They took place upon the arrival of Rotterdam VII to its namsake city on the exact date of the company’s founding there a century and a half ago.

Holland America President Gus Antorcha was on hand, joined by Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and descendants of the company’s founders for a celebration at Hotel New York, the line’s headquarters from 1901 to 1977.

Building on a legacy

‘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,’ Antorcha said. ‘From those first early days, we built our reputation on the care we provided to every person who stepped onboard. 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,’ Antorcha continued. ‘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.’

Commemorative bell for Hotel New York

From the ship’s arrival on a crossing from Fort Lauderdale 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, who’s Rotterdam VII’s godmother, poured champagne over the bell in a HAL tradition usually reserved for a new ship launch.

The line worked closely with PostNL, the Netherlands post office, 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 ships: Rotterdam VII, Holland America’s newest, and Rotterdam I, its first. The limited-edition stamp is available for purchase throughout the Netherlands.


In addition, members of one of Holland America’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 HAL team members and more than 60 of the line’s top Mariners, loyalists who have sailed at least 1,400 days.

Following a gala dinner aboard Rotterdam, Antorcha invited guests to a party around the Lido Pool where he toasted the anniversary alongside Capt. Bas van Dreumel and Mai Elmar, executive director of Cruise Port Rotterdam and the ship’s madrina.

A toast

‘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,’ Antorcha toasted.

As a finale to the evening’s events, the city of Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge was illuminated with a special light display honoring the 150th anniversary. Following the lighting of the bridge, Antorcha made his way to Amsterdam, where he joined Zuiderdam and grand world voyage guests around the Lido Pool to commemorate the 150th.

The additional nine ships in the Holland America fleet also held anniversary parties onboard.