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Dream of former HAL steward realized with new ship's maiden voyage

From serving immigrants on the Noordam to captain's guest at Nieuw Amsterdam IV

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

DEN BOSCH – Former Holland America Line steward John Oudenhuysen considers himself twice lucky. In 1946, at the age of sixteen, he saw a battered Nieuw Amsterdam II, then employed as a troop carrier, return in the Rotterdam harbor. He proved his father wrong for telling him flat out that the chance of landing a job aboard the ship would be next to impossible. The ship was his home for five years. Thanks to his children, he recently enjoyed being a novelty guest on the maiden voyage of the Nieuw Amsterdam IV.

The differences between the two trips could not have been greater. In 1948 he started work aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam II as a 'commis', a steward, serving mostly immigrants who travelled as second class passengers and who were not known for generous tipping (a necessity for stewards to supplement meager wages, John recalls). When he finally became a steward for Nieuw Amsterdam's first class passengers, he dreamed that he would one day, after having found his fortune, return as a first class passenger.

Although he enjoyed his work, he abandoned his job aboard ship for his fiancée Ans, marriage and family life. That his children gave the couple a trip on the maiden voyage of the recently completed Nieuw Amsterdam IV, a Mediterranean cruise, suggests clearly an awareness of their father's keen interest in life on passenger and cruise ships. When Holland America Cruises discovered its old ties with the couple, they became a part of the captain's guest list along with the company's CEO Stein Kruse.


Oudenhuysen experienced a culture shock on his first trip to New York in 1947 aboard the Noordam. Coming from his war-ravaged hometown of Rotterdam, where everything was in short-supply, to an over-abundant, glittering and hustling and bustling New York city was almost overwhelming. He also recalls the very nervous times for the stewards and other personnel, when company directors visited or sailed on the ship.

His most recent trip easily could have turned into a culture shock as well, as he and his Ans were being introduced to Stein Kruse and his guests. Instead, the other guests may have had a taste of such a shock because no one had anticipated seeing a 1949 menu card he had brought along to the 2010 opulent voyage. As a curiosity item, the sixty-year old souvenir was an instant hit. John Oudenhuysen also saw how times had changed in other ways, particularly when HAC top officials and ship officers mounted a stage to a question-and-answer session with a group of passengers. A nine-year-old boy wanted to know how he could earn the job of CEO Kruse, a question that merited a step-by-step answer!


John Oudenhuysen has his own question, begging an answer. Who are the 1949 passengers of the Nieuw Amsterdam II. It is likely that someone from among the Windmill Herald readership may be in the 1949 photograph above or knows the identity of these individuals, described by the former steward as being very pleasant folks. He does not think he ever had their names but has kept their picture all these years. Anyone who recognizes these people is requested to contact Albert at 1-800-881-0705 or email windmill(at)

As a postscript to the story, the blanks in John Oudenhuysen's family album have been filled in. The former steward of the New Amsterdam II now knows the identity of the family he served in 1949. The photograph he kept over 60 years, is that of the Jochem Oldenbroek family, who left Heerhugowaard for Grand Rapids. The Oldenbroek family had owned a grocery business, reports John Kool, who also hails from that vicinity in North Holland. Several members of the Oldenbroek family, including the parents, have passed away. Members of the Oldenbroek family learned quickly of this story, alerted by Windmill Herald readers in their vicinity.