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Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

Category: ms Maasdam

2021 April 18; Happy Birthday

Today Holland America is 148 years young and although 2020 was the most challenging year in its history as far as sailing goes, we will weather this storm and we will continue.  Our history has taught us many valuable lessons and gives ample proof we the company is able to weather any storm. Whether it was War, Depression, the onset of the Airplane, or the Mass market cruisers,   the company has always navigated safely through every challenge.  So I am confident that we will sail through the Covid Storm as well.

In November this year I will be sailing for Holland America for 40 years in those years I have seen how strong this company is in dealing with challenging great and small.

So Happy Birth Day Holland America. Two years to go to the big 150

As a small tribute I have created a company time line from the beginning to the current day.

Please find below the highlights of our History, year by year, condensed to two sentences. Every year has several highlights and what are considered the most important greatly depends on an historians personal insights. These are mine. I have tried to find an illustration in my collection which relates to the year concerned,

For more information, under the drop down box of HAL history on this website, I have also brought the company history up-to-date with more information and photos.


Capt. Albert

The Defiance credited with being the first steam driven boat to enter Rotterdam

1816   The first Steamboat visits Rotterdam and the public and business community gets the first glimpse of what can be done without sails.

The caption reads  view on the Maas at Rotterdam with Steam boat in 1825.

1825   The first river boats with (auxiliary) stream propulsion arrive on the Dutch inland waterways and thoughts in Rotterdam are going towards using steam for deep sea.

This was what all the fuss was about.  Before 1872 it was a long way around the islands to get to Rotterdam with a large and deep drafted ship.

1863   The Dutch Government agrees to create a “New Waterway”, capable of accommodating deep drafted Steamships, which will link the port of Rotterdam with the North Sea.

Our first ship the ss Rotterdam (I) depicted on a painting by C.A de Vries.

1871   On February 08, the forebear of the Holland America line is founded; by means of the private company C.V Plate, Reuchlin & Co. and two new steamships are ordered in Scotland.

The sister ship ms Maas. named after the river which gave Rotterdam access to the sea. she was later renamed to Maasdam (I) to bring all the ship names in line with the DAM naming policy.

1872   The Nieuwe Waterweg .e.g. New Water Way is opened. On October 15, the first ship of the new company the ss Rotterdam (I) departs for New York.

Funnel Markings and Flag. Green-White-Green where the colours of the city of Rotterdam

1873   On April 18, the private company goes public to obtain funds for more ships and the Nederlandsch Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij or NASM sees the light of day. We consider this  the official birthday of Holland America Line.

The P. Caland. The 2nd newbuilt of the company after it went public. Seen here in the local drydock.

1874  Two new ships are added to the Fleet, the s.s. W.A Scholten and the s.s. P. Caland. With four ships a regular steamship service to New York can now be maintained.

And here a sea-view of the same P. Caland  at New York. the ship was named after the designer of the “Nieuwe Waterweg” which Rotterdam access to the North Sea.

1875   The “Nieuwe Waterweg” starts to silt up and the ships have to take a circumstantial inland water route to reach Rotterdam or discharge cargo to reduce the draft. All costing time and money.

The ss W.A Scholten sister to the P. Caland and named after a major investor in the company. Seen here ploughing through the winter ice in New york.

1876   The new company is in crisis as there is an economic slump in the USA and no investments can be made as there is not much money coming in.

The ss Schiedam (I) shortly after she came into service.

1877 Trade picks up and a fifth ship, the ss Schiedam (I), is added to the fleet. This is an existing ship which is taken over from English Company and could thus be directly slotted into the fleet.

In the beginning emigrants stayed in local hotel which were often not that great. In 1901 the company opened its own Hotel on the company pier. It came complete with a chapel, a Cafe and medical facilities.

1878   Holland America at this time was primarily an emigrant carrier and in this year it started to work together with the local authorities to ensure good local hotel facilities for the waiting emigrants.

The ss Amsterdam I.  The painter who created this took some liberty with reality as the wind is pushing the sails one way and the smoke the other way.

1879 Profits are up and the company orders a new ship. The ss Amsterdam (I) would arrive in March 1880. Also this year dividend could be paid again to the shareholders.

The Holland Amerika Lijn docks before 1900.

1880   A sister ship to the Amsterdam (I) was ordered and arrived in 1881, called the Edam (I) The ships now had a permanent dock location in Rotterdam where the company would stay until 1891.

The docks at Hoboken. this engraving is from around 1890,

1881   Also on the American side a permanent pier was leased. The company settled down at the Hoboken side of the river. Here the leases were cheaper and the docks were also closer to the railroad station.

The companies docks in Amsterdam.

1882   Competition from a company in Amsterdam had to be warded off and for the next 10 years Holland America also sailed from this port. Using charter ships in the beginning and own tonnage later.

The ss Edam (I) of 1881 was the first of 4 ships bearing this name. this is a rather scarce postcard showing the ship in bad weather. And not un-realistic as the ships were small and the waves were big.

1883   The ss Maas, the 2nd ship of the company went for a refit and the company grabbed the opportunity to rename her in Maasdam (I) establishing the naming pattern which has lasted to the current day.

A very scarce photo is showing a deck scene on board the ss Edam (II).  The sign on the railing  is there to advise the emigrants to stay off the First Class deck area.

1884   The ss Amsterdam (I) was lost due to a fire caused by an exploding petrol lamp and the ship was not directly replaced as trade was not as brisk as was hoped for.

To attract passengers, first class and emigrants alike,  the company had an extensive network of agents all over Europe and the US. This, to the left, is the office in Geneva around 1900.

1885   By now a trade war had broken out on the North Atlantic. More ships meant more berths to fill and thus the emigrant ticket prices went down. It would not be until 1892 that a solution was derived at.

The Werkendam. One of a series of new ships bought. Marketing in later years did not like the name very much (hard to pronounce for non -Dutch) and thus it was not repeated in naming routine.

1886   Trade started to pick up again and in a few years’ time seven more ships were added to the fleet. Rotterdam (II), Amsterdam (II), Maasdam (II), Obdam, Werkendam, Veendam (I), Spaarndam (I).

The Veendam (I) seen here docked in an unknown port but most likely Rotterdam.

1887   Another ship was lost, the W.A Scholten from 1874, which sank after a collision. The man after which the ship was named came from the town of Veendam and hence a new Veendam (I) was added.

Poort means Gate and hence it is easy to see why the building was called the “Gate-Building” Holland America had its offices on the second floor.

1888   A new headquarters was established at “Het Poort Gebouw” in Rotterdam. Easily recognizable as the entrance road into the dock area went under the office areas. The company would stay here until 1891.

The ss Zaandam (I)Painted by Antonio Jacobson of New York who had a preference for wild seas if given a free hand in the composition.

1889   The company decided to diversify and opened a service to Argentina with the Zaandam (I) taking the first sailing to Buenos Aires in December.

The ss Didam of 1891. The company had the ships for the Argentina service especially built as they needed a much larger coal storage / bunker space due to the long distance to Buenos Aires.

1890 The trade to Argentina look promising and two new ships were ordered for this route. The Didam and the Dubbeldam. However a revolution broke out and the venture came to an untimely end.

The New head office under construction. It is still exists and is now a very popular hotel and /restaurant,

1891 The Head Office moved to the Wilhelminakade in the center of the port and here it would keep it main office until the passenger side was moved to New York in 1971.

A well-known photo of this very important agreement. All the representatives of the participating companies are present here.

1892   Very important for the survival of most of the North Atlantic steamship company’s was the creation of the North Atlantic Steam Association which from now on regulated the prices for emigrant crossings.

The Holland America Tender “Chicago” embarking emigrants to take to the ship at anchor outside the port.

1893   The World Fair took place in Paris and the HAL ships started to call at the French Port of Boulogne Sur Mer. BSM would remain the regular French port of call for the company until the 2nd world war.

The docks at Hoboken sometime after 1900. Alongside the ss Potsdam recognizable due to the very tall funnel.

1894   At Hoboken a 2nd pier was leased from the port Authority at 7th. Street and here the company would keep its terminal until 1964 when it fully moved to the Manhattan side of the Hudson River.

The Rotterdam (II) at anchor near Copenhagen. Apart from going through the Canal  a visit to this city was also part of the “Excursion”.

1895 The ss Rotterdam (II) made the first cruise for Holland America with an “excursion” to the Kieler Kanal. The success would help to decide the entry into cruising a number of years later.

The ss Obdam, seen here loading in Rotterdam, did not sail long for the company but was sold in 1898 to the USA and played a signifciant role in the Spanish- American war.

1896   The Directors of the NASM finally accepted the fact that everybody called the company Holland America Line and not by its very long founding name. Both titles were now to be used.

The ss Rotterdam III is the least known of all the “Rotterdams” which sailed for the HAL. Most likely as she was overshadowed by her namesake of 1908.

1897   The ss Rotterdam (III) entered service and she was the first twin screw vessel for the company. This ship was still built in Great Britain as the Dutch yards could not yet deliver ships of this size.

This is the “Ladies Salon” also called the “Drawing Room” or the “Parlor” depending of the preference of the newspaper men.

1898   A near sister if the Rotterdam (III), the Statendam (I) entered service and she has been credited with being the first ship where the management took a great interest in the interior lay out of the vessel.

