How do you celebrate a career that spans more than four decades? That was the question the officers and crew of Zuiderdam had to ponder when they realized that Captain Dirk van den Berg would be stepping off the gangway for a final time after 43 years of dedicated service to Holland America Line. Soon the ideas were flowing and a plan was put into action.
A milestone this big deserves an equally large celebration, and so two days before homeport the party began. All of the officers and staff were invited along with the entire deck department to a cocktail party in the captain’s honor. This reception was followed by an invitation-only dinner with a specially created menu.
That same evening the crew, in honor of the captain, were treated to a showing of “Dream Park,” the hottest production show on board.
Directly after the show the captain was called up on stage to be publicly recognized for his hard work and dedication. He was presented with what appeared to be an empty wooden box.
Upon further inspection he found a remote control and shortly after a radio controlled forklift came zooming onto the stage.
It should be mentioned that Captain van den Berg routinely operated the forklifts on board to help out with loading — or perhaps just to have a bit of fun with the guys! The forklift came complete with a miniature captain at the wheel. Shortly afterwards, the crew enjoyed three games of Bingo. The captain even took over from the crew purser and called an entire game of Bingo!
Finally the day arrived, and around 11:30 a.m. in Ft. Lauderdale, “Time to Say Goodbye” began to play over the PA system as Captain Dirk van den Berg made his way to the gangway. Upon exiting the ship he was greeted by a line of officers and crew leading to his stretch Hummer limousine.
The Shore Operations forklifts were also lined up in tribute to the captain and as a nod to his favorite pastime.
Crew also wished him well from the Promenade Deck. In true maritime tradition, as the captain stepped onto terra firma, all of the seven ships in port began to salute him with their whistles. After shaking hands with all of the well-wishers, Captain van den Berg toasted the crowd from the sunroof of his limo and rode off on his way home.
No more fitting tribute could have been paid to such a dedicated person as he. He will be missed by all on board “Zuiderrrrrrrrdam” as he so fondly called her. The staff, officers and crew wish the captain a happy retirement!
Submitted by crew purser Anthony Garofalo.