Holland America celebrates 150 years – San Bernardino Sun

Holland America’s 150th anniversary is being celebrated aboard Rotterdam VII as it docks in its namesake city, where the cruise line was founded. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Peak season is for offshore stages.

The flood of coinciding historical dates has many cruise lines riding a two-year wave of round-numbered anniversaries. For an industry that fears catastrophic weather, this perfect storm is welcome. As cruise lines navigate the revenue-hitting remnants of a pandemic, nearly a dozen well-timed milestones have a natural affinity for limited-time deals, merchandise and itineraries, and for their pleasure-seeking passengers and smiling crews, another reason to cheer.

In what sounds like something straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Carnival, Disney, Celebrity, Holland America, MSC, Oceania, Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Viking and Windstar all have calendar milestones. Even sweeter, their dates are beyond the dark cloud of COVID-19. One respected cruise line was not so lucky; Cunard missed a boatload of pomp and circumstance as the 180th anniversary came in the fourth month of what has become a 15-month industry shutdown. Poor Sir Samuel Cunard, who established the first regular transatlantic mail and passenger service with Britain’s first voyage, which departed on July 4, 1840.

Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and Dutch-American President Gus Antorcha dedicate a 150th anniversary commemorative bell at the line’s former headquarters in Rotterdam. (Photo by David Dickstein)

As for this year’s anniversaries ending in 0 or 5, the biggest has to be Holland America Line’s 150th. The third-oldest major cruise line (after P&O and Cunard) was founded in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on April 18, 1873. Holland America, or HAL for short, marked its 2000th anniversary with reverence by having the current flagship of the fleet, 2 The -year-old, 2,650-passenger MS Rotterdam arrives in its namesake city 150 years before the day the company was founded. Princess Margrit of the Netherlands participates in a commemorative bell ringing at the New York Hotel, which in a previous life was HAL’s headquarters from 1901 to 1977. Back on board the ship, the seventh in the fleet named the Rotterdam, cruise line President Gus Antorcia raised a toast to the special occasion and the next day’s voyage, which would sail to Oslo, Norway, and Copenhagen, Denmark, before docking in Amsterdam, the flagship’s home port for the remainder of the spring and throughout the summer.

Across the pond, the 12-deck Rotterdam will sail from Fort Lauderdale from October through March, returning to the South Florida port again in October 2024 for another six-month Caribbean cruise.

Rotterdam calls at Copenhagen, Denmark on a special cruise celebrating the 150th anniversary of Dutch America. (Photo by David Dickstein)

The West Coast market is certainly not without special anniversaries. Holland America (hollandamerica.com) is bringing some of its more premium ships to the Pacific for a new category of extended cruises called Legendary Voyages. Ranging from 25 to 56 days in length, these cruises will take passengers deeper into a particular region than a traditional itinerary. Round-trip voyages from San Diego include the 51-day Tales of the South Pacific, which goes to Fiji, French Polynesia and Hawaii in September 2024. Out of Seattle that same month, the 53-day Majestic Japan will cover Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, full a circuit of Japan, passing by Midway Island and then an overnight stay in Hawaii before returning to the Emerald City.

Among the more unique and shorter tours from San Diego, HAL’s only embarkation port in Southern California, are 14- and 22-night cruises that will be perfectly positioned near Mazatlán to view the April 2024 solar eclipse. Overshadowing this itinerary is one we should mention for pleasure—unless you have the time and money to sail with Holland America on a recently announced 133-day pole-to-pole round trip in January 2025, allowing cruises to visit five continents on a journey that travels from south to north.

A three-deck atrium is the centerpiece of a Holland America Pinnacle-class ship. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Back to HAL’s 150th anniversary, fleet-wide nods include the return of happy hours that turn back the clock with select potent drinks priced at 75 cents. In a way, these cheap drinks pay homage to Dutch America inventing the “booze cruise” in 1920 at the beginning of Prohibition. Back then, once a ship entered international waters, the US alcohol ban did not apply. This loophole allowed the cruise line to offer cheap overnight stays with unlimited drinks until 1933.

Today’s Dutch America doesn’t cruise with alcohol—even four-night voyages are rare from the Seattle-based cruise line—but there’s still plenty of drinking in the fleet’s comfortable bars and lounges. Thanks to the 150th line, even more passengers are fueling up with alcohol. In addition to the limited edition HAL Pils, a pilsner brewed in partnership with Seattle-based Pike Brewing Company, Holland America is debuting an exclusive label gin. Affectionately named De Lijn, Dutch for “The Line,” the first Dutch-made spirit in America carries notes of orange, rose, elder, lemon verbena, lemon, raspberry and, of course, juniper. The new signature spirit is featured in three new cocktails on board: the Dutch 150 is a twist on the French 75 with sparkling wine and lemon juice; The 150th martini is shaken or stirred with Noilly Pratt vermouth; and the 150th Gin & Tonic is exclusively crafted tableside at Pinnacle Grill, which rivals Celebrity’s Murano as the best steakhouse at sea.

