The history of the ss Rotterdam
The long and rich history of ‘La Grande Dame’
The legendary former flagship of the Holland America Line, 228 metres long, 28 metres wide, 51 metres high, rich in history and renowned for its cultural-historical value, the ss Rotterdam. On the website of Vrienden van Stoomschip Rotterdam you can read all about its history. Below an overview.
1956 – 1959
Exciting times, exciting furniture
For many people, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to America means a journey to the new world. However, sailing over the Atlantic Ocean is not always a pleasure. The sea is rough and the climate is unpredictable. The HAL therefore makes specific demands on the design of its newest ship. A gracefully shaped hull and a sharp, high bow should further improve seaworthiness and speed compared to her predecessors. The machine installation will be relocated and the ship will have two modern chimneys next to each other. Where other ships traditionally have a chimney, there will now be a large deckhouse. This creates the striking, streamlined profile of the ss Rotterdam. The design may seem controversial at the time, but on later ships this layout is often copied. The HAL attaches at least as much value to the interior. The shipping company attracts well-known architects and artists for this. The renowned interior designer Van Tienhoven, for example, will be responsible for important parts of the ship’s interior, which must be both luxurious and functional. He sketches exciting furniture for that time and uses modern materials such as plastic, ceramics and aluminium. Together with well-known Dutch artists he creates a coherent whole in which arts and crafts play a major role.
13 September 1958
With a silver axe Queen Juliana cuts through the thread from which a champagne bottle dangles and speaks the historical words: ‘I hereby name you the Rotterdam and I wish you a safe voyage’. The tens of thousands of spectators standing on both sides of the Nieuwe Maas are admiring, clapping and cheering at the half-finished ship.
3 September 1959
A year later, on 3 September 1959, the construction was completed and the graceful ship could begin her first voyage. Some people have to get used to the striking appearance of the ship. They find the two slender chimneys, instead of the traditional smoking chimney in the middle, a bit too modern at first. With her 38,645 gross registered tonnage, the ss Rotterdam is the flagship of the Holland America Line and of the Dutch merchant shipping, one of the top ten large passenger ships.
Destination: New York. That day the quay is full of heavy suitcases and huge trucks full of fourage. Not without reason: in eight days no less than 31,000 eggs, 4,000 heads of lettuce, 2,000 kilos of butter and 10,000 kilos of beef go through it. Expectantly, the twelve hundred passengers and special guests board the truck. Ashore, the stragglers point to the ever-decreasing stature on one of the decks. Crown Princess Beatrix sails along! Once arrived in New York, water spray tugboats sail towards the ship, a festive welcome!
1959 – 1971
Cruising in opulence
In this relatively quiet period the ss Rotterdam not only makes transatlantic crossings, but also cruises. The crew is already used to the fact that in all ports a large crowd of admirers is waiting for the ship. Not so strange, with her 228 meters length the ss Rotterdam makes an enormous impression.
Always first class
Flying is a relatively cheap and much faster way to cross the ocean. This means the end of liner shipping to New York. Also the ss Rotterdam makes its last crossing. With melancholy the passengers go ashore in New York. One more time they look back, will they ever see the ship that appeals so much to the imagination? The answer is yes! Because the ss Rotterdam continues to sail as a cruise ship. This is thanks to the then HAL director De Monchy. With his foresight, he had a monumental staircase installed with sliding panels during construction. During the transatlantic crossings the panels divided the decks into two classes. As a result, the first-class and the tourist class passengers travelled separately from each other. The ingenious thing about the panels is that they can also be opened so that only one class remains. As a result, the ss Rotterdam is rapidly turning into a cruise ship without separation of classes. After a number of smaller structural alterations, the ss Rotterdam is ready for its next career: five-star cruises to distant, exotic places. As popular as ever.
The ss Rotterdam as maritime icon
The international requirements for cruise ships have now been tightened. The ss Rotterdam also no longer meets all safety requirements. The HAL, in the hands of the American Carnival Cruise Line since 1988, considers a renovation to be too expensive. The shipping company prefers to continue with much more modern cruise ships, but without the nostalgic atmosphere and glamour of a ship like the ss Rotterdam. The ship has become an icon in the shipping world.
‘Rotterdam’ will become ‘Rembrandt’
The ship was acquired in 1997 by the US-based cruise company Premier Cruises, a company that envisioned a market for operating older second-hand ships with steam turbines.
The company rechristened the vessel Rembrandt with a view to maintaining the Dutch identity and loyal clients. Premier Cruises, however, unexpectedly encountered financial problems in 2000 and was declared bankrupt at the request of a US investment bank. The Rembrandt was moored in Freeport, the Bahamas.
The economy is declining. Premier Cruises is going bankrupt. The Rembrandt, however popular she is, is no longer allowed to sail and is chained indefinitely in the port of Freeport in the Bahamas. And then it is quiet for a while.
