MS Koningsdam is Holland America’s first new ship in six years and no two people are more excited to talk about her than Managing Director Lynn Narraway and Director of Sales Wendy Lahmich.
LYNN What’s exciting about Holland America Line is that we have our Bold New Story; the next chapter in our history. We are looking at more brand partnerships, more relationships with the trade and with the consumer. The partnership with BBC Earth debuted in April onboard ms Oosterdam when our orchestra played as Sir David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet programme was shown on the 270-degree screen. It was so popular we had to repeat it three times to make sure everyone could see it.
WENDY The initiatives on Koningsdam (which will also be featured on our next new ship the Nieuw Statendam) are great for us. We have two new ships with even more restaurants, and the brand is evolving with a different feel and character. Koningsdam has kept to some traditions but with a contemporary twist, and it will be great to see these initiatives moving on to other ships. We have more experiential venues: the World Stage bringing the audience into shows, the Culinary Arts Centre offering a unique dining experience.
LYNN Feedback from the Culinary Arts Centre has been exceptional and we need to explain how it works to agents. It is my favourite feature on Koningsdam. I spent an evening there and it was an experience I have never encountered before. Guests watch the chef cooking and creating dishes with freshly grown cress. It is used in every course. First apple blossom, then mustard cress with beef, and then pepper cress with our chocolate desert; there was an orange/mint and red pepper flavour to it. We had a chat with the chef, and when I told him the risotto was the best I had ever tasted his grin lit up the room. Everyone started clapping as it was such a fabulous meal and experience. It is about interaction and about confidence to go up to the chef. Working with our partners at Koppert Cress, the cress is home-grown on board, by UV light, and it’s all computerised, so the growing conditions are controlled.
This technology could also be used for fresh herbs, so this will become a wonderful feature for cruise lines. Agents need to flag this up as a ‘must do’ and really get to know what we are offering so they recommend it and say ‘Don’t forget the Culinary Arts Centre on Koningsdam’. It is something we want agents to recommend because it an exceptional experience.
WENDY Blend is my favourite venue, opposite the Culinary Arts Centre on Deck 3. It’s an intimate space for about 15 people who want to learn to blend their own wine. A wine expert from Chateau Ste Michelle presents the experience, but it is all very informal. The table is laid out beautifully, with five glasses, measuring vessels and a table mat which lists the wines, and there’s space to make notes.
Guests are encouraged to talk about what wines they like. I’m no wine expert and tend to buy white wine or drink my red wine chllled but the hosts understand that everyone has different tastes and we were made to feel really comfortable. It was not at all intimidating. I learned a lot about where the wines came from, drank five different wines from dry to full-bodied and put measures of the ones I liked into a glass tube to make my own label – Wendy’s Colombian Heaven!
It really was a special occasion, a unique and fun experience. Yes, I came away more confident about ordering a red!
LYNN It is all of these new experiences that help us talk about the ship. When you have sales and marketing brands you have to think differently and do things differently – and that is where our strengths are.
WENDY We have to keep coming up with creative ideas when there is so much competition in the market.
LYNN We have so many advantages with such a lovely new ship. You only have to look at the beautiful pieces of furniture and fantastic art to understand the attention to detail. Everywhere I go I see wonderful pictures – from David Bowie to ballet dancers.
WENDY It’s certainly got the wow factor, and the music theme runs through the ship, from the architecture in the dining room to sculptures and even musical instruments woven into the carpet patterns.
LYNN Yes, and when you come out of the Queen’s Lounge there are amazing floral art decorations – huge amaryllis blooms placed among silver trumpets. It’s just stunning. Adam D. Tihany’s designs bring the ship alive with such fantastic attention to detail. Koningsdam is a delight.
WENDY Have you seen the glitter globe? I want to take it home. The glass sculpture in the spa is also fabulous. We just need to spread the word. Finding a way to do that is always easier when I am working with Lynn. We almost think alike, although we have different strengths.
LYNN Wendy’s negotiation skills, passion and enthusiasm, combined with her Key Account relationship management skills are the best in the trade.Key account management is not just having a conversation with a travel agent but is about helping them to build their business with our brand and helping them to think of new sales and marketing initiatives.
WENDY Lynn is one of the top women in travel – that was recognised two years by the Association of Women Travel Executives. She also won the CLIA Outstanding Achievement Award in 2013. She is a leader and has been there right from the beginning. I’ve learned everything from her.
Sometimes I have in the back of my mind ‘what would Lynn say?’. I put the two thoughts together, come up with a solution and off I go. Lynn has a huge number of relationships within the cruise industry and everyone in our company – a lot of people have been helped and guided by Lynn. Hang on, I might shed a tear in a minute!
LYNN It is a unique relationship. We’re known as a couple, we’ve been around that long. We are also very good friends which is quite unusual but I just feel we work well together.
I know I am not always right and I am always happy to admit it – and that is important in a relationship.
It’s about having people working with you who have the strengths you don’t. Wendy’s skills are exceptional and that’s vital because our job roles are much more intensive and all-round than most other companies.
WENDY Most other companies have departments to deal with what we all have to do individually. We have to take the lead.
LYNN There’s no better time to do it. We have the two brands moving forward (Holland America Line and Seabourn) and we have two new ships for each over the next two years. We want to grow the business with the right partners, those who want to work closely with us. We have made changes and they are all to the good. It’s a truly exciting time.
LYNN NARRAWAY Managing Director, UK Business, Holland America Line & Seabourn
Lynn was appointed Managing Director of Seabourn and HAL’s joint office, in Southampton, alongside sister Carnival UK brands in November 2011. She is Chair of the CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) Executive Committee and continues to be involved in the CLIA PR Working Group. She also works with the other Carnival-owned brands on joint sales and marketing initiatives, both to the travel trade and consumers.
Lynn received the CLIA Outstanding Achievement Award in 2013 and was also voted one of the top 60 women in the travel industry in 2014 by the Association of Women Travel Executives (AWTA). Lynn subscribes to the concept of “giving something back” and she is an active Lady Taverner.
Her work approach is one of relationship management and she enjoys mentoring and developing younger members of the Holland America Line & Seabourn team, seeing their confidence – and careers – take off! Lynn is married with two teenage daughters and enjoys tennis, ice-skating and activities with her children.
WENDY LAHMICH Director of Sales, UK Business Holland America Line
Wendy joined one of the UK’s largest cruising general sales agents in January 1999. The business was bought by Carnival Corporation and Wendy was employed as Sales Manager South, then promoted to Sales & Marketing Manager, then again promoted to Head of Sales & Marketing for Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line.
In November 2011, she was appointed as Director of Sales for Seabourn and Holland America Line.
Wendy is a member of the CLIA Trade Sales Engagement Committee, working with other cruise lines on projects and promotions that will help travel agents learn about and sell cruise. She also liaises regularly with other Carnival-owned brands on shared practice.
Following years of working in or around London, Wendy, together with her 13-year old son, is embracing a new lifestyle based near Winchester, Hampshire. She enjoys the south coast where she has family and loves being close to the Isle of Wight.
Her hobbies include cycling (with country pub stops), walking and participating in her first ‘Race for Life’ in 2014.