Holland America Line: New Partnerships, New Branding, New Investments

Open Jaw
by Bruce Parksinson

Orlando Ashford

Something old. Lots of things new.

In the tradition-soaked setting of New York City’s Explorers Club, where members have included everyone from Charles Lindbergh to Elon Musk, the 142 yr. old Holland America Line announced a series of thoroughly modern partnerships, a major ship enhancement program and a new logo and tagline.

The ‘Signature of Excellence’ tagline that has been an integral part of the line’s branding for the past decade will be retired in January. The new line is ‘Savor The Journey’ – a journey that begins, says President Orlando Ashford, long before passengers board a ship.

As the ‘current custodian’ of the 142 yr. old Holland America brand, Ashford has spent the 1 st year of his tenure working with his team to create a plan for the future without abandoning the ‘classic style’ that is a brand hallmark. “We want to do the things we’ve always done, but do them bigger and better,” Ashford said. “We have always specialized in enriching journeys, and that concept is key to today’s announcements.”

Several announcements were made during the event, including a $300 million budget for improvements to the line’s fleet of 15 ships between 2016 and 2018. Of that figure, $40 million will be dedicated to enhancing the line’s suite accommodations.

But it was a series of partnerships announced by HAL that captured much of the attention.

Ashford says HAL wants to help cruisers “dream, plan and choose,” before setting off on their voyage. To that end, it has partnered with travel publisher Afar, which has been tasked to create comprehensive destination guides for each of the 400 ports HAL ships visit. A 2 nd partnership is with travel planning website Utrip, which produces personalized itineraries for travellers based on their stated preferences and interests.

When the partnerships are fully functional, Ashford says they will offer HAL customers “the most interactive tool in the cruise industry.” The Utrip algorithms will help travellers select shore excursions in each port, recommended after they rate their interests using sliders with labels like ‘Contemporary Life,’ ‘History,’ ‘Art,’ ‘Food & Wine’ and more. “The goal is to create a unique experience for each traveller,” said Gilad Berenstein, the youthful founder of Utrip.

A 3rd partnership focuses on shipboard enrichment, this one with BBC Earth, the world’s largest producer of natural history content. That partnership will take the form of things like quiz shows, programming for young guests, big screen entertainment, themed cruises and even a live show where BBC Earth’s natural history footage will be accompanied by live musicians.

Ashford says HAL clients are “active, sophisticated and curious,” and the partnerships will feed into those motivations.

The new ‘Savor The Journey’ tagline and a simplified logo – without the retro sailing ship – reflects “an evolution, not a revolution” for HAL’s public face, Ashford says. “We have a loyal, dedicated fan base, but we’ve been pretty quiet. We’re getting louder,” says Ashford. “We want our guests to lean back and enjoy the cruise, and lean in and immerse themselves in the destinations.”

Sally Andrews, HAL’s V.P. of Public Relations, says the new partnerships, along with the upcoming launch of the innovative ms Koningsdam, is good news for agents. “The Afar and Utrip partnerships will result in great new tools for the trade, to help their clients tailor their travel. It’s an opportunity to enhance our relationship with the trade.”

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