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(16-11-2009)

Dutch Cruise News


The naming this weekend of the new 3,434-ton 110-berth expedition vessel Plancius at Vlissingen adds to the variety of Dutch-flag vessels available on the high seas, and her operator, Oceanwide Expeditions of Vlissingen, made more news when it was also named the World's Leading Polar Expedition Company 2009 at London's World Travel Market last week.
Elsewhere, Holland America Line's latest Nieuw Amsterdam, the fourth of that name, due to enter service on July 4, 2010, was floated out at Fincantieri's Marghera yard a fortnight ago. Meanwhile, work proceeds on the new Cruise Hotel Rotterdam, being prepared on board Holland America Line's last purpose-built Transatlantic liner, the 38,645-ton Rotterdam of 1958, a ship that is still almost in its original form.
This week we take a look at Dutch contributions to ocean cruising, both past and present.


An Expedition Ship With Great Views

Built in 1976 as the Royal Dutch Navy's oceanographic research ship Tydeman, the Plancius has been totally rebuilt over the past two and a half years into a top-notch ice-class passenger vessel capable of operating in polar regions. On touring the ship, one of the first things that strikes one, compared to many ships previously used in Antarctic and polar waters is the excellent views that can be had not only from her main observation lounge, forward on deck 5, but also from the windows either side of her dining room aft on deck 3.
Both rooms double as lecture halls when it comes time to learn about wildlife, geology, Antarctic base camps and local history. And off her main lounge is a library stocked with various reference materials. The ship's decor is very pleasing, with grey leatherette banquettes featuring in both lounge and restaurants while the ship is carpeted throughout in blue.
Companionway bulkheads are decorated with very good still wildlfie photography.

Deck 3 outside is laid with teak and contains an embarkation area and zodiac boarding area on the starboard side while the port side contains the ship's galley. Aft there is a rather attractive teak-laid barbecue area with views over the stern. The upper decks are quite extensive and on certain decks it is possible to walk completely round the superstructure, making for superb viewing of wildlife and scenery.

Forward of the main lounge is an accessible open deck area and from here passengers can reach the bow. Passengers are also allowed onto the bridge, where views are possible in most directions, although the forward view is obscured somewhat by the layout of navigation instruments and controls that cover the lower window area, so there sre better views from the open bridge wings.

The new ship's cabins have been simplifed into three basic types of accommodation, all en suite. Ten superior cabins located on the top two decks, 5 and 6, contain double beds, and thirty-nine twin cabins on decks 2, 3 and 4 contain twin beds, while four triple cabins have an additional third, upper, berth and are located on the lowest deck, 2. In addition to the double bed, the superior cabins feature a sofa and double windows.

Being a former oceanographic ship, the Plancius has attractive hull lines and is quite a good-looking ship. It is also obvious that much thought has been put into her new internal layout for carrying passengers. She will be staffed by an experienced Russian crew recruited from the Professor Molchanov and Professor Multanovskiy, two ships that Oceanwide have been operating on charter for many years while the expedition team and hotel manager will be from Oceanwide's own experienced personnel.

This year is the second time Oceanwide has won the World's Leading Polar Expedition Company award as it received the same award in 2005. As well as the Plancius, it operates the 2,180-ton 84-berth Chilean-owned Antarctic Dream, a ship that was built in the Netherlands for the Chilean Navy, in the Spitsbergen season, and the 1,753-ton 50-berth Professor Molchanov and Professor Multanovskiy, in the Antarctic season.
The fleet is rounded out by the two-masted schooner Noorderlicht, a historic vessel that dates to 1910 and now carries 20 passengers around Spitsbergen.


A Fourth Nieuw Amsterdam

Elsewhere, while Cunard Line is building a new 92,000-ton Queen Elizabeth, named after the 83,673-ton ship of that name that entered service in 1940, Holland America Line is building an 86,200-ton Nieuw Amsterdam, named for the 36,287-ton ship of that name that entered service in 1938. Nedxt year will thus see the introduction of two large new cruise ships carrying the names of two famous two-funnelled ocean liners of the past.

Just over two weeks ago, on October 30, the fourth Nieuw Amsterdam was floated out from her building berth at Fincantieri and moved to her nearby fitting out berth. A sister ship to last year's Eurodam, the new liner will be a slightly shorter version the new Queen Elizabeth, with a different funnel configuration and interior design, but both based on the same original "Vista" class platform developed by Carnival Shipbuilding.
P&O's Arcadia, a third Carnival group ship named for an earlier liner, is also of this class, but topped off with a P&O funnel.

Nieuw Amsterdam having been the name the Dutch explorers first gave to New York City, the interiors of the new ship will reflect this New York theme, with a Manhattan restaurant and a skyscraper theme to start with. More details will follow on the latest addition to the Holland America fleet.


Holland America Line in Holland Today

Because of its unique place, along with Cunard, as being one of few surviving Transatlantic lines (Costa operated to South America), Holland America Line, which dates back to 1873, has retained its independence in Europe even though acquired by Carnival Corp in 1989.
Cunard and P&O now make up Carnival UK and Costa Cruises, Germany's Aida Cruises and Spain's Ibero Cruceros all report to Costa headquarters in Genoa, but Holland America, managed from Seattle since 1977, has maintained its own autonomy.

