HAL DUO OFF TO P&O AUSTRALIA NEXT YEAR

Holland America is increasingly upgrading to mega ships such as the Westerdam

Holland America is increasingly upgrading to mega ships such as the Westerdam

Holland America Cruises has announced the transfer of two of the smallest ships in its fleet- the still substantial, 50,000 ton sister ships, Statendam and Ryndam- to fellow Carnival Corporation affiliate, P&O Cruises Australia. The two vessels will join the Australian operation in November, 2015.

It is being stressed that the two ships are not, in any way, replacements for any of the current P&O Australia trio- Pacific Dawn, Pacific Pearl and Pacific Jewel. With the numbers of Australian cruisers expected to climb to over a million by 2016, a five ship fleet is viewed by the company as a realistic venture.

The two ships join an already impressive roster of Carnival tonnage ‘down under; including the Sapphire Princess and Carnival Spirit. A second Carnival ship- Carnival Legend- will sail from Tampa in August to further boost capacity out of Sydney.

Statendam joined the Holland America fleet in 1992 as the first of a similar, four ship class. Sister ship, Ryndam, has for many years been a popular mainstay on the ex- UK cruise circuit, offering summer cruises to the Fjords and Scandinavia out of Dover. It is not clear yet if she will be replaced by another vessel in the seasonal British market.

Of the other two- which must surely now also be on borrowed time as HAL members- the 1993 built Maasdam offers summer cruises along the eastern seaboard of the USA. Meanwhile, the fourth ship- Veendam- will resume some week long Bermuda sailings from Boston for Holland America in the summer of 2015.

The ability to redistribute tonnage for HAL arises as a result of the coming February, 2016 debut of the new, Project Pinnacle class ship to the line. At 100,000 tons and with a capacity for some 2,660 passengers, the as yet nameless new ship will more than replace the capacity of Statendam and Ryndam at a single stroke.

The arrival of the four Statendam class ships marked a major expansion for Holland America at the start of the 1990s, and preceded the takeover of the line by Carnival Corporation by a full five years.

Beyond those four ships, the line has steadily expanded into operating highly styled mega ships such as the four ship, Oosterdam class, as well as the mid sized braces, Volendam and Zaandam , and  Rotterdam/Amsterdam.

Smaller and older still, the 1989 built Prinsendam, known as the company’s ‘Elegant Explorer; continues to remain as a staple of the Holland America Line fleet for the present, despite being consistently linked with companies such as Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and, more recently, the German owned Phoenix Seereisen.

For further developments, please stay tuned.

LOOKING AHEAD; SOME SNIPPETS, AND A FEW QUESTIONS

Is HAL downsizing?

Is HAL downsizing?

February has broken with some possible welcome news in the cruise industry, an unfortunate accident, and a few question marks that have been hanging around for some time. Let’s take a look at some of them

Following the fire that ravaged part of her lido deck and forward superstructure at the end of November, 2013, there is still no word on whether or not the veteran Ocean Countess might possibly see a return to service. Indeed, the pall of silence that has enveloped the blackened, but seemingly only superficially damaged ship, is far thicker- and potentially more noxious- than the smoke that shrouded the burning ship.

I’ve already touched on the Marco Polo accident in a previous blog, but owners Cruise And Maritime now also have to contend with the second punch of an awful double whammy; the news that partner company, All Leisure Cruises, is putting the chartered MV Discovery up for sale.

This puts CMV- who only recently dipped a first tentative toe into European river cruising- in a bit of a bind. Do they buy the Discovery outright themselves, or perhaps look elsewhere to charter? Ironically, the Ocean Countess, mentioned above, was at one time also chartered by CMV.

Meanwhile, seemingly reliable (that is to say, non official) sources in Dubai are saying that all of the engines aboard QE2 are  now back on line, and that her whistle has been heard, bellowing around the bay. The same sources have intimated that former Cunard staff are on board the veteran ship; all straws in the wind that indicate that her much hyped voyage to China via Singapore, originally scheduled for October 2013, may indeed finally be on.

Is QE2 finally about to move?

Is QE2 finally about to move?

Though her future is still shrouded in uncertainty, my feeling is that any sign of regeneration right now must be viewed as a positive. Past experiences tell us all too well that official pronouncements must be taken with a ton of salt. And even so, we can only watch, wait, and hope.

Still on the veteran ship front, seemingly great news comes from Oman, where the former Kungsholm is still moored. A return for the 1966 built Swedish American veteran to either Stockholm or Gothenburg seems on the cards, together with the restoration of her mutilated forward funnel. With her interiors already adapted for hotel use during her stay in Oman, the only real obstacle to returning the beloved liner to her home country seems to be the securing of a permanent berth for her. Negotiations for that are, apparently, ongoing right now.