The ss Amsteldijk (I) one of the first cargo-only ships of the company. Apart from cargo she could also carry 350 head of cattle and had accommodation for 48 officers and crew and 18 Cattle Hands.

1899   A new route was opened to Newport News for cargo ships and this was so successful that 3 new cargo-only ships were ordered. These all received names with Dijk endings such as ss Amsteldijk (I).

The first in the series of new passenger ships was the ss Potsdam of 1900.

1900   The ships with a DAM name ending were now designated as Passenger ships and three new ones were brought into service. The ss Potsdam (1900), ss Noordam (I) (1901) and the ss Rijndam (I) (1902)

The ss Noordam (I) which entered service in 1901 as was an identical sister to the Rijndam (I) of 1902

1901 The Banker and Rail Road magnate J.P Morgan obtained control of a large number of HAL shares and also those of some other companies. Idea was to create a “railroad at sea” without competition.

The First Class Dining room. There is  a small sky light for natural light in in centre. with the later ships this would grow out to a two story affair.

1902   More than 51% of the shares came under his control and timetables were brought in line with the sailings of the other companies. It was not until well into WWI before HAL was independent again.

This shows the Tenders Holland an France attending the ss Volendam (I) from 1922. The  ships would often stop not longer than 30 minutes to an hour to do the transfers.

1903   The company established a French Subsidiary in Boulogne Sur Mer, called the Compagnie Franco Hollando Americaine, needed to operate its tenders as the ships stayed at anchor at this port.

The original Wireless Transmitting “Marconi” Radio Station on the ss Noordam (I)

1904   Telegraphy arrived on the ships and the ss Noordam (I) was the first to receive such an installation. Not operated by the company’s officers but by the Marconi Company who controlled the trade.

The Nieuw Amsterdam (I) on the slipway of Harland and Wolff in Belfast.

1905   With the Ticket prices regulated competition had become fair again and the company had ordered two new and very big ships the Nieuw Amsterdam (I) and the Rotterdam (IV).

The Nieuw Amstedam (I) of 1906 seen here at full speed.

1906 The Nieuw Amsterdam (I) arrived this year and with a tonnage of 16967 Grt. It was one of the 10 largest ships in the world for that year. It could carry 2350 emigrants but also 440 First Class and 246 second class pax.

The Japanese Tea room on board the Nieuw Amsterdam (I) A large skylight provided natural light which was considered a luxury item for a ship.

1907   The service to Newport News was expanded with regular calls at other ports and would remain part of the Holland America route system to well into the late 1960’s.

The ss Rotterdam (IV) seen here on the Nieuw Waterweg heading for open sea.

1908   The Rotterdam (IV) was 30% larger than the Nieuw Amsterdam but its emigrant accommodation was smaller as the company was now offering more elbow room for even its cheapest fare guests.

The company donated a replica of the original Haelve Maen which Henry Hudson used to sail up to what is now Manhattan. The model can be seen loaded her on board the cargo ship ss Soestdijk (I) for transport to New York.

1909   The British Neptune Line to Newport News was taken over and with it came six cargo ships, greatly expanding the fleet. In New York Holland America took part in the Hudson – Festivities.

Not many photos exist of the safety drills in the old days. But here is one of a boat drill held on the Statendam (I) Pre-Titanic so no lifejackets, no railings and no safety lines.

1910 The Statendam (I) made a cruise to the Holy Land in March and its success made sure that the ss Rotterdam (IV) would eventually be used for similar voyages.

The ss Zijldijk of 1909 still had a bowsprit and a figure head as a throwback to the old sailing days. She called on her voyages at the port of Savanah.

1911   Another service, started in 1910, became a permanent feature with cargo ships sailing from Rotterdam to Savannah. This route was called the “Burg Lijn” and was carried out for a Dutch brokerage company.

The ss Maartendijk of 1909, built for the service to North East America was moved to the new Gulf service in  1913

1912   A new cargo service to Cuba, Mexico and New Orleans was opened. This was such a success that after WWI a series of 4 passenger cargo ships was built especially for this route.

The ss Westerdijk of 1913 filled the gap when the ss Maartendijk was moved tot the new route.

1913   To have sufficient capacity for all these new routes, new cargo ships were taken into service. The Oosterdijk, Westerdijk and Zuiderdijk, all named after the main points of a compass.

The ss Statendam (II) seen here launched on 06 July 1914. She was supposed to be about 30% bigger again as the ss Rotterdam (IV) from 1908.

1914   On the 6th. of July, the Statendam (II) was launched with the intention to have her enter service in 1915. War interfered and she was torpedoed in 1917 as the troopship Justicia sailing for the British.

To avoid being torpedoed several ideas were tried. Being neutral required the name of the ship on the side and then “dazzle Paint” was applied to make it as difficult as possible for an U boat commander to see the ship. This is the Sommelsdijk (II) of 1912.

1915   The Netherlands was neutral during WWI and most ships continued sailing but under very difficult circumstances. 3 ships hit a mine and all ships were subject to strict inspections by the allied forces.

For neutral ships the biggest danger was mines. Here the ss Noordam (I) is seen sinking  after mine hit the stern of the ship. Luckily she could be saved.

1916   The U-boat danger was now so grave that the ss Rotterdam (IV) was laid up but the profits made with the other ships were so high that the 1915 dividend was set at 50% over each share.

The ss Zaandijk (I)ran on a mine in 1916. as seen above, but cold be repaired. The next year she was not so lucky.

1917   Two cargo ships, the Noorderdijk (I) and Zaandijk (I) were torpedoed on the same day and sunk. The Noordam (I) ran on a mine for the 2nd time. But profits continued to be good and  the company managed to buy back all foreign held shares. Making it a fully independent company again.

The USS Rijndam (I), seen here at St.Nazaire France, ferried US troops to Flanders Fields and later back again. (Photo courtesy: US Congress)

1918   All the HAL ships that were laid up in USA ports had been seized in 1917 and forced into service for the US Government. The Oosterdijk sank after a collision and the ss Rijndam (I) became a US troopship.

The ss Zaandijk (II) was taken over from the Germans as compensation for the sinking of the Zaandijk (I). She was originally the ss Silesia of HAPAG.

1919   With the war over reconstruction could begin. Cargo ships from Germany were taken over, two replacement passengerships were ordered for the sunk ss Justicia and 60,000 tons of steel was received as compensation.

The ss Waaldijk which had joined the fleet in 1914 seen here in VNS charter. The only change to sail for the VNS was, to paint over the hal colours on the funnel to one red band.

1920   Holland America participated in a joint venture with other Dutch companies called the VNS or United Shipping for services to the Far East and Africa. Each company participated with entering own ships.

In 1919 the company had bought an American ferry, the SS Madison and used here as the ss Warszawa to feeder emigrants from Dantzig and Libau in the Baltic to Rotterdam. She was  sold back to her original owners in 1926.

1921   Plans to return to the pre-war emigrant trade were dashed when US congress approved a Quota Act to reduce the number of emigrants entering the USA. Basically now only 10% of the postwar emigrant numbers were allowed to be landed by each company. Other sources of income had to be found.

The ss Volendam (I) of 1922 Seen here manoeuvring off Hoboken in New York

1922   Two medium seized passenger ships entered service, the Veendam (II) and Volendam (I) their immigrant capacity reduced from 1200 Third class to 484 Tourist Class.

The ss Bilderdyk (I) of 1923. the others in the class were the Binnendyk, Blijdendyk, Breedyk, Burgerdyk, Beemsterdyk, Boschdyk and Blommersdyk.

1923   With the 60,000 tons steel a series o f cargo ships were built called the B class. Construction of a new Statendam (III) started in 1920 was halted. Holland America changed the spelling of the ships names from IJ to Y. So a Dutch Dijk became an American Dyk.

The Statendam (III) launched on 11 September 1924

1924   The hull of the Statendam (III) was launched without ceremony and promptly laid up with all work suspended due to lack of money.

The ss Rotterdam (IV) seen here at Cannes during one of her 1920’s cruises.

1925 The Rotterdam (IV) had resumed the pre-war Holy Land cruises from New York and would from now on make each year such a cruise during the North Atlantic Off-season of January, February and March.

The ss Rijndam (I) sailing as a floating University.

1926   A more un-usual cruise was made this year, the Ryndam (I) went for a seven month around the World cruise as a floating University. The 506 students on board visited the countries they studied about on board, saw the sights, and also met Mussolini and the King of Siam.

The unfinished hull of the ss  Statendam (III) being towed to Rotterdam by three Dutch Tugs.

1927   The hull of the laid up Statendam (II) was towed to Holland for completion and would enter service in 1929. Finally there was money to complete the ship which was quite similar to the ill fated  Statendam (II)

The ms Delftdyk was especially built for the North Pacific service. After the war she hit a min and was completely rebuilt and given a new name: ms  Dongedyk.

1928   Two new motor ships (Delftdyk/Damsterdyk) had been ordered for the North Pacific service to Vancouver in 1927 and would come into service in 1929 and 1930. Each could carry 50 passengers.

The ss Statendam (III) when finished, she was the only 3 funnelled ship ever to be in operation for Holland America.

