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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 article on classic liners and cruise ships in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts for their pleasure!



Page One

Creation, Construction, Launching to Her Maiden Voyage

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

Please Note:

This feature on the SS Rotterdam V is being completely updated, enlarged and with a great deal of new information being added. There will also be many additional photographs from my archives and those that have been kindly sent to me by ssmaritime supporters and I am most grateful.

Of course this fine Dutch Liner became greatly loved worldwide and she has always been one of the most individual ships, being the very first large Trans-Atlantic liner to be fitted with two side-by-side stovepipe exhaust uptakes above the aft engines!

Page One has gone online first whilst the others will follow as each one is completed and therefore I thank you for your patience as, due to health issues, I am no longer as fast as I used to be.

Reuben Goossens.

A summary in brief of the SS Rotterdam & the campaign that saved her:

The great SS Rotterdam, which is a greatly loved Trans-Atlantic Liner and also a popular luxury Cruise Ship, thankfully remains with us today and below is her story in brief:

The SS Rotterdam was the very last great Dutch “Ship of State” and there were many of the finest designers, workers and artists from throughout the Netherlands working on this great ship, both in her construction, fitting out process as well her superb décor. She had a long and a successful career with Holland America Line (HAL) from 1959 to 2000, but sadly as Carnival had obtained HAL in 1989 she remained in service for a number of years. But in 1995 I was advised that Carnival had clear plans to rid them selves of “that Old ship” and having made a flimsy excuse that it was too expensive to upgrade her to the required SOLAS requirements and sold her to Premier Cruises who upgraded her far less than Carnival had claimed and operated her named the SS Rembrandt from 1997 to 2000. Sadly Premier went into Bankruptcy in September 2000! Regardless, the wonderful SS Rotterdam/Rembrandt spanned a wondrous forty-one years sailing oceans of the world. Full details of her history are of course below, as this is just a brief summery!

SS Rotterdam seen at her current permanent berth and owned by the “WestCord” Hotel Chain

Photographer is unknown – Please see the Photo Notes at the Bottom of the Page

The author is well known for his “Save the Classic Liners Campaign” but with Carnival having already control over Holland America Line and when I heard the news in 1995 of Carnival’s desire to rid themselves of “that Old ship” my campaign went up a notch and my “Save the SS Rotterdam Campaign” commenced! However, at a later date an excellent Dutch Organisation “Stoomschip” headed at the time by a dear friend Mr. Klaas Krijnen to whom I later handed over the campaign, but I continued the promotional side, as I had a massive worldwide support system with millions of readers and with individuals who would act on the campaign effectively! Thankfully the Rotterdam was officially saved and having been being completely restored, in 2005 the “Grande Dame of the Sea” slowly made her way up the River Maas in Rotterdam bound for her soon to be new berth, where she became a fine Hotel and popular tourist complex, come convention centre. Today Hotel SS Rotterdam is operated by “WestCord being one of the giants of the Dutch Hotel Chains!

Today the SS Rotterdam is without a doubt the finest fully restored of the Classic Liners that remain today, for apart from her accommodations that required modifications, the rest of her has been restored to her original 1959 condition and to perfection! Therefore I am delighted to have been a part of daving this once great Liner and Cruise Ship!

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian, Author and Lecturer,

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping industry in 1960.

Founder “Save the Classic Liners Campaign” Commenced in 1995. & have received over 505 million visitors.


SS Rotterdam - 1957 to 1997:
Planning - Building - Launch & Fitting out the Rotterdam:

Here we see the 1908 built SS Rotterdam IV off the coast of Venezuela around the late 1930s

Holland America Line photograph from the author’s private collection

Holland America Line (HAL) was well aware that they required a running mate for their popular liner, SS Nieuw Amsterdam. Thus as economic conditions had become favourable a new ship was built, being a smaller 24,294 GRT SS Statendam that was completed in 1957. This ship was remarkable for she gave the idea of the “horizontally divided ship” for her first Class was located up on Boat Deck, whilst Tourist occupied all of Promenade Deck, thus giving both classes, as was said the “Run of the ship.”

