What becomes quickly apparent after spending only a few minutes at Cruise Terminal Rotterdam is just how much of an institution Holland America Line has become here in this beautiful city on the banks of Nieuwe Mass channel.
Across from the cruise terminal is Hotel New York, where Holland America Line set up shop when it began operations in 1873. The company's legendary ships sailed from here along the 15-mile channel that connects the North Sea with the city, transporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Netherlands to North America.
Today, Holland America Line's ships leave Rotterdam carrying vacationers, primarily Europeans, to call on some of the most beautiful ports in Europe. As it has been for more than a century, each ship's coming and going is a spectacle. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people line the banks to watch the blue-hulled Holland America Line ships make their way to and from the terminal. Today, as ms Rotterdam departed the terminal, the farewell was tearful for some.
I stood watching Holland America Line's flagship sail away as Cruise Director Michael Langley waved good-bye to "his" ship. "It's a bit arrogant to call it my ship," he said to me. "But I feel that it is." Indeed, the 27-year-old Langley has spent much of his adult life on ms Rotterdam. "She took me around the world," he said.
As he waved good-bye he teared up, watching his ship, his colleagues and friends sail away.