Powering up the cruise industry for the future

Rebecca Barnes asks Jan Swartz about the future of Holland America Group and the importance of listening and collaboration

Powering up the cruise industry for the future
Holland America Group’s brands are continuing to invest in new ships such as Seabourn Venture, which will join the fleet in December 2021

Last year was a challenging period for Jan Swartz. However, as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, the cruise line executive proved her leadership credentials time and time again as she was thrust in front of the media following outbreaks onboard Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess and Grand Princess. 

Almost a year later, Swartz has a new role as president of Holland America Group and is refocusing her efforts on enhancing procedures and guest experiences across the Holland America Line, Seabourn, Princess Cruises and P&O Australia brands. 

“During this pause in operations we’ve taken time to streamline the fleet, allowing us to enhance our ships, focus on exciting newbuilds like Princess Cruises’ Enchanted Princess, and expand the MedallionClass to the full Princess Cruises fleet,” says Swartz.  

“We continue to progress with our larger strategic initiatives, including the planned deliveries of Holland America Line’s Rotterdam at the end of July 2021, Seabourn’s new Seabourn Venture in December 2021, and Princess Cruises’ Discovery Princess.”   

Swartz’s experience will certainly stand her in good stead as the industry moves closer to a restart. She believes that now more than ever, a servant-leader approach is critical to developing the culture the company is trying to support and to the overall success of the organisation.  

“One of the phrases I have used for years with the team at Princess Cruises is that we are ‘one team with one dream’ and the same is true across all of Carnival Corporation [Holland America Group’s parent company]. All the brands support each other in growing and learning, while still ensuring we maintain our own unique blend of onboard experiences and services to delight our loyal guests.”    

She also believes that listening is key. “Since I took over as president of Princess Cruises more than seven years ago, I’ve made listening one of the hallmarks of my leadership. What are the aspirations and input of our guests, my teammates, our travel advisor partners, our vendors and the communities we visit? What can we learn from and for them? What should we prioritise?  

“Every day is an opportunity to learn and improve across all dimensions of our work, and I hope to bring that approach to everything we do across the Holland America Group.”  

With the resumption of cruise operations high on the agenda, Holland America Group is in dialogue with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as many other equivalent organisations around the world. The company’s focus is on ensuring absolute compliance with these organisations and reviewing additional recommendations from the science and medical communities. 

Measures currently include pre-embarkation health screenings (including testing), revised embarkation protocols, expanded onboard sanitation procedures, physical distancing, and enhanced filtration systems and other technologies, to name a few.   

“We will continue to evolve our protocols to reflect best practices in mitigating the virus,” Swartz says. “In the USA, we’re continuing conversations with the CDC to determine specific health and safety requirements. We’re hopeful that by summer, the combination of low community transmission and the accelerated distribution of the vaccine will result in more ships sailing successfully from different countries around the world.”  

The other consideration is the onshore experience. Swartz confirms that Holland America Group is in active conversations with health and regulatory bodies and key stakeholders in destinations to ensure all parties are in alignment and mutual agreement on the practices and layers of protection that will enable a safe, comfortable experience for guests and crew. She is also keen to reassure those travellers who may be apprehensive about taking a cruise once the industry reopens.  

“Cruise lines, working closely through Cruise Lines International Association, are laying a framework of practices and policies that will ensure cruising can be as safe as, if not safer than, alternative vacations,” she says. “The industry is working in a coordinated fashion, and each line’s unique plan will be determined by which markets in the world they source from and their respective estimated timing of starting in those markets, based on their stakeholder conversations.”

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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By Rebecca Barnes
17 May 2021

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