A postcard of the 1957 SS Statendam

Rotterdam’s designers took this theme on a far grader scale and created a groundbreaking Two Class “horizontally divided ship” with movable partitions, thus being able to change passenger’s numbers in First or Tourist Class. In order for passengers to move down to their Cabins and Restaurant on the lower decks, the designers created one of the most unique methods of doing so and I will explains this system down the page!

The magnificent SS Rotterdam would be the fifth ship to carry this proud name and today there is new cruise ship, a motor ship, the ms Rotterdam VI.

With plans completed and approved, it was on October 27, 1955 that Holland America Line (HAL) officially placed their order for their new ship to be built by the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij NV” or the “Rotterdam Dry Dock Company” in Rotterdam the Netherlands. After a great deal of preparation, on December 14, 1956 building commenced with “Hull number 300” and her keel being laid on this auspicious day. Two years later on December 14, 1958 she was officially named and launched with great fanfare by Her Majesty Queen Juliana with tens of thousands of people located on both sides of the river, as everyone desired to witness this great event! After entering the river she was taken to her fit-out berth and less than a year later she was completed!

SS Rotterdam was the last of the great Dutch Trans-Atlantic liners and she was crafted by some of the finest Dutch artisans, both in her construction and fitting out process.

In the four-year period, from being commissioned to delivery, the Rotterdam has been considered as being one of the greatest Dutch Passenger Liners ever built, however as for myself and to be honest, the vast majority of maritime experts worldwide, and these do include some of the greatest names in the industry, believe that the 1937 built SS Nieuw Amsterdam (2) was the most beautiful and perfectly balanced liner ever built as well as her interiors being some of the finest examples of Art-Deco and grand luxury seen on a liner, the ship that in her later years became a very popular cruise ship featuring a great hull with the traditional HAL gold ribbon running around it!

This was a postcard produced by HAL prior the SS Nieuw Amsterdam was completed

However, as this new modern liner was being built she was slowly taken shape, one that certainly became greatly loved. Dutch maritime architects created a ship design that was certainly greatly advanced for her time with the horizontal class system. In addition a multitude of artists and interior decorators contributed to her excellent interiors that made the Rotterdam quite a work of art. SS Rotterdam became known throughout the Netherlands as “The ship of Tomorrow, Today a Reality.”

Photo Gallery; A ship in planning & construction


This was a model of an as yet unnamed liner, which was greatly based on the very popular SS Nieuw Amsterdam but it was a

more streamlined and a far more modern version for the 1950s. But it was rejected as a more futuristic & streamlined ship was required!


The laying of Rotterdam’s keel in Yard 300 on December 14, 1956

The above and the 6 photo’s below are all - Holland America Line photograph’s, but from the author’s private collection


Her double keel being completed (February 26, 1957) and she is slowly building up



The Rotterdam is taking shape on January 18, 1958


Her starboard propeller is being fitted on August 21, 1958


The Rotterdam is ready for her launching as the SS Nieuw Amsterdam arrives in September 12, 1958


The Naming & Launching


HRH Queen Juliana watches the bottle of Champagne smash and break against Rotterdam’s hull

During the naming she wished the ship “I name you the Rotterdam and wish you a safe journey” on September 13, 1958


Here we see the SS Rotterdam slide down the slipway into the Maas River as the chains slow her speed

Funnels & Livery:

Undoubtedly, at the time Rotterdam was considered to be controversial due to the lack of having a traditional funnel, she was given two side by side tall slender uptakes (flues) located aft of the ship, due to her machinery being located aft. Although the very first passenger liner to have her engines fitted aft was the revolutionary Shaw Savill liner SS Southern Cross and there was great controversy about the weight ratio, etc!

SS Southern Cross, the world’s first 100% passenger liner for she did not carry cargo, except for baggage!

Although at first she was considered as being somewhat controversial, however as she was such a well-balanced ship, having long slender and graceful lines, with her perfectly balanced but beautifully raking bow that gently flowed through to just below her forward superstructure. Her hull was in Holland America Lines new livery, being the grey hull with the traditional gold ribbon two decks down, thus on the grey part of the hull with an all white superstructure and Radar Mast as well as her Twin exhaust Stacks aft. However her the four King Posts were painted in a pale silvery grey colour. On the unusual centre housing of the ship, where a single funnel would normally have been, forward along its white side there was a green, white, green logo with NASM that stood of course for; Nederlandsch Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij” or the “Netherlands American Steamship Company.” The other standout colour on board was her buff to yellow 18 lifeboats.

HAL’s House Standard (flag)


One of the early promotional photographs of the SS Rotterdam

There is a special page online with and advanced look at the Rotterdam, from a special limited brochure published

Thoughts Regarding her Design:

This superbly beautiful liner cost US$30,000 to build in 1959 and upon completion she was without a doubt a beautiful ship externally, as well as simply a piece of art internally! Besides her aft-situated machinery and twin exhaust slender stovepipes funnels, the Rotterdam was given perfect balance, with a central deckhouse being built atop her superstructure in the position where the traditional funnel would sit, except inside this deckhouse there was a modern and comfortable Skyroom with a view over the Sport Deck!

In addition she also had that amazingly innovative two-class layout that made her famed worldwide. In order to negotiate her decks, there is a superb “secret central stairwell” that cleverly served both classes, for each had a full deck (forward to aft) of magnificent public rooms up on the two Promenade Decks, which was a first for any passenger liner.

The famed Secret Central Stairwell

From the author’s private collection

As built; SS Rotterdam accommodated 1,456 passengers, made up of 655 in First Class and 801 in Second Class and a crew of 776. However, whilst she was in a One Class cruise mode she would accommodate just 730 passengers.

Her Sea Trails and a Very Special Test Voyage:

With the Rotterdam having been completed a year after her naming and launch she departed on her very first trials on July 11, 1959 and she returned to her berth. Next she went out onto the North Sea again for her technical trails from August 1 to the 6th, when she returned to Rotterdam once again.


Above & below: SS Rotterdam seen during her sea trails on July 11 & August 1 to 6, 1959


On August 20, the SS Rotterdam looked absolutely magnificent as she was berthed at the HAL official Terminal at the Wilhelmina Kade, having been there since completion of her sea trails. She also had been manned and fully stocked for that very the afternoon a very special event would take place as she would be heading out to sea once again for an overnight “Test Voyage” but this time with over 800 VIP Guests!

Here see the SS Rotterdam heading out on her “Test Voyage” and note that from the very top of her Radar mast is a very special flag!

It would be later in the afternoon of August 20, 1959 that Rotterdam locals who were still admiring this magnificent ship from across the river or closer by, noticed that suddenly the Royal Standard had been raised to the very top of SS Rotterdam’s radar mast. This was because Her Royal Highness Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and her husband His Highness Prins Bernhard had boarded this magnificent new Liner. In addition, another 800 very important passengers (VIP’s) had boarded her, many of these being Prime Ministers, Presidents, Premiers and countless of important industry and other guests from the Netherlands and around the world for the SS Rotterdam would depart late in the afternoon for a very special overnight “Royal Test Voyage.”

In charge of this great liner was the Commodore of the Holland America Line fleet, Commodore Coenraad Bouman who was a wonderful man, whose family I used to know personally. Whilst the ship had departed and it was still daylight, there was an official handing over ceremony topside when the Queen took part in raising the HAL House Standard (flag) to below the Royal Banner and making the handover of the ship between “Rotterdam Drydock Company” and HAL official with a Royal seal of approval!

