Oceans apart

Dutch art is reimag­ined on a lux­ury liner

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - JU­DITH ELEN

Deep within an 82,348-tonne pas­sen­ger liner, I stand sub­merged in floods of light and colour. From the out­side, the ship’s sleek hull is dra­mat­i­cally black. Here, on Deck One of the Atrium, the space is filled with light. Im­ages are pro­jected across one wall — a scar­let ori­en­tal tapestry, the gleam of a girl’s eye, a lus­trous pearl, a pea­cock’s wing. The star­tling colours and mag­ni­fied brush strokes dis­tract con­ver­sa­tion threads, as eyes are drawn to the wall’s chang­ing scenes.

I’m on Hol­land Amer­ica Line’s 1916-pas­sen­ger MS Wes­ter­dam and these flashes of bril­liance are fea­tures of the ship’s Ri­jksmu­seum at Sea, one of sev­eral part­ner­ships Hol­land Amer­ica has re­cently sealed that prom­ise to take pas­sen­gers’ sight­lines way be­yond the ship’s al­ready ex­pan­sive hori­zons. This space once housed the shore ex­cur­sions of­fice which, on the re­fur­bished ship, has be­come the ex­panded Ex­plo­rations Cen­tral up on the top­most pas­sen­ger level in the Crows Nest. There, above the ship’s bow is a lounge area that stretches across the breadth of the ves­sel; pas­sen­gers can ex­plore their des­ti­na­tions on spe­cial light-screen ta­bles, browse an upto-date col­lec­tion of fic­tion, mem­oirs (Elena Fer­rante’s let­ters, Tris­tan Goo­ley’s How to Read Water), art and travel, his­to­ries, gor­geously il­lus­trated vol­umes of birds, oceans, wildlife, food. Or per­haps sim­ply lie back in an arm­chair and gaze out to sea with an espresso or glass of wine on hand, con­jured from a cen­tral bar.

Mean­while, back down­stairs in Ri­jksmu­seum at Sea, Hol­land Amer­ica Line’s owner Car­ni­val is keep­ing alive the brand’s orig­i­nal Dutch con­nec­tions and of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent kind of view out. Framed re­pro­duc­tions from the renowned Am­s­ter­dam mu­seum line the walls sur­round­ing this trans­formed lounge area. There’s a win­try land­scape with ice skaters, the hid­den com­part­ments of an 18th-cen­tury arch­bishop’s desk, a Fra An­gelico madonna from the 1400s, a 16th-cen­tury Mag­da­lene, town- houses re­flected in Am­s­ter­dam canals, and Rem­brandts. The orig­i­nals of these prints are among the mil­lion mas­ter­pieces held by the Ri­jksmu­seum.

Ban­quettes, arm­chairs, lounges and cof­fee ta­bles fur­nish this area. Pas­sen­gers can browse a rack dis­play­ing dozens of pris­tine books cho­sen from the mu­seum’s home-base shop, or pore over a ref­er­ence tome that cat­a­logues the mu­seum’s trea­sures, gallery lay­outs, de­tails of key art­works and their lo­ca­tions.

On one side of this area, Rem­brandt van Rijn’s cheeky boy­ish face, in his own scratchy black lines, gazes from the walls of one of two al­coves planned to ac­com­mo­date pas­sen­ger draw­ing ses­sions. With the mu­seum part­ner­ship only re­cently an­nounced, the pro­gram is still be­ing for­mu­lated but plans are for struc­tured draw­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in­spired by re­pro­duc­tions from the Ri­jksmu­seum’s col­lec­tion, sup­ply­ing pas­sen­gers with draw­ing ma­te­ri­als and guid­ance.

I turn and the peas­ant girl, pour­ing from her rus­tic jug a few mo­ments ago, has moved on. The im­ages pro­jected on the wall are per­pet­u­ally re­newed. Each time I pass, there is some­thing sur­pris­ing to look at and my only dis­ap­point­ment is that the draw­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are not yet op­er­at­ing. There’s some­thing about rough, scratchy char­coal lines that makes my fin­gers itch to have a go.

Ri­jksmu­seum at Sea, a link forged uniquely with MS Wes­ter­dam, is not the line’s only new part­ner­ship. Britain’s BBC Earth is an­other, along with Bill­board On­board mu­sic per­for­mances and live demon­stra­tions from Amer­ica’s Test Kitchen. One evening dur­ing my cruise, I at­tend a stun­ning per­for­mance of Frozen Planet Live, a

Ri­jksmu­seum at Sea, top and right; MS Wes­ter­dam, left; Amer­ica’s Test Kitchen cook­ing demon­stra­tion, far right

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