Looking back at the old memories

The history
of the ss Rotterdam

The history of the ss Rotterdam


The long and rich history of ‘La Grande Dame’

The ss Rotterdam was built in Rotterdam, departed from Rotterdam and is now back in Rotterdam for good! The Rotterdam was built in 1959 and was the fifth ship by this name to sail for the Holland-America Line (HAL). It is one of the most well-known post-World War II Dutch passenger ships. It experienced the last decade of the transatlantic line and cruise ship service between 1959 and late 2000. The steamship has been moored at the Derde Katendrechtsehoofd in the Maashaven port in Rotterdam since 4 August 2008. It has been completely renovated in the style envisioned by the designers and interior decorators in the 1950s. It now serves as a floating multifunctional venue.

More than 40 years in service

The Holland-America Line commissioned Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij NV (RDM) in Rotterdam to build the ship on 27 October 1955. The keel of the ship was laid on 14 December 1956 under construction number 300. The christening and launching on 13 September 1958 by Her Majesty Queen Juliana of the Netherlands attracted huge crowds, with tens of thousands of people lining both banks of the rivers to watch and take photographs of this momentous occasion. The new pride of the Dutch merchant fleet was christened with the words: ‘I hereby name you the Rotterdam and I wish you a safe voyage.’ The first sea trial was made in 1959 and the shipyard transferred the ship to the Holland-America Line on 20 August 1959.

For the first ten years, the Holland-America Line deployed the Rotterdam primarily for the Rotterdam – New York transatlantic route and as a cruise ship during the off season. The ship made its maiden voyage to New York in 1959. The Rotterdam made a cruise around the world in 1961 and 1962. The advertising slogan was ‘around the world in eighty days’.

In the years that followed, air travel took the place of the transatlantic passenger line service. This is why Holland-America Line announced in 1968 that it would focus entirely on cruises and that the Rotterdam would consequently be refitted for this purpose. The ship returned to Rotterdam from its last transatlantic voyage on 3 October 1968 and was moved to the RDM for the renovation work. The renovations were completed in December and the ship once again set sail from Rotterdam for winter cruises in the Caribbean and summer cruises in Alaska.


‘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 renovation

‘Stichting Behoud Stoomschip Rotterdam’ (Steamship Rotterdam Foundation) was founded in April 2001. The foundation is committed to preserving the ship as maritime heritage. The objective of the foundation was to once again moor the ship in Rotterdam as a stationary attraction with a new function.

The US investment bank sold the ship to Rotterdamse Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM) in 2003. Following various inspections and inventories, it was decided in 2004 to tow the ship to Europe. The ship could not sail on its own power because too much work needed to be done on the propulsion installation. After being moored for three years and nine months, the Rotterdam left Freeport on the hawser of a tugboat on its way to Gibraltar, where the initial activities were carried out with the aim of saving the ship.



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.

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

It was announced on 2 November 2012 that Woonbron had sold the ship to WestCord Hotels and the ss Rotterdam was officially transferred to WestCord Hotels on 12 June 2013.

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