The reception to these commemorative cocktails has been so favorable, we’re told, they’ve already made their way onto HAL’s permanent drink menu throughout the park. Good call as all three are quite acceptable.

Cashew barramundi curry at Tamarind is authentically Thai. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Whether you’re pulling up to the bar or grabbing the knife and fork, a Holland America cruise is full of Dutch treats. Some are as simple as the amenities of a coffee carafe left on the dining table and a list of what’s served at the end of each buffet station. No need to search for a server to fill joe or play search at the HAL cruise buffet. Even their afternoon tea has been made more enjoyable by ditching the agonizingly slow trolley or item-by-item waiter service in favor of a tempting tower of finger sandwiches and exquisite cakes served at a sit-down. The waiting staff are still on duty to top up the tea, which, being more elegant than coffee during the quintessentially British 4pm ritual, is appropriate.

From tea bags to mixed packages, these are the fun and activities on a HAL cruise. On the plus side, smart scheduling allows three musical acts – rock, blues and piano on request – to play the cruise line’s popular Music Walk in the evenings without drowning each other out. The multimedia “Origin Story” in World Stage’s two-story auditorium is an educational history lesson on the first 150 years of Dutch America. Also in the large theater are performances by the Step One Dance Company, a talented troupe of six hoofs, but three shows a week without an added song and dance show can get tiresome.

The Rolling Stone Rock Room is the place for classic headbanging covers on Holland America ships. (Photo by David Dickstein)

The full day program on board could also use a makeover and a Red Bull six-pack. For a premium cruise line, the range of activities is small, the options are sleepy, and too much of the schedule requires a fee. With increased or no surcharges, the mix is ​​lacking compared to competing cruise lines, including those that also attract an older demographic. Days in port are traditionally scarce for things to do on the ship, but especially on days at sea, waking hours should not be centered around eating.

However, Holland America has some of the tastiest and best-served meals on the surface, and that includes what’s served on more expensive ultra-luxury lines. Pedestrian as it may seem, HAL certainly has the best gourmet burger on sea or land: the Pinnacle Burger, kissed with bacon jam and garlic-garlic aioli, is only served at lunchtime at the steakhouse, so it’s worth it the $15 markup. The inclusive food rate is also impressive. For the 150th anniversary season, dinner menus in the main dining room feature classic dishes from Holland America’s historic voyages. The retro “sliced ​​sirloin steak with Robert sauce” tastes better than it sounds.

The gourmet cheeseburger served at Pinnacle Grill at lunchtime is well worth the price tag. (Photo by David Dickstein)

As noted, HAL is not the only cruise line with a significant anniversary in 2022-24. A year ago, Viking’s (vikingcruises.com) 25th anniversary was celebrated with a first-ever convoy of three classes of ultra-luxury ships; river, ocean and expedition ships met in Amsterdam for a news presentation ceremony. Also in 2022, Regent Seven Seas (rssc.com) celebrates 30 years of ultra-luxury cruising with a curated collection of unique pearl anniversary voyages on five continents that continue this year. More importantly, Carnival (carnival.com) turns 50 in 2022 and is celebrating in true “Fun Ship” style on every mainline cruise in its golden anniversary year.

Back to the present: Disney (disneycruise.com) is celebrating 25 years in the premium cruise business with “Silver Anniversary at Sea” this summer, featuring special entertainment and merchandise on select summer sailings. Royal Caribbean (royalcaribbean.com) has big plans of its own for the 25th birthday of its mainline Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program. Members can expect enhanced benefits starting this year. Paul Gauguin Cruises (pgcruises.com), which sails exclusively in the South Pacific, is offering air credit on 25 select premium cruises this year and next as part of its 25th anniversary. Oceania (oceaniacruises.com) is celebrating number 20 with the launch this month of its newest luxury flagship, Vista, along with a ship credit of up to $800 per stateroom. Premium Celebrity (celebritycruises.com) and mainstream MSC (msccruises.com) both turn 35 this year, but surprisingly, neither company seems to be making much of a splash. Looking beyond, Windstar (windstarcruises.com) is turning the big 4-0 in 2024. The luxury cruise line is keeping quiet for now about any plans for parties “over the hill” — make that “over the wave.”

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