Holland America Line, one of the world’s most historic maritime companies, marked its milestone 150th anniversary in the Port of Rotterdam. Guests, including royalty, descendants of the two families that established the company and passengers that have sailed for at least 1,400 days on the line’s ships joined a day of gala celebrations held on land and aboard the flagship Rotterdam which sailed into the namesake city on the special day.
Attendees gathered in the harbourside Hotel New York, the former headquarters of Holland America Line from 1901 to 1977, inside the room once used to collect luggage for immigrants in the early 1900s. A commemorative bell, in the style of a traditional ship bell, was ‘blessed’ with Champagne by Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands before being presented to the hotel where it will go on permanent display.
Back on board the ship – the seventh in the fleet to bear the historic Rotterdam name – there was a Dutch-themed dinner and party on deck with live music. The nearby Erasmus Bridge was illuminated with a special light display to honour the landmark event.
The ship arrived in Rotterdam following a special 150th anniversary transatlantic crossing from New York. The sailing included menus that were served in the 1920s, ‘throwback’ drinks priced at less than £1 and presentations by maritime historian and author Bill Miller.
He provided a fascinating insight into Holland America Line which operated as a shipping, passenger, cargo and cruise line until 1970 when it started focusing solely on cruises.
Looking back at the legacy of the line he said Dutch immigrants setting sail for the New World believed that if they ate raw onions for a month before the transatlantic crossing to New York they wouldn’t get seasick. In a far cry from today’s luxury cabins, they also had to buy their own straw mattresses for the voyage.
Bill said that during America’s prohibition period the line offered the earliest ‘booze cruises’ with drinks served once the ship reached international waters. He also talked about some of the earliest cruise passengers, including women that packed up to 300 dresses in huge steamer trunks for the first 100-day voyage, and another lady who booked a separate cabin to house her doll collection which she couldn’t bear to leave behind.
Moving back to the present day, Holland America Line President Gus Antorcha described Rotterdam as the line’s spiritual home and said: “The celebration of 150 years is about more than our history, it’s about how we are building on the legacy of a great brand to make it relevant for the next 150 years. From those first early days, we built our reputation on the care we provided to every person who stepped on board. And through the decades, whether that person was an immigrant, a titan of industry, a soldier or a vacationer, each of them was treated as though they were a guest in our own home. It is still a hallmark of our brand.
“The fabric of history is woven from the threads of millions of stories, and at the heart of each of those stories is a person. I am certain that there are many chapters still to be written. And I hope that decades from now, those who come after us will gather on this very spot at Hotel New York to share them.”
Anniversary parties were also held on board the Zuiderdam ship, which was moored in nearby Amsterdam, and the nine other vessels in the fleet at sailing in various destinations around the world.
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Holland America Line operates a fleet of 11 mid-sized ships carrying up to 2,668 passengers. Itineraries visit nearly 400 ports in 114 countries and Holland America has sailed to Alaska for 75 years – longer than any other cruise line.
To get a quote and book a cruise with Holland America Line, contact our Silver Travel Advisors on 0800 412 5678.