The Holland America Line

The Holland America Line, or in its original Dutch name: Holland-Amerika Lijn (HAL), was established in 1871. It served as a ‘Bridge across the Ocean’ and by the turn of the Century, in 1900, around half a million people were transferred across the Atlantic Ocean to America by steamships.

The people who joined these voyages were in search of a new and often better life, with endless opportunities. Others followed family who had already made the crossing before them. Yet others would board one of the steamships to escape religious, financial or ethnic persecution.


The Holland America Line had its home base in the harbour of Rotterdam in The Netherlands. From 1901 to 1917 an office and warehouse block were built at the Wilhelmina Pier. The initial design was expanded multiple times during the building process.  From here, thousands of people boarded the steamships and departed for America. Today, only a small part of the block remains, which is the main office.

Times are changing
By the 1960s, the Holland America Line experienced increasing competition from the airplane industry on the Trans-Atlantic route. Due to these circumstances, the HAL started using the passenger steamships more and more for cruise ships purposes. In 1971, the ship ‘Nieuw Amsterdam II’ left for its final journey across the Ocean. This event marked a definitive end of an era, which includes over a hundred years’ worth of Rotterdam’s maritime history.

By 1977 the Head Office moved to Seattle, later in 1984 the office in New York was closed and in that same year the office at the Wilhelmina Pier was up for sale. The building stood empty and abandoned for the next ten years, after which it became part of a City Project to expand the city centre of Rotterdam. In 1993 the office was reopened as Hotel New York and over the years has become a very popular place to ‘Rotterdammers’ – inhabitants of Rotterdam– and visitors alike.

The Old HAL Office

Fun fact: Many years after closing down the HAL’s office in Rotterdam, a new office was opened in 2007 just behind the original office on the Wilhelmina Pier. As the HAL is now part of a big cruise ship organization.

The SS Rotterdam
Another aspect that reminds people of the thriving times of the HAL and steamships crossing the Ocean is the SS Rotterdam. Since 1959 it was the flagship of the Holland America Line and was also referred to as ‘La Grande Dame’.  After sailing the seas for more than 40 years, it now resides in the harbour of Rotterdam, near Hotel New York. It was refurbished and transformed into a hotel with restaurants, meeting and party venues and it is used for educational purposes as well.

The SS Rotterdam

Have you heard any stories from relatives/friends/neighbours of people who went on ship journeys across the Atlantic Ocean? Please, share your story with us!


Photo Credits:
Featured Image: Holland American Docks, Hoboken, N.J. By Pechristener – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID det.4a10362. Published by Detroit Publishing Company, Public Domain,

Photo 1: Holland-Amerika Lijn By Jan Van Beers – [1], Public domain,

Photo 2: Hotel New York by : By Smiley.toerist – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Photo 3: SS Rotterdam By Marczoutendijk – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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