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Fresher Image, and Discounts, for Holland America

March 07, 1999|SHIRLEY SLATER and HARRY BASCH | Shirley Slater and Harry Basch travel as guests of the cruise lines. Cruise Views appears the first and third week of every month

A splashy Barry Manilow production called "Copacabana," new fleet-wide casual dining and early spring discounts may be harbingers of still more changes to come for the formerly sedate Holland America Line, which is working to perk up its image.

"Copacabana" salutes 1940s movies, pre-Castro Havana and Manilow's music. Previous versions were seen on CBS-TV, at Caesars in Atlantic City and in London's West End. The production began playing aboard the Ryndam and Statendam Jan. 1 and will be featured on the new Volendam at its debut in August. It will soon be added to the entertainment aboard Rotterdam and Maasdam.

The Lido buffet restaurants aboard all eight Holland America ships have opened for dinner service for several nights during each sailing. The open-seating meal features four main-dish choices (salmon, steak, chicken or lasagna) plus shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, Caesar salad, vegetables, baked potato and two desserts.

The Mexican Riviera cruise goes on sale for as little as $115 per day per person, double occupancy, when booked ahead. It is part of a repositioning bargain. Since the line has to reposition ships for the Alaska summer season, coastal cruises between Acapulco and Vancouver during the spring and fall offer 33 itineraries ranging from two to nine days. Spring-season dates are March 26 to May 4, and fall sailings are scheduled between Sept. 23 and Oct. 9. For more information, call a travel agent or Holland America at (800) 426-0327.

A seven-day Caribbean cruise aboard the Westerdam begins as low as $799 for an inside cabin and $899 for an outside cabin, per person, double occupancy, plus air fare. Departing Fort Lauderdale March 27, the round-trip sailing calls at Nassau, San Juan, St. John, St. Thomas and HAL's private island, Half Moon Cay.

On two spring departures, Asia cruises aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam are discounted 50%, with a March 14 Singapore-to-Hong Kong, 15-day sailing starting at $1,813 per person, double occupancy, and a March 29 Hong Kong-to-Osaka cruise starting at $1,898 per person, double occupancy. Port charges and taxes are included, and special air fares are also offered for round-trip add-ons--$899 per person from the West Coast.

Holland America's flagship Rotterdam called recently in Los Angeles outbound on its world cruise, and we took the opportunity to walk through for a second visit. When the ship made its inaugural sailing in late 1997, we spent an undue amount of time looking for reminders or even artifacts from the previous Rotterdam. (That much-loved vessel debuted in 1959 and made 29 around-the-world cruises before being sold to Premier Cruise Line in September 1997 to become the Rembrandt.)

This time, we were struck by how many things did remind us of the previous Rotterdam, from the pull-down seats in the elevators and the batik privacy curtains to divide sleeping area from sitting area in the cabins, to the Tropic Bar, with its rattan furniture.

This year's world passengers set out on a 98-day voyage to the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Thailand, India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, ending April 28 in New York.

Executive chef Joachim Barelmann's menus are worked out on a 40-day cycle, but he will prepare special orders with advance notice. While the menus and cooking styles reflect the modern kitchen, Barelmann admits his passengers also want old-fashioned food.

"Every day at lunch in the Lido buffet, there is a corner table with bread pudding," he says. "It's a tradition."

A new sister ship for the Rotterdam will join the fleet in late 2000.

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