Netherland Line MS Willem Ruys
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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author
Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed over 690 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!
Having spent many happy hours on the Dutch liner Willem Ruys it is with much joy that I add this remarkable liner to ssMaritime. In addition, I have also worked for the General Sales Agents for the “Royal Dutch Mails” in Wellington, New Zealand; being the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd, Netherland Line and Holland America Line. Therefore, whenever the Dutch and one German liner was in port, as well as the wonderful Willem Ruys of course I would go onboard and have lunch and a drink in the lounge, for I knew many of the officers and crew! Later when she was sold and she received an amazing rebuild to become the modern looking Italian liner Achille Lauro I also boarded her many times, but that is another story!
Part One covers this wonderful ships days as the much loved and popular Dutch passenger liner the MS Willem Ruys, whilst Part Two continues her story, but now with her in a completely new role as the Italian liner, the MS Achille Lauro.
I trust that this Willem Ruys feature will delight those who have sailed on her be it to Indonesia, a service she was designed and built for, or from 1959 when she was placed on the Australia and New Zealand around the world service. However, whenever you may have sailed on her I am sure that there will be many happy memories that linger as you rediscover this fine ship all over again as you explore these pages, for she was a ship that was so beautifully designed and she was what many called “A ship of simple perfection,” and she was in many more ways than one!
The elegant 1947
built MS Willem Ruys seen at sea as she sails for
trust that you will enjoy the many photographs of her, especially her
interiors, be it the First Class or Tourist Class, for both had wonderful and
beautifully appointed public venues and ample deck spaces and excellent cabins!
For those who later sailed on the completely rebuilt Italian liner and cruise
ship the MS Achille Lauro, you will also be delighted seeing her again, as she
was certainly an amazingly stylish ultra modern liner as well as a delightful
but sadly she was not a lucky ship, but that is all on her page in Part Two!
I trust that you will enjoy the many photographs of her, especially her interiors, be it the First Class or Tourist Class, for both had wonderful and beautifully appointed public venues and ample deck spaces and excellent cabins! For those who later sailed on the completely rebuilt Italian liner and cruise ship the MS Achille Lauro, you will also be delighted seeing her again, as she was certainly an amazingly stylish ultra modern liner as well as a delightful cruise ship, but sadly she was not a lucky ship, but that is all on her page in Part Two!
Before World War
Two, both the Netherland Line and Rotterdam Lloyd operated regular services on
the East Indies (
Lloyd’s MS Sibajak - launched 1928
- the author sailed on her from
addition, the Netherland Line had a number of luxurious ships, but many were
lost during the war, but surviving the war was the elegant and the much loved
MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (JVO), which commenced her East Indies service in
1930, but sailed on until 1963 when she was sold to the Greek Line to become
the ill-fated TSMS Lakonia.
In addition, the Netherland Line had a number of luxurious ships, but many were lost during the war, but surviving the war was the elegant and the much loved MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (JVO), which commenced her East Indies service in 1930, but sailed on until 1963 when she was sold to the Greek Line to become the ill-fated TSMS Lakonia.
MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt - launched 1929 - the author sailed on her on a good number of occasions,
but mostly on cruises from Down Under
Then the Netherland Line introduced their revolutionary
and at the time the world’s fastest motor ship
in the world the MS Oranje. She was launched on September 8, 1938 and she
commenced sailing ten months later. Besides her new and modern design, she had
a beautifully raked bow and featured the Netherland Lines new livery. However,
far more noticeable on the exterior was her hull, for it featured her unique
“tumblehome” hull that offered additional interior space. However,
when WW2 broke out she transformed into a fully operating Hospital Ship and was stationed in
This photograph clearly reveals the MS Oranje’s tumblehome hull because of the shore-side crane’s shadow on it
MS Willem Ruys in Construction:
It made sense that the Netherland Lines
biggest competitor before the War and “Rotterdam Lloyd” had already
decided to design a ship that would more than match every level of luxury,
comfort, and offers the very best of facilities and speed by building a new
liner. Thus, with plans laid down, an order for a ship was placed with the
“Koninklijke Maatschappij de Schelde Scheepswerf” being Dutch for
“Royal de Shelde Shipyards” located in
The sign reads: “Build (Construction) Number 214, Passenger Ship, Rotterdam Lloyd
However, as construction was well on the way, but then came the sudden onslaught and bombing of the great Port City of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940 and all construction was very rapidly halted as the air raid continued. The massive bombing attack seemed to hit all the neighbouring yards around the uncompleted Willem Ruys, which at this time was just known as “Yard 214,” and although the damage all around the various yards and throughout the City, But 214 was so fortunate and came out of this untouched and she remained on the slipway throughout the war.
Whilst the Germans were in the motion of
As it now had become part of National Pride to complete the “Rotterdam Lloyd Miracle Ship,” for she defied the hated Nazis. Work continued as men worked with great pride, and considering that the Dutch had used only the very best of materials, the hull only showed signs of slight rust!
A Man of Great Bravery Willem Ruys:
It is important to note that the MS Willem
Ruys was not named after the founder of the
company Mr Willem Ruys Snr, but after his great-grandson
Willem Ruys, who had been named after him.
However, Willem was tragically executed by the Nazis on together with two
other prominent citizens of the City of
As work headed toward completion she was finally heading towards the day of launching, and she had already become known as; “Het Vrede Schip” - “The Peace Ship” and everyone was awaiting that great and exciting day, which arrived on July 1, 1946 being the day she would be launched.
The population of
Two views of the launching of the Willem Ruys on July 1, 1946
She gently slipped down the slipway, making a considerable noise and then she entered the water considering she had been on the stocks since 1939 a long seven years. Having been launched she was taken under tow and she headed for her Royal de Schelde Fit-Out berth where she would be completed.
Much of her upper decks and interior work will be done here
It is at the fit-out be where she is completed, which included finishing her
superstructure, fitting of her two black squat funnels and a complete painting of the ship
MS Willem Ruys
departs the Royal de Schelde Shipyards at
An excellent painting by Dutch Maritime Artist - Frits Hoogstrate
Here we see her depart the Royal de Schelde Shipyards as she manoeuvres the Vlissingen Canals to the
The Willem Ruys is seen here when all the work is close to being completed and she
had her final paint touch-up and has been washed down and will soon return to the
water and head off for her deep sea trials and she will be delivered to her owners
MS Willem Ruys’ Special Features:
As a special honour, Queen
Here we see the SS Oriana of 1959
Compared to Oranje her then rival, the Willem Ruys was the more luxurious ship of the two, for she set higher standards in comfort as well as offering other exiting new innovations throughout the ship.
Her Sea Trials:
During her sea trials held between November 15 and 18, 1947 the Willem Ruys obtained maximum speeds of 24.64 knots. The ship had been fitted with eight geared diesel motors. Six of these were built and supplied by Sulzer manufacturers; whilst two were built by Royal de Schelde themselves. Her eight engines could produce 38,000 b.h.p., however she was able to comfortably maintain 22 knots with just six engines in operation.
With the Willem Ruys being fully certified she was registered in Rotterdam and given the call sign off ‘PIQF,’ and she was delivered to the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd (RRL) at Lloydkade Rotterdam on November 21, giving the company time to make her ready for her maiden voyage and fully man and stock her!
aerial view of the Willem Ruys seen berthed at her home berth
to her launching there had already been s a great deal of advance advertising
describing the Willem Ruys as being a worthy successor to the popular liners
the MS Dempo and the Baloeran, and without doubt she proved to be a great
success considering that she was one of the most luxurious ships on the
Prior to her launching there had already been s a great deal of advance advertising describing the Willem Ruys as being a worthy successor to the popular liners the MS Dempo and the Baloeran, and without doubt she proved to be a great success considering that she was one of the most luxurious ships on the service.
Her Maiden Voyage:
On December 2, 1947, the 21,119 GRT Willem Ruys a spotless liner that was completely ready to sail and head off on her Maiden Voyage, ashore there were 779 eager passengers waiting to board the brand new ship. All who boarded her were amazed by the magnificent surroundings, and that was regardless of the class they booked in, for the facilities in third and even the small fourth class was very high standard indeed, compared to some international companies!
Willem Ruys seen ready to depart for her maiden voyage on December 2, 1947
all passengers aboard and the gangplanks having been removed, Captain C H Vellenga had her lines slipped away and he gently took the
Willem Ruys from her berth, as she departed on her maiden voyage from Rotterdam
to Batavia the East Indies (Indonesia) with her delighted passengers onboard.
With all passengers aboard and the gangplanks having been removed, Captain C H Vellenga had her lines slipped away and he gently took the Willem Ruys from her berth, as she departed on her maiden voyage from Rotterdam to Batavia the East Indies (Indonesia) with her delighted passengers onboard.
An artist’s impression of the Willem Ruys’ Maiden Voyage departure on December 2, 1947 to Java
first port of call was Southampton on December 4, and then it was onto the
first port of call was Southampton on December 4, and then it was onto the
Her passengers were undoubtedly delighted with her beautiful and comfortable Lounges and facilities as can be seen in the photographs below!
The luxurious two deck high First Class Social Hall. This is simply a wonderful venue
It is surrounded by a glass enclosed Wintergarden, complete with plants, etc
The First class Smoking Room
Second Class Social Hall (Main Lounge)
Second Class Smoking Room
The Third Class Smoking Room features pale timbered walls with marble touches, leather seats, and
plush carpets although somewhat simpler in style, yet most comfortable and complete with a fine bar
A excellent model built of the MS Willem Ruys
Please Note: Above you will have seen just a few photographs; however there are three comprehensive pages that will take you throughout the ship covering all her classes; 1. as she was built and; 2. After her comprehensive rebuilding and refit in 1958 to mid 1959.
The Willem Ruys continued her voyages, with
great regularity, although she did have a number of special events and
occasions. For example on May 1, 1949 the Willem Ruys departed Southampton and
one of her guests was HRH Queen Rhambal Barni of Siam who had lived for fourteen years in England,
and she was now sailing on the Willem Ruys with the ashes of the late King of
Siam. As the Willem Ruys arrived at
The Royal party and the King's ashes left the ship and then boarded the waiting 685-ton Siam Steam Navigation Co, ship, the MS Bhanurangsi and she would sail and take the party to Siam where there was a multitude awaiting them.
This is a sepia
photo of the MS Bhanurangsi and she served in the
Although, this photo was taken very much later in her career and at this point she was laid up
Photographer is unknown - Please see Photo Notes at the bottom of the page
When the ship returned to
However at some time during 1949, although the
actual date is unknown, be it prior May or after, but the Willem Ruys struck
the “Meandes Shoals” just out of
A fine portside view of the MS Willem Ruys seen prior her rebuilding & refit in 1958 to mid 1959
In December 27, 1952 the Willem Ruys departed
However, after the collision the ship reduced
her speed to just 15.5 knots until the pumping out of the water was under
control at which point speed was increased to 18 knots. Passengers could either
remain on the ship or choose to fly on to
May 1953: Whilst en-route the Willem Ruys was
diverted from its normal route across the
The Willem Ruys
The beautiful and spacious Willem Ruys, became
the most popular liner on the Dutch East Indies service, or as we would call it
these days, the Indonesia service, and with the Willem Ruys, Royal Rotterdam
Lloyd had become a worthy rival to their major opposition, being the Netherland
Lines’ ships the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and MS Oranje. Dutch ships
sailed back and forth to
An excellent stern view of the Willem Ruys seen as built, but this view would soon change
The East Indies, group of islands, having been
a Dutch colony since the 17th.century, gained
Her departures from Southampton on March 19,
In May 1958 Holland America Line chartered the
Willem Ruys for two return voyages to
The MS Willem Ruys
Photograph by & © Noelle Hollander
1958-59 Rebuild & Refit:
After the four Trans-Atlantic voyages the Willem Ruys entered the Wilton-Fijenoord shipyards where she would undergo a major refit and a rebuilding program to make her more suitable to operate an Immigrant and Tourist service sailing Around the Word to Australia & New Zealand.
The comprehensive work undertaken at the shipyard, her aft hold was removed and in its place brand new 100 Tourist Class cabins were installed, increasing 170 berths. Although originally the ship only had air-conditioning that was functional in the First Class Lounges and Dinning Room, but now she became a fully air-conditioned Liner as well as having Stabilizers fitted. In addition her crew quarters were substantially upgraded.
The Willem Ruys is seen in 1958 in the Wilton-Fijenoord Dry-Dock during her transformation into a Two Class Liner
Lounges were comprehensively renovated as were her accommodations upgraded, especially those in Tourist Class. Externally, she was given a delightful new glazed in Tourist Class Wintergarden on both sides of the ship, whilst her funnel had been heightened, giving her a more balanced look. Tourist Class was given a Swimming Pool on the new Deck as her aft decks had been lengthened further aft.
A postcard released by Royal Rotterdam Lloyd (RRL) based on the painting by Dutch
maritime painter Victor Trip and we see her in her brand 1959 new refitted guise
The MS Willem Ruys would now accommodate 275-First Class, and 770-Tourist Class passengers, although there were a good number of interchangeable cabins and some of these had additional berths fitted, thus when required, RRL could increase the maximum loading to 1,167, thus there were an additional 122 berths for emergencies, or when required. Her new specifications would see her tonnage increase to 23,114 GRT. Her overall look did certainly improve and she was a far more balanced looking ship!
RRL released this post card after her refit at Wilton-Fijenoord Shipyards that saw
her sailing through the
as well as new aft lifeboats fittings
Her New Service:
The Willem Ruys would commence sailing Around
the World Voyages taking on average 63 days commencing at
The refitted MS
Willem Ruys seen departing
The wonderful almost new looking Liner departed on her new route departing from Rotterdam on March 7, 1959, and she and her two Dutch comrades at sea at that time, the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the MS Oranje became very popular alternatives to the British liners and together they certainly enjoyed excellent loadings, due to the superb service and sublime cuisine on offer!
The two companies Royal Rotterdam Lloyd and the Netherland Line collectively operated under the popular banner of; ships of the “Royal Dutch Mail.” as they together with Greek and Italian companies operated on the migrant services to Australia, and with the holiday full fare paying passengers on the return passage, some of these being migrants visiting their families back home. In February 1963, the 33-year old JVO was sold to the Greek Line, to become the ill-fated Lakonia, which after a partial rebuild and a refit took up cruise duties from the UK to the Mediterranean, but sadly her days with them was very short.
A wonderful stern view of the Willem Ruys in her final days!
However, like every single shipping company in the world these two Dutch Companies suffered the same fate, and that being, direct “airline competition” for the Jetliners had arrived as had inexpensive return charter flights! Thus due to the popularity of cheap air-fares and soon the Australian and New Zealand Government’s signed agreements with airlines to operate charter flights to transport migrants and therefore passengers numbers were slowly dropping, but still sufficient to continue. However, soon the time came that loadings were dropping so much that they were simply becoming less and less, and both the Willem Ruys and Oranje had been competing for passengers, as were the Greek, Italian and the host of British ships, but they were all in the “same boat” so to say, thus in trouble financially, and all had to make dramatic changes, or sell all or some of their ships!
Therefore, sadly towards the end of 1964, due to the poor passenger loadings the superb MS Willem Ruys was laid up in Rotterdam, whilst her running mate the Oranje had had already been laid up in Amsterdam. Both were placed on the market and they were soon obtained by the well-known Italian shipping company, “Flotta Lauro Lines.”
In January 1965, the Willem Ruys was officially handed over and she was officially renamed “Achille Lauro,” whilst the Oranje was renamed “Angelina Lauro” being the names of Mr. Lauro’s two daughters.
The story of the MS Achille Lauro will be fully told in Part Two, via the LINK at the bottom of this page.
Here we see the bow of the Willem Ruys having been sold to Flotta Lauro Lines and
a stencil was used to add the name ‘Achille Lauro’ above the ships original name
The Flotta Lauro Liner MS Achille Lauro is seen with her new lengthened sleek bow and her tall slender
funnels together with her new deck extensions the rebuilding gave the ship a longer and sleek profile
The MS Oranje/Angelina Lauro also received a massive rebuilding, with a new funnel a
lengthened shapely bow and she became a superb looking and an ultra modern looking liner
Specifications as Built:
Built By: Royal de Schelde
Length: 631ft - 192.8m.
Beam: 82.3ft - 25.1m.
Draught: 22.2ft - 6.75m.
Tonnage: 21,119 GRT Gross Registered Tons.
. 23,114 GRT in 1959.
Engines: 6 Sulzer (Winterthur) Diesel Engines.
. 2 de Schelde Diesel Engines - total 38,000 BHP.
Service Speed: 22 knots, Max 24.6 knots.
1. As built: 344 First, 320 Second & 131 Third Class.
2. After 1958/59 rebuild & refit: 275 First Class & 770 Tourist Class.
Passenger Decks: Seven.
Livery: Grey Hull, Black Funnels, Red boot topping with thick white band.
Stabilizers: none - but fitted in 1958.
Air-conditioning: Partial as built - fully air-conditioned as off 1959.
MS Willem Ruys / MS Achille Lauro - INDEX:
MS Willem Ruys: Part One.
Photo Page One: First Class.
Photo Page Two: Tourist Class.
Page Three: Brochures.
Achille Lauro: .
Page Two: Deck Plans.
Page Three: .
Also Read: MS Oranje / Angelina Lauro - Netherland Line.
. “ MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt - Netherland Line.
. “ MS Sibajak - Royal
Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
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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 www.ssmaritime.comonly), in order that due credit may be given.
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