1929   There was the Wall Street Crash and the maiden voyage of the ss Statendam (III). The company now had 3 large passenger ships in service but at the same time revenue plummeted.

The ss Edam (IV) was the lead ship of a class of four passenger cargo ships built for the Rotterdam, Iberia, Cuba and Gulf Service in 1921. They could carry 14 First Class, 174 Second Class and 802 Third Class.

  1930 Most of the Cargo ships were laid up and carrying passengers to Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico was completely stopped and the route only continued as a cargo service.

The entrance to the Company docks. Laborers waiting to go to work.

1931 Cost savings had to be made and Sea and Shore side personnel were laid off. Contributions to the pension fund were reduced and some permanent labour contracts were changed to “by the day”.

Aerial view of the port of Rotterdam. the whole center area was part of the Holland Amerika Lijn. The ss Statendam (III) ca be seen alongside the passenger terminal

1932 Ticket prices were reduced by up to 40%. Laid up cargo ships were sold off or scrapped. The Nieuw Amsterdam (I) was sold for scrap in 1931 and no feasible plans could be considered for a replacement.

The passenger ships made as many cruises as possible to compensate for  the down turn in Trans Atlantic business. The Rotterdam (IV) was even painted white for a short while but that was not a great success.

1933 The shareholders became so worried about their investments that a special “strong man” from outside the company was appointed to restructure the company at save it for the future.

The ss Veendam (II) seen here docked at St. Georges, Bermuda during one of her cruises from New York.

1934   The new company structure was successful and as world trade slowly improved plans were drawn up to build a running mate for the Statendam (III) which eventually entered service in 1938

The ms Noordam (II) was the first of a series of four passenger cargo ships with the first one arriving in 1938.

1935   The company made a profit again and decided to design 4 passenger cargo ships for the direct intermediate service to New York with a one class accommodation of 125 passengers.

First Class Lounge on the Statendam (III). The carpet could be rolled away and then a large dancefloor was exposed.

1936   A sign of things to come was when the Statendam (III) carried an airplane to the Netherlands for the Royal Dutch Airlines. It were the airplanes which eventually brought the regular passenger liner service to an end.

The Sloterdyk (II) and her sister Sommelsdyk (III)  came into service just before the war started. Although being cargo ships there was space for 12 passengers,

1937 On the 10th of April Queen Wilhelmina launched the new flagship of the company the Nieuw Amsterdam (II) and two new cargo ships were ordered, the Sloterdyk (II) and Sommelsdyk (III).

The Nieuw Amsterdam (II)  this photo was taken on the departure for her maiden voyage to New York.

1938   The first of the four passenger cargo ships the Noordam (II) came into service in April followed by Nieuw Amsterdam (II) in May. With a size of £36,287 gt. She could carry 1200+ passengers in 3 classes.

The ss Westernland in HAL colours. She was eventually sold to the British Admirality to be turned into a Navy support ship.

1939 The Red Star Line was bought. Owned by the Jewish Mr. Bernstein who could no longer operate the company due being under arrest in Germany. Two ships the ss Pennland and the ss Westernland were taken over.

The HAL ships came in the cross fire when German Paratroopers came up against the Dutch Royal Marines.  To the left the ss Statendam (III) can be seen on fire. Behind the man on the bike is the ss Veendam (II) which spent the war in German hands.

1940   On 10 May 1940 Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. Luckily most of the fleet was outside the home port and joined the Allied war effort. The Statendam (III) caught fire and burnt out. As resistance was fierce, the City of Rotterdam was bombed causing the Dutch to surrender.

The ss Pennland on fire off the coast of Greece. (Photo courtesy Capt. A.M van Gemert from whose lifeboat this photo was taken)

1941   The cargo ship ss Beemsterdyk was torpedoed and the ss Pennland sank after air attacks off Greece. Shortly after the ss Maasdam (II) was also torpedoed and sank while in convoy when a nearby ship exploded.

The ss Breedijk in war ship grey colours. She was torpedoed on 14 September 1942 South of Las Palmas. The Captain and one Steward died in the tragedy.

1942 Apart from the cargo ship ss Breedyk also  the ppassenger cargo liner ss Zaandam (II) was torpedoed and suffered 127 casualties including two Holland America Line captains.

Full house on the Nieuw Amsterdam during troop transport in the tropics. Apart from boxing contests there was often a complete entertainment group on board including well known stars from Stage and Screen.

1943   The passenger ships were all converted to troopships. The ms Noordam (II) designed for 125 passengers could now carry 2300 troops and the ss Nieuw Amsterdam (II) just short of 9000.

The ms Zuiderdam (I) sister to the ms Noordam (II) and ms Zaandam (II)  was sunk in the “Nieuwe Waterweg” and burnt out. the hull was deemed beyond salvage and scrapped after the war.

1944   At home two cargo passenger ships, Westerdam  (I) and Zuiderdam (I) had been under construction when the war started and were now used as blockade ships to keep the expected invasion out the ports.

This was what was left of downtown Rotterdam after the bombardment of 1940. The situation at the company docks was not much different with only the main office building still standing.

1945 After the liberation on the 10 th. of May 1945 the rebuiling started at once. Holland America had lost 50% of its fleet, 265 employees had lost their lives and nearly all the Rotterdam property was damaged beyond repair and needed to be rebuilt from scratch.

The ss Nieuw Amsterdam (II) coming home in 1946. When the war ended she still sailed a full year as a troopship for bringing the troops home.

1946   The Nieuw Amsterdam (II) arrived home on 10 April 1946 with a war record of having steamed 530,452 miles and carried 378,361 troops. A record only broken by the Cunard Queens who were double the size.

The Amsteldyk (II) was the first of 10 Victory cargo ships acquired by the HAL.

1947   Part of the rebuilt program was the acquisition of 10 Victory cargo ships who were called the A class. The Veendam (II) which had spent the war in Germany returned to service as well as the Nieuw Amsterdam (II).

The ss Volendam (I) seen here entering the Grand Harbour in Valetta Malta had served the whole war as a troopship. Together with her sister Veendam (II)  they were refitted for post war duty but were by then old and tired ships.

1948   In three years’ time 19 ships were added to the fleet and 5 passenger ships were in operation. Plans were drawn up for new ships for the West Coast service and to replace the Veendam (II) and Volendam (I)

The ss Aalsdyk sailing by Sugar Loaf mountain near Rio de Janeiro

1949   A new service was opened to South America and the company became an important carrier of goods for the Marshall Plan, the support program the USA had set up to get Europe back on its feet again.

The ms Damsterdyk from 1930 re-emerged after the war as the ms Dalerdyk after a complete refurbishment.

1950 Two pre-war ships employed on the North Pacific service  were completely refurbished and renamed.  This service ran from Hamburg via Rotterdam, Panama Canal along the whole Pacific Coast of North America to Vancouver.

The ss Ryndam (II) of 1951 had for those days, the very unusual concept of only a small First Class area just under the funnel and the rest of the ship assigned as Tourist Class.

1951   The ss Ryndam (II) was commissioned followed by a sister ship the ss Maasdam (IV) and they took over from the aging V ships. Because the original hull design had been meant for a cargo ship they were known to be very ” lively”.

The ss Groote Beer was originally built as a Victory ship with troop capacity. Obtained by the Dutch Government, first for troopship duty and then for emigrant voyages. Those to North America were under management of the HAL.

1952   For the booming emigrant trade the HAL took over the troopship Groote Beer from the Dutch Government and used her for emigrant services to the USA and Canada and student trips to Europe.

The Ryndam (II) and Maasdam (III) both docked at Hoboken Piers. For a while they were marked as “The Thrifty Liners” as a Tourist Class ticket was really good value for money.

1953   Business was going well and thoughts went towards an intermediate liner which could also be used for cruises and a running mate for the Nieuw Amsterdam (II) which would become the Rotterdam (V).

The K -class, with the ms Kinderdyk seen here as the first of the series. These ships  just fitted in the new St. Lawrence Locks.

1954   The company expanded once again their cargo network with opening a new route to the Great Lakes when access locks to the St. Lawrence River were enlarged. The K-class ships were built.

Apart from ordering ships for the St. Lawrence locks, also new builds were commissioned for the North Pacific service. Here we see the ss Diemerdyk  leaving Rotterdam.

1955   The name ss Statendam (IV) was announced for the intermediate Liner which was to enter service in 1957 and the order for the Rotterdam (V) was given to the Rotterdam Dry-dock Company in Rotterdam.

The ss Statendam (IV). The first class accommodation of 89 passengers was located on the decks right behind the funnel. The 857 in Tourist class had the run of the rest of the  ship.

1956   The clasas concept of the Ryndam (II) had proven very successful and thus the Statendam (IV) also was designed with a small First Class and a large Tourist Class capacity making it easy for one class cruising.

The ss Dinteldyk (II) Although being  a cargo ship with a large passenger accommodation she was given the grey color passenger hull as she was considered the flagship of the west-coast fleet.

1957   The ss Statendam (IV) came into service on the North Atlantic route and would make in 1958 the First World cruise for the company with normal guests on board.

The ss Rotterdam (V) being launched. It was estimated that approx. 100,000 people from City of Rotterdam attended the launch.