Here we see a smiling Queen Juliana assisting in the raising of the HAL House Standard

Prins Bernhard is on the Queen’s left with Commodore Bouman standing next to him

Obviously there was a festive, yet a most luxurious party atmosphere on board and at Diner the Menu contained some of the finest foods to be found in some of the worlds grandest restaurants, all served with some of the most amazing wines. All this was being served in the two deck high grandiose golden Dining Room of this fine ship!

HRH Queen Juliana & her husband Prins Bernhard (left) with the Director of HAL Mr. De Monchy in the Dining Room


SS Rotterdam’s magnificent Dining Room in all its grandeur

After a successful overnight voyage, with all systems, kitchen & galleys, service boarding and disembarkation, etc, having worked to perfection under severe pressure, and with everyone on board being more than impressed and agreed with the HAL slogan that had become so popular throughout the Netherlands that the Rotterdam was without a doubt; “The ship of Tomorrow, Today a Reality!”

 On the 9am sharp (being on time is so traditionally Dutch) she had not only returned to the HAL Wilhelmina Kade but she was tied up and the gangways were fastened. The ship was now officially a Holland America Line vessel as the Queen and the Ship Builders had handed her over during the Mini Voyage!

Her Maiden Voyage:

Having been delivered and all official duties completed just a little under a month later on Thursday September 3, 1959 SS Rotterdam was ready for her maiden voyage, which would be her first to New York, sailing via Le Havre and Southampton! Passengers in Second Class would board her between nine and ten in the morning and they would be followed by First Class passengers between ten and eleven in the morning. This would give everyone sufficient time to settle as the Rotterdam was due to depart at 12.15pm sharp.

Once again the SS Rotterdam was blessed by hosting a member of the Royal household, this time the Crown Princess Beatrix who later became Queen of the Netherlands when her mother abdicated, which is the Norn in the Netherlands, and today she has also abdicated and her son is the King, HRH King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands.

Her Father, Prins Bernhard escorted his daughter on the Rotterdam and sailing with her was the Minister of Foreign affairs, Mr JMAH Lund as together they would take part in a promotional and other special official functions. During the voyage the Princess had a wonderful voyage enjoying much of the ships facilities, including playing shuffleboard with Mr. Lund on Sports Deck forward of the amidships Skyroom!


Above: Crown Princess Beatrix and her Father, the Queens Consort Prins Bernhard board the Rotterdam

Below: Princess Beatrix and Minister Lund play shuffleboard



Above & below: a special Maiden Voyage Buffet Luncheon Cover and Menu

Of course, the cove features the SS Rotterdam and impressions of the Halve Maen and other Dutch vessels


SS Rotterdam arrived in New York on September 11 and the there was no doubt that the American’s know how to create a show as they gave the new Dutch liner a grandiose welcome with a large number of tugs

The SS Rotterdam arrives in New York September 11, which just happens to be an auspicious day

It is interesting to note that the maiden arrival of the SS Rotterdam in New York was far more special than it just being her maiden arrival, for there was also another occasion on this very day! It just happened that September 11, 1959 was a very special day for Dutch and American relations, considering it was 350 years earlier on this day that Captain Henry Hudson sailed up a river in North America. As we know he dropped anchor and he named that river after himself, the Hudson River. The settlement that would be established there later would first be named “Nieuw Amsterdam” for Hudson although British, he was the Captain of a vessel owned by the “Dutch East India Company” and it was named the “Halve Maen (“Half Moon”) a vessel that is still featured together with the massive bow of the SS Nieuw Amsterdam of 1937 on the Holland America Line logo to this day!

HAL Logo showing the grand bow of the SS Nieuw Amsterdam and “Dutch East India Co” sailing ship, the Halve Maen


This special envelope was issued by HAL for philatelic enthusiasts for collection, as it was the 350th.anniversary of the arrival of the

Halve Maen the day SS Rotterdam on her maiden arrival at New York on September 11, the very same day as the historic vessel!