It also appears that the 1992 built Statendam is up for sale. The ship, the first of a ‘new’, five ship series, built for the Holland America Line, would perhaps make an ideal fit for Fred. Olsen, long known to be interested in acquiring her smaller fleet mate, Prinsendam.

Also welcome news from Star Cruises, who have now ordered a second new giant ship from Meyer Werft of Papenburg, Germany. My guess is that these two ships will be modified versions of the hugely successful Breakaway class, now sailing for sister company, Norwegian Cruise Line.

That’s it for now. As ever, stay tuned.

UPDATE: 

Ocean Countess is scheduled for scrapping at Aliaga, Turkey, this month according to a report on merseyshipping.blogspot.com

My grateful thanks go to Chris Thompson for pointing me in this direction.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE- STILL SUBLIME

Holland America's current Westerdam

Holland America’s current Westerdam

With a history that dates back to its first ever transatlantic sailing in 1873, the Holland America Line can safely lay claim to a place among the aristocracy of ocean travel. Now headquartered in Seattle and a principal player in the Carnival portfolio, the venerable line made the transition from crossing to cruising at the dawn of the 1970’s.

HAL traditionally never built the vast, imposing national flagships that typified their Cunard and French Line rivals, instead preferring to build solid, mid size vessels with excellent sea keeping qualities; a vital prerequisite on the often stormy passage between Rotterdam and New York. All the same, the line soon acquired a reputation for running smart, well served vessels on a human scale, factors which would make the line the first choice of many travellers over the years.

It became an axiom of transatlantic lore that a single speck of dirt on a Holland America ship would be enough to make a chief purser commit suicide. Legendary liners such as the graceful, triple stacked Statendam and, more than any other, the fabulous Nieuw Amsterdam of 1938 would become every bit as iconic as their larger fellow travellers. Hollywood stars such as Spencer Tracey were often prepared to alter their travel plans, just for the opportunity of sailing on the Nieuw Amsterdam, such was her star power on the post war Atlantic crossing.

But the canny Dutch had already foreseen the increasing dominance of the jet airliner when they introduced a new national flagship, the Rotterdam of 1959. Staunch and graceful, and with a pair of parallel twin funnels mounted aft, the new ship was designed for dual purpose, Atlantic crossings and warm weather cruising. Incredibly, this venerable and much adored legend would sail on until the year 2000; a happy ending that nobody could have foreseen in the cloudy skies of 1959.

Inevitably, dwindling numbers forced the cancellation of all Atlantic crossings at the end of 1971, a new emphasis on full time cruising, and a relocation of headquarters to Seattle. Long before it’s acquisition by Carnival in 1997, the line had become one of the major players in Alaska cruises and tours during the summer months.

Today, bolstered incalculably by Carnival’s financial clout and business expertise, the line operates some of the best and most elegant ships in the upper premium market. Though the ships of today are much bigger than the Atlantic and Bermuda stalwarts of the ‘old’ HAL, devotees of the line would instantly recognise the fresh cut flowers, signature art collections and deft, efficient Indonesian staff members that have defined the Holland America brand for over a century now.

The 1959 built Rotterdam, still afloat today as a hotel ship in her namesake port

The 1959 built Rotterdam, still afloat today as a hotel ship in her namesake port

If HAL stands for anything, it is tradition and continuity. And while these factors have been key to holding and retaining a quite extraordinary level of loyalty from regular passengers, they have also been perceived as stumbling blocks in any attempt to attract newer, younger passengers to its storied fleet.

It is a conundrum, and it has to be said that the modern HAL fleet is every bit as capacious, diverse and amenity laden as its rivals. Indeed, HAL offers some of the biggest standard cabins afloat, and a level of cuisine and service well above that offered by the mainstream lines. The lack of alternative dining venues in comparison to other lines merely points up just how excellent and finely styled the on board options already are.

Holland America is changing slowly by degrees to accommodate the new cruising demographic. Like a graceful Dutch galleon tacking slowly round to take advantage of fresher breezes, it will be a case of slow and steady does it.

The Holland America Line is still a timeless, tremendous experience even now. The ships remain as immaculate and highly styled as ever; each one is a sumptuous, floating art gallery in its own rightFor a classy, utterly distinctive big ship travel experience that combines the best of old world glamour with all the comfort and modern conveniences anyone could ever want, you would be very hard pressed to do much better.