In a tradition-bound ceremony today in Rotterdam, Holland America, with the able assistance of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, performed the ritual blessing of the bell and smashing of a Champagne bottle against Eurodam's hull. "What a day, what an incredibly, marvelous beautiful day," said HAL president Stein Kruse, and he wasn't just referring to the gorgeous blue skies overhead.
Indeed, the christening, which also marked Holland America's 135th year anniversary, drew on its heritage. The cruise line was founded right here, on this pier, way back in 1873. Its longtime offices were located in what's now the historic Hotel New York, which is nearby. Kruse paid homage to the line's deep roots in Rotterdam and Holland, and the long-time seafaring tradition that exists here (Rotterdam is Europe's largest cargo port, among other things). "For the last 135 years," he said, "we have been carrying on that tradition."
The event was memorable for a series of other reasons, including:
It's the first time -- at least in recent memory -- that a cruise line has actually made it possible for plain old passengers to attend an inaugural ceremony. Limited to travelers who board the ship tomorrow for a quick pre-inaugural sampler cruise, tickets cost $100 apiece. A company spokeswoman declined to reveal how many were sold, but did say that not all of those allotted were spoken for. Those folks who bought the tickets were also invited to a pre- and post-event Champagne reception at the pier facility. They do not board the ship tonight, however....
Imagine: This is Holland America's 80th ship, the 14th in its existing fleet, the largest (though not by much) vessel ever to sail for Holland America and ... the biggest to fly the Dutch flag.
While rumors of excessive requests for protocol-related rules for royalty spread through the ship yesterday like a bad case of Norovirus, Queen Beatrix seemed rather more low-key than her British counterparts. And there's another advantage to the other most recent royal christening: Unlike the bad luck that faced Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, when her Champagne bottle did not break on contact with Cunard's Queen Victoria, the magnum here smashed with satisfying soundness.
As Cunard regularly incorporates English royalty into ship christenings, Holland America has often threaded its Holland connection into its launches. Nine ships -- since 1929 -- have gotten the royal send-off by members of the royal family. Queen Wilhelmina, Queen Beatrix's grandmother, was godmother for Nieuw Amsterdam in 1947.
Her mother, Queen Juliana, christened Rotterdam V in 1958. And her sister, Princess Margriet, handled the royal duties for Prinsendam (not to be confused with "today's" Prinsendam) in 1973, the "nieuw" Nieuw Amsterdam in 1983, Rotterdam VI in 1997 and Oosterdam in 2003. This was Beatrix's third time up: prior christenings as then Princess Beatrix include Statendam IV in 1957 and Prinses Margriet in 1964.
This evening's gala celebration, open only to invited guests, marks the end of the Eurodam's round of "parties" and open houses since it landed at Southampton on Friday, June 27. All told, some 35,000 people have visited the ship between its several days there and three days here (its first 'real' passengers board tomorrow for a three nighter to Copenhagen). Most of them are the usual suspects -- travel agents, past passengers and journalists. Interestingly, though, according to HAL's Kruse, the ship also hosted officer candidates and even a dozen past passengers who sailed on the line back in World War II.
Starting tomorrow, Eurodam begins sailing regular cruises, and after the sampler trip will celebrate its maiden voyage in the Baltic. Later this summer, Eurodam will cross the Atlantic, where it will be cruising in Atlantic Canada and New England.
Read more about Eurodam on our blog-in-a-thread -- ask our editor the questions you want to know about the ship.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
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Holland America Christens Eurodam
July 1, 2008