Holland America Line -MS Koningsdam Dedication

ms KoningsdamIt was a first for me – attending the christening of a ship. The vessel in question was the MS Koningsdam, and what a ship, what a party! Holland America Line certainly know how to do ships and how to do parties as well! 

The day, 20 May 2016, was grey and drizzly but no matter. From early morning the Dutch lined up on the quayside ready to take a look at their Queen Maxima, who was to be the ship’s godmother. For many, royalty has an innate fascination and in this case, it is easy to see why! The recently crowned King and Queen from The Netherlands are good-looking and elegant, she particularly has an almost film-star appeal – tall, beautiful and completely stylish. Arriving with understated fuss, she took to the ship, shaking hands and chatting to those in the line-up. 

Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the NetherlandsEvery ship has a theatre and the World Stage on MS Koningsdam is superb: seats any West End theatre would be proud to call their own, and an almost totally uninterrupted view from everywhere, just four well-placed pillars in total. The ceremony was moving, speeches from Stein Kruse (the perfect name for a shipping man), CEO and Orlando Ashford, the Line’s president, then the dedication of the bell. Her Majesty stepped forward and poured a glass of champagne over it. To much applause, then signed her name on the mural that commemorates the day. Smiling graciously from under her cartwheel navy hat, she emanated regal charm, such as befitted the occasion. 

Every cruise ship has a remarkable number of staff, seen and unseen. On this day they were celebrated: representatives of the 42 nations they hail from, took to the stage, each with their own flag. It was a touching moment, so many nationalities working together to provide an excellent service – what, I wondered, might the United Nations learn?  And as Mark Twain said, quoted in the president’s speech, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” The final flags, those of The Netherlands and America ended the parade, re-affirming the strong links between the two countries, facilitated in part by this very shipping line for over 140 years. I reflected on just how many had left Europe out of Rotterdam for a better life overseas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The ceremony over, the Queen disembarked and we headed for lunch, then passed a few hours in light relaxation, before the sail out. At 8.30pm sharp, we stood on forward deck 5, champagne in hand, waving to those on shore who were proud to see this ship leave for Amsterdam. Dedication CeremonyThe deep horn sounded as MS Koningsdam left the quayside, with smaller vessels of all shapes and occupations, accompanying the ship down the river to the Hook of Holland. The noise from them was loud and diverse – low and throaty, musical and amusing, tonal and tuneful. Perhaps the most touching ‘call’ came from ss Rotterdam, Holland America Line’s flagship in the 1950s, now a hotel and restaurant. It celebrated the new ship, with a nostalgic reminder of the past and its days at sea. 

The sun began to set as if to order and the little ships sang their very best tributes to this just christened ocean liner: it was rather evocative. Meanwhile, upstairs on the Lido deck, the party had really started. The band from B.B. King’s Blues Club were seriously on form, a fantastic line-up, with first-rate musicians and two singers who were a match for any West End performers. They played all the great favourites and I noticed a real mix of ages and nationalities positively hopping on the dance floor: an elderly Chinese gentleman with inscrutable features and a very flexible body dancing alone, a group of young, beautiful things in frocks and DJs along with older couples gently jiving as they probably had been for 30 odd years. No one fell in the pool, although there was a close shave or two. ms KoningsdamAnd the band played their hearts out, it was a really fabulous sound and a tremendous atmosphere.

At 10.20pm, we hurried on deck, as the fireworks were to begin when we passed the Hook of Holland. And slowly the ship sailed by and explosions rang through the air: blues, reds, greens and brilliant white stars, ascending and cascading in fans and fountains, celebrating the latest, most-up-to-datest addition to the Holland America Line. It seemed a fitting start to this ship’s life.

After one last glass of champagne, a final boogie to ‘I will survive’ and a glance at the North Sea, I slipped my shoes off and headed for the comforts of stateroom 5159. MS Koningsdam had been well and truly christened! 

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Holland America Line

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Jennie Carr

Silver Travel Advisor Creative and Communication Director, member of BGTW

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