Cruise Views: Holland America and Rotterdam VII mark 150 years of tradition, transformation
Post By Guest Blogger Kathy Witt
One hundred eleven years after the RMS Titanic plunged beneath the waters of the North Atlantic 700 nautical miles east of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Holland America Line’s Rotterdam VII made an unscheduled stop at that exact location for a moment of silence.
“More than 1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives, leaving behind a legacy of sorrow and loss that has endured to this day,” Rotterdam’s Captain Bas Van Dreumel said. Many of the ship’s 2,222 passengers had gathered on Lido deck in blustery but sunny weather remarkably similar to what Titanic had experienced all those years ago.
“We honor the memory of the passengers and crew who showed grace and dignity in the face of unimaginable hardship and tragedy,” Van Dreumel continued. “And so, it is with deep respect and solemnity that we now dedicate this wreath to the sea, as a symbol of our remembrance and gratitude.
“May it serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made on that tragic night, and of the enduring spirit of humanity that continues to inspire us.”
For both lines, their respective transatlantic crossings were historic, with the former introducing the “ship of dreams”—the world’s largest, most opulent liner in 1912—and the latter recreating Holland America’s maiden voyage of Rotterdam I of 150 years ago.
Holland America has always been a company that honors its past even as it looks ahead to the future. From its founding in 1873 when it was called the Netherlands-American Steamship Company, it has linked Old World to New and played a crucial and prominent role in America’s immigration story, bringing one in 10 immigrants from Europe to the United States, and at a level of comfort and care few if any other steamship companies offered.
Since that first Rotterdam sailing, much has evolved and improved with the passenger shipboard experience—stabilizers, a technology developed in the 1930s, being at the top of the list. Early passengers making the crossing would have felt every roll, bump and wave of the sea. Not so today, thankfully. Accommodations were nothing like the restful havens now, with their comfy beds and sofas, flatscreen televisions, tile and glass (hot water) showers and Elemis spa toiletries.
On those early crossings, it was on the passengers to entertain themselves. Now there are endless options and an app to guide guests to the good times.
Aboard Rotterdam VII, a full schedule of programming includes enrichment lectures; wine tastings featuring gourmet food pairings from the ship’s various dining venues; exercise classes (tai chi, yoga, abs); pickleball games and tournaments; rousing rounds of trivia—the most popular activity aboard, according to Rotterdam’s cruise and travel director; arts and crafts, including new guided painting lessons; nightly poolside movies; a variety of live music performed in several different venues, including Rolling Stones Rock Room and B.B. King’s Blues Club; a World Stage with 270-degree LED projection for immersive programming and entertainment, including piano concerts, comedy acts, dance and music fusion shows and more.
Although immigrants traveling aboard HAL ships enjoyed three squares a day (a more generous meal plan than most ships provided), food served was fairly basic. Now round-the-clock choices tempt, from burgers and pizza at casual poolside eateries to classic fare in the main dining room to more upscale cuisine served at the ship’s specialty restaurants, including Rudi’s Sel de Mer French seafood brasserie; Pinnacle Grill, a seafood and steak house; and Canalotto’s Italian.
Find sushi made to order at Nami, sweet treats at Gelato’s and theme dinners like seafood boils and an Indonesian Rijsttafel dinner—a small plates extravaganza; everything from fried rice, quesadillas and roast pork to made-to-order deli sandwiches and freshly baked cookies (with chocolate chip being the hands-down favorite) at Lido Market; Dutch classics including pea soup and rustic ham and cheese buns at the Grand Dutch Café; chicken wings, soft salted pretzels and buttery popcorn the snack options served during the evening Dive-in movie; and basics like club sandwiches and cobb salads through room service.
From the art of cuisine to a world class art collection, everything on Rotterdam is designed to please, delight and wow. A 4.1 million art collection features an international roster of artists working in all mediums. Each staircase presents a theme—architecture, music, zoology—that is carried floor to floor like a vertical gallery. Sculptures, paintings, prints, fiber arts, collage—in all there are 2,645 works of art to enjoy, from small treasures like intricate altered books and musician silhouettes constructed of cassette tapes to major works, including cello and pan flute sculptures by Korean artist Yongsun Jang.
The public spaces are beautifully decorated, each conveying an individual theme and mood through color, texture and lighting and punctuated with dramatic artworks. Services offered include shops filled with boutique jewelry, designer fragrances, branded clothing and sundries, plus a small casino, fitness center and photo gallery. Beneath a retractable glass dome, the two-deck Lido pool area invites with swimming pool and a trio of hot tubs surrounded by plenty of chaises and couches, greenery and cozy nooks.