1958   The Statendam (IV) made the first world cruise for regular passengers and the ss Rotterdam (V) was launched on the 13th. of September by her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.

Most traditional liners had the accommodation laid out vertically. The Rotterdam (V) had all the public rooms horizontally. First Class on Upper Promenade Deck and Tourist class on Promenade deck. Open the connecting doors and two full decks were easy accessible to all during One Class cruises.

1959   In 1958 the airplane had carried as many travellers as all the ships on the North Atlantic route together and thus cruising became more and more important. Hence the new Flagship was optimized in layout for one class cruising during the North Atlantic off-season.

The arrival of the container caused a major disruption in the port and ships operations and also in labour relations.

1960   The step by step arrival of the container in the cargo business meant that conventional cargo ships became less and less effective. Competitors from the past now joined up to form joint ventures to reduce the costs.

The ms Gaasterdyk (II) The lead ship of the G- class especially meant for for the Gulf service. Although they were also seen on all the other routes of the company.

1961 New cargo ships, called the G-class were introduced especially for the Gulf of Mexico service and the older A class cargos ships were sold off one after the other and were all gone by 1969.

The ms Lady Jane ,of Vander Laan Shipping, was one of the first ships designed to carry ultra heavy cargos and where in high demand for transit with oil exploration related cargos. HAL had taken a share in this “heavy Lift” company.

1962 With both the North Atlantic and the cargo business facing an uncertain future, the company decided to diversify with investments outside its core business. Acquisitions were made in hotels, an airline, travel agencies, a dredging company etc. etc.

Pier 40 was the best pier there was for processing cargo and passengers when opened in 1962 . From left to right: The ss Rotterdam (V), the ss  Statendam (IV), either the Noordam (II) or the Westerdam (I) and a K class freighter.

1963   Between the end of 1962 and mid 1964 Holland America moved its operation from the Hoboken side of the Hudson to downtown Manhattan where it had taken a lease on the brand new Pier 40.

The ms Prinses Margriet was taken over from another company and as she carried the name of the “God child” of the Dutch Merchant Marine (2nd daughter of the Queen) she was not renamed to a DAM name.

1964 A small passenger- cargo ship the Prinses Margriet which had been in charter for a while was taken over and used for North Atlantic crossings and well attended “cargo cruises” from New York to the Caribbean.

The ms Moerdyk (II) This ship was already container friendly with having space for them around the cargo hatches but it was not enough to keep the real container ships from taking over.

1965 The last conventional cargo ship the ms Moerdyk (II) came into service. The next step would be to invest in container ships and the company participated in the Atlantic Container Line.

The first ever Share of the company. bought by His Royal highness Prins Hendrik of the Netherlands and sponsor of the company in 1873.

1966   When the company was founded in 1873 it had been scheduled for a lifespan of 100 years. To avoid the company from being abolished in 1973 a new charter was adopted for an open ended future.

The first containership the ms Atlantic Star. She carried containers in front of the bridge and rolling stock (cars and anything else on wheels) in a large space under the accommodation with a ramp at the stern.

1967 The English company Cunard joined the ACL combine and each company would now participate with two ships. One slow, one fast. Holland America brought in the Atlantic Star and the fast Atlantic Crown.

The ships became Hotels and somebody in marketing came up with the idea of “Floatels”.

1968   The North Atlantic service was coming to an end and the operating structure on board the passenger ships was changed to a Hotel setup with an integrated service led by a Hotel manager.

The last of her kind with HAL. The Victory cargo ship ss Andyk (II) was phased out in 1969.

1969   The shore side operating structure was also re-organized with more clearly defined departments and overlaps were removed. The last ship of the A class the ss Andyk (II) was sold.

The first artist impression of the Prinsendam (I) Here Holland America would test its idea’s about the future of cruising.

1970 An order was placed for two small cruise ships as the company wanted to experiment with an own design for the future cruise fleet. In the end only one was built. As the Dutch Tax system became so progressive the HAL introduced Indonesian crewmembers on the ships.

The ss Statendam (IV) seen here sporting the new blue hull and the orange funnel with the wave logo.

1971   A 70% share was taken in the Westours Tour Organization of Seattle which gave Holland America access to Alaska. The cruise ships were refurbished and a new “Wave” logo and hull color appeared.

The ms Bilderdyk (II) A large crane moved over the whole length of the ship cargo bays. The barges were lowered into the water at the stern of the ship.

1972   The company had also just introduced the ms Bilderdyk (II) a LASH (Lighter Aboard SHip) barge carrier for the Gulf service. 83 barges could be left behind for loading and un-loading while the ship continued its voyage.

The ss Veendam (III) and Volendam (II). Very steady, deep drafted and spacious ships. But they used a lot of oil and thus their profitability after the Oil-crisis was somewhat limited.

1973   Now 100 years young and the company brought into service two ex-American passenger ships under the names of Volendam (II) and Veendam (III). But due to the oil crises they had to be laid up again.

The ms Prinsendam (I). A sistership was never built but her design was the basis for the new N-class

1974 The 8900 ton Prinsendam (I) arrived carrying 374 guests was sent to Alaska and Indonesia for summer and winter cruises. It was also decided to sell off the complete cargo division as per 01 January 1975.

The Monarch Sun and Monarch Star. Operationally it did not really work out with this daughter company and hence the company lasted only a few years.

1975   The Veendam and Volendam came back into service but for a Subsidiary called Monarch Cruises with trips to the Caribbean from Miami. The Lease of Pier 40 in New York was sold and the offices moved to Two Penn Plaza.

the counter the larger P&O ships, the Monarch Star was send to Alaska. And when the ships came back under the HAL flag, the ss Veendam (II) continued to do so. Here the ship is sailing under the Lions Gate bridge from Vancouver to Alaska.

1976   Although Holland America had pulled out of Europe with its ships and marketing, the company bought a British travel Agency chain as it was noted that many British Guests took P&O ships to the USA and Alaska.

The ss Rotterdam (V) in the mean time made cruises to the Bahamas and Bermuda until also she was sent to Alaska.

1977  In 1973/74 the registration of the cruise ships had been moved from Rotterdam the Netherlands to Willemstad, Curacao.  In this year the financial seat of HAL was moved here was well.

The Fairweather I was used as a dayboat between Juneau and Skagway sailing up and down the scenic Lynn Canal.

1978 Monarch Cruises had been absorbed into a new company Holland America Tours. Investments were made in the Alaska infrastructure with buying more hotels, a day boat for the Lynn Canal and more coaches.

1979   As part of the Coach expansion The “Gray line of Seattle” franchise was bought. The buses were used to bring guests from Seattle airport to the ships in Vancouver and for sightseeing tours.

The N-ships were an enlarged version of the 1973 Prinsendam (I) with some features taken over from the V ships such as the Crowsnest.

1980   Experience with the Prinsendam (I) had learned how much more economical a purposely designed ship was compared to the older tonnage such as the Statendam (IV). Two enlarged Prinsendam versions were ordered in France.

The Glacier Queen I was used for day trips at various locations in Alaska.

1981 The Prinsendam (I) would never see her larger sister as she sank in autumn 1980 in the Gulf of Alaska  due to an engine room fire; luckily without any casualties. A sightseeing company in the Prince William Sound was bought to provide glacier tours in College Fjord.

The Fairbanks Hotel in Alaska. Holland America -Westours operated a large number of these Hotels under the Westmark name.

1982   More investments took place in Alaska and by now Westours / HAL controlled 65% of the Alaska Tour trade. The Statendam (IV) was sold to French Operators.

The Nieuw Amsterdam (III) of 1983 and one of the most fuel economic cruise ships out there. She could almost carry double of the V-ships capacity for a 3rd of the fuel consumption.

1983 The operating costs of the older ships had weighed heavily the balance sheet and this year was a crucial year in turning the company around by moving away from the old ways of operating and cost control. The first new build the Nieuw Amsterdam (III) entered service.

The ms Noordam (III) Once completed she was immediately sent to Alaska for the summer season. Seen here in Glacier Bay.

1984   The 2nd new build the Noordam (III) entered service in April. The V ships were sold off but the Rotterdam (V) stayed as she could still very well cope with the changes in the Cruise Industry.

The mighty bow if the ss Rotterdam (V). Seen here during her 1985 dry dock.

1985   Apart from the yearly world cruise of the Rotterdam (V) all three ships were now employed on short but very profitable cruises to Alaska, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The first group of Philippina Bar stewardesses on board the ss Rotterdam V. Some of the Ladies served more than 30 years with the company, In the middle Chief Officer (later Captain) Leo van Lanschot Hubrecht.

1986  The company started to employ Ladies from the Philippines  in the Front Office and in the Bars.

The motor sailing yacht  Windstar. If the wind was blowing the wrong way, then the engine ensured that the next port was still reached on time.

1987   The Rotterdam (V) made her last world cruise as the revenue on the shorter cruise was much higher. A 50% share in Windstar Sail Cruises was taken and the company bought outright in 1988

The ms Westerdam (II) ex ms Homeric. In the winter of 1989/90 she was stretched by an 100 feet  to increase capacity.

1988   The next acquisition was buying the Home Line ships, Atlantic and Homeric. The Atlantic was chartered out and then sold off but the Homeric became the Westerdam (II) and was with 42000 tons the largest ship ever to sail under the Holland America Line flag.

Carnival Corporation owned Carnival Cruise Lines but was not just a cruise company. It was a much larger organisation which even owned an own Air Line.

1989   On 15 January Holland America became un-expectedly an independent subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation of Miami. They operated Carnival Cruise Lines but now wanted access to the premium market.

The Cape Fox Hotel, high up the hill,  was operated by WestMark hotels and could be reached by road but also by Funicular.

1990 Money was made available to order 3 new ships called the S-class in Italy. Each to be in the region of 55,000 tons with 1266 lower beds. A new hotel was built overlooking Ketchikan in a joint venture with the local Indian tribe.

These coaches were called  “Bendy Busses”  on they ships and had a bar in the back part of the carriage.

1991   17 more coaches were added to the Alaska coach fleet and they were quite special as they had a small kitchen/bar with stewardess on board at the end of the cabin.

The ms Statendam (V) arriving in Amsterdam in 1993. Almost double the size but with the same umber of guests as the N-ships, the S -class was a great improvement.

1992   The company now geared up for a major tour de force, doubling the fleet by adding a new ship every year for the next 3 years and needing to train up about 3000 new crewmembers.

The S-class ships came with the first real atriums on the HAL ships. Located in the center of the ship. This is the “Jacobs” ladder on the ms Maasdam (V) made of Murano glass.

1993 The first new built ms Statendam (V) was delayed entering service by 6 weeks but made a big impact as, although carrying more guests, her space ratio compared to the N ships was 43.8 against 27.9. The Maasdam (V) followed in October.

The ms Ryndam (III) Seen here sailing to Alaska with a Vancouver departure.

1994   The ms Statendam (V) was send on a world cruise but it was decided to move the cruise back to the Rotterdam which had done made the 1993 World Cruise. With all the extra capacity available the company started to sail in European waters in the summer as well and not just to Alaska.

The ms Veendam (III) seen here on a windless day off the port of Haines in Alaska.

1995   With the arrival of the Ryndam (III) the fleet was complete but a fourth sister the Veendam (IV) had been ordered for 1996. HAL ships were now sailing to all corners of the world.

The new Fastdam as per artist impression painting by Marine Artist Captain Stephen Card.

1996   Project “Fastdam” was embarked upon. A ship which could take over the role of the Rotterdam (V) and with a 25 knot speed visit more ports on longer (world cruises) in a same time period.

An artificial harbour was dug on the west (=lee) side of the island where the ships tender could dock.

1997   The company leased 15000 acres of Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas as a resort and renamed it Half Moon Cay.  The Rotterdam (V) left Holland America on September 30th. but a new Rotterdam (VI) filled the void.

Apart from the close sister to the Rotterdam (VI) also two more ships in the class were ordered, the Volendam (III) and the Zaandam (III). These last two only had one funnel and a slightly larger guest capacity.

1998   Now 125 years young the company was thriving as never before. In this year 120 departures to Alaska were offered and a sister ship for the Rotterdam (VI) was ordered.

The Vista class was an evolution of the Signature Class with now the focus on optimizing the number of balcony cabins.

1999   Competition was fierce in Alaska with Princess Cruises bringing in larger and larger ships. The answer was the Vista class; a series of four ships with 1900 guests but with the same space ratio as the S class.

The ms Amsterdam (III) was a near sister of the Rotterdam (VII) only the tone of her interiors was different and the Azi-pod propulsion.

2000   The Volendam (III) had entered service in 1999 and was followed by her sister the Zaandam (III) in this year. Also the Amsterdam (III) was commissioned, completing the R Class of four ships.

The ms Volendam (III) seen here approaching the dock in Juneau.

2001 The Nieuw Amsterdam (II) had been sold to United States Lines in 2000 and renamed in Patriot only to return after USL went bankrupt. The ship was eventually sold on and chartered by TUI for many years.

The Prinsendam (II) sailing through the Bosporus. During her far flung voyages, calling at Istanbul was a regular part of her routine.

2002   The Prinsendam (II) arrived. Transferred by Carnival Corporation from Seabourn / Cunard to HAL who needed a smaller ship for longer cruises which also able to go into smaller ports.

The ms Ryndam (III)  was the first ship to be part of the SOE program and in the Movie theatre a  kitchen was installed , called the Culinary Arts Center, where the Exe. Chef or Guest Chefs would give cooking demonstrations.

2003  The Signature of Excellence program started. This was an investment program to bring all the existing ship up to the highest standards by investing in remakes of public areas, new soft goods in then cabins and back of the house upgrades.

The Westerdam (III) sailing through Venice after delivery from the shipyard.

2004   In 2002 the first Vista class ship had entered service; the Zuiderdam (II), followed by the Oosterdam in 2003 and now the Westerdam (III) in 2004. Eventually the Noordam (IV) followed in 2006.

Another introduction  which was part of the SOE was the Explorations Cafe. Library, Reading room, Puzzle corner and Coffee Bar are combined into one Multi Purpose space.

2005 While the SOE program continued, more new ships were considered and an upgraded version of the Vista class, the Signature class was decided upon. One to enter service in 2008 and one in 2010

See here at San Diego a shore side installation provides electric power to the ship. ALL the engines could be switched off while in port.

2006   One of the “back of the House” upgrades was the introduction of “Hoteling”. When a ship was in port it could now be connected to the shore side power grid and for the duration its own engines were not needed. All ships from the Amsterdam (III) onwards were upgraded in this way.

When the company gave up the Wilhelminakade, the “Dutch Offices” left the City for awhile. When they returned the old Main office was a Hotel but space was found in the brown sky scraper to the right. Behind the rounded building (Harbour masters office) to the left is the Passenger Terminal from the old days but still in use.

2007 Windstar became less and less compatible with the core operation of the company and was sold off. Investments were made in the offices both in Rotterdam and Seattle.

The ms Eurodam first of the Signature Class sailing into Rotterdam.

2008   The ms Eurodam was dedicated in Rotterdam by HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. The ship had an additional Far East themed restaurant on board and with it came the first female Indonesian employees.

The “Mix” was a cluster of three bars (Champagne, Sports and Cocktail) located opposite the shops on board which also doubled up as the Late Night Piano Bar. This is the layout on the ms Veendam (IV)

2009   As part of the SOE the “Mix” was introduced on the ships, a central public area with bars and entertainment. Computer classes were given and the facilities on Half Moon Cay were expanded.

Seen here at Warnemunde Germany, the new cabins at the stern of the ms Prinsendam (II) are clearly visible. Apart from more guests it also gave the company the change to increase  and modify the swimming pool layout, which had been a challenge until that time.

2010   The capacity of the ms Prinsendam (II) was increased with 22 cabins at the aft part of the ship and the Nieuw Amsterdam (IV) the 2nd ship of the Signature class entered service.

The Seabourn ships, apart from being smaller then the HAL ships,  also had facilities which were not possible on larger ships such a a water sports Marina in the stern.

2011   Seabourn Cruises became a daughter company of Holland America and this resulted in cost reductions as the operations departments could merge or work closer together.

The Rotterdam (VI) had been especially designed for longer cruises  with a higher cruising speed in mind and thus winter cruises from the port of Rotterdam were no problem as the ship simply raced from the wintery weather into the sun and the tropics

2012   The number of cruises starting in Europe had been expanding through the years and this year the Rotterdam (VI) sailed all year around from the port of Rotterdam on long and short cruises.

These various companies were brought together under one umbrella as their operating styles were not dis-similar although the Brands were.

2013   The HAL Group was created within Carnival Corporation consisting out of Holland America, Seabourn, Princess, P&O Australia and the Alaskan Land Operations. A new ship was ordered in Italy.

The ms Ryndam (III) and ms Statendam (V) at Keppel Shipyard in Singapore, for transformation into the Pacific Eden and the Pacific Aria for P&O Australia.

2014   Statendam (V) and Ryndam (III) were transferred to P&O Australia to make room for the new class of ships, The Pinnacle Class of which a 2nd one was ordered this year.

The other two sisters ms Maasdam (V) and ms Veendam (IV) remained with the fleet. the Veendam’s capacity was enlarged by adding balcony cabins to the stern.

2015   Re-alignment in the HAL Group continued with the creation of two branches. Brands (Marketing and Sales and related ) and Marine Services (Support, HR, IT, Nautical, Technical and related)

The ms Koningsdam. The first ship of the Pinnacle Class , seen here at full speed in the Norwegian Fjords,

2016   The first ship of the Pinnacle Class arrived, the ms Koningsdam. With a size of 99,500 tons she could carry 2500 guests. The main theme on board was music with musical art and multiple musical venues.

The new Office of the company located on 3rd Avenue, in Seattle, just one block away from the old one.

2017 Holland America built a new Head Office in Seattle, one block away from the old one, but now solely occupied by the HAL Group. A 3rd Pinnacle Class ship was ordered with a delivery date of spring 2021.

McKinley Chalet Park and resort in Denali Park Alaska. Chalets, Hotel rooms, Restaurants, a Saloon and an Outdoor Auditorium. coaches would stop her for overnight while on their tours through theAlaskan interior.

2018   The company continued to invest in Alaska by expanding its McKinley Chalet Resort hotel in Denali Park with and extra hotel wing having 99 rooms. The Nieuw Statendam (VI) entered service in December.

One of the outstanding features of the Music Walk on the Pinnacle Class ships is “The World Stage” with its 270o  LED screen so everybody in the audience can have a perfect view.

2019   In June 2019 the ms Prinsendam (II) left the company and was sold to a German Operator. On 21 November 2019 the keel of the 3rd Pinnacle Class ship the ms Ryndam (IV) was laid.

The ms Nieuw Statendam (V). Sistership to the Koningsdam and the Ryndam / Rotterdam.

2020   On 14 March 2020 the company ordered a stop to all cruise operations due to the Covid-19 pandemic and all ships were ordered to disembark their guests. The ships went into Warm Lay-up.  4 ships were sold to other operators. On 20 July it was announced that the ms Ryndam (IV) would enter service as the ms Rotterdam (VII)

The Nieuw Statendam (VI)  and Westerdam (III)  in lay up at the anchorage at Tor Bay near Torquay England. October 2020. (Photo courtesy: Mr. Ian Williams  www.iwpix.com) 

2021   The ships continued in lay-up waiting for the Pandemic to be brought under control with the vaccination programs and various countries opening their ports again.

Published 18 April 2021

Last Update 28 April 2021

2021 Feb. 17; Waiting for Better Times.

Dear Readers,

Here a little update from my side.  I have not posted since July 20 last year as the worldwide situation was so fluid that any update from my side would be old news, before it was uploaded.

I hope that everybody is doing well and adhering to the precautions needed for succeeding in defeating the Covid-19 virus. Here in England vaccination is well on its way and it is now becoming apparent that the continuous spread of the virus is mainly due to not keeping a social distance, wearing a mask and washing your hands.   Not much different as what we were used to in the past when there was a norovirus challenge on the ships. The Covid-19 virus is of course much more aggressive and deadly but the principles of combating it are not much different. Remember when you were on the ships; Sing happy birthday twice when washing your hands with water and soap. If we not all do our little thing, then we will never get the cruise ships going again. Continue reading

24 March – 10 April 2020; Panama to Fort Lauderdale.

So I am back on the blog. A blog which I had to stop as things were getting too confused and fast moving for me to relate correctly and with sufficient authority. If you look at the last blogs, I had mentioned already a few times that the company was moving faster than I could record it. Then throw the world stage, with all its politics into the mix, and I did not know any more if I was coming or going. So we stopped.

On 09 April the last guests left the ship, and then ship went into warm lay-up. Healthy guests but a few guests remained on board who could not leave as they could not get home for all the reasons that went with the current situation. Things on board are now returning to a sort of normal, albeit a new normal.

This blog is a compilation of the past period as seen through the eyes of yours truly and as I am not involved in politics (*) there is no opinion about why something happened, just what happened and how the ships made it work.

(*) Maybe Captains should all run for office, each in their respective country, I am absolutely convinced the world would have less issues. Continue reading

24 May 2017; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Just after midnight the water and air temperature got in balance and a white cloud descended over Northhumberland Strait. This is the stretch of water which separates Prince Edward Island or PEI from the rest of Canada and as the Maasdam was in the middle of that Strait we did not see anything anymore. And so it remained until arrival. Looking at the positive side it meant, no more rain but sunny periods during the day, even if it was chilly. Steam was coming off the aft swimming pool and that you only see when it is chilly, cold or freezing.

Charlotte Town from the sb bridge wing of the ms Maasdam.

Charlottetown is the largest town on the island and has grown around three rivers which all dump their water in the harbor area. It has a nice Cruise ship dock, long time ago inaugurated by yours truly with the Veendam when it was transformed from a small cargo dock into something which the locals can be proud about.  The town is named after a British Queen – Consort of King George III (Although she herself was German) and it has the claim to fame as being the birthplace of the Canadian Confederation. In 1864 the Charlottetown Conference was held here with the aim to unify the area which we now know as Canada.

Sailing into Charlottetown can be quite spectacular as the ship sails into a sort of lagoon with cliffs on both sides. These cliffs are of a red clay type material and give the area a very unique view. The port itself is located in the back and quite nicely sheltered. If there are more cruise ships in port then there is also an anchorage and that is less nice.  The three rivers converge here and there is the tide. In total four forces of current hitting the ship at anchor. At a normal anchorage the ship swings around on the tide and then settles with the bow into the flow.  Not here as the resulting influence of those four forces constantly changes and keeps pushing the ship one way or the other. It is constantly swinging around the anchor and it never settles.  I have been here at anchor only once (and that was more than enough) and during a four hour period (without a change from Ebb to Flood) the ship made three complete turns around the anchor. It only settled to some extent when the wind picked up; but we do not like that either as it means a choppy ride for the tenders. Luckily normally Holland America Line ships dock as we have been coming here as one of the first cruise companies and are very regular in our calls. In some ports seniority still counts for something.

Prince Edward Island. The Confederation Bridge location can be seen on the lower left. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

On the island there are plenty of things to see and do and some of the tours also go off the island as there is a bridge connection with the mainland. The Maasdam will sail under it tonight and it takes about 3 hrs. from the dock to get there.  It saves quite a few miles to take this route as otherwise you have to back track and sail around the whole of the East side of PEI.

Sailing under the Confederation Bridge is a mixed blessing. It is very nice to do and quite spectacular as the old Westerdam just fitted under it but the area is full of lobster pots and as lobsters do not tend to pay much attention to steamer routes, the fishermen tend to have the same attitude and set the pots wherever the lobsters might be.  If one is in the channel then we can sail around it and then there is a chance the rope between the lobster pot and the indicator buoy at the surface might get in the propeller. To avoid damage we have little knife tips permanently attached to the inner edge of the propeller to cut the rope before it hits the seal. Especially plastic fishing lines can cut into the seals of the pitch propeller blades and can cause oil leaks. Although the hydraulic oil we use is environmental friendly and does not pollute the environment, we still do not want leaks.

One way of getting the ropes out is by diver and we have to do that some times. We have little knife blades at the rim of the propeller end, exactly where the diver has his hands & knife. (Photo courtesy website osd.dtic.mil)

This evening we sail at 1800 and head to the St. Lawrence Pilot station and then tomorrow we will spend the day on the river, heading towards Quebec. Weather for tomorrow chance of rain and chilly, if it will bring haze, we will see.

23 May 2017; Sydney, Canada.

Sydney can be a horrible place if the weather becomes inclement and its location gives a lot of options for it to do so. Winters are harsh with North Easterly winds and when there is mayhem coming from the North Atlantic to the East then it also gets it. When they designed Nova Scotia they forgot to put a high mountain range on it and thus nothing shelters Sydney very much. On top of that its port is located in a sort of pond where even a medium size cruise ship cannot swing around in. Let alone a big one. Thus we have to swing off the cargo terminal and then go astern for half a mile.  We love going to Sydney but we like nice weather when we do so.

This morning we had it and with the sun shining brightly and hardly no wind at all the good ship ms Maasdam sailed without any concerns into Sydney Bay, swung around and went astern to the dock. We prefer to go stern in, so the nose is pointing to the direction of the sea. Always easier to give full ahead and racing away from bad weather in the port than having to struggle and swing with the wind full on the beam. So a wise captain always docks with the nose towards sea when feasible.

The red line is our course and where it stops is where we swing around to get to point B, the port at the narrow part. (Photo courtesy of Sydney Harbour)

The pilot boards outside and then sails the ship in, until we come to point A. There the captain (Or his designate, thus it was the Staff Captain this morning) swings the ship around and then goes astern to point B where the dock is. The dock is at the end of a sort of Fjord and there is only one way out and that is why we like the ship to already point that way.  I marked the map also with a point C. This is the west side of the entrance and here a lot of erosion takes place. Sand is deposited by the sea at the East side and eroded away at the west side. This has been going on for a while and the last time it was threatening the church with its grave yard, which in the years before had already lost some tombstones (and its inhabitants)

The weather forecast predicted inclement weather in the afternoon and that indeed happened. By 13.30 it started to get overcast and the wind picked up. The rain was coming which we had been outrunning thus far. By 16.00 hrs. just before departure there was 30 knots of wind and with rain showers already visible in the distance behind the ship. Halifax had had a good downpour in the morning and Sydney was the next one in line for some wet appreciation.

But for the guests, most of the day it was a very nice day and those not on tour walked into town. Sydney’s main street is quite close to the ship and a regular provincial town with some sort of a “border” flavor to it. There is very good Pub and Restaurant opposite the ship so I might be tempted during our next northbound visit to walk over there as (according to the ships agent) they have a nice variation of local Craft/draft beers there.  One should always be interested in local culture, especially if you can drink it.

Sydney also considers themselves the Fiddler Capital of the World and that cultural achievement is proudly displayed by having the largest (?) fiddle in the world on the cruise pier.

Today was ship inspection day which means I walk each deck and check each nook and cranny. It left enough time though to run ashore for the Staff Captain and buy a new TV for training purposes. The old one in the Bo ‘sun Store had a faulty PCB and according to our TV expert on board ordering a new PCB was almost as expensive as being a new one. As with every large company, we have a certain amount of Red Tape to deal with and ordering a new TV via the regular procedures might take three months. But the Training Dept.  In Seattle also has a small contingency fund for emergencies and they agreed that I & the ship had such an emergency.

