First port of call: profitable deployments

Holland America Line’s Simon Douwes discusses the importance of balancing port visits with time at sea
First port of call: profitable deployments
Passengers of Holland America Line have the world at their feet as their ships go almost everywhere

By Rebecca Lambert |

This article was first published in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Passengers of Holland America Line quite literally have the world at their feet. “We go pretty much everywhere,” says Simon Douwes, the company’s senior director of Deployment and Itinerary Planning. “There is not a single part of the world where you will not see our ships at one time or other.”

Managing a global fleet takes a great deal of planning and the cruise line has to make some careful decisions even before it begins building its itineraries. “Before we create itineraries, we plan the deployment of our ships. The deployment relates to the area of the world our ships will be operating in, such as Alaska, northern Europe, South America and so on,” Douwes says. “Once we have established that and decided which ships will be deployed in each area and from which homeport, we create the itineraries.” 

Douwes explains that the deployment of Holland America ships is largely based on where the company expects to make the highest profit. This is determined by in-depth analysis of past performance coupled with future expectations. 

“A good example would be our summer deployment in Northern Europe, where we have ships deployed from Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Copenhagen,” he says. “At times, the operational characteristics of our ships do play a role. For our Alaska deployment, there is a difference in speed requirement for the ships operating from Vancouver and Seattle. Certain ships will be more suitable to be homeported in Vancouver compared to Seattle.”

Holland America line is currently planning its itineraries for summer 2020. “We plan them two years ahead,” Douwes says. “We always strive to create the most appealing ones we can.”

Douwes explains that each itinerary is about managing a careful balance between marquee ports and time at sea. “The goal is to achieve the highest possible guest satisfaction while maximising onboard revenue,” he says. “We collect and analyse large amounts of data, such as port ratings, fuel consumption, expected onboard revenue, port costs and so on – all of which play a role in determining the perfect itinerary.”

When selecting ports, Douwes says that the most important and obvious consideration is that the port is large enough to safely dock its ships. “Other considerations are what interests are there for our guests to enjoy – either historical, cultural or natural – whether there is enough tour capacity of sufficient quality, previous port ratings, if the port fits in the itinerary distance wise, safety and security considerations, and costs.”

At the moment, Douwes and his team are navigating challenges such as how to best handle high traffic in popular cruise destinations. “The main issue we face is port congestion in certain deployment areas, such parts of the Caribbean and Northern Europe,” Douwes says. 

But overall, the future is bright. “I am excited that we will be increasing our presence in the Eastern Mediterranean again,” he adds. “I am also very positive about port development projects which are underway in many parts of the world, especially those initiated by Carnival Corporation.”

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