Holland America Enhances Onboard Enrichment Program

| June 15, 2009

Lectures, special classes and other novel ideas improve the onboard experience.

When Holland America started its "Signature of Excellence" program many years ago, the initial improvements involved structural enhancements to the ships only. But more recently, the line has shifted its focus to improving the onboard experience. One of the best new enhancements is to the line's onboard enrichment program.

In an effort to rely less on outside talent and more on inside specialists, the line has created an "Explorations Team" to redefine onboard enrichment for passengers. The team includes an onboard party planner, a travel/destination guide, dance directors, and something new called a "techspert."

The party planner educates cruisers in the art of in-home entertaining, working with the ship's Culinary Arts Center to develop a variety of cooking classes and demonstrations, as well as presentations on related topics like flower arranging, table setting and wine selection.

Some 70 guest chefs will come along on HAL sailings during 2009 as part of the line's partnership with Food & Wine Magazine. Most culnary events will take place in the ships' state-of-the-art demonstration kitchens, where both in-house and celebrity guest chefs can show how to execute their more popular creations.

Dance Fever Dance directors are also an integral part of this new program. They will offer classes on most sailings, both in the Crow's Nest and the Ocean Bar, and sometimes even out on the Lido. They will help guests to learn a variety of dance moves, from modern to traditional; guests can then practice their steps in a variety of dance venues throughout the ship. (On longer cruises, "social hosts" are also onboard to assist with these classes and to serve as dance partners for those ladies who need one.)

Book Worms On some longer itineraries, HAL will also run a book club during the cruise. Hosted by a book club leader -- often a member of the Explorations Café staff -- passengers will discuss pre-selected titles. Guests on these voyages can check the HAL website to find out which book(s) will be discussed during their sailing, so they can read them in advance. Often the books will relate to the destinations visited during the voyage, such as "Path Between the Seas" on a Panama Canal sailing. Once onboard, participants can join discussion groups in the Explorations Café to benefit from the added insights of fellow passengers.

Expert Advice The travel/destination specialist on the Explorations Team will be an expert on the regions his ship is visiting. In many cases, he will have expertise beyond just the destination's geography -- e.g., a wildlife naturalist on Alaska sailings, a Panama Canal historian on crossing voyages, an archeologist on Europe sailings, etc. Unlike the "port shopping ambassadors" of old, these destination experts will have a well-grounded knowledge of the various ports and what to see and do in them. His efforts will often be supplemented by outside experts like naturalists and guides who may be brought onboard for the day in such regions as Alaska and the Panama Canal. The destination lecturer will not only give talks and presentations while onboard, but also maintain desk hours to answer passengers' questions. Working with the Shore Excursions staff, he will provide knowledgeable recommendations on how guests should spend their time in port, based on their individual circumstances and possible limitations. He will often station himself at the gangway as well, to provide last-minute advice or directions as passengers disembark in port.

Microsoft Techsperts Finally, there's something new called the "Techspert." This is a unique part of HAL's new onboard enrichment program. As part of HAL's partnership with Microsoft, these "techsperts" will teach passengers to use software products that will help them make the most of their voyage and share the results with friends and family back home. "Edutaining" workshops will cover such topics as preparing a digital scrapbook, setting up photo slideshows, editing videos, setting up a travel website, and using it to "blog" or write a journal about their cruise adventures. On some voyages, the photography staff will offer classes packed with tips for taking better digital photographs as well.

Continue Article >> Holland America Enhances Onboard Enrichment Programs (Part 2)

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