Tired of gigantic cruise ships that carry 3,000 or more people? Many of the big lines have been phasing out smaller vessels, and what used to be common — mass-market ships that carry under 1,500 passengers — are increasingly rare. But the good news for big ship critics is that one major operator, Holland America, not only is holding on to its smaller vessels, it’s pouring money into them.
This past week Holland America showed off a massive, $40 million makeover of one of its smallest vessels, the 1,350-passenger Veendam — a makeover the line soon will repeat on four more of its smaller (and older) ships.
The 13-year-old Veendam’s three S Class sisters, the Statendam (built in 1993), Maasdam (1993) and Ryndam (1994), are scheduled for similar overhauls over the next two years, as is the first of Holland America’s four R Class ships, the 1,316-passenger Rotterdam (1997).
The refurbishments, as seen on the Veendam, are touching nearly every area of the vessels and, no doubt, will go a long way in cementing Holland America’s dominance in the market for mid-size ships — those in the 1,000 to 2,000 passenger range.
What’s new on the Veendam? One immediately noticeable change is at the back of the ship, where in a major structural alteration an entire new deck has been added to make room for 48 new cabins, including 32 with balconies — a relative rarity on such older ships.
Cabins with balconies, of course, are in high demand across the industry and command a significant premium, and they’re in particularly high demand on smaller vessels such as the Veendam that were built before balconies became commonplace.
In addition to the new balcony cabins on the back of the ship, Holland America has added balconies to 12 existing cabins on the front of the ship. And in a major and costly change, the line also has added sliding doors to 38 cabins that overlook the public, walk-around Promenade Deck (see photo above) to create what it is calling Lanai cabins — effectively creating a balcony cabin where there was none before (The Cruise Log will have a full report on the new Lanai cabins on Tuesday).
The overall effect of all the cabin changes is to greatly increase the percentage of accommodations on the Veendam that include an outdoor sitting space, a change that not only will better meet customer demand but also greatly increase the revenue the ship can generate.
Still, the structural changes didn’t end there. One deck up from the new cabins on the back of the ship the line also has added a stylish new outdoor pool area called The Retreat where passengers can lounge in recliners that sit right in the (three-inch-high) water.
The Retreat, part of which is pictured to the left, also is home to a new pool bar, a small pizzeria called Slice (pictured at right), outdoor seating under a canopy and a giant LED screen for evening movies.
More sophisticated than the pool area previously at the back of the Veendam, The Retreat is an example of Holland America’s effort to make its ships more contemporary and stylish — something that was clearly evident with last year’s launch of the 2,104-passenger Eurodam.