A library would not have been part of the experience on those early crossings and a spa virtually unheard of, but aboard Rotterdam the former is filled with books that may be borrowed for reading on deck or thumbed through on the spot while relaxing in an overstuffed chair and the latter, the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, bustles with the buffing, polishing, pampering and destressing of a steady stream of guests.
Holland America is celebrating its history on several upcoming Heritage Cruises, each featuring retro happy hours, classic cruise games and activities and Dutch High Tea, including three Best of Norway cruises in 2023 aboard Rotterdam: July 15-29, Aug. 12-26 and Sept. 9-23. A number of transatlantic itineraries is also offered, including a 14-day Atlantic Sunsets and Exotic Isles cruise aboard Rotterdam, Fort Lauderdale to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, April 13-27, 2024. See all the options and get more information at www.hollandamerica.com.
- Holland America Line (HAL) marks the 150th anniversary of the company’s founding on April 18, 2023.
- Rotterdam VII is Holland America’s third Pinnacle class ship. By the numbers: 99,836 gross tonnage; 894 feet in length; 2,668 passengers; 1,048 crew. By comparison, the RMS Titanic had a gross tonnage of 46,329 and a length of 882.75 feet. Passenger capacity was 3,320. The night Titanic sank, 2,240 passengers were aboard and only 706 survived.
- HAL has carried more than 12 million passengers throughout its history, including two Netherlands nationals who founded one of America’s most iconic rock bands. Seven-year-old Edward and nine-year-old Alexander boarded HAL’s Ryndam with their parents, Jan and Eugenie Van Halen, in spring of 1962, arriving in New York City on March 9, 1962. Eleven years later, Van Halen—the band credited with “restoring hard rock to the forefront of the music scene”—was born.
- A three-year-old who refused a PBJ featuring orange marmalade on rye, served to him aboard a Holland America ship in the 1980s, is credited for authoring the company’s first children’s menu. Brendan Bunts, sailing with his parents, Annmarie and Pat Bunts, met with the kitchen staff and came up chicken tenders, hot dogs, mac ‘n cheese and PBJ—made the “right” way. “Everyone knows it’s got to be peanut butter and grape jelly with the crusts cut off,” said Brendan’s mom, Annmarie Bunts, who has cruised 99 times with Holland America
- Guests can download and take a 30- to 40-minute self-guided art and antique tour during their cruise that includes walking directions, artist interviews and background music.
- Visit the Half Moon Bar for a history lesson in Holland America as told through craft cocktails like the Original, which celebrates the first Rotterdam through a blend of Dutch gin and hint of single malt Scotch.
Holland America Bread & Butter Pudding
- 1 ½ pounds good day-old bread crusts trimmed and bread cubed.
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- quart whole milk
- 6 eggs beaten
- 3 egg yolks beaten
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup raisins
- Powdered sugar
- Grand Marnier optional
Preheat your oven to 325º.
If you’re planning to plump the raisins, now is a good time to get them soaking in the Grand Marnier. Use just enough to cover the raisins and let soak for about 30 minutes.
Place bread cubes in a bowl and drizzle with melted butter.
Grease ramekins with butter. You will need a large roasting pan to hold the ramekins.
Line the roasting pan with a dishtowel. This will keep the ramekins from slipping when you’re moving the pan in and out of the oven. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and toast until just golden, 8- 10 minutes.
Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat. In a large bowl, whisk whole eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Gradually add in hot milk, continuing to whisk. Stir in vanilla.
Add half the breadcrumbs to the ramekins. Top with half the raisins. Repeat the layers again.
Ladle the egg mixture over the bread cubes and raisins. Let the bread stand for 20 minutes to absorb the custard.
Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
Place the ramekins on the towel in the roasting pan. Add enough boiling water to cover just halfway up the ramekins.
Bake the puddings in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. They are ready when set.
Carefully remove the roasting dish from the oven. Remove dishes. Let cool slightly.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.
Guest Blogger Kathy Witt is an award winning author and member of
SATW Society of American Travel Writers│Authors Guild
Author of Cincinnati Scavenger; Secret Cincinnati: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful & Obscure;
The Secret of the Belles; Atlanta, Georgia: A Photographic Portrait
Arriving Spring 2024: Perfect Day Kentucky: Daily Itineraries for the Discerning Traveler