Recounting Family History Aboard Four HAL Ships

Recounting Family History Aboard Four HAL Ships

Special thanks to HAL guest James Ogden for sharing this touching story with our blog.

My great grandparents were the first generation of my family to sail with Holland America Line, in the 1950’s. They sailed with HAL four times between 1954 and 1960, on transatlantic voyages, between various cities in Europe and New York. My great grandfather was an engineer and had annual conferences and meetings to attend in Europe, and he and my great grandmother sailed both ways across the ocean as often as possible, even after jet aircraft started to become more popular. My great grandfather was born before airplanes and cars had been invented and was not particularly comfortable with flying. He always said he did not like it because if something broke, you could not simply stop and fix it! Sailing across the ocean gave him and my great grandmother several days to relax and enjoy the ocean too.

The first voyage my great grandparents took on Holland America Line was on the Noordam, from Rotterdam to New York. They departed Rotterdam on October 23, 1954, at 3:00pm, and arrived in Hoboken, NJ, on November 1, 1954, at 9:00pm. This is their most documented voyage on HAL. We have several photographs from that voyage, as well as some early videos. The videos do not have sound, but are quite interesting all the same. We also have a telegram sent by them, from the ship, to my grandparents, who would be picking them up upon arrival in New York, advising them of a change in the arrival time, due to rough seas. There are also several journal entries about the voyage, and some postcards and playing cards they got while on the ship. These are the actual pages out of the photo albums they made after the trip, including the handwritten captions.

Picture captions.

Aboard Noordam 1954.

Aboard Noordam 1954.

The next voyage my great grandparents took on Holland America Line was aboard the Westerdam, also from Rotterdam to New York. They departed Rotterdam on September 4, 1956, and arrived in Hoboken, NJ, several days later, although the exact arrival date is unknown. From this voyage there are a few short videos, one photograph, and no letters, journal entries, or telegrams. The below photo was taken aboard the Westerdam. It is not a particular good picture, but it is the only one we have of this voyage.

Their third Holland America voyage was on the Nieuw Amsterdam, from New York to Le Harve, in June or July 1957. The exact arrival and departure dates are unknown. They did take a couple of videos at sea and in Southampton. We have one photograph of them in the lounge, taken by the HAL photographer, as well as one letter from my great grandmother, on Holland America stationary. There are no journal entries on this voyage.

Their fourth voyage on Holland America was on the Statendam, from Le Harve, to New York. They departed Le Harve on October 26, 1960, and arrived in Hoboken, NJ, on November 2, 1960. From that voyage, we have a few journal entries and a few short videos, however no photos or letters. In her journal, my great grandmother did comment that the ship was moving slower than usual arriving in New York, because they had to wait for the Nieuw Amsterdam to depart before they could dock. She also mentioned that she and my great grandfather were out on deck as the Statendam passed the Ambrose Lightship, on her entrance to New York harbor.

There is a very nice painting in the forward stairway of the current Nieuw Amsterdam, depicting the earlier Nieuw Amsterdam, on which my great grandparents sailed, as she steamed past the Ambrose Lightship. I quite liked that painting, and imagined my great grandparents on the Promenade Deck, watching as the ship slowed to pick up the pilot and enter the harbor, in the last few hours of a transatlantic voyage. Since they sailed with HAL, my great grandmother and her daughter, my grandmother, took a Caribbean cruise on a Holland America ship, in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. I am not sure of the details of that voyage, and I ought to call my grandmother and ask her more about it.

More recently, in January 2010, my wife and I sailed in the Caribbean on the Zuiderdam, on a ten-day cruise. At the time, she and I had only been dating a few months, but we had become good friends while working for the land operations of Holland America Line in Alaska the summer before. We decided the cruise would be a fun adventure, and made arrangements. We continued dating, and in December 2010 we became engaged. As we were making wedding arrangements, we ultimately determined that a wedding on a Holland America vessel would be the easiest for us to plan, and we were quite sure we would be satisfied with the results, as we had quite enjoyed our trip on the Zuiderdam. As we made arrangements, we decided to be married on February 5, 2012, on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We sailed on the voyage that followed, as did our parents and a few friends. Since that voyage, four generations of my family have sailed with HAL, and we plan to continue to do so.

On a side note, before I was born, my father worked on cargo ships, as one of the bridge officers. He has always had a passion for the ocean and for shipping. He had arrived in Fort Lauderdale in 1985, for a few days off. He anticipated returning to sea just a few days later, however while at home he was diagnosed with cancer, and never went back to sea. Following his treatments, he was assigned to several different ships, all of which were laid up in various shipyards. When he boarded the Nieuw Amsterdam on the morning of February 5, 2012, it was tied to the very same wharf he had tied up at 27 years earlier. He enjoyed the week long cruise, and he and my mother talk all the time about what they want to do for their next cruise. Following the voyage, my father wrote a blog post which I find interesting, and can be found here.

James Ogden


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One Comment

  1. Evelyn Lichtenschopf February 25, 2021 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Delighted about your blog. I am looking for anybody who was on board the Maasdam in November 1957 from Rotterdam to New York. Can you help me where to ask?
    Evelyn Lichtemschopf

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