Holland America Line will turn to a fresh page in its storied chronology this week as the curtains are pulled back on MS Koningsdam – the first in not just a new Pinnacle class of ship for the line but also the next generation for one of the world’s oldest cruise brands and the standard bearer on which future fleet growth will be inspired.
For Australian cruisers, a good way to gauge the size of Koningsdam is to take two of HAL’s former ships – MS Ryndam and MS Statendam – which now sail for P&O Cruises in Australia as Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden respectively, and join them together. At 2,650 passengers in twin share configuration, the newest in the HAL fleet is also the largest by more than 500 guests and will showcase a range of innovations developed through years of engaging with, listening to and learning from its customer base – one of the most loyal in all of cruising.
To have stood the test of time over 143 years, especially through some volatile economic conditions including the Great Depression, Holland America Line must be doing something right. Koningsdam – the very first ship to carry the name – is tipped by cruise industry insiders to become a tangible example of exactly what that is.
In writing the next chapter of a great cruise brand, Holland America Line turned its focus to partnerships and taking out to sea some of the world’s best known and respected labels, many of which are instantly recognisable around the world as fellow pioneers in innovation and imagination in their respective fields of expertise. One such industry is music, which will play a major role in the passenger experience, immersing guests in the widely cherished works of some of the world’s most fabled musical marques along with their associated identities, styles, methods and legacies.
Three such brands – each offering something different – have been brought onboard to form the new ‘Music Walk’ concept which will cater to three styles of live music presented each evening and in the afternoon on sea days. Leading the way is New York City’s Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts, a recognised hub of classical, chamber and orchestral composition, opera, jazz and ballet, and is one such product which has been theoretically uprooted from its home – in this case Manhattan – and adapted to the confines of a modern cruise ship.
Elsewhere, the soulful jazz and blues beats of Beale Street in Memphis will transform the venue known as the Queen’s Lounge each evening into ‘B.B. King’s Blues Club’, headlined by the eight-piece B.B. King All-Stars Band, named in memory of the late blues legend. Inspired by the Memphis flagship club, Koningsdam guests will have the opportunity to get lost in the King-brand of electric guitar riffs which provided the soundtrack to decades of momentous cultural change in the southern states of the United States of America and which eventually made its way into the rest of mainstream US society.
The third and final part of the Music Walk live entertainment selection is ‘Billboard Onboard’ which will celebrate 50 years of chart-topping rock hits, performed by two pianists, a rock guitarist and backed by a DJ. Paying homage to decades of music’s most successful as told by Billboard Magazine, guests enjoying these tunes will be able to help direct the evening’s lineup as requests are taken along with periods focusing on specific genres.
In addition to the wide range of musical talent onboard, entertainment will be complemented by ‘World Stage’, which represents a break from the traditional cruise ship theatre design. The flexibility of the venue enables five different stage configurations to be set up as needed to cater for five different productions, ranging from the stage in the middle of the room and surrounded by seating to the more conventional proscenium style. Productions playing on World Stage will be backed by a 270-degree LED screen more than 75 metres in length designed to encapsulate the audience in the show.
Music has also been incorporated into the actual design of the ship. Each entertainment venue on Koningsdam, as well as the interior design of the ship as a whole, comes from the collective imaginations of designer Adam D. Tihany and architect Bjørn Storbraaten, whose designs called for public spaces to feature architectural artworks inspired by music and for natural light to be given every opportunity to be able to fully enhance each room. Tihany says in his designs for the ship, he has been inspired by the thought of what one might see from the inside of a musical instrument including what the surfaces and geometry look like.
“The design isn’t a literal translation of music, but a conceptual approach where we seek to evoke the feeling and beauty of an instrument with graceful lines, dramatic textures, lighting effects and use of materials,” Tihany said. “My inspirations were not only instruments, but also majestic spaces and exaggerating the feeling of height, so guests feel the grandeur of every room.”
Having been constructed by Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard, Rome will serve as the venue for Holland America Line to assume ownership of its brand new MS Koningsdam. After its maiden voyage to Italy, Greece and Croatia, the ship will sail for a brief season in Eastern Europe before heading to the Dutch port of Rotterdam for its official christening formalities. The remainder of Koningsdam‘s first year will see it spend the European summer in the Baltic and Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean.