With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian

SS Rotterdam

Ex Rembrandt, Rotterdam


SS Rotterdam looking splendid as she departs her homeport, heading for New York City

Author’s collection


For details on “Project Rotterdam - visit Page Three via the Index below

SS Rotterdam has arrived home on August 4, 2008 and she is now open as a Hotel and Tourist Complex!


July 20: I am currently updating the SS Rotterdam pages. This page has been partly updated, but it is not complete as yet.

One of the best preserved classic liners in existence today is the magnificent SS Rotterdam, the fifth ship to carry that name. Rotterdam was launched by HRH Queen Juliana of the Netherlands on September 13, 1958, and was completed just under a year later. SS Rotterdam was the last great Dutch Trans-Atlantic liners, and she was crafted by some of the finest Dutch artisans, both in her construction and fitting out process.

The Building - Launch & Fitting out of the Rotterdam

In the four-year period, from being commissioned to delivery, Rotterdam, considered as being the greatest Dutch passenger liner ever, had slowly taken shape. Dutch maritime architects created a ship that was advanced for her time. In addition a multitude of artists and interior decorators contributed to her magnificent interiors made the Rotterdam a work of art. Rotterdam became known throughout the Netherlands as “The ship of tomorrow, today a reality.”

Almost ready for launching

Author’s collection


The Big Day has arrived

Author’s collection


Her unique twin Funnels are lowered into place

Author’s collection


The Fitting out process continues

Author’s collection

Undoubtedly, at the time Rotterdam was considered to be controversial due to the lack of having a traditional funnel, instead having twin slender uptakes aft of the ship, as her machinery was located aft. The first ship in history to have the engines aft was the revolutionary Shaw Savill liner SS Southern Cross. The funnel controversy was short lived for soon it became the norm with many passenger liners, including the famed 1961 P&O liner SS Canberra that followed the trend set by the "grand dame" of the seas.

SS Rotterdam on her Sea Trails – 20 July 1959

Author’s collection

Besides her aft-situated machinery and funnels, Rotterdam was innovative with her two class layout. To negotiate the decks, a singular “secret stairwell” cleverly served both classes, as each had a full deck (forward to aft) of public rooms and dining rooms, which was a first for any passenger liner. As built, Rotterdam accommodated 1,361 passengers in a two class configuration. However, whilst cruising she accommodated only 730 one class passengers.

An image of the Rotterdam departing her home port, scanned from a Dutch language 1959 Holland America Line brochure

Author’s collection


Front cover of a 1959 English language brochure

Interior images of these brochures feature on the photo page

Author’s collection

SS Rotterdam commenced her maiden voyage from Rotterdam to New York on September 3, 1959. One of the passengers aboard was the Crown Princess of The Netherlands, Princess Beatrix who today is the Queen of the Netherlands.

Rotterdam became a familiar sight in the Big Apple.

Americans fell in love with this gracious lady of the sea

Author’s collection

Holland America Line built the Rotterdam as a dual purpose ship, a Trans-Atlantic liners and a cruise ship. It was for this reason she able to continue sailing, even after the Trans-Atlantic trade collapsed. In 1969 Rotterdam was switched to full time cruise duties and she soon became a one class ship which meant opening up her stairwell, giving her 1,499 passengers the full run of the ship without a noticeable distinction between the two classes. Holland America found little need to alter her original configuration and decor over the years, except for Cafe de la Paix, which became the Lido Café. In addition there a few minor changes to the forward Promenade Deck, and a small expansion of her aft deck. Her twin domed restaurants, her grand ballroom with a sweeping staircase, magnificent woodwork, ceramic art, murals, and polished brass distinguished the Rotterdam from the ships that followed her. In 1977 her passenger capacity was reduced to 1114.

SS Rotterdam seen departing Cape Town whilst on a world cruise

© Ian Shiffman -

She was a popular cruise ship, adored by Americans and Australian’s who regularly sailed on her, especially on her annual round the word voyages. With her distinctive looks she was a popular sight in every port she ever visited including Sydney where she was a frequent visitor.

Rotterdam seen toward the end of her days with Holland America Line

Author’s collection

In 1989 Carnival Cruises took over Holland America Line and she continued to cruise for the next years. However Carnival Corp decided to rid themselves of this “old ship” and used a flimsy excuse, to appease the multitudes that protested. Carnival Corp announced that the Rotterdam had to go due to the stringent 1997 SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations. They claimed that they would have to spend some UD$40 million to bring her up to new regulation standards. In addition they claimed that these changes would severely impact on her original interiors and beauty, thus lose her uniqueness. The truth is, although Carnival started its cruise operations by purchasing and operating classic liners, they were soon building distinctive Carnival winged funnel cruise ships and a new style of Holland America cruise ships, thus this fine vintage liner no longer fitted Carnival ideal and she was placed on the market.


SS Rotterdam seen in Sydney February 15, 1997 during her final world cruise

Photograph by & © 1997 Reuben Goossens

Specifications – As built:

Built:                                1959 - Rotterdam Dry Dock Co.

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:                      Adjustable – 580 / 301 first class

                                      Adjustable – 789 / 1,060 tourist class

                                      Cruising: 730 one class. Later - 1969: 1499 – 1977: 1114

Crew:                               776

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

SS Rembrandt

First there was a proposal to return the ship to her home port Rotterdam where she would serve as a hotel ship, but this did not eventuate. But she was soon sold to Premier Cruises in 1997, and they suitably renamed her Rembrandt. Premier Cruises refitted her for a fraction of the purported cost made by Carnival. Premier decided to market her to a middle to upscale clientele who would appreciate a vintage class liner that retained all her original innovative beauty and glamour.

Premier Cruises SS Rembrandt

Author’s collection

However just three years later on September 13, 2000 the on Florida based Premier Cruise Line went in bankruptcy. With the Rembrandt being at sea, the Captain was ordered to return to Halifax, Canadaand off load all passengers. SS Rembrandt was laid up and placed under arrest by the Sheriff's Department in Halifax.

However, the Rembrandt was permitted, under special warrant conditions to sail for Freeport in the Bahamas, arriving September 21, and was duly laid up and was placed on the market to be sold.

Big Red Boat II - ex SS Eugenio C, Edinburgh Castle, Big Red Boat II, Big Red (now scrapped)

with the Rotterdam seen in Freeport in 2003

Photograph by Vincenzo

For details of “Save the SS Rotterdam Campaign” & “Project Rotterdam” - Page Three contains all the details as well as the latest news updates!

SS Rotterdam INDEX

Main-page:                      From birth to today - 2008

Page Two:                       Mini Photo Album

Page Three:                     The Story from 1986 to 2008 & Project Rotterdam



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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. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

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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