The ship changed ownership again in 2005: housing corporation Woonbron, in cooperation with Albeda College acquired the ship. In that year the Rotterdam was towed to nearby Cadiz on the south coast of Spain, where work was carried out on the hull, the structure and parts of the decks. The process of refurbishing and renovating several hundred cabins was then carried out in 2006 in Gdansk, Poland and in the North German port city Wilhelmshaven.
2005 – 2008
Big and compelling
For the various phases of renovation, the ship undertakes one more voyage. After years of lying still, the ss Rotterdam can no longer sail itself. Therefore the ship is transported by tugboats from Gibraltar to Cadiz and then to Gdansk and Wilhelmshaven. On the way the ss Rotterdam gets back its old shape bit by bit. A grey hull, which is provided with the characteristic golden-yellow trim and the original name appears again on the bow and stern. The fantastic interior, the works of art, the salons and the furniture everything is brought back to its old state and glory as much as possible. A number of tapestries are even completely rewoven. Also the huge mural in the Grand Ballroom will be restored. A gigantic job. At the same time, a team of designers is preparing the ship for modern times with atmospheric restaurants, larger and modernly equipped hotel rooms, a car park and entrance buildings at the 3rd Katendrechtsehoofd. Everything is being prepared for a return with allure.
4 August 2008
Yesterday becomes today, today becomes tomorrow
The day has finally arrived. After nearly fifty years, ss Rotterdam is making her way into the port in grand and majestic fashion. La Grande Dame is back! The quays extending from Hoek van Holland are lined with crowds of people eager to watch this final voyage live. All her wanderings have finally come to an end as ss Rotterdam arrives at its final destination at one of the most beautiful places she could ever imagine – on Katendrecht in Rotterdam! Yesterday becomes today and today becomes tomorrow. ss Rotterdam opens to the public on 15 February 2010 and instantly becomes one of the city’s most popular places!
15 February 2010
A new purpose
The ship was towed into and moored on the quay of the Derde Katendrechtsehoofd in Rotterdam. After further renovations and modifications, the ship was opened to the public on 15 February 2010.
12 June 2013
WestCord Hotels proud owner
On 12 June 2013 the ss Rotterdam was officially transferred to WestCord Hotels, a Dutch family business with 15 beautiful hotels in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft, Leeuwarden, Garderen, Raalte and on the Wadden Islands Vlieland, Terschelling and Ameland. With great pride WestCord Hotels has added the ss Rotterdam as the new 14th pearl to the WestCord hotel group.
ss Rotterdam and Hotel New York reunited!
Since the takeover of the ss Rotterdam by WestCord Hotels, the two Rotterdam icons have been together again after years: the ss Rotterdam former flagship of the Holland Amerika Lijn (HAL) and Hotel New York former head office of the HAL. Both hotels are within walking distance of each other and were once part of the rich and 140 year long history of the Holland America Line!
The new Captains Lounge
The former New York shop has been transformed into the Captains Lounge! The permanent interior design partner of WestCord Hotels, ESTIDA, designed and realised the spectacular bar for the ship. Guests are now welcome to enjoy a snack or drink in the Captains Lounge.
24 November 2014
Moor directly to the ship!
The new pontoon is open! From November 2014, boats can moor at the pontoon and guests can enter the ship immediately via the B-deck. The Watertaxi Rotterdam will also moor at the new pontoon. Visitors of the ss Rotterdam no longer have to go to the pontoon at the back of the ship.
1 January 2015
One ship, one organization
As of 1 January 2015, WestCord Hotels has taken over the Meetings & Events department. In addition to the hotel and restaurants, this branch of the ss Rotterdam also belongs to the hotel chain. Because all facets of the ship now fall under one organisation, all parts of your programme can be optimally coordinated with each other.
Green Key Gold
In December 2016 the ss Rotterdam obtained the Golden Green Key. WestCord Hotels is proactively committed to doing more for the environment than legislation and regulations require. Currently, 12 WestCord Hotels have obtained the Green Key certificate, including the ss Rotterdam.
1 March 2017
Lido become Lido Grill!
From the 1st of March the Lido became a grill restaurant where the dishes are prepared on the new KOPA charcoal oven. Chef Raymon Rademaker has put together a new menu with an extensive choice of delicious grill dishes, including a new selection of specialty beers for surprising taste combinations.
10 April 2017
Start of the water bus
In addition to the water taxi, the ss Rotterdam has also had a good connection to the water bus since 10 April 2017. This waterbus arrives at the pontoon next to the ship and makes it possible to sail further distances, to Kinderdijk for example!
14 November 2019
Opening of the Ocean Wine Bar
Wines, wines, it can’t be missing in these times and the ss Rotterdam is also participating. On the 14th of November the Ocean Wine Bar will be opened. You can enjoy a good glass of wine, but there are also two High Wine packages to book. Are you going for the High Wine or the High Wine Exclusive? Cheers!