A big store with a big Blue and Yellow sign was selling TV’s but was also the only store in town which did not accept US dollars so I also had a cultural outing to the bank of Nova Scotia where a very nice Lady calculated how much USA I needed to change to pay a Canadian bill. Canada (or at least Sydney) has a recycling surcharge on electric goods. I am all in favor of that so I paid another 35,– to ensure that the tv will be properly recycled. Only thing is that it will probably break down somewhere in the South Pacific and never come back to Sydney.  If it would do so in the South Pacific maybe we could land it in the other Sydney and say we already paid a recycling charge…………………..

Tomorrow we are in Charlottetown where we hope to be docked by 09.00 hrs. According to the weather guru’s the rain clouds should have shed their full loads on Cape Breton Island and Charlotte town is only supposed to be overcast with temperatures around 63o F / 17 oC. not bad for the month of May.

22 May 2017; Halifax, Canada.

We left a little late from Bar Harbor as the tours were delayed which is sort of normal. Something to do with traffic somewhere along the route. As a result we just made it on time to Halifax but it took a while to get the gangway lined up (first time of the season) and thus a real avalanche of eager shoppers burst out of the ship once the ship had been cleared. The lone piper who welcomed us into port was drowned out by noise caused by the stampede going down the gangway. I have never seen a ship empty itself out so fast as today. But then it was a gorgeous day with the sun brightly shining, no wind and still having cool temperatures which kept the haze away from spoiling our visibility.

Thus very quickly the large majority of the guests were gone and the rest trickled off the ship shortly after. A good thing as well, as at once controlled mayhem was initiated by means of our weekly fire and boat drill. Regulations are getting tighter and tighter, based on incidents and past experiences and that is reflected year by year in the increase of the intensity of our drills. All very much with my blessing; as in my humble opinion you cannot train enough. And if I could get away with it, then I would have everybody messing around with fire extinguishers and fire hoses and everybody would be proficient in driving and commanding a lifeboat. Maybe in the future that will happen, now crew specializes in certain duties and that works as well but there is always room for improvement.

A ships firefighting team coming around the aft end of Main engine nbr. 5 In real life the smoke would be black from burning fuel but we can not simulate that so we use white stage smoke.

As a result of the regulations and the way they are interpreted, it means that every crewmember has to attend a fire drill each week and each crewmember has to attend a boat drill every month with instruction and exercise. We cannot have all 600 crew of the Maasdam running around with a fire hose so for most of them assembling and getting ready is enough. Thus with every weekly drill we now have the whole crew on the move. And that goes as follows:

  1. We sound the First Stage Emergency alarm because there is an emergency, normally a fire.
  2. This means the firefighting teams assemble and exercise. Today we put engine number 5 “on fire” and drilled all the procedures for extinguishing it again. About 100 people are involved.
  3. The captain gets concerned about how the “if we can extinguish the fire or if we cannot”. He orders to sound the crew alert alarm and all the crew is now on the move. The majority of them report to their assigned stations ready to support the guests. Those with non-specified functions report to the crew mess room and wait for further instructions.
  4. The captain is now getting really concerned and wants everybody at the lifeboat station, just “in the case “. We ring the General Emergency Alarm and simulate that the guests have already reported to their lifeboat stations and now the crew can follow. The crew in the ship gets dismissed by groups and starts to appear on deck. The more critical the function is, the longer they have to stay where they are. So the firefighters are normally the last ones to appear on deck.

If things go so far that we have to abandon ship, then the sequence continues with announcements over the outside P.A system as everybody is on deck anyway. Guests are sent away in the lifeboats and the crew follows in the life rafts. The last person to leave is the Captain who will only leave the ship when he absolutely sure it will not survive.

Not all the crew has to stay on deck for this whole procedure, as soon as everybody has been accounted for, 75% is dismissed and the remaining 25% get their monthly training. So during the required monthly period everybody will be trained, refreshed and kept alert.

While this is going on, vital activities have to continue such as bridge and engine room watches but also preparing for lunch. Thus there is a rota for that crew to get excused for one of the four monthly drills. The whole sequence normally takes 60 to 75 minutes and today we were all quite happy because outside it was such nice weather.

The route from Halifax on the soutside of Nova Scotia to Sydney on the North side of Cape Breton Island. Map courtesy:  www.maps.com.

Tonight we will sail around the northwest corner of Nova Scotia, what is called Cape Breton and then we will be in Sydney by 11.00 hrs. which is located on Cape Breton Island. We are still out running the rain, but it will catch up with us in the late afternoon. Still there is no wind expected and the temperatures should be around 61oF or 16oC which will make it quite pleasant.

21 May 2017; Bar Harbor USA.

Bar Harbor has two anchorages for cruise ships. In principle there is more space for more ships but those anchorages are hampered by two problems. A. the tender distance to town is becoming to long to provide a good service B. those areas are currently full of lobster pots so you cannot anchor there without upsetting a lot of people,……. those who own those lobster pots.

But the two anchorages which are officially allocated are normally kept free of lobster pots (sort of…..) the most coveted anchorage is the south anchorage as here you can tender in a straight line from the ship to the dock.  Handy for the officer on the bridge to keep an eye on the tenders and handy for the tender drivers when the visibility gets less as they only have to continue sailing in a straight line. (That line they can see on a plotter which we have in the tenders and mark with GPS constantly the position of the tender. So if you have your first line on the screen, then you can just keep your tender on that line for the next run.

The South Anchorage. It looks nice and wide but the screen does not show all the lobsterpots

The North Anchorage is on the other side of a small island. That island blocks the view of the port and prevents tenders from sailing in a straight line. The officer on the bridge cannot see where the tenders are and the tenders have to sail around the island (and also around a plethora of lobster pots) to get to the shore and to get back to the ship. Thus they only way we can follow the tenders is with the AIS transponders they all have, so we can see them moving over the radar screen. But an AIS transponder always has a certain delay or lag time and that is something we do not like.

Down town tender dock is just behind the little cruise ship.

But we dropped the hook on the south anchorage and stayed there from 0700 to 1500 hrs. during what became a glorious day.  Sunny, not too warm and just a gentle breeze. Outside we had windforce five but the anchorage was really sheltered today.  We had another cruise ship in port, the Independence but she is so small that she could dock right in down town. There are a few of these little cruiseships around and they are small enough to travel up and down the canal and fairways of the USA visiting small ports along the route. But they are also seaworthy enough to stick their bow out into open waters if it is nice weather.

I was on the foc’sle on arrival and departure and had my school classes in between. I like to be at standby’s, as the captain and the staff captain can never get there themselves as they are required on the bridge. Plus it is normally the junior officers who are forward and that gives me the chance to hand over a few tricks of the trade.   Today the topic was mud. We can get highly excited about that, as mud affects the safe anchoring. There is solid mud, soft mud, mixed mud (with shells) and the anchor reacts to it in a different way. Bar Harbor has very thick grey mud with sometimes shells mixed into it.  This means that the anchor flukes do not always dig in very well and then with a bit of wind the ship can cause the anchor to drag and the anchor chain to slide and slither over the sea bottom. If the mud is soft then it clings to the chain and when we go anchor up, we only see a grey thick pipe coming above water with the anchor chain somewhere inside it.

The battle against the mud. There are four 9 bar nozzles in the hawsepipe, a five bar jet of the fire hose and still we lose the battle sometimes.

We do not like all that mud to go into the chain locker and thus we have strong sprays of water in the hawse pipe (where the chain enters the ship) to clean it off. Four 90o degree angled & powerful 9 bar jets on the chain. But for Bar Harbor that is not enough, we need another two fire hoses to clean the rest off. That is a whole organization with winch handlers, sailors with fire hoses, proper regulation of the winch speed and taking advantage of the movement of the ship to use the water flow around the chain and anchor to help even more.

Thick grey mud strong enough to cling to the anchor chain after having been tormented by heavy water jets.

To coordinate this is a sort of balancing act and anticipating what will happen next by keeping in mind how the ship will maneuver. So this afternoon we had the regular 3rd officer forward plus two cadets all eager to learn how to deal with………… mud.

Tonight we will sail towards Halifax and about 8 pm. we will pass Cape Sable the South East point of Nova Scotia on which island Halifax is located. We are supposed to be docked by 09.00 hrs tomorrow morning and then have a full day in port.

Weather: more of the same. Behind us the rain is coming but at the moment we seem to be able to out run it for the whole of tomorrow.

20 May 2017 Boston, USA.

My little operation came in action yesterday and I spent most of the day behind the computer preparing for two training courses the ship has asked me to give. Apart from hammering on the keyboard it also meant running around and talking to everybody as organizing something on a ship is as if you are trying to solve an equation with at least six unknown factors.  Everything hooks into the other and everything I do should be done in such a way that it does not affect the operation of the ship, not affect the work and rest hours of the crew and also does not interfere with other trainings or exercises which might have been planned by somebody else.  But we are now well organized and scheduled to add 20 more lifeboat certificates and 5 more tender operators to the pool of experienced people on board. At least if they have passed their exams just before I leave the ship on 10 June in Montreal.  And now I am patiently waiting for requests to have my proposed schedules changed again as something has come up here or there. That is life on board, it needs constant adjustment.

