A look at the concepts and driving factors that influence itinerary planning for 2010 and beyond -- from world cruises to short getaways.
Grand Voyage Differences (Continued)
"The ships used for our Grand Voyages too are specifically selected from the most elegant in the fleet. In fact, the m.s. Amsterdam was specifically built for longer cruises, and the Prisendam, our 'elegant explorer,' is the fleet's most intimate vessel, carrying only 793 guests and having a crew to guest ratio of 1:1.8 -- one of the highest among all premium cruise line vessels."
"Holland America also strives to offer more time in port on the grand voyages than any other premium cruise line, and we've also built in as many overnight stays in these grand voyage itineraries as possible. These overnight stays allow our guests to see and experience more of what the port has to offer, including some of the varied nightlife options available."
Leah explained that what the Grand Voyages offer more than anything else is the luxury of time. "Sure, we visit a lot of wonderful places, but we also make sure our guests have plenty of time to savor the experience. The entire pace of a grand voyage is slower, meaning that in addition to the extra time spent in ports, there is lots of leisurely time spent onboard the vessel as well. This encourages our guests to really wind down and relax, meeting lots of new people, and enjoying the simpler things such a voyage can offer -- such as lots of great conversations and days spent doing nothing but gazing out to sea."
Some other differences include a wide array of added activities offered on extended voyages. "We bring more varied lecturers onboard for the grand voyages - in many cases, experts on the regions we are visiting on the particular sailing. We also bring various instructors onboard to teach dancing, crafts and bridge. A new feature currently in place on the Eurodam and the Amsterdam will be the addition of onboard "techsperts," who will provide classes and one-on-one instruction in how to use various computer software packages such as Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. These techsperts can also assist guests with such things as putting together a website and uploading their digital photos to it, as well as helping them to figure out how to use that fancy new digital camera they just bought specifically for their cruise. Techsperts will be onboard most of Holland America's ships over the course of the next year or so."
Grand voyages also have other special features not always found on shorter sailings. Guests will find various theme events such as grand balls and special dances. Guests also receive a selection of "pillow gifts," as well as having access to a variety of special culinary and dining room events not found on shorter cruises. Another interesting feature of the grand voyages is that the "As You Wish" flexible dining option is dropped, and the sailing reverts to Holland America's traditional four dining times. This allows for a more traditional dining experience that can be enjoyed amidst the formality of an elegant dining room. Of course, a more casual evening dining option is always available on the Lido.
While folks who happened to be onboard a Holland America ship on the day these 2010 itineraries were announced got first dibs for booking them, travel agents on land weren't far behind - only a matter of hours. But those couple of hours could mean all the difference in getting one's desired stateroom and dining preferences. Grand voyages in particular have historically sold out very quickly, and with the early booking incentives being offered on them, this will probably be more true than ever for 2010."For example," Leah told me, "the m.s. Prisendam only has about 25 inside staterooms. Because the grand voyages have a much higher price point, these always sell out first since they are a truly economical way for folks to do an extended sailing on that small ship at a price they can afford. If one doesn't book early, they have little chance of securing one of these prized staterooms."
To wrap up our interview, Leah gave me a rundown of some of the early booking incentives Holland America is offering on the 2010 Grand Voyages. " For example," she told me, "here onboard the Statendam, anyone who books and makes a full deposit on one of the grand voyages will be treated to a one-day pass to the thermal suite. That's in addition to all of our normal early booking incentives which include preferential pricing on top of Mariner and past Grand Voyage guest discounts, and even a further price reduction of 3% for guests who make full payment by a certain cutoff date, depending on the voyage. Also, depending on the category of stateroom booked, special grand voyage incentive �perks' could include free air and transfers to the ship, paid luggage shipment, prepaid hotel service charges and shipboard credits of varying amounts."
For those folks with the luxury of time and money to do these grand voyages, they literally have the whole world at their feet. To be able to travel and see some of the amazing sights included on these special itineraries is truly a blessing - one that almost makes me wish I could retire tomorrow, after winning a major lottery prize, of course - and then spend the rest of my life sailing the seven seas on one of the wonderful ships of Holland America. Surely life doesn't get any better than that!
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