Holland America Line is preparing to implement a new ‘Destination Immersion’ program across its entire fleet, designed to bring a number of interactive and informative resources and enrichment opportunities for passengers to enjoy prior to a ship’s arrival in any port around the world.
Beginning with MS Westerdam early next year and running through 2018, the Crow’s Nest on many HAL ships will be transformed into a new concept known as Explorations Central (EXC for short). On other ships, the experience will be delivered in other existing venues.
Guests in the new facility will be able to indulge in a warm drink, Sudoku or crossword puzzle at the coffee bar while perusing a comprehensive collection of documents, books, videos, photo galleries, digital puzzles, interactive videos all providing information about the culture guests will encounter in a destination during an upcoming scheduled visit. Topics covered will include a port’s culinary highlights, local landmarks and attractions, culture, arts landscape, natural and man-made wonders, history, development and more.
In addition, Holland America Line is claiming an “industry-first” by installing, within the EXC venue, a virtual bridge (the ship’s control room) featuring real-time data drawn from the ship’s actual bridge, which when positioned with a particular vantage point is sure to appeal to mariners and sailing enthusiasts.
Further complementing the new venue will be a team of dedicated EXC Guides who will offer personal experience in each destination. This team will be able to offer advice on the best shore excursions to book, most popular tourist sites and attractions, local customs, interesting facts, statistics and stories and some lesser-known highlights that may be particularly beneficial for a guest to discover for themselves.
From time to time, locals residing in the next port of call will come onboard to host sessions known as EXC Encounters. These cultural representatives have been tasked with building the anticipation among guests prior to arrival by hosting special activities linked to a destination.
These might include lessons in how to play a steel drum prior to arriving in Trinidad, flower making prior to Honolulu or a Tai Chi class before arriving in China, among others. Encounters might also include basic language lessons, familiarisation with local items and products as well as music, dance and storytelling programs.
This information will also be delivered in the form of hosted presentations and Q&A sessions. More destination content will also be broadcast to guest staterooms in the form of TV shows, documentaries and curated films, via the EXC Channel.
Detailed port guides will also be available for guests interested in exploring a particular port by themselves or in their own independent groups, with EXC Guides able to help with putting together a customised shore itinerary including sights and attractions which may appeal to an individual’s interests and passions.