So What’s Nieuw in Cruise Ships

What could Henry Hudson, the legendary explorer who discovered Canada’s own Hudson’s Bay, have in common with a modern cruise ship? What would Captain (Sully) Sullenberger, the hero of US Airways flight 1549 have in common with that same vessel.

 Some years before entering the bay that bears his name as he searched for a North West passage, he sailed under the Dutch flag up the New York river that the Captain glided his aircraft onto which, like Hudson’s Bay, also still bears his name. Here he discovered and lay claim to the piece of property that would become the Netherland colony Niew Amsterdam.

 While New Amsterdam,as it would be called, would later secede to English rule and become New York, during the early years one major transportation company was integral in bringing Dutch settlers and workers to this new land. That line was Holland America, today one of the world’s formative cruise lines.

 In honour of that history Holland America (HAL) launched its newest vessel in July of 2010, the Nieuw Amsterdam.

 With each new cruise ship introduced over the last few years there seems to be a race to see which could manage the greatest number of passengers on each voyage.

 Size matters the message seemed to be saying and the bigger the better.

 The brain trust at Holland America did not see it that way. When they introduced this newest ship to their existing 14 vessel line up, it would not try to compete in the mega size range.

 Holland America’s senior director of national accounts Charlie Dunwoody says “We believe we can deliver our personal warm service best on mid size ships.” He underscores that statement as he reiterates the Holland America mission statement, “We create once in a lifetime experiences…every time.”

 This is my fourth voyage on a Holland America ship and I was anxious to see how the Nieuw Amsterdam measured up against the others in the line on which I had previously sailed.

 It is a most important reality that all cruise lines count upon; that it takes a high level of repeat business to fill the cabins of their varying itineraries. With the high degree of loyalty that exists when passengers are pleased with their first voyage under a brand, all cruise lines market heavily to this group.

 With each passage the offers become more attractive with real benefits built into their programs for those who achieve a certain status level with them.

 Dunwoody asserts that “Holland America has one of the highest percentages of repeat clientele in the industry at 45%.”

 So to some degree familiarity is important. And on the surface the Nieuw Amsterdam will be very familiar to previous clientele.

 The Lido deck still has its familiar pool and buffet restaurant. The Crows Nest is the area patrons continue to gather for evening beverages and hospitality, while the Pinnacle is still one of the option dining rooms for those wanting and willing to pay for a little extra.

 But in christening this most recent ship the Nieuw Amsterdam, in honour of the city which would eventually change its name to New York, HAL has created a number of design and appointment highlights that bring life to its namesake.

 The main dining room is the Manhattan. The artwork that adorns the various areas of the ship depicts the history of the first voyages of Holland America ships that brought settlers from the old to the new world.

 The main chandelier above the lobby deck and the design of all elevator doors were created to be reminiscent of both New York’s past and present. Similar reminders can be easily spotted throughout the ship.

 And while HAL brand service is still the hallmark for successful customer retention, somehow this ship seems to have attained new levels of customer satisfaction.

 To wit, the 7500 members of the World Ocean and Cruise Liner Society, measuring passenger satisfaction in 150 ships from all major cruise lines, awarded its ‘Ship of the Year’ award to the Nieuw Amsterdam.

 But while ship amenities are prime motivating factors in clients choosing their cruise line, in the end it is the itineraries that close the sale for travel agents around the world.

 As the cruise director or the Nieuw Amsterdam would repeat on his closed circuit video “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but rather by the numbers of places we visit that take our breath away”.

 Our cruise would expose us to countries we had heretofore never visited. The cruise ship offers plenty of variety in the shore excursions they offer, while some choose to stay closer to the ship pursuing the finer points of duty free shopping at specific ports of call.

 This is especially true in Grand Cayman where some of the world’s best known brands entice buyers of fine jewelry, unique artwork, or some of the best aged rum products you will find anywhere.

 Grand Carman has a reputation as a shopper’s paradise, but since that is not an activity that I can spend long at, I found a few people who concluded that a round of morning golf in a foreign land might bring greater enjoyment.

 In Grand Turk I discovered a new thrill ride of sorts. Called a Flowrider, a bed of rushing water is fed upward along an inclined platform.

 Riders jump on boogey style boards, challenging the current by doing flips and turns, until the water catches the wrong side of the board and sends them back upward to their initial point of entry.

 Costa Maya is one of the smallest Mexican destinations located in the Quintana Roo state, highlighted by the nearby fishing village of Mahahual.

 Here the history of a people and their marriage to the sea transcends time. A visit here is one of the most popular excursions.

 While I have visited the Holland America owned island Half Moon Cay twice before, this regular Caribbean day stop now has its own additional attraction.

 In addition to its long fine sand beach and crystal clear waters, Holland America has built a replica pirate ship that is a photo stop for many, and a beverage hangout for those who want to stay out of the scorching heat for as long as possible.

 As we entered the canal that would take us back to Fort Lauderdale and the end of our journey I wondered what Henry Hudson would have thought about the land he named being associated with seagoing voyages made in the lap of luxury.

 Given the hardships of his day I think he, as I did during my week aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, would have been happy to give it a hearty and welcoming ‘Ahoy Hoi’.

 If you go:

 The Nieuw Amsterdam is currently travelling a Mediterranean series of itineraries and will return to the Caribbean with similar ports of call offerings as ours was in the fall.





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