The Author overall thoughts about the SS Rotterdam:

With the huge success of the Test Mini Voyage mentioned on this page, she was certainly ready for her maiden voyage and she soon departed on her successful maiden voyage and commenced her official career!

The Rotterdam is seen tied up at the HAL Wilhelmina Kade being made ready for her maiden Trans-Atlantic voyage

Being such a well built ship and perfectly laid out she proved to be a popular ship throughout all her days, both as a liner and a one-class cruise ship. In addition we know well that she outlived the vast majority of Trans-Atlantic liners and most other International liners as well as more modern Cruise Ships for that matter and the SS Rotterdam sailed successfully for an amazing 48 years!

Her side by side aft funnel controversy was certainly short lived, for soon this design idea became the norm with ships, such as the famed 1961 P&O liner SS Canberra that also had her engines aft and was fitted with side by side upright exhaust stacks and this time there was no controversy! The reason being, the new trend had already been set by the great Trend Setter that Elegant Dutch Liner, the SS Rotterdam which was known was as “The ship of Tomorrow, Today a Reality” as well as being the “Grande Dame of the Seas!

There is no doubt that I greatly love the SS Rotterdam, and I did love it when she returned to her dark blue hull, for it was a return to the old HAL days. Yet sadly when Carnival took over HAL I knew that things would change for the worse, but thankfully, HAL did set in stone a good number of strict rules and they are very important and they remain in place to this day. They can all be discovered on my cruise pages.

Reuben Goossens. 

Specifications – As built:

Built:                    1959 - Rotterdam Dry Dock Co.

Call sign:              PHEG.

IMO:                     5301019.

Tonnage:              38,675 GRT (gross registered tonnes).

Length:                 749ft – 228.2m).

Beam:                   93.6.ft (28.7m).

Draught:               29.8ft.

Engines:               D.R. De Schelde geared turbines – 38.500 SHP.

Screws:                Two.

Service speed:       21.5 knots.

Passenger Decks:   Ten.

Passengers:           655 First Class, but a number of cabins being interchangeable.

.                          801 Second Class,                

Cruising:               730 One Class.

Crew:                   776

Cargo:                  Dry cargo 102,000 cu. ft. Refrigerated cargo 14,000 cu. Ft


One of HAL’s Posters featuring their Big Three ships and two other Passenger Liners the Ryndam & Maasdam

As well as Passenger-cargo liners MS Noordam & Westerdam that carried up to 150 passengers


SS Rotterdam departs for Le Havre, Southampton and across the Atlantic bound for New York!


I wish to point out once again:

That this feature regarding SS Rotterdam built in 1959 is being completely updated from my original site and it is being greatly enlarged and with much more of additional information being added. In addition, there will also be some wonderful photographs, both from my archives and those that have been kindly sent to me by ssmaritime supporters for which I am most grateful.

Of course this fine Dutch Liner became greatly loved worldwide and she has always been one of the most individual ships, being the very first large Trans-Atlantic liner to be fitted with two side-by-side stovepipe exhaust uptakes above the aft engines as well as having the unique horizontal two class public room deck system!

Page One has gone online first whilst the others will follow as each one is completed and therefore I thank you for your patience as, due to health issues, I am no longer as fast as I used to be.

Reuben Goossens.


SS Rotterdam INDEX

Page One:     From Shipyard to her Maiden Voyage Sep 3, 1959.

Page Two:    Her overall History after Sep 11, 1959.

Page Three:  1959 Brochure & Special Photo Album.

Page Four:    Her Story from 1997 to her return to Rotterdam in 2008 fully restored!


Visit our ssMaritime Main INDEX

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Where the ships of the past make history & the 1914 built MV Doulos Story


Also visit my

Save The Classic Liners Campaign


Please Note: ssmaritime and associated sites are 100% non-commercial and the author seeks no funding or favours of any shape or form, never have and never will!

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.

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!

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