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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author


Please Note: All ssMaritime and my other related ssMaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues to write articles on classic liners and cruise ships in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts for their pleasure!



SS Rotterdam ~ SS Rembrandt - History Part Three

Please Note: Photographs, postcards and images on this page are from the author’s collection unless stated otherwise!


The SS Rotterdam with her new livery seen cruising Alaska


Please Note:

If you arrived at this page via a search engine: Please read Part One first!

PLEASE NOTE: This Eight Page SS Rotterdam V Feature has been completely updated as well had five brand new pages added. However, I wish to announce that this feature is in reality a new work is also my very last ever work that I will do for ssmaritime or for any other of my sites. I have done so for reasons that may be well known to many of my regular readers. Therefore, I have now fully retired and will sit back and I am joyful with what I have achieved and I trust that you will enjoy reading the well over 620 classic liners, and other ships that are online! Thank you for your wonderful support I has been greatly appreciated!

Best wishes,

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian & Founder of the “Save The Classic Liners Campaign.

And the “Save The SS Rotterdam Campaign.”


The Rotterdam’s New Livery 1972 - 1987:

By 1972 the days of the much loved Holland America Line grey hulled SS Rotterdam was about to disappear! This livery had become a well-known sight worldwide and had aided in making the SS Rotterdam a much-loved ship and as being one of just a few of the great traditional luxury cruise ships left in the world.

However, Holland America Line had decided to give their passenger fleet a complete exterior makeover with a deep blue hull and a new logo. Even though I may sound somewhat negative to the idea, yet in reality I am not, for actually that deep, dark Blue Hull was much like Holland America Lines was returning to their old original N.A.S.M. maritime roots, for all their earlier passenger liners had a dark hull and the grey hulls were in fact introduced with the arrival of ships such as the delightful, mostly Tourist Class twins; SS Ryndam of 1951 & SS Maasdam of 1952 and they were followed by the beautiful mostly Tourist Class SS Statendam of 1956.

SS Ryndam of 1951 was the very first HAL liner to receive the grey hull with a gold band around her hull

Her sister the SS Maasdam followed a year later

It was in October 1972 that the SS Rotterdam arrived at a Lisbon shipyard where she would receive her new livery and fall in line with the SS Statendam that had already received her new blue hull and had that stately yellow funnel repainted in a horrid Orange colour.

On the sides of the funnel there was a new modern logo that had two stylised Aqua/Blue “waves” (or lines) with a White “Wave” in the middle, this replaced the famed hundred year old “N.A.S.M” Green and white bands as can be seen below on the Statendam’s original funnel!

The traditional SS Statendam funnel, with HAL colours that go back as far as the 1800s


SS Statendam seen after receiving her new livery of her orange funnel and the three-waves logo

As the SS Rotterdam had no traditional funnel, all I can say is “thank goodness,” thus the logo had to be placed where the previous “N.A.S.M” logo had been located on superstructure located topside and amidships, where normally a funnel would be. The interiors having two decks contained the popular Sunroom looking aft and Skyroom above it looking both forward and aft. On each side there was square Orange to Reddish square background with that three-wave logo on it. Directly below the new logo the ships name was relocated directly below it, with her name in White letters on Aqua Perspex that sat in a Backlit Box! See below.

Above we see the SS Rotterdam completed with its new logo and name placing, etc., and departing on a cruise


The Rotterdam is seen berthed in the Bahamas with the beautiful Home Lines, SS Oceanic on the other side of the wharf in the mid 1970s

Photographer unknown – Please see Photo Notes at bottom of page

In April 1973, the Rotterdam was reregistered in the Netherlands Antilles (Curacao) with Willemstad as home as registration and other costs were far cheaper in this country. In addition the company name was also changed to “Holland America Cruises.”

Looking so beautiful, the SS Rotterdam with her new livery is seen departing New York City late in the 70s

 In 1977 it was decided to lower her passenger capacity to just 1,114 passengers giving the Rotterdam’s guests additional space per person and this made this wonderful ship even more popular!

A painting of the SS Rotterdam with her new livery – 1972

This beautiful painting is by & © Captain Stephen Card as seen on board a HAL ship today!

