Powering ahead at Holland America Group

Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Group, tells Jacqui Griffiths how the group is empowering its brands to go from strength to strength

Powering ahead at Holland America Group
Holland America Line launched Koningsdam on 31 March 2016
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2016 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Less than three years since Holland America Group was formed, each of its brands is looking forward to the delivery of newbuilds. For Stein Kruse, the group’s CEO, it’s all part of a collaborative approach that empowers each brand to reach its full potential.

“The key to success is to allow the brands to be as focused as possible on their messaging, their identity and how they communicate that to their target audience,” says Kruse. “My job is to allow those brand leaders – Jan Swartz at Princess Cruises, Orlando Ashford at Holland America Line, Rick Meadows at Seabourn Cruise Line and Sture Myrmell at P&O Australia – to lead their brand in the best direction to optimise its profile. The synergies that we derive from having a focused service side mean that aspects such as financial, legal, human resources and operational services are taken care of so the brands don’t have to worry about them. That empowers the creative side of the brand.”

Princess Cruises’ expansion in China exemplifies the possibilities. “Princess is very focused on China as an emerging and increasingly important market for the brand,” says Kruse. “When I took responsibility for the group we hadn’t made any decisions with regard to long-term strategy in China other than that we knew we were going to open offices and continue to expand our presence. Then Jan Swartz, myself and Carnival Corporation chairman Micky Arison decided together that we needed to take advantage of the magic around the Princess name and its growth in China, and dedicate a Royal/Regal class ship year-round to China.”

The result is Majestic Princess, which is due for delivery in spring 2017. “Majestic Princess will be the first purpose-built ship from a North American company to sail year-round in China, catering exclusively to Chinese passengers,” says Kruse. “She will have numerous touches that are designed to enhance the cruise experience for Chinese guests. That’s an example of how we can take advantage of a powerful brand that is already global and is nascent in an emerging market, and push it even further by giving it the capital injection that a new ship involves.”

P&O Australia is also set to benefit from that approach. Already a household name across Australia, the line has been operating with ships that were originally designed for other brands. But earlier this year, the group decided to build a brand new ship for P&O Australia, which will be introduced in autumn 2019. “We are now finalising the design of what that ship will look like,” says Kruse. “She will be the first ever purpose-built ship for P&O Australia, with touches that are purpose-designed for the Australian cruise market. That decision is another reflection of how the brand strategy of Carnival Corporation and Holland America Group is really working for the brands. It takes an already powerful brand and allows it to supercharge itself and signal to its core market that it’s going to give them the best it can give.”

More newbuilds are in the pipeline across the group’s brand portfolio. Holland America Line recently took delivery of Koningsdam and is looking forward to the arrival of her sister ship, Nieuw Statendam, in 2018. “Koningsdam is a beautiful ship and her introduction was very successful,” says Kruse. “All the comments we have seen from the media, travel agents, passengers and our own staff exude enthusiasm and excitement.”

For Princess Cruises, the arrival of the Majestic Princess in spring 2017 will be followed by two more Royal/Regal class ships in 2019 and 2020. Like Majestic Princess, both are being built by Fincantieri in Monfalcone, Italy.

Seabourn is busy too. Having sold its original three ships, the brand is now adding two newbuilds to its existing fleet of Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest. Seabourn Encore will be delivered at the end of 2016, with her sister ship, Seabourn Ovation, following in summer 2018.

“Basically we have ship deliveries this year, in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020,” says Kruse. “It’s an opportunity to really allow the brands to continue to strengthen their message around the scale of their business, their ability to serve a global audience and their ability to target different source markets and provide new, exciting and innovative ship experiences for their customers.”

It’s a busy time for the group on land, too. Its new office building is set for completion by the end of 2016, and all of its deck and engine officers will be rotating through Carnival Corporation’s newly-opened Arison Maritime Training Center in Almere, Amsterdam. “The centre is by a mile the most sophisticated technology centre in the world for maritime training,” says Kruse. “It has four bridge simulators and two engine room simulators as well as high voltage switchboard training and its own hotel to house the officers that will come through it. We will be rotating through every single deck and engine officer in Carnival Corporation’s fleet, many of whom are on Holland America Group ships.”

For Kruse, it’s all part of a collaborative journey that will see the group’s brands going from strength to strength. “When we started our journey as a group just under three years ago we coined an expression about collaboration, communication and coordination, and that’s become a sort of mantra for Carnival Corporation as well,” he says. “Under Arnold Donald’s leadership of Carnival Corporation we have articulated some simple but very powerful messages, and empowered 110,000 employees – including 40,000 who are part of Holland America Group – to deliver incredible experiences that really communicate the excitement and value of cruising and make our guests into advocates and ambassadors for our brands.”

Kruse adds: “That’s the kind of passion and enthusiasm all of us are trying to achieve and I think the innovation that we’re doing, in terms of ship design and how we introduce new ships to new markets, resonates very well. This is really about how you take an already very powerful culture and make it even more effective and exciting. It’s not a goal, it’s a continuous, exciting journey, and I think we’re really moving forward.”

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
Monday, October 24, 2016