Zuiderdam Sets Sail with VARI*LITE® Rig

Hailed as one the “next generation of cruise ships,” Zuiderdam’s 52 VL2000TM Spot luminaires and 56 VL2000TM Wash fixtures comprise the largest seaboard VARI*LITE® installation ever.

At more than 950 feet in length and weighing just a tad under 82,000 tons, Zuiderdam boasts a capacity of 1,848 passengers. Those visitors expect the entertainment and venues to be just as impressive as the ship itself. The VARI*LITE fixtures are the only moving lights installed in the Vista Lounge, the ship’s main showroom. Approximately 80 of the units are in the air. The remainder are swapped out on scenic units or used as floor units. On each 7-day cruise, the VARI*LITE automated lighting system is used in a variety of ways.

Photo credit: Ken Albano/Holland America (Courtesy Vari-Lite)

There’s an opening night performance of “Under the Sun,” which features a 14-member cast of singers and dancers. During each cruise, there are also two full-length production shows, “Under the Boardwalk” and “Stage and Screen.” In addition, guests are treated to a piano show, “In the Key of Sea” by Paul Pappas, which includes vocal performances. The diverse entertainment menu also includes a physical comedy show, “H2Oh.”

Prior to all evening shows Cruise Director Shawn Cavanah and the entertainment staff host various passenger participation games. The Vista Lounge is also where the Captain’s welcome aboard cocktail party is held.

Vari-Lite spoke with Holland America’s Entertainment Manager of Operations, Ken Albano, about the Zuiderdam.

VL: How important is the entertainment quality and production value to cruise ship passengers?
Ken: Cruise guests have come to expect a very high level of production value. With each new ship, new technologies are introduced and each major line is competing to offer the best shows. During the industry’s growth in the last several years, new ship designs have allocated more and more space to entertainment, particularly the main theater. Fly lofts, once a rarity, are now relatively common.

VL: What do people now expect in the form of cruise ship entertainment?
Ken: They expect to see at least two production shows, which need to have a significant number of bells and whistles. They want to see a number of individual performers, such as singers and comedians. They also expect a wide variety of musical groups for listening and dancing to each individual taste. The goal is to please all of the people all of the time.

VL: Do you feel that in addition to competing with the other cruise lines, you are also competing for customers with the shows in Las Vegas, New York, etc.?

Ken: The entertainment is part of the cruise experience, albeit an important one. But the itinerary is the Number One deciding factor. But yes, our shows are constantly compared to shows in Las Vegas and New York, and always with those on other lines. We have some guests whose only live theater experience may be on a cruise ship, but we have many who regularly attend Broadway shows. Our audience gets more sophisticated every year.

VL: How does this package of automated lights give you a leg up on the above-mentioned competition?
Ken: In a word, “Flexibility.” We look at all the possibilities when designing a new ship, and all the individual systems that come into play. With a different show every night we need to be prepared for all possibilities, we get that with the VARI*LITE Series 2000TM gear. We generally design, program and run a show all in one day. Because the fixtures use the same sub-assembly components, it reduces the number of spares I have to carry and makes repair and maintenance much faster with very little down time. Plus, the new VARI*LITE fixtures have a two-year warranty should we ever need it.

VL: How much more extensive is the Zuiderdam’s automated lighting rig as compared to the lighting on other ships?
Ken: Compared to our other ships, the moving light package is more than twice the size, and there are only about half as many conventionals on Zuiderdam. With the newer ships there were lots of changes available to us, and the compact size of the Series 2000 fixtures gave us the right balance.

VL: Why were the VL 2000 Wash and VL2000 Spot luminaires the automated lights of choice for this installation?
Ken: We have used VL5TM luminaires and VL6TM fixtures on our earlier four ships, so the conversion to the Series 2000 products seemed logical. Because space is a premium on a ship, the size and weight of the units also made for a perfect fit. The commonality between the units was also a factor. Having seen the new VARI*LITE Series 3000TM luminaires at LDI we are looking forward to adding some of those units to the FOH position on our second ship in the series, ms Oosterdam.

Skip to toolbar