Ben Lyons, a lifelong fan of Holland America Line who has worked both as a writer and a deck officer, recently visited Rotterdam and Rotterdam in Rotterdam. Enjoy part 3!
With the ms Rotterdam being based out of Rotterdam next year, it makes sense if you’re cruising specifically from this port to come and visit the city at least a day early. But, where to say? For any HAL cruiser, there are two obvious answers: either stay on the ss Rotterdam, now a hotel, or stay at the Hotel New York. During my two nights in Rotterdam, I was lucky enough to spend one night in each.
My first night was spent at the Hotel New York. Unabashedly HAL focused and simply oozing HAL history, the building was the former headquarters of Holland America from 1883 to 1977. Eventually refurbished as a hotel since 1993, its distinctive and attractive profile still stands out from the skyline from across the river Maas. That this building has a connection to HAL is plain for all to see: large golden letters spell out HOLLAND AMERIKA LIJN. If you’re embarking a ship the next day it couldn’t be more convenient—the hotel has beautiful views over the river, and the cruise terminal is only 500 feet away.
Having such a longstanding interest in ships, it was hard for me not to love the Hotel New York. Walking into the lobby, I was immediately struck by the numerous Holland America Line posters that graced the walls. Here was a poster advertising the Statendam of 1957, while on another wall hung beautiful images of the 1938 Nieuw Amsterdam. Any hotel where I am reminded of ships the moment I walk in is already a great one, as far as I am concerned.
My room, one of about 25 the hotel had recently refurbished, was both interesting and architecturally interesting. The ceilings were very tall- I estimate at least 13 feet- and large windows had stunning views onto the river. (If only the ms Rotterdam had come in a day early, and I could have woken up to the ship outside my window!) Desks and furniture were made to look like vintage steamer trunks, large ship spotlights hung from the ceiling for lights, and one wall was taken up with an image of happy, waving passengers crowding a ship’s railing. Not only comfortable and spacious, the room was also one of the most unique I’ve ever stayed in.
Right off the lobby is a large restaurant and bar, which is popular well into the night with both hotel guests and locals. Of course, many come for the food, but I was most taken with two large models of the ss Nieuw Amsterdam! (Following a similar theme, anytime I’m in a bar and there are large ship models next to me, it has to be pretty great…)
Walking around the rest of the hotel, I stumbled across other HAL memorabilia and artifacts—old deck plans were framed and hung on the walls, there were stained glass panels depicting the HAL flag and a HAL funnel, and a large wall in a private function room was taken up with a chart showing routes across the North Atlantic.
Perhaps the best was saved for last, when I was shown a few of the suites. Two rooms are the former boardrooms of the company, and with their rich wood paneling and fireplace, they look just like you’d expect a boardroom to look. Two other suites were located at the very top of the hotel, in the two towers crowning the building. Each room had a spiral staircase leading to a small room at the top of the tower, complete with a small sitting area and desk, and an opening to a small balcony with commanding views over the river and the city. It would be hard to top any of these rooms for history or style.
I left the Hotel New York quite reluctantly. It was definitely a gem—a colorful, unique hotel that celebrates nostalgia and tradition while still managing to be hip and relevant. Still, from the tower of the hotel, I had gotten a good view downriver… and spotted one of my all time favorite ships, the ss Rotterdam. That was inducement enough—it was time to step aboard for my first visit in ten years…