In the UK, it has a marketing office that it shares with Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa in London, away from Carnival UK in Southampton. The line does work very closely however with Carnival Shipbuilding in Southampton, which oversees ship design.

Since 2007, Holland America has had its own reservation and sales office in the Netherlands, this year booking a number of cruises from Rotterdam where 95% of the passengers were Dutch. In 2010, the Dutch-flag line will offer half a dozen round-trip cruise departures from Rotterdam or Amsterdam anjd five cruises between Amsterdam and the UK, as well as five round-trip cruises from the UK.

The Benelux cruise market numbered only 42,000 in 2005, but increased by half to 64,000 in 2006 and then almost doubled from 2005 to 2007 when it reached 82,000. Benelux cruisers numbered 92,000 in 2008, enough to fill the Nieuw Amsterdam forty-three times, making it the seventh largest cruise market in Europe. But for a population of about 28 million, it is still a small market, although showing signs of growth. Scandinavia, by comparison, with a population of about 25 million produces 123,000 cruisers, or a third more than the Benelux.

Meanwhile, four important corporate roles at Holland America fall into Dutch hands. Newbuildings are under the control of Pieter Rijkaart, the line's director of new build ships. Rijkaart, now based in Seattle, began his Holland America career on the freighter Soestdijk, named after the birthplace of Queen Beatrix, in 1963, but soon moved to the line's second Nieuw Amsterdam.

Eventually, he became chief engineer of the line's last North Atlantic liner, the Rotterdam (of which see more below), before coming ashore to look after the line's newbuildings. First among these was the line's third Nieuw Amsterdam, which now sales as the Thomson Spirit. And two week ago, Pieter's wife Hana acted as patron for the latest Nieuw Amsterdam.

Holland America Line's ship registry has now been back in the Netherlands since 1996, after many years under offshore flags. With the delivery of the Nieuw Amsterdam next year Holland America Line will have a fleet of fifteen cruise ships, all registered in the Netherlands. And staffing, particularly the fleet's well-known Dutch navigation, engineering and hotel officers, still come largely from the Netherlands, while the traditional Indonesian crew have been added to with Filipinos.

Yet another function, ships' decoration, while also now sourced out to firms such as Fincantieri Design in Italy and Yran and Storbraaten in Norway, has been greatly influenced by Frans Dingemans' VFD Interiors in Utrecht, which has worked with Holland America for 35 years. Many of the antiques and much of the artwork used in Holland America Line ships and even the ships' chairs have traditionally been sourced in the Netherlands.


The Hotel New York and Cruise Hotel Rotterdam

Holland America Line ships, as well as others, now sale from Cruise Terminal Rotterdam, installed in the old Transatlantic embarkation and customs hall of the Holland America Line on the Wilhelminakade. This is also where Holland America Line has located its new Benelux sales and reservations office.

But the Holland America Line tradition also carries on in other ways. The headquarters building of the old Holland America Line, for example, opened on the Wilhelminakade in 1901, and served that purpose for the decades, surviving two world wars and seeing thousands of ocean liner sailings from those docks to America. The last liner to leave the Wilhelminakade for New York, on November 8, 1971, was the 1938-built Nieuw Amsterdam, second of the name, although cargo operations continued for some years.
The former headquarters building, with its twin copper-roofed towers, was sold in 1984, after the company had moved to the United States to become one of the more important North American-based cruise lines.

Now, that same building offers a unique and interesting opportunity for a stay near things maritime in Rotterdam. Since 1993, the 72-room Hotel New York, which also has seven function rooms and a large bar-restaurant, has been operating in the former Rotterdam headquarters. Located on the old docks, adjacent to the city's present cruise terminal, the Hotel New York, as it is now known, is also accessible for foot passengers by 8-passenger water taxis, hardwood motor boats that cross the river from the Rotterdam Maritime Museum, or by car over the nearby bridge.

The hotel and grounds have good views of passing shipping on the nearby Maas River and the historic feel has been kept by decorating hallways and rooms with antique and vintage luggage and steamer trunks.

Meanwhile, the Rotterdam, the fifth liner of that name and the last Holland America Transatlantic liner, has finally found her way back to Rotterdam, having returned on August 4, 2008, almost fifty years after her first voyage to New York in 1959. Today, she is in the course of being converted into a floating hotel, and is now in the course of preparation for opening late next month as the 257-room Cruise Hotel Rotterdam.
With three restaurants, two bars, a theatre and many meeting and function rooms, as well as shops at her new permanent location in the port of Rotterdam in the Maashaven, she is located in the next set of docks along the Maas from the Hotel New York.

While the Netherlands also has interests in river cruising on the Rhine, its participation in the ocean field was diminished somewhat earlier this year by the failure of locally-based Club Cruise. It is good therefore to see local companies such as Oceanwide developing a new seagoing tradition while the venerable Holland America Line, although now an American company, redevelops its Dutch roots by operating cruises on Dutch-flagged and officered ships from Rotterdam, where it was founded over 135 years ago.

(Source: By Mark Tré - Cybercruises.com)


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