Travel advisors extol accomplishments of departing cruise executives

Two travel advisors interviewed by Travel Weekly praised the
contributions of Holland America Line
president Orlando Ashford and Seabourn president Rick Meadows, who are stepping down at the end of May. 

Tom Garrett, owner of Union Hill Travel, a Protravel
independent agency in Kansas City, Mo., said that Ashford brought “a breath of
fresh air to Holland America.”

“The line has a very proud history and consistent reputation
and high regard,” he said. “Some would say it tended to be formal and staid and
old, others said it was traditional and true to its Dutch heritage. He brought
an emphasis on higher quality entertainment and music onboard and consistently
delivered it across all the ships in the fleet. And a huge increased emphasis
on the quality of the food service and modernizing that food service.” 

Garrett said Ashford made Holland America’s appeal skew younger
to the baby boomer set, enabling Garrett to sell the line to more clients.

“I think that was the right positioning,” Garrett said.  

Tom Baker, president of Houston’s CruiseCenter, said that in
his short tenure, Ashford made “enormous changes to the brand and gave it a
more youthful approach.” Before him, Baker said, “the brand was languishing.” 

“He took Holland America to a new level,” he said. “His
influence was amazing. Bringing Oprah into the fold was major. It certainly
helped persuade people who might not have sailed on Holland American before.”

During Ashford’s tenure, Holland America partnered with
Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine. Oprah was godmother of the Nieuw Statendam, a ship
that entered service in late 2018. 

Baker worked with Meadows two decades ago when he worked for
Holland America. 

“Rick is just overall a great guy and one of the nicest
people in the industry,” he said. “He really took the Seabourn brand from that
old Hollywood set and morphed it into a robust casual environment. It was a
line for people in their 70’s and 80’s — it was not appealing to young people.
Under Rick, there was a huge shift.”

Baker cited the line’s new ships and the culinary
partnership with Thomas Keller as among Meadows’ accomplishments. 

“Keller is one of most respected chefs in the country and
one of pickiest people on the planet,” Baker said. 

Garret said that Meadows “refined Seabourn’s brand positioning.”

“They narrowed their focus more specifically into ultra-luxury
and being super all-inclusive, and this is where you want to be,” he said.  

Baker wondered what direction both lines would now take. 

“It’s anybody’s guess,” he said. “This is probably the most
important thing: Does it start all over with someone new or do they maintain

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