The Rotterdam continued cruising, be it to Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe and of course her famous regular “80 Days Around the World Cruises,” which had become extremely popular! However by 1984 she even made World Cruises as long as 96 days!

 The 96 Day 1984 Grand World Cruise Brochure but featuring the famed HAL logo of the past on the bottom


A photograph of the “Grande Dame of the Sea” as found in the world Brochure above in 1984

It took a good 14 years, but finally Holland America Cruises came to realise that not all the modernizations on their ships were a real improvement, or that popular with passengers, and finally they took a step to override a bad decision made in 1972. Now in 1986 Holland America knew that it was time to get rid of that unpopular HAL logo that had been stuck on the flagship the SS Rotterdam, as the company had received countless complaints from passengers. But sadly, in the (then) modern days, “Who listens to passengers, for what do they know about ships exteriors?” But someone did hear the message, for loading at one time were suddenly declining, and HAL decided to act and restore a part of great Holland America Line tradition and history, that came through the use of their original and beautiful oval logo that originated from the 1930 when the great SS Nieuw Amsterdam (1937) was built and she together with the famed historic Halve Maen (1601) features on it.

On Page One we read that SS Rotterdam arrived in New York for her maiden voyage on September 11, 1959 being on the 350th.anniversary of Captain Hudson sailing up the River he named after himself, to the spot where the Statue of Liberty now stands (approx). The settlement was named Nieuw Amsterdam, and later New York, thus HAL decided to turn back the clock to Dutch Maritime History, being something the American clientele would greatly appreciate! Although the SS Rotterdam remained registered in Willemstad.


The logo can be seen on the Rotterdam when she was in Sydney
When the word “Carnival,” does not mean “fun and a party!”

Tragically Carnival was going to have its way, for they did not want any “Old Ships” in its fleet and they already had a replacement based, which was a slightly larger version of the ms Statendam Class cruise ships of which there had been built. It was in 1989 when the American Carnival Corp, of Carnival Cruises took over Holland America Line and although the Rotterdam continued to cruise for a couple of years, Carnival, the company many call “the guillotine or destructive company” had already decided to get rid of the ship they called that “old ship” and they used a disgustingly flimsy, as well as a completely false excuse in order to appease SS Rotterdam’s loyal ex passengers who had protested loudly as well as ship enthusiasts!

Carnival Corp announced that the SS Rotterdam required urgent and the very stringent 1997 SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations and indeed she did need this, and they claimed that it was going to cost at least US$40 million to bring her up to new regulation standards, this proved to be a lie, for not much later this was done for just US$20 that is half what Carnival stated!

In addition Carnival claimed that these changes would severely impact on her original interiors and beauty, thus she would lose her uniqueness. The truth is, although Carnival started its cruise operations by purchasing Holland America Line, they always intended to build a brand new fleet and get rid of all the “Old Ships.” And soon they were building those hideous distinctive Carnival winged funnel cruise ships and a replacement for the ms Rotterdam was in the planning and would be built by the Fincantieri shipyards in Italy and intended to be in operation in November 1997., thus our beloved vintage style ship no longer fitted the Carnival ideal

In the meantime she continued her regular cruise duties and remained as popular as ever for the Rotterdam had a very long and established following, and when they had heard the rumours that HAL/Carnival was even thinking of replacing the SS Rotterdam, they were sending in their protests in by the thousands, but the Carnival bosses did not care less for that “Old Ship.” Her 1993 as per usual commenced with another World Cuise and the ports of call can be seen on the souvenir plate below!

A souvenir plate of the 1993 Around the World Cruise

Regardless all the protests and with the “Grande Dame of the Sea” the SS Rotterdam was still doing financially well - Carnival who hated that “Old-Ship” was still saying that she would be sold soon! As far as myself is concerned, I had commenced the “Save the SS Rotterdam Campaign” in 1995, but it was not until 1997, I actually placed it online on my maritime sites and my “Save The Classic Liner Campaign” which amazingly over time was receiving millions of visitors!

The Rotterdam seen in Durban South Africa during her 1996 World Cruise

Sadly her days with Holland America Line would soon come to an end!

Photographer unknown – Please see Photo Notes at bottom of page

SS Rotterdam’s Gala Very Last HAL World Cruise in 1997:

The great SS Rotterdam V a ship that had been known from her very first return Trans-Atlantic voyage as “The Grande Dame of the Sea” but in 1997 the SS Rotterdam operated what was called her season of Final Gala Cruises, including her regular Around the World Cruise which was completed when she returned to Fort Lauderdale on September 30, 1997.


Above & below: Two fine photographs of the SS Rotterdam seen in Milford Sound

New Zealand during her final World Cruise on Feb 12, 1997

Above by & © Dave Edge - Below by & © Torrens




Above & below: SS Rotterdam seen in Sydney February 15, 1997 during her final world cruise

All four Photographs by & © Reuben Goossens –





This is a souvenir key ring obtained from the SS Rotterdam 1997 World Cruise


The Rotterdam is seen arriving in Adelaide South Australia

Photographer unknown – Please see Photo Notes at bottom of page


 This is a painting of the SS Rotterdam’s final World Cruise for Holland America Line in 1997

This beautiful Hong Kong painting is by brilliant artist Alan-Nakano

Even as the SS Rotterdam returned from her greatly successful World Cruise, Carnival/Holland America had already released the new brochure for the maiden season for the ms Rotterdam VI, which was almost complete and still located at the “Fincantieri - Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A.,” at their Trieste fit out berth and would be undertaking her deep-sea trails. However, there were delays, for originally she was to commence her maiden voyage on October 6, 1997, but three cruises had to be cancelled for problems had occurred and had to be fixed! She finally departed on November 11. She did undertake a 97 day Around the World Voyage departing in January, visiting the Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, India, Indian Ocean Islands, Africa, and west coast of South America and slowly sailing up to New York with six ports on the way!

The Inaugural ms Rotterdam 1997 – 1998 Cruise Brochure


The ms Rotterdam is sailing down the river in the Netherlands

A Special Note: The four ships of the R-Class, being the 61,849-ton ms Rotterdam of 1997, the 61,214-ton ms Volendam of 1999, the 61,396-ton ms Zaandam of 2000 and the 62,735-ton ms Amsterdam completed in 2000 are all wonderful ships and filled with over a million dollars of high quality of art on everyone of their 5.5 Star luxury ships! Both the ms Rotterdam and Amsterdam follow the style of the SS Rotterdam with a more modern version of the aft twin stovepipes uptakes, whereas other ships of the company tend to have more traditional funnels! Yet, I remain a regular cruiser with Holland America, but will always miss the “Grade Dame!”

Farewell to “The Grande Dame of the Sea” - a Dutch Masterwork!

When the SS Rotterdam was launched in 1959, she was the fifth ship bearing this proud name that first appeared in 1872, but besides her remarkable exterior design with those twin aft stovepipe uptakes, the truth is that her most distinguishing feature was in reality her democratization of life at sea. When built the Rotterdam was the largest Dutch Liner ever to be built, and on board the then huge ship, it was not possible to tell by the decor from her many beautiful grand Public Rooms, which venue or area was originally First or which was Tourist Class, for the entire ship was simply magnificent and luxurious. The Rotterdam was filled with some of the most magnificent pieces of art you could imagine and this was scattered throughout the ship!

One of the most elegant rooms afloat the two deck high Ritz Carlton Lounge, a venue featuring one of the largest and

most spectacular murals that winds from the sidewall right across the aft wall. There is also a copper dance floor


The elegant semi Spiral Stairs with the amazing balustrade metalwork

From the day of being completed to thirty-eight years later, tragically the age of that horrid Megaship had come, and amazingly cruise companies keep calling them, by the wrong title; “Megaliner” or Superliner.” Excuse me, they are not liners, for the liner days have long gone, they are ALL Cruise Ships, even though some may make the occasional Atlantic voyage, but they are still cruises! By the time the SS Rotterdam days had come to an end, amazingly she somehow had gained far greater elegance compared with what she may have lost in size compared to those huge hideous boxlike cruise ships.

The NCL cruise ship Pride of America. To be honest, looking at it there is really nothing to be proud about this ship

For this 80,500-ton ship is without a doubt one of the ugliest looking ships ever and she is not much better inside either

NCL also has the worst record for looking after their crew, and that is according their own crewmembers!

Whilst the SS Rotterdam was a ship that was built in a superior manner and she featured elegant and fine polished woods instead of fibre optics and electronics etc, although she did have the internet in her later years!

She continued to have those wonderful clean lines, and a wrap-around Promenade Deck, instead of a horrific 8 to 12 deck high wall of balconies and with lifts flying up and down amidships, etc. And with all those modern monstrosities around, can you believe it, in 1996 amazingly the SS Rotterdam was named the “Ship of the Year,” but according to Carnival, she was just that “Old Ship” and she no longer met the recently instituted international maritime regulations as I stated previously.

One of Rotterdam’s passengers on her final cruise wrote to me and staid:

“Dear Reuben … As we awaited the final disembarkation, passengers gathered in the Lounges and the feeling on board was so very sad. Down at the Main Deck Main Lobby, there was a blue banner at the Front Office that said:

“Thank you and goodbye to all my loyal friends with all my best wishes. Will miss you - S.S. Rotterdam.”

… I can tell you no one is going to miss the Rotterdam more than me having taken a good 28 cruises on this, my beloved SS Rotterdam for I just love this ship and all her beautiful interiors and our regular Deluxe Stateroom starboard on Boat Deck No. 65!

Although I am a staunch Holland America cruiser, it will be so hard to sail on the new Rotterdam VI that is due to commence cruising later this year, for I have heard she has been delayed … Reuben, no other ship will ever take the place of “The Grand Dame” and she will remain in my heart always! Thank you for writing her story on your site, that way she will be seen by so many who did not have the joys on her that I and others did!” JHG.

SS Rotterdam seen berthed at Fort Lauderdale at the end of her career with HAL in 1997

Photograph by & © JHG – USA

A Special Note: Sadly the Days of the SS Rotterdam had come to an end and although I was aware that the day would come a work to save this great ship had already commenced for it was obvious that rumours were coming from HAL staff members in the USA, that talks were being held on an unofficial basis regarding the possibility of her being sold to Indian or Bangladeshi ship breakers. Thus my original Save the SS Rotterdam Campaign commenced first in 1995, but officially online in 1997.

There was an announcement that there was a possible proposal for the Rotterdam to return to her homeport of Rotterdam where she would serve as a hotel ship, but the proposal somehow fell through, as do so many proposals as I have discovered working over many years in countless campaigns. No matter the funds they have, it never means that they will do what they say, and also, there are also problems in obtaining berthing rights and there are countless other problems associated in permanently berthing a ship as a hotel, for it requires power from ashore, as well as water, sewerage, accessibility and parking.

SS Rembrandt 1997 to 2000:

Thankfully a good offer came from Premier Cruises 1997. Amazingly, or possibly not so much, Premier Cruises refitted her for a fraction of the purported cost that was previously announced by Carnival, just US$20 million, that is half of what Carnival claimed and more so her magnificent interiors remained completely intact, which Carnival claimed would be destroyed!

But, ship lovers worldwide were outraged when heard a rumour that Premier Cruises were thinking of renaming the SS Rotterdam the SS Big Red Boat Four and that her hull would be painted in the companies traditional bright red colour. But thankfully that was never Premier’s idea and it was the typical rumour junkie going mad! Thankfully Premier decided to market this fine ship from their middle market to their more upmarket clientele who would appreciate this luxury vintage class liner that retained all her original innovative beauty and glamour, and thus they renamed her the SS Rembrandt, which was a most suitable name indeed!

SS Rembrandt Photo Album

This photo album proves that SS Rotterdam’s former beauty had been fully maintained and except for Premier having made a few minor interior colour changes, such as is seen in the Cinema and the Ritz Carlton Lounge, as there some new carpeting was laid and certain décor changes was made in the cinema!

But, the SS Rembrandt looked a magnificent sight at all times for she remained a meticulously maintained ship, and thus it was no wonder that the cruising public and ship lovers were so happy with her. But, it was also because she had been given the name of that great Dutch painter - “Rembrandt van Rijn” and having been named the Rembrandt was the perfect choice for a Dutch built ship, which contained so many items of classical and modern works of art!

Except for the Premier Cruises sign on her hull and her new name, she looked just like she always did!

She had remained a superbly beautiful ship unto this very day. But, there were many painful hurdles on the way!


