Speaking at HAL's 140th Anniversary celebrations in Rotterdam last week, Kruse said: “It will be a large ship, but still an intimate ship. The bigger you get, the costs come down. We are a premium company and we need to drive a premium yield. We want to balance the benefits of building a bigger ship with the customer experience.”
The new ship (pictured) -- which is as yet unnamed but Kruse confirmed would end in ‘-dam', like the rest of the fleet -- will be the line's biggest, coming in just shy of 100,000 tons. It will also be wider at 35 metres (compared to the line's largest ships which are 32.4 metres), to take advantage of a widened Panama Canal. It will also allow HAL to build up as well as out.
Kruse did not reveal any of the details of what would be onboard, however -- in a gentle dig at rivals Royal Caribbean -- he confirmed the ship would definitely not have bumper cars onboard. (In a news conference last week, Royal revealed that one of the new features onboard Quantum of the Seas would be bumper cars).
Kruse, who is also chairman of Seabourn, added the ultra-luxury line is "in talks" with ship builders to build a new Seabourn ship, which is likely to be a fourth in the Odyssey Class. Seabourn sold its three smaller, older ships to Windstar last year.
“The brand disparity between the smaller ships and the Odyssey class ships was becoming very apparent," Kruse said. "We'd have people going from the smaller ships to the larger ones, but not the other way round.”
Kruse also spoke about the environmental impact of cruising and the forthcoming legislation surrounding fuel type in environmentally sensitive areas such as Alaska -- which could lead to fare increases to cover the costs of the new fuels. “We have an obligation to look after those places we go to and leave them as we find them,” he said. “However, I also have an obligation to run a profitable company. The introduction of the Emission Control Areas in Alaska in 2015 could be problem for us and may have to lead to fare rises.”
Kruse said although Holland America was probably the most international cruise line in the world in terms of ports of call, its core strength and core market remained North America. “We are very effective in North America, but we are growing our international market and we are very successful in the U.K., Benelux, Germany and Australia,” he said. “Australia is smoking hot right now -- the cruise penetration is equal to the US.”
HAL's international market in terms of passenger numbers has tripled since 2000.
He also ruled out expansion into the Asia or India markets in the short-term: “When you look at India and China it's easy to get blinded by the numbers, the sheer size of those populations. But there is a long way to go, and we need to educate them what a cruise is all about. But mid- and long-term definitely.”
HAL also introduced different languages onboard to cater for the growing international clientele it attracts. Now all menus, other printed matter and shore excursions are in German, Dutch and Spanish. “What we're not trying to do is create a German ship or a Spanish ship,” Kruse explained. “And that's not why people sail with us. HAL is essentially English speaking, but if you are not comfortable in an English speaking environment then we will do tours in different languages.”
Last week's 140th celebrations also included a naming ceremony of a tulip specially bred for Holland America, called ‘Signature'. Kruse christened it with champagne in the word-famous Keukenhof Gardens.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor