-An extension of the Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts that delivers palatable versions of classical performances. The effect for many sparks a new interest
- Billboard Onboard– Billboard Onboard brings certified relevant hits to a standard cruise line feature. Who knew a piano bar could be this much fun?
- B.B. King’s Blues Club is an energetic music venue that resonates with cruise travelers. Held in an intimate venue, it’s hard not to feel the magic that happens on stage.
- The Holland America Culinary Council- unlike other cruise lines who have banked on one big name chef, Holland America has several of them.
Now, a two-year partnership with Holland America Line and Oprah could prove to be the gold bar standard of brand alignments.
Now, we turn our attention to the other star in this story.
The New Star In The Holland America Galaxy
Holland America Line has been taking travelers on Alaska adventures for decades. Adventures in the land of the midnight sun are efficiently enabled by Holland America Line. They have more ships and inland infrastructure than any other single line. Combined with sister Princess Cruises, the two have more presence in Alaska than all other lines combined.
So what’s next for Holland America in Alaska?
They already hold a dominant position in the market, predominantly because of the number of ships, amount of real estate and army of personnel committed there. The one comparatively missing element? Inspiration.
“…travel and wellness have the power to open minds, build connections and inspire shared humanity,” Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line.”
One of those same friends quoted above told me, before our first trip to Alaska “It’s so beautiful there. Take your camera. It might be hard to believe but you’ll want to take a photo in every direction you look”. That advice proved to be true and accurate….much like trying to describe how big a cruise ship is to a first-timer who has not seen one before. Words don’t do ships justice. You have to experience it. That majestic experience leaves one in awe of nature and is something they won’t soon forget.
Still, how better to drive that experience home? The question comes at a time when cruise lines who have not visited Alaska in years are returning. Those that never visited before will for the first time this year or next. Call it a reply to travelers putting plans for travel to Europe on hold over concern for safety. Say it’s the natural evolution of the cruise industry as travelers want more than a swing through the Caribbean. Whatever the reason, Holland America Line is solidly ahead of the game. For now.
Which brings us to Oprah and more specifically O, The Oprah Magazine. The focus there is on encouraging confident, intelligent women to reach for their dreams, express individual style and make wise choices. Tough life lessons to swallow otherwise, palatable Oprah enables personal growth and inspires every aspect of a woman’s life.
The Holland America partnership with Oprah is a match made in heaven that only a collectively intelligent effort could bring and one that will play well with cruise travelers. Those who get the most out of a cruise vacation are the ones that buy into onboard programming completely. They let the cruise line have their way with them, so to speak. The value and efficiency of cruise travel might have brought those people on board but it’s an unstated understanding between the cruise line and the passengers that elicit a magnificent travel experience.
Specifics of the partnership include a series of themed cruises, a chance for some readers of O, The Oprah Magazine to win a cruise (because that’s how Oprah rolls) and more, the topic of another post. What’s important here, in our ballpark, is the thoughtful alignment of the highly-regarded Oprah brand with Holland America Line. Just a few years ago, that match would not have been possible or appropriate.