It's a lovely gesture to make room for cruise passengers at the christening ceremony -- except the invitation comes with a $100 price tag. While the VIPs get in for free, travelers who are already paying to sail on the maiden voyage must ante up more money to see the show. Is this a new twist on cruise industry nickel and diming?
Not so, says Erik Elvejord, spokesman for Holland America. He insists that the fee is not a money-making scheme on HAL's part, but an attempt to price the show at what it's worth and ensure that only people truly interested in attending get to go. According to Elvejord, this inaugural event has more cachet than previous ones because of its location in Rotterdam -- a city to which Holland America has historical ties. In addition, the popular Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands will be in attendance to christen the ship, so many local dignitaries as well as media photographers will want to be on hand for the event. Combine that with a space that can only hold 2,500 people and a maiden sailing that takes place the following day (so guests can't watch from inside the ship), and the folks at HAL have to make hard choices as to whom to invite.
Five hundred spaces at the festivities are being reserved for passengers on the July 2 sailing, at a price of $100 per person. Currently, 135 people have signed up to watch the speeches, entertainment and champagne smash. If more than 500 guests wish to attend, HAL may extend that number if extra seats are available. Tickets are available only to travelers booked on the three-night European Prelude cruise departing Rotterdam on July 2 and sailing to Copenhagen. If interested, you can book seats as a stand-alone pre-cruise excursion or as part of a hotel package. Either your travel agent or a Holland America representative can reserve a spot for you.
Will the show be worth $100? Currently, the entertainment department at HAL is keeping mum on the performance schedule. We do know that the Queen will be there, and no intelligent cruise line would dare put on a dinky show when royalty is present. Past inaugurals in Rotterdam have featured Dutch celebrities and fly-bys from Dutch fighter planes.
Would you pay $100 to see the Dutch Queen smash champagne against a ship's hull? Tell us here.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor