This Shipping Giant Celebrates 150 Years Of Maritime History

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Credit: josiah-weiss-unsplash

The current MS Rotterdam is the seventh version of the original ocean-going steamer, the SS Rotterdam. This route is the reverse of the original, maiden voyage in 1872 when New York City was the destination, reports Travel Pulse.

A commemorative bell dedication

The April 6 through 19, 2023, timeline starts in New York’s Pier 88, with stops in Plymouth and Dover before disembarkation in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Upon arrival in Rotterdam, on April 18, a commemorative bell dedication will be held at Hotel New York with Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet in attendance.

The MS Rotterdam VII will arrive in her namesake city with a 150th Anniversary commemorative bell, in the style of a traditional ship bell, to be permanently displayed at the hotel. At the event, Princess Margriet will follow Holland America Line’s ritual of blessing the bell before it is donated to Hotel New York.

In addition to the Princess and HAL President Gus Antorcha, Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Mayor of Rotterdam, and descendants from two families of Holland America Line’s original founders, will be in attendance.

Quite a few tidbits of history have been shared about Holland America Line during this 150th-anniversary Cruise. Here are a few:

During the years of Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, HAL came up with the idea to take passengers on an overnight Booze Cruise. Once the ship reached the three nautical mile line (a now obsolete maritime boundary), crossing into international waters, the law did not apply. For $10, partygoers could be served whatever booze they chose, well into the night. The next day, the ship would return to port with a groggy group staggering off the gangplank.

Holland America played a critical part in trying to avoid the Titanic disaster. A message was sent from the Captain of SS Noordam, notifying surrounding ships, including the Titanic, of the icefield. Legend has it that the alert was probably never read by Titanic’s Captain Edward Smith.

One hundred and ten years later, during the course of this historical transatlantic route, the Rotterdam reached the wreckage of the RMS Titanic, approximately 370 nautical miles south-southeast of the coast of Newfoundland. Captain Bas Van Dreumel stopped the ship for a brief commemorative moment. The Captain stated, “It’s a tragic event and most companies wanted to forget this event as quickly as possible, but it’s because of that we are here, with much safer conditions, and better communication and that’s why I decided to take a moment, reflect on the past, stop and hold a minute of silence and then move onwards.” 

The original transatlantic crossings were just that, crossings, a way to get from Europe to the U.S. and back. Wealthy travelers were located on the top two sections of the ship while immigrants, many of whom were escaping war in Europe, were relegated to the lower bowels of the ship, called Steerage. Their charge was $10 per person. Holland America changed the culture of how these people were treated.

Where most lines would only feed them two meals a day, HAL extended that to three full meals a day with a menu from which they could choose. Upon reaching the U.S., the elite passengers were taken off the ship in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the immigrants were shuttled to Ellis Island, where they were documented, checked for illness and sent to the city, where many started work that afternoon.

Fast forward to over one hundred years later and we enjoy transatlantic cruising as a form of recreation and entertainment. This commemorative cruise includes Pop-Up restaurants highlighting Dutch culinary choices and informative lectures held daily by Maritime Historian Bill Miller.

“Mr. Ocean Liner’s” unique style of taking us back in time is priceless. When transatlantic travel took a month to get from Rotterdam to NYC, the passenger experience was much different than today. Mr. Miller’s descriptions are full of whimsy and enthusiasm for an industry to which he’s devoted his life.

This particularly historic route is the only one scheduled to coordinate with the actual 150th-anniversary date of April 18. However, all Holland America ships, through the end of the year, will offer many events and menu items to commemorate this important date.

HAL’s 48 Heritage Cruises

With the rollout of HAL’s 48 Heritage Cruises, special itineraries in many regions will include Alaska, the Mediterranean, Mexico and the Caribbean, among others. These itineraries will highlight exclusive experiences such as historical dinner menus and meal offerings; Throwback Happy Hours which roll back time and feature select drinks priced as low as 75 cents; and special Dutch high tea featuring retro sweet and savory bakery items.

“As a beloved company that’s been around for 150 years, these special Heritage Cruises allow us to continue celebrating Holland America Line with our guests in a meaningful way,” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. “We have a deep connection to ports around the world, and we’re excited to show how each highlighted destination has shaped our brand.”

All ships, through the end of the year, will feature the 150th-anniversary tributes including the limited edition HAL Pils beer; an exclusive Holland America Line “de Lijn” gin featured in three new anniversary cocktails: Dutch 150, 150th Martini and 150th Gin and Tonic. Each ship will also offer the experience of “Origin Story,” a visual narrative of the company’s history from its founding through the present day.

The seas have been both calm and rough for this trip. One can’t help but wonder what the experience was for those ships that did not have the advanced stabilizers with new, state-of-the-art technology. A much different experience, for sure, but just as amazing.

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Source: Travel Pulse