Holland America rethinking itineraries in wake of downsizing

Oct 9, 2020

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The coronavirus pandemic-related shrinking of the Holland America fleet in recent months will have an impact on the brand’s lineup of itineraries, its top executive said Wednesday.

“It will mean some pullback in terms of the long voyages, in terms of the exotic itineraries,” Holland America president Gus Antorcha said during a press event at Seatrade Cruise Virtual, an online version of the cruise industry’s annual meetup.

Responding to a question from The Points Guy, Antorcha noted that the four smaller ships that have left the Holland America fleet since July operated many of the line’s longer, more far-flung itineraries.

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“What that will mean is that we will have relatively less deployment on the types of itineraries that those ships did,” Antorcha said.

The four vessels — Maasdam, Veendam, Rotterdam and Amsterdam — were sold to other shipping companies as part of a bigger downsizing at Carnival Corporation, Holland America’s parent company.

In all, Carnival Corporation sold or transferred 18 vessels out of its nine brands (the company also owns Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn and five overseas lines). Still, no other Carnival Corporation-owned brand was as widely affected as Holland America.

Maasdam. (Photo courtesy of Holland America)
The 1,258-passenger Maasdam is one of four cruise ships that have left the Holland America fleet since July as the brand downsizes during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Holland America)

The four Holland America vessels that were sold accounted for 29% of the brand’s pre-COVID fleet of 14 ships. The line now has just 10 ships.

Holland America often used the four vessels for such long and exotic sailings as around-the-world cruises that lasted for more than four months and continent-circling voyages of 60 days or longer.

Related: Why Holland America was right to shed 29% of its ships

The small size of the ships were well-matched to such itineraries as they were able to enter smaller ports around the world.

That said, Antorcha noted that some of the line’s remaining vessels that are only slightly bigger also would work well on such itineraries, too.

The four ships that left the Holland America fleet measured around 55,000 to 63,000 tons and carried 1,258 to 1,404 passengers at double occupancy. Most of the line’s 10 remaining vessels measure between 82,000 and 100,000 tons and carry up to 2,650 passengers at double occupancy. But the line still has two ships — Volendam and Zaandam — that are in the 61,000-ton range. They carry 1,432 passengers a piece at double occupancy.

Antorcha, who only recently took over the brand after working in senior roles at sister line Carnival, stressed that longer, more exotic voyages wouldn’t be disappearing from Holland America’s lineup.

“I think the far-flung itineraries, the exotic (itineraries), the unique places Holland visits are a core element to the brand,” he said. “We will continue to offer those types of itineraries.”

Indeed, Holland America has long been known for its far-flung itineraries.

Still, with fewer ships, the brand will have to make choices about which sorts of itineraries it continues to offer in the coming years. Antorcha said he and his team were looking hard at which itineraries were the most important to the Holland America customer.

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The process that is underway is to “look at where we have had, historically, the greatest demand, and then match our deployment to that historical demand,” he said.

The result will be a “reshuffling of ships to make sure that we deploy against the highest demand itineraries,” he said.

In the short term, itineraries also will be in flux due to travel restrictions that are likely to remain in some countries and individual ports even after Holland America resumes cruises.

While Holland America currently has sailings on its schedule starting on 15 December, some of those sailings could be cancelled, altered or swapped out completely due to various restrictions, Antorcha suggested.

“For the immediate season coming up, it’ll really depend on what countries are available for us to visit, and that is very fluid, as you can imagine,” he said. “We have to see how things evolve over the next few months.”

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Assuming Holland America resumes some cruises over the winter months, initial itineraries are likely to be in the Caribbean region, he suggested. But much remains to be worked out.

“We’re in a lot of discussions with the various government bodies, not just in the United States, but in the ports of the countries that we visit.”

Antorcha also spoke movingly about the impact that the downsizing of the line’s fleet was having on the shipboard and shoreside workers at the heart of Holland America.

“We’re going to be a smaller company, and that involves resizing some of our teams, and that affects people and people’s lives,” he said. “Those are difficult decisions to make.”

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Featured image of courtesy of Holland America

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