3/20/2024     by Jonathan Hermann

Holland America Line — 150-Plus Years of Cruising History

Over the last 150+ years, Holland America Line has transported guests to every corner of the world. During this time, the celebrated cruise line has embarked on historic cruises, escorted millions of passengers and celebrated many “firsts” along the way. Here’s a colorful glimpse at this company’s proud history.

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In 1872, the company’s first ship, Rotterdam, carried 70 passengers on its 15-day maiden voyage from the Netherlands to New York City. The following year they staked out their name — Holland-Amerika Lijn — as an official cargo and passenger transport company, settling down a few years later at a permanent pier in Hoboken, New Jersey.

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Nieuw Amsterdam leaving New York

They quickly became a major carrier of immigrants from Europe to the New World from the 1880s to the 1920s. At one point, Holland America Line carried more than 10% of those traveling in steerage across the Atlantic from Europe, serving them three square meals a day in public dining rooms.

By 1898, Holland America Line owned six ships and had carried 90,000 cabin passengers and 400,000 steerage passengers, along with 5 million tons of cargo — mostly flower bulbs, herring and gin. 

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Rotterdam returning after a cross-Atlantic voyage

Several Holland America Line ships were commissioned during World War I to transport troops, resulting in six ships being lost. Taken over by the British government, the Statendam II was a sight to see, painted with asymmetric lines and patches in green, white, brown and yellow in a style known as dazzle paint.

At the start of World War II, Holland America Line had 25 ships, though only nine were still afloat by the war’s end. The ships worked tirelessly; one ship alone — the Nieuw Amsterdam II, known as the “Darling of the Dutch” — sailed 530,452 miles and carried 378,361 troops, a record only broken by the Cunard Queens, which were twice the size. When it sailed home, 600,000 people lined the dikes along the waterway to welcome it.

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Albert and Elsa Einstein

Famous Faces

Holland America Line has hosted a long list of notable figures, celebrities and dignitaries over the years. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were consummate travelers and frequent guests, as were British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine. The Rotterdam IV carried Albert and Elsa Einstein from Europe to the United States in the 1930s, during which time the ship also saw the likes of Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn. In 2019, godmother Oprah Winfrey christened the Nieuw Statendam, hosting a posh three-day girlfriends’ cruise on board the ship.

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A Long Line of Firsts

A company with a history as long and noted as Holland America Line has been fortunate to experience many firsts. Their first three-funnel liner, Statendam III, made her debut in 1929, quickly becoming known as the “Queen of the Spotless Fleet” due to the company’s reputation for tidy ships and healthy passengers. The company’s first pleasure cruise sailed in 1910, departing New York for the Mediterranean and the Holy Land. Their first world cruise sailed in 1958 on board Statendam IV on a 110-day voyage that began in New York City and called on Africa, India, Asia, Hawaii and the Pacific Coast before traversing the Panama Canal en route back to New York.

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Ready to experience all this amazing history for yourself? Contact our agency to book your Holland America Line cruise vacation to dazzling destinations around the world. We know this classic cruise line well and can help you choose the best itineraries and staterooms.  

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