We docked by 08.00 in Boston at the Falcon Terminal. Ahead of us was the Veendam and that meant the complete S-class was in port as the Statendam and Ryndam are now sailing from Aussie Land for P&O Australia. Going into Boston has one peculiar thing, the airport. Or better said: the airplane approach path to the airport. The Falcon terminal is a side arm of the main channel leading into Boston and the ship has to make a 90o turn to enter this side arm. Right at the moment when the ship is in the flight path of airplanes descending towards Boston airport.  To avoid scary situations the pilot is normally in contact with the flight tower to check for gaps between approaching air planes so the ship can make the turn towards the dock without upsetting any pilots. Most of the time it works out fine and there is not an airplane to be seen.  But through the years we have had situations when a plane was right above us while we were turning.  If you look up from below to the underside of the plane it is hard to judge distances but at times it looked as if the wheels of the planes almost touched the strings lights between the mast and the funnel.  I wonder what the perspective of the pilot in the cockpit was and if he/she enjoyed flying over a smoking funnel.

During one of the coming calls here in Boston we will have another challenge, the Tall Ships will be in port. That will give two challenges for the ship: a. The roads from the Cruise Terminal to town and from there to the airport will be clogged so for the incoming guests it might take some extra time to reach the ship b; the harbor will be full of Sunday sailors and Six pack navigators all milling around and being in the way. The USCG and the Water Police always try their utmost to keep the route for the large ships clear but it is a challenge. Taking selfie’s with ships in the background is nowadays a very popular activity and a lot of these selfie takers forget that the ship behind them moves. I think that those who will be in charge of keeping order on the waves that day are already having headaches.  But we will see.

From Boston to Bar Harbor is not a long distance, it is just around the corner. And therefore we can arrive early and have the tender service going by 07.00 hrs. That is a time we really have to adhere to in order to get the full day tours off the ship on time. The distance between Bar Harbor and Halifax is a lot longer and if we do not leave Bar Harbor by 15.00 hrs. then it gets very tight to make Halifax on time. In Bar Harbor we will anchor as there is no cruise ship dock. The locals are having discussions about it; either to build a 2 ship finger pier, or to use the ferry pier on the North side of the town or doing something else. But not much has happened yet, while Bar Harbor is becoming more and more popular with cruise ships.  There are only two good anchorages so you cannot keep piling the numbers up.

The weather for tomorrow should be good again, more of the same as we had today. Sunny but still with a cool breeze, so the chance of reduced visibility remains small. And that is a good thing as running a tender service without seeing anything is not much fun.


19 May 2017; At Sea.

The low clouds stayed away, courtesy of colder air blown in with a steady breeze, and as this cooler wind was blowing over colder water, the fog never really could materialize. . It turned hazy but visibility remained more than the minimum 3 miles which meant the bridge did not need to go to battle stations and the captain did not have to get out of bed to pull the fog horn every two minutes. For tonight the same wind is expected and thus the Maasdam should reach Boston with everybody having a quiet night.

The route we have to take after the New York pilot station off Sandy Hook goes straight east and then we make a more than 90 degree turn to head North North West towards Boston. Before we get there we have to turn to a straight westerly course again until we come to Boston pilot station. If there would be a big enough canal between New York and Boston, the ship could have done it in a few hours, now it will take a day and two nights, although we are not going at full speed.

We used to go full speed in the old days and often that meant we could wriggle in another port call along the way. Now we offer the guests a quiet sea day as we try to conserve as much fuel as possible (which keeps the ticket price down) but also because we sail through Whale territory. The moment the ship has passed the Coney Island area there are whales. Whatever the world is doing to make the whales habitat better, seems to work as we see more of them every year. Because we do not want to bump into them we have to reduce speed. Preferably to 10 knots or less if there seems to be a danger of getting a close encounter. No problem to do so but it can play havoc with a cruise schedule if the average speed has been set too high. So the company has worked “whale speed” in their cruise schedules and that makes the life of all of us a lot easier.

Between New York to Boston we basically pass through two whale areas. East of New York you see all sorts of whales and once getting closer to Boston we sail through the habitat of the Right Whale. During the morning we saw several whales sedately moving along on the starboard side of the ship and it took me a while to recognize the species. Most of the time you see humpback whales which are very easy to recognize as they have that hump and their tail comes out of the water often even when they are not engaged in acrobatics. This one was not doing this and also I did not see a dorsal fin. Plus the exhaust air plum was not distinct, but fuzzy. That meant that it could only be a Gray Whale and that is fairly unusual as there are only about 25000 of them around.

The whale we are very concerned about is the Right Whale. There are only about 400 left and one of their habitats is an area south east of Boston. As they do not pay any attention and or react to noise or vibration of ships they have a much higher chance of being hit. During the day we can keep a look out for them but during the night that does not work and thus sailing at a slower speed is the best preventive option we can take. To make things complicated this area is very busy with commercial traffic, so much that the IMO (International Maritime Organization) has imposed highways at sea here, or Vessel Traffic Separation schemes. Thus east and west bound ships are in separate lanes and when coming to a cross roads there we have a round-a-bout to prevent collisions.

With so many ships around and so few Right Whales the USCG has a broadcast and monitoring center in the area with mandatory reporting and announcements about sightings. If one ship sights a whale then the rest is being alerted and can exercise extra caution.

Tomorrow morning the Maasdam will dock in Boston at the Falcon terminal and she will be behind the Veendam, her sister ship. Arrival should be between 0700 and 0800 and we will have a partial disembarkation / embarkation of about 700+ guests. On departure the ship will have a full house with close to 1250 guests on board.

Weather in Boston, same as in New York, warm and sunny.

18 May 2017; New York, USA.

And thus real life began again. Yours truly arrived last night in the Big Apple and joined the ship today. This time I stayed in a hotel in Jamaica which is part of Queens and thus had an 80 minute taxi trip to make to get to the ship. On normal days that takes about 25 minutes but Queens has a bottle neck where all the roads are coming together to go over the bridge into Manhattan. And today it was a bottle with a very loooooooooong neck. Not that I minded this as I had never travelled the whole length of Queens Boulevard and as New York is a true melting port, there is always lots to see. Plus I can now remove one item from my bucket list and that was travelling over the Queensborough Bridge (Also known as Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge). My experience was thus far limited to the Brooklyn Bridge but my New York Bridge’s experience has now increased by 100%. Next to this bridge are cast iron pillars located for a cable car crossing but I did not see any cable cars so I have the impression that it is not operational.

New York Cruise Terminal just after departure. to the left the Crystal Symphony is just visible.

The good ship ms Maasdam was docked in port together with the Crystal Symphony. This ship was on a port call only stop but the Maasdam also had a partial embarkation today with guests coming on board for the Canadian Maritime cruise. They hopped on board in New York instead of having to travel to Boston. In the Boston we will have a change over again with guests finishing their Trans Canal cruise. The Maasdam is coming from the west coast where it also made a South Pacific cruise. Now it will start a series of cruises to Montreal from Boston and back.

Captain Bas van Dreumel, Master ms Maasdam.

The Master of the vessel is Capt. Bas van Dreumel who until recently was on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. But he has the same take on the job as I have, you have to rotate ships to stay fresh and so he opted for the change of going from the one but newest ship to the oldest one (excluding the Prinsendam) and also a much smaller ship. But smaller ships have a charm of their own and the Maasdam is making some very nice cruise and varied cruises.

I will be on the Maasdam for three weeks, until June 10 and then transfer to the Noordam. (Subject to very much change as usual) During that period I will conduct a number of trainings, run a complete certification course of Lifeboat attendants and carry out some internal audit work for the Captain. In the coming days I will explain what a Lifeboat attendant course is but it involves messing around with boats big time, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for nice weather.

Today started well, the weather was almost too nice. 97oF with only later in the day a bit of S/E wind picking up. If that continues then I will be a happy camper, but my colleagues on the bridge will not.  Sunshine means very low clouds when in open sea and the whole area from New York to Boston to the St. Lawrence River is prone to a lot of fog if the weather is nice. The combination of warmer Gulf Stream water to the South, cold water to the North and warm air above land can create dense fog, very dense fog.  For the guests normally not much of a problem, unless you bought a cabin right under the whistle, as it normally are burns off in port…………. And then it comes back as soon as the ship returns to open water.

World Trade Centre Area. With to the left the Empire State building just visible.

Today we sailed at 17.00 hrs. from the New York cruise terminal. That departure time being important as it is slack water at this time. I always call that “theoretical” slack water, as the time of real slack water seldom is the same as the real moment. But you try to arrive and leave as much as possible on the slack tide when the current is zero or almost zero as otherwise it is a lot more difficult to avoid bumping into the piers located on both sides of the ship.  Today we sailed at slack tide but even then the ship had drifted considerably by the time it was in the middle of the Hudson River where it could swing to the south and head for open sea.

Tomorrow we have a sea day and the weather looks good and if it warms up quick enough, then we should have good visibility and see some wild life. There are normally lots of whales in this area.

Note: the blog still has some challenges so the coming posts will be without photos until this has been corrected.