TORONTO — It was a celebration fit for royalty at the Port of Rotterdam this week, where Holland America Line kicked off its 150th birthday.
Following a 150th anniversary crossing that departed Fort Lauderdale on April 3, the line’s flagship Rotterdam arrived in the Netherlands on April 18, the exact date of its 150th birthday, with royalty, local dignitaries and port officials on hand to commemorate the occasion. Holland America Line president Gus Antorcha was joined by Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, as well as descendants of Holland America’s original founders for a celebration at Hotel New York, which served as the company’s original headquarters from 1901 to 1977.
“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,” said Antorcha. “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.”
From the ship’s arrival through an overnight stay, memorable moments marked the milestone. Inside a room that once collected luggage for immigrants in the early 1900s, Holland America Line presented a commemorative 150th Anniversary bell to be permanently displayed at Hotel New York. Princess Margriet poured champagne over the bell, which is a Holland America Line tradition usually reserved for a new ship launch.
Holland America Line worked closely with PostNL, the postal office of the Netherlands, to design a collectable 150th Anniversary gold-foil stamp that was revealed by Bob van Ierland, director of mail, Netherlands, at the ceremony. The stamp, designed by Frank Janse, features an illustration of two iconic ships from the company’s long history: Rotterdam VII, Holland America Line’s newest ship, and Rotterdam I, its first ship. The limited-edition stamp is available for purchase throughout the Netherlands.
In addition, members of one of Holland America Line’s founding families presented an original company share that will be kept as part of a special collection in the Rotterdam City Archives.
Attendees at the Hotel New York ceremony included Holland America Line team members and more than 60 of the line’s top Mariners, guests who have sailed at least 1,400 days on the line’s ships.
Following a gala dinner onboard Rotterdam VII, Antorcha invited the ship’s guests to a party around the Lido Pool where he toasted to the company’s anniversary alongside the ship’s Captain Bas van Dreumel and Mai Elmar, executive director of Cruise Port Rotterdam and the ship’s madrina.
“To the builders, architects, visionaries and explorers who have brought us to today. To our generations of crew who have seen our guests from shore to shore. And most importantly, to all of the passengers and guests who have trusted us along the way. Cheers to 150 years and many more to come,” toasted Antorcha.
As a finale to the evening’s events, the city of Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge was illuminated with a special light display honouring Holland America Line’s 150th anniversary. Following the lighting of the bridge, Antorcha made his way to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and joined Zuiderdam and Grand World Voyage guests around the Lido Pool to commemorate the company’s birthday. The additional nine ships in Holland America Line’s fleet also held anniversary parties onboard for guests.