The superb two level Ritz Carlton Lounge located aft of Upper Promenade Deck

This venue received new carpets both the stairwell and the main floor and the chairs received a new darker upholstery


A close-up of the brilliant Mural on the walls of the Ritz Carlton


The Sculpture on the wall of the Smoking Room


Another fine piece of modern art found in a lobby


A small section of the beautiful Ambassador Lounge, the only change was the flooring


This is a beautifully glass blown mirror on one of the lobbies located on the “Central Secret Stairwell”


 The Cinema received a transformation, with new décor above the curtains as well as other changes


SS Rembrandt is seen at anchor close to a Caribbean Island

Countries Visited in her First Year:

At first, she operated a short but a successful South American cruise series, but during the Northern Hemisphere Summer of 1998 the Rembrandt headed across the Atlantic and she commenced a European Cruise Season and visited a vast number of ports including Italy, Gibraltar, Portugal, Spain, France and countless other ports!

Another fine view of the SS Rembrandt as seen at Malaga, Spain earlier during her European cruise season in July 1998

SS Rembrandt Visits her Original Homeport:

The SS Rembrandt made a memorable visit on October 26, 1998, being to the City where she was built as well as being her original Homeport, the City of Rotterdam the Netherlands. Twenty-Seven (27) years ago she departed Rotterdam as the SS Rotterdam and she had not returned since, thus this was her very first time home! Obviously the event was made known in advance by the media “Onze stoomship Rotterdam kom thuis” - “Our steamship Rotterdam comes home” and it caused great excitement amongst the burgers of Rotterdam and they came out by the thousands to see their much loved Holland America Flagship, as they still considered her! And besides the company name on the hull aft and the bane, she still looked like their beloved ship!

The SS Rembrandt is seen in Rotterdam on her very first visit on October 26, 1989 with the famed Euromast behind her

And you can just see a replica of the SS Rotterdam Bridge on the lower part of the concrete tower that can be visited

Photograph by & © Ron van der Silk

Although the Rembrandt was doing very well as far as passenger loadings was concerned, thus she proved to be profitable, however Premier Cruises was having problems with the rest of their considerable fleet of older steam ships and some of them were having very high operational costs. Slowly the company’s finances were poorly managed, but it was hoped that things would improve somehow. Although Premier continued in operation, but sadly that would soon come to a tragic conclusion, and sadly many of their beautiful classic Ships would end up on the ship breakers beach in India or Bangladesh!

September - 2000

It would be on September 13, 2000 the Florida based Premier Cruise Line went in bankruptcy and considering that the SS Rembrandt was at sea, the Captain was ordered to return to Halifax Canada and discharge all passengers. The Rembrandt was laid up as she had been placed under arrest by the Sheriff's Department in Halifax.

However, a week or so later that month the Rembrandt was permitted under special warrant conditions to sail for Freeport in the Bahamas, where she arrived on September 21, 2000 and there she was duly laid up and was placed on the market to be sold.

The SS Rembrandt is seen in 2004 having been laid up for four long years

Photograph by & © Klaas Krijnen - NL


The bows of the Rembrandt is seen here laid up in Freeport with ex Premier ship SS The Big Boat III that was

built as the Union Castle Lines SS Transvaal Castle, then SA Vaal, then Festivale, IslandBreeze before obtained by Premier

Photographer unknown – Please see Photo Notes at bottom of page

Thus there she was at Freeport, awaiting a buyer that would be a lengthy long one, almost four years, but during all this time there was a huge battle going on behind the scenes, one I was a part of and one that was really worth it in the end!

But all that is another story for Page Seven! 


SS Rotterdam INDEX:

Part One:             Construction & her Maiden Voyage Sep 3, 1959.

Part Two:            Her Grey Hull days - Sep 1959 to 1971.

Part Three:          Her HAL days & Premier Cruises days - 1972 to 2000 - This Page.

Part Four:            Brochure - Page One.

Part Five:            Brochure - Page Two.

Part Six:              Deck Plans, 1959 First & Tourist & a later One Class Cruise Plan.

Part Seven:         SS Rotterdam 1959 Specifications & Engine Room photos by Klaas Krijnen.

Part Eight:           Saving the Rotterdam 1995/97 - 2009.


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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on only), in order that due credit may be given.

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