SS ROTTERDAM (V)
AUGUST CARIBBEAN 1967
SEPTEMBER NASSAU-BERMUDA 1979
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER NASSAU-BERMUDA 1980
MAY ROTTERDAM 2017
This is where the obsession began: The year was 1967, as if it were yesterday it was yesterday. The memories are vivid - driving up from Philadelphia reaching the Westside highway, along the Hudson, in New York when the aft, twin, stacks of the S/S Rotterdam featuring NASM in large bold letters on her upper structure came into view. NASM is Dutch for Nederlandsch - Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij, or Netherlands-American Steamship Company. Imagine, this great ship was build at a cost of $30 million (1960 dollars.)
I had seen ships docked in previous years when we visited our New York relatives. However, this time I would be a passenger on one of these great ocean liners, our first of several cruises with my parents and two brothers.
It was August and our nine-day "West Indies Cruise" cruise would take us to San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Bermuda.
It was a sunny, summer, New York afternoon. Friends and relatives from New York would visit us onboard prior to sailing for the requisite bon voyage party on this new kind of adventure. Cruising in 1967 was far from mainstream and Holland America Line (HAL) was a premium option in an uncrowded market. My brothers and I shared a large outside cabin. stateroom number 257, while mom and dad's tiny inside stateroom, number, 255, was directly across the corridor. These were classified as tourist class staterooms when the ship was built. On cruises, S/S Rotterdam was transformed to a one class ship via a unique main stairwell that would eliminate the class segregation. By today's standards, stateroom number 257 would be considered roomy and featured a sitting area, large bath with twin sinks and a tub, two lowers and two uppers.
Fresh fruit was delivered every day - my older brother devouring all of it. You could leave your shoes outside your stateroom at night and have them returned the following morning - shinny as a penny; two amenities still available today on HAL's ships. My parents cabin, featuring an upper and lower only, was minuscule. Our accommodations were aft, directly over the propellers. After we sailed approaching twenty-knots, the effect was a combination of noise and vibration that combined with the pitching of the ship would take some getting acclimated to.
I'll post a full review of the S/S Rotterdam with all of details and facts, but want to share how amazing and important this Grand Dame was, and is today - she is alive and well.
Built in 1959, she is just two years younger than me. Built to replace the near antique 1937 Niew Amsterdam at a cost of less than one million dollars, Niew Amsterdam continued to sail until 1973, nicknamed "Darling of the Dutch." She was 36,000 tons - the S/S Rotterdam at just over 38,000 tons.
In their day, these ships were BIG compared. By comparison a near identical sized ship sailing today would be Holland America's Princendam (originally built as Royal Viking Sun in 1988 - now owned by German cruise line, Phoenix Reisen.) S/S Rotterdam's cruise capacity was about 1,200. On world cruises, Holland America would reduce the number of passengers to 800 in order to deliver a more intimate and enhanced level of service to passengers. Segments of world cruises were not much of an option, so 80+ days was just that - you embarked and disembarked in New York, or a west coast port.
1967 would not be my last voyage on this fine ship. In the late seventies, my career ignited as co-founder, and owner, of a Philadelphia travel concern, The Philadelphia Travel Exchange. In the early eighties, the company was awarded one of Holland America Line's (HAL) leading sales agencies thanks to the large groups of Senior Citizens I would host on the S/S Rotterdam on her New York to Nassau and Bermuda run. These cruises were a hit, branded "Senior Citizen Sail."
I recall in the early eighties, sailing through a great storm. A hurricane in fact and one we could not avoid. The seas were perhaps fifty-feet - the night sky was green with lighting. QE2 sailed through this storm with her bow crane lost and railing missing. S/S Rotterdam was undamaged. We sailed into Bermuda, after the storm, on a glorious morning with no delay.
When Carnival acquired HAL, dismissing the ship as too old and too expense to update her to the new requirements set forth by SOLAS, she was purchased by now defunct Premiere Cruise Lines and maintained as best as possible. Plagued with problems - mainly with her A/C which led to breakdowns, cancelled cruises, and bad reviews, her demise was seemingly inevitable. The breakers in Asia would be her last stop, or would they?
The breakers would not have their way. S/S Rotterdam is alive and well, berthed comfortably in the fine city of Rotterdam as a fully restored and pristine example of a great ship. Loyalists, admirers and ship enthusiasts saved her from the breakers. She would be striped down to her bare bones, rejuvenated, and following $250 million in restorations to her to her original state, is the S/S Rotterdam Hotel.
In 2017, fifty-years after my first ocean voyage on this Grand Dame, I stayed on the S/S Rotterdam Hotel in the same suite I had once occupied on a "Senior Citizen Sail." Following this joyous reunion, I sailed on M/S Rotterdam to Norway.
If you love ships and happen to be traveling to the Netherlands, S/S Rotterdam is a must see. At the very least, visit her. Volunteers, many of who worked on the ship when she was active, are still aboard conducting daily tours. I had the opportunity of a behind the scenes tour and, in additional to my accommodations and over night stay, will always have this Grand Dame in my heart as my first true love.
(click on image for full screen)
S/S Rotterdam (1959–1997)
S/S Rembrandt (1997–2003)
S/S Rotterdam (2004–present)
(2000–2003) No owner
(2003–2005) Rotterdam Drydock Company
(2005–2013) De Rotterdam BV
(2013–present) WestCord Hotels
Holland America Line (1959–1997)
Premier Cruises (1997–2000)
Ports of registry:
Ordered: October 27, 1955
Builder: Rotterdam Drydock Company mij., Rotterdam, Netherlands
Cost: $(US) 30,000,000 (1959)
Yard number: 300
Laid down: December 14, 1956
Launched: September 13, 1958
Christened: HM Queen Juliana
Maiden voyage: September 3, 1959
In service: 1959 - 2000
Out of service: September 21, 2000
Tonnage: 38,645 gross tons
Displacement: 31,530 tons
Length: 228.0 m (748 ft)
Beam: 28.71 m (94.1 ft)
Height: 61 m (200.1 ft)
Draft: 9.04 m (29.6 ft)
38,000 h/power @ 135.5 RPM
Propulsion: 2 steam turbines de Schelde, Vlissingen (Flushing), Netherlands
4 V2M 640PSI Boilers (3 active, 1 reserve), designed by Combustion Engineering and manufactured by de Schelde
Speed: 21.5 knots
Capacity: 1,456 passengers
Crew: 776 officers and crew