When you come from New Zealand, originally Nieuw Zeeland, named for a Dutch coastal province after navigator Abel Tasman sighted it in 1642, and you are cruising on a Holland America Line ship called Koningsdam, musings about "Dutchness" seem inevitable.

It's estimated around 45,000 Dutch citizens live in New Zealand, while as many as 100,000 New Zealanders are of Dutch descent. Hayley Westenra sang the national anthem at the 2011 Rugby World Cup final; Dick Quax, Yvonne Willering, Arthur Borren and Frank van Hattum have all worn the silver fern proudly; Michael van de Elzen cooks a mean roast chicken.

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But New Zealand just doesn't feel very Dutch: who knew the national holiday King's Day is two days after Anzac Day? Who knew the Netherlands even has a king?


So, how important is it aboard Koningsdam that the ship reflects its Dutch heritage?

"You know, we have been traders for centuries, including in what was once the Dutch East Indies," says Captain Werner Timmers.

"So we are very proud of our seafaring heritage. The Holland America company is based in Seattle, but the ships are registered in Rotterdam. We have a maritime training centre in Almere in the Netherlands. Koningsdam was christened by the Queen of the Netherlands. Onboard, the Grand Dutch Cafe has good coffee and a lot of Dutch treats so our Dutch guests flock there."

Holland America's cruise ship the MS Koningsdam. Photo / Supplied
Holland America's cruise ship the MS Koningsdam. Photo / Supplied

The cafe is a good place to start: Heineken beer on tap, pea soup, herring open sandwiches. Koen, a fellow passenger, was a fan of the poffertjes — tiny hot pancakes with whipped butter and icing sugar. At any time there were a good number of Dutch passengers in animated conversation over cappuccinos and pastries, served on Royal Delft blue-and-white plates. Blue Delft tableware is used in the main dining room too, and a keen eye will spot the Holland America Line logo in the painted floral pattern.

One night per cruise, the Pinnacle Grill serves up a five-course menu devised by Jonnie Boer, chef of three-Michelin-starred De Librije restaurant in Zwolle. And each trip has an Orange Party, where the sun never sets on the balloons, ties, frizzy wigs and feather boas bright in the national colour of the Netherlands.

And what about the "America" bit in Holland America?

First, there were a lot of Americans onboard on our trip, from all over; we met Texans, Minnesotans, New Englanders, Californians, South Carolinians. And in the B.B King's Blues Club on the Fourth of July, they partied like it was 1776.

The music-venue branding is All-American: Billboard Onboard for crooning piano men, virtuoso classical strings on the Lincoln Center Stage, guitar licks and growling in the Rolling Stone Rock Room. One of the four music-themed decks is named for Tin Pan Alley great George Gershwin.


We enjoyed fresh, juicy burgers and fries at Dive-In by the pool, while the New York Deli & Pizza served up bagels in the morning and crispy pizzas until midnight.

Everything you pay for onboard is in US dollars.

Holland America's cruise ship the MS Koningsdam. Photo / Supplied
Holland America's cruise ship the MS Koningsdam. Photo / Supplied

Holland, America — what's in a name? Well, spare a thought for Captain Timmers, who is a dual US-Dutch citizen; as we disembarked on our last morning he shared his agony over the PA of his divided loyalties for the big game later that day: the Netherlands versus the USA in the FIFA Women's World Cup final. Who to support? Well, either way, in the end, he would have backed a winner.


Holland America's Noordam and Maasdam ships are cruising New Zealand waters January to March, and Oosterdam will sail here in November. The cruise line's ships sail in locations around the world. For cruise details and to book, go to hollandamerica.com