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Launch of ‘Explorations Central’ Onboard Redefines Destination Immersion

Holland America Line is amplifying its destination immersion experiences with the launch of Explorations Central, or EXC, as it will be called. The multifaceted EXC experience combines a wide array of indispensable travel resources with enrichment opportunities for guests that make their travel experience more engaging, vivid and meaningful.

If you’d like to watch a video from Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford on the new experience, take a look below. (Otherwise read on for all of the details!).

EXC will also feature the transformation of the Crow’s Nest on some ships to create a newly named venue, Explorations Central, as a comprehensive resource and engagement center. Programming for EXC begins in early 2017 and will roll out across the entire fleet by the end of the year. The EXC shipboard center will debut aboard ms Westerdam in April 2017 following a scheduled dry dock and is scheduled to expand across the rest of the fleet through 2018.

“Explorations Central is revolutionizing the way we deliver destinations to our guests, and it’s going to profoundly change how our guests are immersed in the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Those who see the world better understand the world; and when we better understand the world we can gain insights into ourselves and personally experience the transformative effects of travel. EXC is going to show our guests the world in a whole new way and enable them to engage in truly meaningful experiences.”

As the centerpiece for interactive discovery, Explorations Central, in the space currently occupied by the Crow’s Nest, will be a hub of information redefining the way Holland America Line guests experience each destination. Through EXC, guests will be able to relax and immerse themselves, whether collecting information about a port or indulging in a cup of espresso or Sudoku at the coffee bar.

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In-depth content will showcase digital storytelling and interactive video experiences on subjects ranging from travel and food to the arts. In an industry first, EXC will feature a virtual ship’s bridge where real-time data from the ship’s actual bridge reveals the cruise experience to guests from a unique vantage point.

Also being introduced is a dedicated EXC Team that will bring local culture and history onboard with customized guidance for each destination. Guests can ask advice from the EXC Guides about the best tours, most popular sites and where to go to feel like a local so each destination can be explored to its fullest. These specially trained experts shape the story of each journey by providing informative talks, fielding questions and hosting local visitors in engaging encounters with guests.

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EXC Talks by the EXC Guides bring each locale to life by digging deeper, beyond facts and figures. Guests will learn some of the local customs, hear interesting tales and gain extensive insight into each port of call.

Through EXC Encounters, local cultural representatives come on board before the ship reaches the next destination to build anticipation for the adventures that await. Guests might learn how to play the steel drums from a Trinidadian, make a flower lei with a native Hawaiian or create a sense of balance and serenity every morning in a class led by a master tai chi instructor. EXC Encounters also include informal small-group gatherings hosted by the EXC Guides. These feature language and cultural etiquette lessons, hands-on discovery of local items and products, participatory programs covering music and dance and storytelling sessions.

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To ensure guests are prepared to go ashore, online EXC Port Guides using tips and information from AFAR Media provide exclusive handbooks for each destination. Guests can create a personalized journey based on their interests in a variety of subjects. For guests who enjoy exploring on their own, printed EXC Port Maps present a simple view of the best each port has to offer by highlighting the key points in each port that are easily reachable during the stay in port. Tips and suggestions will be included from shipboard crew who have visited the port several times before.

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Completing the new on-board offerings, stateroom televisions also become a portal to the world through the EXC Channel featuring a selection of curated films, documentaries and TV shows exploring destinations on the ship’s itinerary.

Are you excited about EXC? What element are you most looking forward to experiencing?

29 Comments
  • Debbie Conway

    I love this idea! I am replying to this from the Explorations Cafe of the Vierderdam and am excited to hear mroe about this plan. It reminds me of the Roads Scholars program of Elderhostel.

  • Donald Yeckel

    There seems to be no way to subscribe to this blog, e.g., via RSS or email notifications. If HAL depends on me remembering to check this site occasionally, lots of luck. It’s a shame, because info like the EXC 12/15/16 is very interesting.

  • Julie

    Donald, the RSS Feed no longer works thanks to the platform, but stay tuned for a redesigned blog that you’ll be able to subscribe to. Coming soon!

