Simon Douwes is Holland America Line’s director of deployment and itinerary planning. He has the important task of crafting the most exciting, interesting, diverse and cost-effective itineraries for the 15 ships in the fleet.
Several Holland America Line ships spend the fall and winter exploring the Caribbean. Whether it’s eastern, western or southern routes, Simon has to know the port operations, facilities, shore excursion options, distances between ports and so much more to develop the ideal cruises.
HAB: How do you decide how many ports will be on a week-long or two-week long cruise?
SD: We will add as many attractive Caribbean ports that will fit in an itinerary as long as the overall fuel consumption remains reasonable. We always look for ways we can improve, such as moving ships to different locales to increase capacity in areas where greater demand exists.
HAB: What criteria do you consider when selecting the mix of Caribbean ports? Anything unique to the Caribbean versus other destinations?
SD: In itinerary planning, a lot depends on location of the ports. Some destinations we always include such as Half Moon Cay or St. Maarten and St. Thomas in the eastern Caribbean because they are guest favorites, are ideally located and have attractive options ashore. We want to be sure that each port has something special and memorable to offer, whether it be great beaches, unusual tours, fantastic sight-seeing opportunities or a lot of marine life for the water-loving guests looking to snorkel or going scuba diving.
HAB: What new ports are you looking at in the Caribbean?
SD: New exciting ports for us are Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and Banana Coast in Honduras. They are both very promising new developments and we look forward to adding these ports to our itineraries.
HAB: Which current itinerary do you consider the “perfect” Caribbean cruise?
SD: All of our Caribbean itineraries are perfect. They each offer something special and are the ideal blend of ports for that region. We have more experiences than most other cruise lines and we use that to our advantages in planning our itineraries.
HAB: What is the difference between the Leeward and Windward islands?
SD: The Leeward are the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. The more southerly part of the Lesser Antilles chain are called the Windward Islands.
And now a little about you!
HAB: What is your favorite Caribbean port and why?
SD: My favorite Caribbean destinations are the U.S. Virgin Islands and our own private island, Half Moon Cay. Those have the most beautiful beaches.
HAB: How long does it take you to pack for a cruise?
SD: Not very long, I tend to pack very light.
HAB: What do you always bring with you when traveling?
SD: A few good books which I can read on the beach.
HAB: How long did you sail as Captain?
SD: I have been with Holland America Line since 1980. I sailed as Captain for eight-and-a-half-years on all of the HAL ships we had at that time. I stopped at the end of 2001. My last cruise as Captain was on Volendam’s Christmas cruise in 2001.
HAB: What is your favorite Caribbean activity?
SD: I think that would be beach things such as snorkeling or just reading a book on the beach.