150 Years of Holland America Line
Holland America Line cruise ships have been an Atlantic Canadian port staple for many years. However, even before the boom of the cruise industry, Holland America Line had strong ties to Atlantic Canada.
Holland America Line’s story began back in 1873 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where it was founded by a group of Dutch businessmen. Originally a transatlantic shipping company, Holland America Line soon ventured into passenger cruising, offering travelers a chance to see the world.
The company’s 150th anniversary is a testament to its enduring legacy of adventure, discovery, and cultural immersion. It also speaks to a century and a half of rich storytelling and deep connections that transcend borders. That’s especially true for Nicole MacAulay, Manager of Cruise, Port of Sydney Development Corporation, whose grandfather immigrated from Holland via Halifax’s Pier 21, known today as the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. This served as the main entry point for over a million immigrants and refugees coming to Canada for nearly half a century, and Holland America was the first line to call on Pier 21 after it opened in 1928.
MacAulay, who works closely with Holland America in her role, was able to research passenger databases to learn that her grandfather arrived on the SS Waterman, a Holland America ship. Made possible by an extraordinary partnership between the Rotterdam City Archives and the Center for Family History, this initiative involved the digitization of over 150,000 passenger logs and documents, and now allows individuals to seek out ancestors who embarked on transformative voyages with Holland America Line between the years 1900-1969. Like MacAulay’s grandfather, many newcomers to Canada arrived via Holland America ships, weaving the company into the multicultural fabric of Canada as we know it today.
Indeed, deeply personal stories just like this one has shaped the lives of countless families across the globe. Throughout its remarkable hundred- and fifty-year journey, Holland America Line has stayed true to its roots while making a lasting impact on cultures around the world. Along the way, it has created countless timeless memories for travelers.
Holland America Line marked its 150th anniversary with a number of special events, including the Zaandam’s inaugural call to Saint John this July 24, which was marked by a ceremony from St. Mary’s First Nation and Area 506 entertainment. Zaandam made another inaugural call on Corner Brook this August 28. There, Captain Michiel Willems will meet with Mayor Jim Parsons and Corner Brook Port CEO, Jackie Chow, to commemorate this milestone.
The Zuiderdam’s 7-Day Canada & New England Discovery voyage also set sail from Boston on August 26, bound for a number of 150th anniversary events. The Port of Halifax welcomed Zuiderdam on August 28, with locally made blueberry tarts, a visit from Park’s Canada mascot, ceremonial drumming and piping, and a blessing from Mi’kmaw Elder Charlotte Bernard.
From there, Zuiderdam called on Sydney (August 29), where the crew were hosted to an afternoon of lawn games, sports, and a BBQ at Liberty Pier. The Port of Sydney will further be planting 150 tulips to commemorate the occasion. Afterwards, Zuiderdam called on Charlottetown on August 30, where passengers were welcomed by Anne of Green Gables and a vibrant celebration featuring lobster rolls, world-renowned oysters, and a toast of raspberry cordial.
Experience the unique pleasures of Atlantic Canada as you cruise with Holland America Line, a company deeply rooted in the history of our region. Join us as we embark on a voyage that celebrates the past, embraces the present, and looks forward to the next 150 years of unforgettable memories.