  • Michael Parks

    Love the Crow’s Nest as it has been. Do not like the changes. Back to Princess for us!!

  • Ellen toms

    Holland is forgetting its market by changing the Exploration cafe/library to Explorations central. Huge mistake by trying to reinvent what is already perfect( books,comfortable lounge chairs, cafe) We are so disappointed that the Koningsdam and future ships are going this way. Thus we will be going back to Cunard where books, contemplation and intellectual stimulation is still a priority. Novel is not better!

  • Matthew R

    Sorry, but this sounds terrible! I like the Crows Nest the way it is. STOP trying to change Holland America, or else you’ll find a LOT of your existing customers looking elsewhere to cruise. There are a lot of other choices!

  • Lynne S

    What are you doing to my favorite spot on my favorite cruise line? I was disappointed with
    the changes in place on the Koningsdam–a token (really laughable) library, all of the music
    venues “squished together” where the ambient sounds compete for attention……the cozy lounges seem afterthoughts rather than well-thought out venues for entertainment and
    relaxation………………..and now, the Crow’s Nest–reimagined into the shore excursion
    department! This four star mariner is looking to Cunard in the future to provide classic
    cruising without updated touches for the sake of glitz, glamour and more revenue-generating
    spaces. Too bad; you guys had a good thing going for a very long time.

  • Victor Lish

    I have not been on the Koningsdam yet to see these changes, but my first impression is not positive. HAL has been special for all the reasons stated above. We have been to all the ports and done all the excursions and don’t need to lose the Crows nest to tour excursions info. We have 106 days aboard HAL and loved every one. Our plans to take the Koningsdam in the spring had to change due to family reasons, but as we have asked other HAL customers aboard ship, their comments match those I read on the blog. Sorry to be negative, but we loved the smaller ships which are being sold. We are on the Eurodam again next month and will try the Koningsdam to form our own opinion.

  • Jeanne Stendardo

    So excited to experience EXC onboard the Westerdam for her 27 April 2017 sailing! Hoping Mr. Orlando Ashford will be joining us for this amazing opportunity to be so thoroughly immersed in so many different cultures as EXC debuts.

  • Linda & Lew Williams

    We are three star Mariners and this year will be our first on the koningsdam. Not sure how we will like this new venue as The Crows Nest was one of our favorites but we will wait to render judgment until after the cruise. Holland America line has always been the best for us and we hate to see a change too much but some of the changes have been very good.

  • Janet

    I love the Crows Nest as is. Lucky for me I will get to enjoy the Westerdam before the makeover on their Atlantic crossing. Please we do not need sales people crawling all over us.
    Let the Crows Nest be a quiet bar with beautiful views not a learning/sales arena! The time spent having a quiet drink before dinner will be missed. Unreal!

  • Gregg Tiemann

    I have been on 4 HAL cruises so far, just finished a 14 and 10 day cruise this winter and just booked a 21 day cruise on the Koningsdam for next Jan. The Crow’s Nest, and particularly the Happy Hour at the Crow’s Nest has been my favorite part of the cruises. I have looked forward to it every day on board. Why you thought you needed to put this Explorations stuff in the most prime real estate spot aboard the boat totally escapes me. It’s absolutely ludicrous. I have fallen in love with cruising and the Crow’s Nest has been no small part of that and was I looking to remain a loyal HAL customer for many years to come. I may now have to seriously rethink that.

  • Greg

    Really sad to see the Crows Nest being reconfigured.. so many of us sail HAL for for the old world charm of there ships, that’s the one space that one could enjoy and related and have a exspresso. To much automation being added. Please keep some ships as designed.

  • Mats Hellstrom

    This is a TERRIBLE idea! The Crow’s Nest has always been this four-star mariner’s favorite spot onboard. Please tell me this is a bad joke!

  • Julie

    We really love the Crows Nest just the way it is. It is our place to go to everyday. Please don’t change it. It is why we keep coming back to HAL. Who on earth made this stupid decision. Did you ask your customer (us the passengers) what we wanted.

    We don’t need sales people trying to sell excursions to us. Extremely disappointed.

