• May 1 - Governor's Island reopens for the season
  • May 2019 edition of the PORTHOLE posted - 07/17/19
  • New MARITIME NEW YORK compendium of lectures, exhibits, tours and transportation around the Port of New York updated - 6/12/2018

Holland-America Line Anniversary

flagby Theodore W. Scull and John McFarlane

One hundred and thirty years ago, in 1873, a new North Atlantic shipping company was founded in Holland as Nederlandsch-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij. Holland-America Line has remained as one of the longest serving ship owners in the world. Two small iron steamers, ROTTERDAM and MAAS (later MAASDAM) sailed between Rotterdam and New York in that first year. Today the company, now owned by Carnival Corp., operates a fleet of twelve cruise ships calling at over two hundred ports world-wide. This photo-essay will include images of many of the best known ocean liners and cruise ships that were operated by the company over these many years.


Original Holland-America Line poster. The S.S. STATENDAM Flagship from 1929 until 1938.

Between the wars Holland-America operated a trans-Atlantic service between Rotterdam and New York also calling at Southampton, Le Havre and occasionally Plymouth and Boulogne. In addition to STATENDAM (1929) the fleet consisted of ROTTERDAM (1908) as well as VOLENDAM (1922) and VEENDAM (1923). Since the start of the services in the 19th Century the line used the piers on the Hoboken, New Jersey side of the Hudson River.


The beautiful S.S. NIEUW AMSTERDAM at the 5th Street Hoboken terminal of the line in 1952.

In 1938 one of the most popular and finest ocean liners ever built entered service as the new flagship. NIEUW AMSTERDAM (1938), a ship of 36,287 gross tons, remained with the company until she was retired in 1973 and eventually scrapped.


The four images above show S.S. NIEUW AMSTERDAM (1938) sailing from Holland-America's Pier 40 North River in the 1960's.


Holland-America poster from the late 1930's.

The European headquarters of Holland-America Line were located in Rotterdam at the Wilhelminakade where their passenger ships docked. The actual offices were situated in an ornate building that is now a hotel.


S.S. ROTTERDAM (1959) and S.S. RYNDAM (1951) docked at the Wilhelminakade in Rotterdam.


Now the Hotel New York this building formerly housed the Holland-America head office.

In 1938 the new NOORDAM was built for the North Atlantic cargo and passenger services. She could carry 148 First Class passengers and had a very extensive cargo capacity in six cargo holds. After the Second World War ended another similar "Combo-Liner" joined this service. WESTERDAM (1946) was a 12,100 gross ton ship with a passenger capacity of 134 First Class passengers. She made the first post war passenger crossing from Rotterdam in June 1946.


WESTERDAM (1946) was the first post World War II ship to enter service for the line.

NIEUW AMSTERDAM (1938) survived World War II and was joined on the North Atlantic run by RYNDAM (1951), MAASDAM (1952) and STATENDAM (1957). RYNDAM and MAASDAM, each of 15,000 gross tons were designed to carry almost 900 passengers, only 39 of them in First Class, the remainder in Tourist Class.


S.S. RYNDAM (1951) at sea. (Holland-America postcard)



S.S. STATENDAM (1957) in the North River, New York in the later Holland America Cruises livery. (Photograph Paul Klee)

In 1959 a new flagship, the largest liner ever built in Holland, S.S. ROTTERDAM (1959) entered the line's Atlantic services. She was 37,783 gross tons and 748 feet long and launched by Her Majesty Queen Juliana. On her maiden voyage to New York, in September 1959, S.S. ROTTERDAM carried a special passenger, Crown Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands.



The two images above show S.S.ROTTERDAM (1959) sailing from Holland-America's Pier 40 North River in the 1960's. (Photographs Paul Klee)

In March 1963 Holland-America moved it's ship terminal in New York harbor from it's long time home at Hoboken, New Jersey across the river to the new Pier 40 on the west side of Manhattan. The new pier sported an enormous model of S.S. ROTTERDAM (1959) that was illuminated at night and visable from the elevated West Side Highway.


Holland-America Line began using Pier 40 North River in New York in 1963. Docked are NIEUW AMSTERDAM (1938)and the WESTERDAM (1946)
is docked at the outer berth. ROTTERDAM (1959) is on the south side of the pier where there is an extension to allow two cargo ships to berth when needed.


The Delft tile mural in the Entrance Hall at Pier 40 NR in New York
The mural depicts images of four of the ROTTERDAM liners.

Apart from their normal passenger services, the line also ran a fleet of cargo ships between Continental European ports and ports on the east, gulf and west coasts of North America. The major exports from Holland carried by these ships were beer, cheeses and tulip bulbs. Holland America also served as agents for the worldwide routes of several other Dutch shipping companies. In the mid-1960's Holland America became one of the founding members of Atlantic Container Line (ACL). This new organization would eventually take over the cargo services of the founding lines that served ports in Europe and North America.


VOLENDAM (1971) in the North River, New York. (Photograph Paul Klee)

In the early 1970's the line was in the process of changing it's identity to Holland America Cruises. Two former Moore-McCormack passenger ships were purchased and they were rebuilt in Germany, renamed as VEENDAM (1971) and VOLENDAM (1971) and assigned to cruise service to the Caribbean and Bermuda.


Contemporary Holland-America poster.

As cruises became the standard operation of almost all the remaining passenger ship operators Holland America was able to stay the course and the fleet was modernized with the addition of several new cruise ships. The STATENDAM class of cruise liners arrived in the early 1990's. She was followed by MAASDAM (1993), RYNDAM (1994), VEENDAM (1996), VOLENDAM (1999) and ZAANDAM (2000). The flagship S.S. ROTTERDAM (1959) was retired and sold after her final Alaska cruise season in 1997. A new M.S. ROTTERDAM, the sixth ship of that name, was introduced as the 62,500 gross ton flagship in 1997 and she was followed by a close running mate M.S. AMSTERDAM (2000). During the year 2002 Holland America purchased the foremer ROYAL VIKING SUN/SEABOURN SUN and renamed her PRINSENDAM.


M.S. STATENDAM (1993) the first of a new class of cruise ships for the line.


M.S. ROTTERDAM (1997) the current flagship of Holland America Line.

In recent years an even larger class of cruise ships came out of Europen shipyards, the "Vista Class". The first ship in this class was ZUIDERDAM (2002) and at 85,000 gross tons was the largest ship to ever join the fleet.


M.S. OOSTERDAM (2003) arriving in Rotterdam for her naming ceremony July, 2003. (Photograph Royal Dutch Navy Veterans)

On July 29, 2003 her sistership OOSTERDAM will be named by HRH Princess Margriet of The Netherlands in Rotterdam. Both OOSTERDAM (2003) and the flagship ROTTERDAM (1997) will be paying a visit to the port of Rotterdam on July 28 and 29 where it all began for Holland-America line over 130 years ago.

Photo credits: Photographs are, unless otherwise noted, from the collections of the authors.
Sources: "North Atlantic Seaway" - N.R.P. Bonsor, "Going Dutch - The Holland America Line Story" - William H. Miller,
and Holland America Line -