A Birthday Wish Decades in the Making

Person smiling and shaking hands from dining table with people standing in background.

Leonard Wood was surprised and delighted with a special day aboard the Zaandam.
Photo courtesy of the Port of Charlottetown.

Cruise Ship Fan Receives Surprise After Admiring Vessels for More than 80 Years

Since Leonard Wood was a little boy, he always admired cruise ships from afar. In fact, he has taken a picture in front of almost every cruise ship that docked at the Port of Charlottetown in Canada. Intrigued by their size and design, he wished he knew what was happening on the inside. Melissa Batchilder and Haley Zavodivker, family friends, reached out to Holland America Line to ask if we could make his wish come true for his 87th birthday. We were delighted to do just that.

On May 31, our crew welcomed Leonard, his family and friends aboard the Zaandam for a ship tour, visit to the bridge and a surprise party at the Pinnacle Grill. The excitement and awe-inspiring wonder he and his family shared were palpable.

View of people touring bridge of Holland America Line cruise ship.

Captain Ane Smit shows Leonard the bridge and its many controls.

“Ever since I was little, I used to love to draw planes and big ships,” he said. “I loved seeing pictures of ships and was always excited to see them in port. Getting to see the size of one up close, to know firsthand what it’s like to board a ship that size is, well, more than exciting.”

Leonard can’t get over how large these vessels are; how they’re able to sail around the world; and all the talent and skills behind the scenes to make it happen between the captain and crew.

His daughter, Robin John, was thrilled beyond measure to see her father’s wish come true.

“It means the world to us that Dad (aka Grampie) has this opportunity,” she said. “Everything that Zaandam has offered Dad is beyond amazing. I’m overwhelmed by everything. I’m just so thankful Dad gets this whole experience.”

Father and daughter dancing on Holland America Line cruise ship.

Leonard Wood shares a dance with his daughter, Robin John, in the Ocean Bar on the Zaandam.
Photo courtesy of the Port of Charlottetown.

Leonard’s excitement and passion for cruise ships seemed to pass down to his grandchildren as well. With so many memories of him admiring the vessels, his grandchildren began pointing them out whenever they docked, noting that “Grampie’s ship is in.” And to this day, no matter how grown they’ve become, they still refer to them as Grampie’s ships.

Birthday cake on Holland America Line cruise ship.

The Zaandam crew baked a very special ship-themed cake for Leonard’s birthday.

Learn more about Leonard’s story by checking out some of the local news coverage* by Saltwire and The Guardian highlighting this special event. 

Leonard, thank you for sharing your passion and excitement with all of us. We wish you a very happy birthday!

*By clicking this link, you will be leaving the Holland America Line website and navigating to a third party website that is not owned, operated, or controlled by Holland America Line or any of its affiliates.


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One Comment

  1. Shirley June 5, 2023 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    This is the best story I’ve heard in months. Very touching to hear Holland America helped fulfilled Leonard Wood’s life long dream of being in a cruise ship. Such a simple kind gesture but the impact was very meaningful and touching. Saw this coverage on CBC National news and I had to look up your cruise line as I never heard of HAC and your vacation offerings. More cruise company should give back to local community like you’ve done. It provides great promotional returns with such goodwill gesture. Again thank you and keep up the great work especially to the team that reached out to Leonard’s daughter. Will certainly consider cruising with you.

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