On deck with Holland America Line as it celebrates its 150th anniversary in Rotterdam
Holland America Line President Gus Antorcha leads the toast to the cruise line's 150th anniversary

On deck with Holland America Line as it celebrates its 150th anniversary in Rotterdam 

ONBOARD ROTTERDAM — After setting sail from Fort Lauderdale on April 3 for a 150th anniversary crossing of the Atlantic, Holland America Line’s Rotterdam arrived to great fanfare at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands on April 18 – the same day Holland America Line first began a century and a half ago.

HAL’s pinnacle class flagship and the newest in its fleet played host to the celebrations, including a gala dinner and after-party onboard. Earlier that day, the Hotel New York – in the historic building across from the city’s cruise terminal that once served as Holland America’s headquarters for more than 70 years – hosted an afternoon of royalty and revelry.

At that event, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands anointed a specially designed 150th anniversary ship’s bell with Champagne, which will be on permanent display at the hotel. Local dignitaries such as the city’s mayor and top execs from the cruise line, including HAL’s President Gus Antorcha, as well as descendants of the company’s founding family, joined in.

“The celebration of 150 years is about more than our history, it’s about how we are building on the legacy of a great brand to make it relevant for the next 150 years,” said Antorcha. “From those first early days, we built our reputation on the care we provided to every person who stepped on board … whether that person was an immigrant, a titan of industry, a soldier or a vacationer, each of them was treated as though they were a guest in our own home. It is still a hallmark of our brand.”

Rob Coleman, newly appointed VP Sales, North America, has been sailing with HAL with his family since he was a child, “so it’s in my DNA,” he told Travelweek. Although he’s a VP now, Coleman started with an entry-level job with the cruise line 24 years ago. “I’ve had almost every role in our trade-facing sales organization.” So how will he approach working with agents in Canada?

“We have a team of business development managers there,” says Coleman. “And we now have a senior manager who works with the larger consortia and online agencies for Canada specifically, because it is a unique market.” Coleman will take a deeper dive into how HAL communicates and delivers the tools needed that are distinct for Canadian advisors. “We need to fine-tune it; is what we’re doing working? It is one of our strategic initiatives, to better underpin our efforts in Canada.”

According to Coleman, the line will maintain its customary incentives that are commission-based while fine-tuning; most advisors belong to a home-based network or consortium. “We negotiate with the consortia first, so there’s a trickle down to the individual agent. This is how we deploy the incentives and commissions.”

HAL is also promoting more options for much longer cruises. “It’s a distinction that HAL offers, I think, more than any other mid- or large-ship brand,” says Coleman. The cruise line just announced its latest itinerary, the industry’s only Grand Voyage ‘Pole-to-Pole’ roundtrip in 2025. At 133 days, it covers five continents and simultaneously joins the 124-day, six-continent 2025 Grand World Voyage; both depart from a U.S. homeport, in January 2025.

Does Coleman see HAL going the way of the all-inclusive, a trend that’s taking greater hold in the premium category? “Coming out of the pause, our fare structure is really being driven by our ‘Have it All’ option – pricing that includes the beverage package, the WiFi, etc.” On many departures, he notes, more than 50% of HAL’s guests are opting to ‘have it all.’”

And, he adds, “technology is also on our side, with the ability to electronically book a more complex fare – we have figured out how to merchandise and present those opportunities for guests to take advantage of. While before it had different components, now, for advisors, the booking path is clear and it facilitates being able to buy the inclusive (and commissionable) Have it All offering for their clients.”

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