Holland America will launch a new concept to help its cruise passengers get a more in-depth look at the destinations they visit during their voyages. Explorations Central, or EXC, is a multifaceted experience that combines travel resources and enrichment programming in an effort to give cruisers an engaging, immersive and meaningful travel experience.
The Crow's Nest, the line's panoramic lounge and bar area at the top of HAL ships, will be transformed on some vessels to create the new Explorations Central venues. Programming for the EXC resource and engagement centers begins in early 2017 and will roll out across the entire fleet by the end of the year. The EXC shipboard center will debut on HAL's Westerdam in April after a scheduled dry dock. The EXC program 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'se 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."
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 passengers from a unique vantage point.
Also being introduced is a dedicated EXC Team that will bring culture and history onboard with customized guidance for each destination. Passengers can seek advice from the EXC guides about the best tours, most popular sites and where to go to feel like a local. This way, 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 leading encounters in each destination.
EXC Talks by the guides bring each locale to life by digging deeper, beyond facts and figures. You can learn customs, hear interesting tales and gain extensive insight into each port of call.
Through EXC Encounters, cultural representatives come onboard before the ship reaches the next destination to preview the upcoming adventures. You 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 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.
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. Cruisers can create a personalized journey based on their interests in a variety of subjects. Rather explore on your own? Printed EXC Port Maps present a simple view of the best each port has to offer by highlighting the key points in each destination that can easily be explored during your time in port. Tips and suggestions will be included from shipboard crew who have visited the port several times before.
Completing the new onboard 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.