Crew Is The Key

A. Kirk Lanterman, chairman and CEO of Holland America Line-Westours“A cruise is a very good product; it is very consistent; and it is very value-oriented,” said A. Kirk Lanterman, chairman and CEO of Holland America Line-Westours. “As far as Caribbean cruises are concerned, you can hardly afford to stay home,” he added.

If there are limitations to future growth, Lanterman sees them mostly in port infrastructures. “There may be limits to how many passengers we can carry and still service them right,” he said.

While he sees bigger ships in HAL’s future, bigger to HAL means the 1,800-passenger range. “That means we will carry 66 percent as many passengers as the Grand Princess,” Lanterman said, “but on 88 percent of the tonnage.”

“The product is a question of the crew – they create the product. If we can train and motivate crew we will be all right,” Lanterman said. He explained how HAL has been able to integrate Asian crew to higher positions in shipboard management, which helps motivate other crew members and attract new crew.

When he was hired as vice president of finance for Westours in 1970, Lantennan was “strictly financial” and the company only operated small vessels seasonally in Alaska. It was only after the company was acquired by HAL in 1975 that Lanterman became interested in the cruise industry as such and at the time it was a matter of survival.

“We were looking at an annual growth rate of two to three percentage points back then,” Lanterman said. “The fleet was mostly leftovers, former transatlantic liners. We were just looking at something to do with them.”

It was the creation of Carnival Cruise Lines – the concept of everyman’s cruise – that launched the industry, Lanterman said. HAL’s passengers then were mostly older people and the ships offered what Lanterman described as a staid, formal atmosphere. “If we had continued like that we wouldn’t have to worry a lot about our future,” he said (meaning there wouldn’t have been one).

HAL was struggling and, by the time the 70s were over, had cut back from 36 (mostly cargo) to three ships. When the Prinsendam sank, the insurance proceeds were used as down-payment on the Nieuw Amsterdam and the Noordam.

The new ships introduced by HAL, Sitmar and Princess in the early 80s helped fuel industry growth, according to Lanterman.

But Lanterman was troubled by the recent negative media attention focused on the industry. “I have to say that recent years’ success have caught up with us,” he said. “We must have made some enemies. The media coverage takes everything out of context and paints an industry-wide image that is not fair. I think some reporters roll out of bed in the morning and get the idea to attack us,” Lanterman added.

Questionable media motives aside, Lanterman thinks the industry will continue to grow, although it may not necessarily sustain the same level of growth as in the past.

This article ran as part of a special Millennium section of the of Cruise Industry News Quarterly MagazineWinter 1999-2000

Related articles:

Art Rodney: Industry Evolution

John Maxtone-Graham: A 100 Passenger Years

Knut Kloster: Industry Creator

Ted Arison: The Century’s Shipping Giant

Arne Wilhelmsen: The Bigger, The Better

Nicola Costa: Developing Europe

Ed Stephen: Market Was Always There

Kirk Lanterman: Crew is Key

Bruce Nierenberg: More Homeports

Warren Titus: Proactive Industry

Stanley McDonald: Full Ships from Day One

Barney Ebsworth: It’s All About Marketing

Lord Sterling: Worldwide OutlookLord Sterling: Worldwide Outlook

Joe Watters: Passengers Want Stimulation

Rod McLeod: Diversified & International 

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