Holland America Updates "SOE" Progress

February 23, 2005

Holland America's $225 million "Signature of Excellence" fleetwide upgrade -- which ranges from the construction of new facilities onboard to the addition of new-and-improved cabin amenities -- is on schedule with overhauls now complete on Zaandam and Prinsendam. These two follow Ryndam, the first ship in the fleet to get the full refurbishment (read our review), which was relaunched in November.

Now-standard additions to ships in the post-Signature of Excellence mode include the quite fabulous Explorations Cafe (a superb library/coffee bar/Internet cafe), upgraded youth facilities (most notably the teen facilities) and in-cabin features such as pillowtop mattresses and duvets. Another highlight is the Culinary Arts Center -- on each ship, designers have actually created a television-style test kitchen. Located in the Wajang Theater, the Culinary Arts demos and workshops split stage time with film showings.

Unlike Zaandam (and Ryndam), because of its size -- the ship carries about half the passengers of other Holland America vessels -- Prinsendam only received a modified overhaul. It got a new Culinary Arts Center and flat panel televisions were added to cabins; the ship already operates a full Greenhouse Spa and features the Pinnacle Grill, the company's signature Northwest-style alternative restaurant. Prinsendam did not receive the Explorations Cafe addition -- and there was little need to enhance childrens' facilities as the ship, which serves as the fleet's exotic pathfinder, is aimed at older travelers.

Next up? Rotterdam, Statendam and Westerdam's Signature of Excellence upgrades will be complete by the end of May. Amsterdam, Volendam and Zuiderdam are aiming for a fall 2005 refurbishment date. On Noordam, Holland America's still-under-construction ship, the new features were incorporated into its design; that ship launches in February 2006. After that, only Veendam and Maasdam (which will relaunch in spring 2006), and Oosterdam (which relaunches in fall 2006), await completion.