  • Ann Campisi

    I am appalled to find out that you are doing away with the Crow’s Nest – or are you doing away with the Exploration part of it? It is not made clear and many people I see are upset over getting rid of the Crow’s Nest – that is a real winner and you will have many people leaving HAL for that reason. Please clarify what you really mean if it is a question of that.

  • Julie

    The Crow’s Nest is not going away in its entirety. It’s evolving. You will still be able to enjoy a coffee and treat at the cafe, and there will still be places to relax. It’s just now also the Hub of the EXC programming and you will be able to learn more about the destination you are cruising to in this area. There will be a virtual Bridge and many other exciting features. Our hope is that our guests will give it a try and find it an enjoyable and immersive experience.

  • Linda Burgoon

    I do not like just e the blogs!!!! I have been searching for info on Club Hal and nothing comes up. When is HercUlean getting the update? I like the Crows Nest!! Looking forward to my next cruise. I hope they keep the talks,about the,destinations!!! Linda

  • Julie

    Linda, if you put “Club HAL” in quotes in the search box, you will find articles that mention Club HAL, some experiences from our junior cruisers, etc… is there anything specific I can help you with?

  • Christopher Bell

    First it was converting much of the public deck spaces into revenue producing lounge chairs and reserving the limited number of deck steamer chairs into reserved only for lanai rooms. Now the defining Crow’s Nest is a glorified shore excursions area. Reminders of the Carnival ownership. We’re done. Shame.

  • James Baca

    If there are no more Crow’s Nests on you ships, we and our travelling companions will have to find another cruise line. The Nest was a perfect place to relax after a day’s excursions. We have enjoyed 12 cruises with you and have one scheduled. After the Crows nest goes, Adios.

  • Julie

    The Crow’s Nest still exists, just in a different form. There’s still space to relax with a drink from the bar and enjoy the view. Hope you find that it’s still a place you can go after a day ashore.

  • Edwin Mahr

    Don’t think of touching the Crow’s Nest! It is our meeting place on all HAL ships for conversation and cocktails. The Crow’s Nests are classic cocktail lounges with spectacular views. Goodbye HAL if Crow’s Nests disappear.

  • Julie

    Not looking forward to this change to my favourite part of the ship. Do HAL ever ask their passengers what they would like. Obviously not. Hopefully everyone will comment on their after cruise survey what they really think of the changes.

    We do our reseach on the ports before we leave home. Do not need anyone trying to sell me excursions.

  • Nick

    We really enjoy the Crow’s Nest and are very sad they are doing away with it. We just got off of a sailing and the crew told us they are gutting it completely. What is the Explorations Cafe, attached to the Crow’s Nest will be the new bar, and the rest of the Crow’s Nest will be interactive thingys for excursions. Unfortunate as I liked looking over the bow as we sailed. Now I will have to pretend to be interested in excursions to do that, or go out on deck. But HAL will still be the line with who we sail – we like the people.

  • Julie

    Nick, there will still be a bar and seating for you to enjoy. Just also many other activities like a virtual Bridge, shore info and more.

  • Judy

    My husband & I are currently on the 49-day HAL Mediterranean cruise, just having returned six weeks earlier from the Voyage of the Vikings. We heard the news a few days ago that our favorite place on the ship is being replaced by the new”Explorations Central,” a poorly disguised attempt to garner more revenue. Big mistake. In just four years we have earned a 4-Star Mariner status, and to have this occur now is very disappointing. HAL has been our cruise line of choice, but now I have a feeling that other lines will take advantage of this situation to offer similar perks to those of us who will be looking around at other cruise line possibilities. I can’t help but think that the employees in Seattle who are making such decisions are younger people attempting to appeal to a younger crowd, forgetting who their customer base is. Sad.

  • Diane

    I sail the Zuiderdam in a few weeks, and hope there is going to be a quiet comfortable viewing area to sit in what I loved to enjoy, the old Crow’s Nest. Like most, I do my port research and excursion deciding well before sailing. the Crow’s Nest is my absolute favorite area on HAL. 🙁

  • Julie

    Not to worry! There is still plenty of seating by the windows for you to enjoy the beautiful view!

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