Archives Detail Early Holland America Line Guests

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The history of Holland America Line, today a premium cruise brand of Carnival Corporation, dates back 150 years ago, when the company was first registered in the Netherlands in 1873.

Who were those early cruisers? A newly completed archival project reveals the names of passengers who sailed with the line between 1900 and 1969.

Passenger List Reaches Back to 1900

Holland America Line’s past springs to life thanks to a set of passenger list archives that span nearly 70 years of operation. Now digitized in a searchable database created by CBG | Center for Family History and Rotterdam City Archives, the list details each guest’s name, port of departure and date of departure.

According to the Holland America blog, “This three-year project could not have been completed without the help of volunteers from the Dutch crowdsourcing platform Many Hands. Those volunteers scanned approximately 150,000 passenger logs and documents and entered them into the database.”

Old Holland America Cruise Passenger List
Photo Credit: Holland America Line

The archives are found on the Rotterdam City Archives website. Most of the passengers left from Rotterdam, the database shows, and there are some notable events, such as onboard births, a stowaway and a dog traveling solo. The earliest passenger list is from May 3, 1900 and the last is from December 29, 1969.

During those early and mid-century years, Holland America Line guests were in good company. Albert Einstein’s name appears several times, as does Winston Churchill’s.

Line Celebrates Earliest Voyages

It was the Rotterdam I that set sail for the line in 1872, making her maiden voyage and first transatlantic cruise from Rotterdam to New York, even before the line was officially registered.

The late 19th century was a busy time for Holland America, as it made 1,300 transatlantic crossings with upward of 500,000 passengers traveling with the line, many of them immigrants headed for the New World.

Classic Rotterdam
Photo Courtesy: Holland America Line

This year Holland America is marking its 150th anniversary with special sailings and onboard events. It also recreated the first voyage of the Rotterdam I in October 2022, when Rotterdam VII, which entered service in 2020, retraced the 1872 voyage from the Netherlands to New York.

Part two of the milestone celebration happens in April 2023, when the 2,668-guest Rotterdam VII departs Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and returns to the city of Rotterdam, again with special onboard events marking the 150th anniversary of the line’s official registry. The cruise in April calls in New York, and Plymouth and London, England, before ending in the Netherlands.

And here’s a bit of trivia: The line’s first so-called pleasure cruise sailed in 1910 aboard the 10,500 gross ton Statendam I. Cruise line records show that the ship cruised from New York to the Mediterranean and the Holy Land.

Today’s Nieuw Statendam VI, which launched in 2017, is just under 100,000 gross tons, illustrating how ship capacities have grown over the decades.

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