History of the ss Rotterdam

On 13 September, 1958, with a clearly spoken “I name you the Rotterdam and wish you a safe journey” Queen Juliana christened the new pride of the Dutch merchant fleet and sent the ship down the ways at the Rotterdam Drydock Company under the eyes of an enormous audience. Just under a year later, on Thursday 3 September, 1959, The SS Rotterdam departed on her maiden voyage from Rotterdam to New York. Among the guests aboard was then-crown princess Beatrix. The ship was advertised with the slogan “The ship of tomorrow … today!” Over a period of nearly four years between the granting of the commission to construct the ship by the Rotterdam Drydock Company and transfer of the ship to the Holland-America Line, the largest passenger liner ever built in the Netherlands came into being. It featured a progressive design. Many noted architects and artists worked together on the interior arrangements and furnishing of the ship, making her a floating work of art.

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The Rotterdam departed on her last transatlantic voyage from her home port in 1971. Since then the ship has been used exclusively for cruising, including dozens of world cruises. The ship remained remarkably up-to-date. Very few onboard spaces required conversion for cruising. The passengers kept coming, including many who traveled on the ship repeatedly.

The ss Rotterdam at Cape Town in about 1970  picture courtesy of Ian Shiffman

The SS Rotterdam sailed very successfully under the Dutch flag for the Holland-America Line for some 38 years. In 1997, after the Holland-America Line became a subsidiary of Carnival Cruises, the ship was replaced with a new liner carrying the same name, but of a quite different order. The City of Rotterdam made vain attempts to bring the ship home to the Netherlands, but the ship was purchased by the American company Premier Cruises, which renamed her “Rembrandt”. Under this name, the ship visited her home terminal at the Wilhelminakade in Rotterdam for the first time in 27 years in October 1998.

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Leaving Rotterdam on October 28 1998  picture Jan-Willem Koene

Unfortunately, Premier Cruises found itself in financial difficulties after just three years and was forced to take the former Rotterdam out of service. Since September 2000 the ship has been moored in Freeport in the Bahamas. For a long time, her future was uncertain. Various plans were put forward: to sail the ship on cruises using a time-share marketing model, or to moor her in Amsterdam as a floating hotel and cultural center. None of these plans came to fruition, and as the days passed, the very real possibility that the ship would be sold for scrap became ever more likely.

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Freeport Bahama’s January 2004   picture Klaas Krijnen

In May 2003 the s.s. Rotterdam was bought by the s.s. Rotterdam BV, part of the RDMconcern. The ship was saved from scrap!

On July 12, 2004, the ship arrived at the Cammell Laird yard in Gibraltar for asbestos clean-up and further works.

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In Gibraltar on July 12 2004 picture Klaas Krijnen

In September 2004 the s.s. Rotterdam BV was acquired by Port of Rotterdam, which company announced to sell the ship. On December 7, 2004, the s.s. Rotterdam BV went bankrupt. On December 16, 2004, Port of Rotterdam spreaded the news that final negotiations had been started with Hotel Cruiseship Operations 2 (HCO2), with the aim to use the ship as a hotel, restaurant and casino in the Maashaven. April 2005 HCO2 made clear they wanted to remove all the asbestos. Preparations made clear that it was to expensive to remove all the asbestos. On June 15 HCO2 ceased negotiations. Subsequently housing company Woonbron and informal investor Eurobalance decided to buy the ship and to found a new company “De (The) Rotterdam”. On June 30 2005 it was made public that this company will go for a asbestos-safe situation and for drydocking.

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In drydock at the Navantia shipyard in Cadiz picture Klaas Krijnen

After dry-docking in Cadiz the vessel was towed to Gdansk with the intention to refurbish her there. But it never came to work there.

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Gdansk March 2006 Picture Klaas Krijnen

In the end the ship was partly refurbished in Wilhelmshaven, where she arrived on September 2 2006.

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Picture Klaas Krijnen

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The Theater in August 2007 picture Klaas Krijnen

On August 4 2008 she came to Holland for the final part of the refurbishment.

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Arrival in Rotterdam picture Klaas Krijnen

Since February 15 2010 the Rotterdam is open for tours, congresses, meetings, shop and hotel and restaurant facilities.

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At the quay in the Maashaven picture Jan-Willem koene