Holland America Line announced today that it has selected Maria Henderson’s essay as winner of the contest held to commemorate the line’s 40th anniversary of its transition from offering scheduled trans-Atlantic crossings to becoming entirely dedicated to pleasure cruising. A panel of judges chose the winning essay from more than 400 entries.
For her literary winning story, Henderson will receive a cruise for two on ms Rotterdam’s July 12, 2011, celebratory trans-Atlantic voyage from New York to Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
“We were touched by how many wonderful and moving essays we received from people who were so greatly affected by Holland America Line and our historic crossings,” said Richard Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. “Maria’s story was especially emotional with the many twists of fate she encountered.”
The “Your Trans-Atlantic Story” contest focused on classic Holland America Line crossing experiences during the line’s nearly 140-year history, whether told firsthand or through a family member or friend.
Henderson’s essay told the story of her family’s crossing from Rotterdam to New York City in 1956 aboard ss Groote Beer, a Holland America Line ship at the time. She, her four sisters and her parents made the journey to America to fulfill her father’s desire to become a U.S. citizen after being liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945. Throughout the years Henderson and her family continued to take Holland America Line cruises, including one in December 2010 where she met two American men who served in Gen. George S. Patton’s army that liberated her father in 1945. Making the tale even more incredible was that she also met a fellow guest who, she discovered after a chance encounter in the dining room, was on the same trans-Atlantic crossing aboard ss Groote Beer in 1956.
Upon hearing that her essay had won, Henderson said the news was yet another emotional twist of fate in her relationship with Holland America Line.
“It was on April 13, exactly 55 years ago, that my family and I sailed past the Statue of Liberty and into our American life,” she recalled. “I am excited to cruise back, hopefully with my siblings, to greet our cousins in Holland that as children waved good-bye to us from the banks of Rotterdam’s River Maas those many years ago. I feel I have come full circle, this is a dream come true!” added Henderson.
A winner from the Netherlands, Hendrik Verbree, also was selected and won passage on the July 3, 2011, Rotterdam to New York crossing.
Honorable mentions went to Johanna VanGeloof and Yvonne Garcia. Holland America Line received so many interesting and compelling stories that the top 30 entries will be published in a book that will be available for purchase on the two July crossings.
The trans-Atlantic sailings on ms Rotterdam will feature enriching activities, guest lecturers and chefs, giveaway items and plenty of opportunities to celebrate the line’s heritage. Special entertainers and events will ensure that both crossings create memories to last a lifetime. A commemorative keepsake poster—harkening back to classic Holland America Line posters—will be given to guests as a memento of the crossing. Guests seeking to learn more about the company’s history can visit the Crow’s Nest, which will be set up as a temporary “Museum at Sea” during both crossings, or attend a lecture by a renowned maritime historian.