A Sea Interlude (Musical Decks)

Holland America used to be known for its evening classical music.  On every cruise I’ve been on there has either been a group branded “adagio” that plays light classics (high class Central European Grand Café music) in the Explorer lounge, or a Lincoln Center Stage, an actual string quartet.  By the way I love everything about Central European Cafes.

Ten days into this cruise there has been no classical music, unless you include the entertainer who played Dvorak on a xylophone synthesizer.  I have always thought that when the Ed Sullivan Show folded Holland hired their booking agent.

So far, the only remanent of the old Holland commitment to classical music is the name of the decks. 

We live on the Beethoven Deck.

There are decks honoring Mozart,


and Gershwin. 

There are 14 decks on Koningsdam so they could do better.  Main Deck, boring, how about Bach, or if you wanted to be a bit more adventuresome Arnold Schoenberg. 

Mussorgsky would be a natural for the Promenade Deck.  The deck with the piano bar — Scott Joplin.  The deck with the radio room should be on the Karlhienz Stockhausen1 Deck.  If Holland follows its sister cruise line Cunard and puts a planetarium onboard (every cruise could be an eclipse cruise, no cloudy skies, guaranteed!) then — the Gustav Holst Deck.  And there MUST be a Duke Ellington deck.

I love getting off on Beethoven Deck.  Every time I do I get a different earworm, sometimes the predictable and sometimes something from deeper into my memory, pops out, and sometimes it’s Chuck Berry. The Gershwin deck gives me hours of mental pleasure.

So, I have a proposal for Holland America.  Instead of announcing “Deck 4, Beethoven.” Play a musical sting.  You can even change them for the time of day.  After dinner “A little Night Music” from Mozart and the lullaby from Brahms or Moonlight Sonata on my deck.  OR you could have a theme for the day and tie it to the afternoon trivia.  “For three points, what was the theme on Deck 4 today?”  It would elevate the quality of elevator music.

And with the advent of LED screens and computers HAL can switch things around. Customize the deck names for each cruise, for instance on Latin American cruises you could have the Villa Lobos Deck, the Piazzolla Deck, the Ginastera Deck and, what the heck, Tito Puente went to Julliard.  On sailings around the UK we could have the Britten Deck (The title of this post is in homage to him2), and decks for Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Purcel, or Lennon and McCartney, enough orchestras are playing them these days.  On Antarctic cruises Vaughan Williams would be a must.3

For Alaska Cruises there needs to be a both a John Luther Adams4 Deck and a Reznicek5 Deck.  Holland brags about its local sourcing.  When they finally resume cruises to St. Petersburg the possibilities are endless.  On April Fool’s Day all decks could be Strauss. There are enough of them.

Come on Holland, give us great earworms each time we leave the elevator.  After dropping Adagio it’s the least you can do.

(See notes below the pictures.)


1 Stockhausen experimented with electronic music.  One piece had a combination of tones that triggered events in early radio automation systems.  When Minnesota Public Radio played the piece it triggered events around the entire network.  The on-air sound was a hash and I guess it took hours to get things working properly across the state.   Stockhausen was banned.  When I was working with Classic FM in Tbilisi, Georgia, the music director asked me the proper time of day to play Stockhausen.  I said NEVER!  

2 Four Sea Interludes from Brittten’s opera Peter Grimes.

3 I listened to Vaughn Williams Symphonia Antarctica on my computer as we cruised past Palmer Station.

4 A little bit of Alaska Pride here.  Fairbanks based composer John Luther Adams won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his symphonic work “Become Ocean” about melting icecaps.  There is an excellent recording by the Seattle Symphony.

5 You can win a bar bet in the Yukon by knowing that Emil von Reznicek’s overture to the Opera Donna Diana was the theme song for Sgt. Preston of the Yukon.  I did in Destruction Bay on the Alcan. The Canadian construction worker thought I was just another dumb American.  I wonder how much he won one over the years on that one.

3 thoughts on “A Sea Interlude (Musical Decks)

  1. Fantastic idea! This would work on the Zaandam, too, since it has a ‘music’ theme.

  2. I made some corrections that the AI corrector got wrong. I even cut and pasted Reznicek but the machine changed it to Reznik. It also made John Lennon into a Bolshi leader. Sorry about that.

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