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S.S. Rotterdam: Holland America Line’s 40-Year Flagship

Many thanks to David Giventer, Ryndam’s future cruise consultant, who sent in this fabulous post. Enjoy!

In the harbor of Rotterdam there is a very beautiful passenger ship! She was once considered so modern and chic that her external design and interior decorative appointments were considered a far-reaching departure from what was then accepted as conventional. In fact, so radical was her external design that it was a carefully kept secret until when Holland America Line executives unpackaged a model of the new ship for display in their offices in New York, they were aghast to discover that the ship lacked a funnel!

The traditional funnel was stylishly revised to what would quickly become an iconic symbol of the ship, a feature that made her instantly recognizable; the twin uptakes aft.

Of course, the ship is the S.S. Rotterdam. Launched on 13 September 1958 in Rotterdam and entering service one year later on 3 September 1959, she became one of the most beloved and long serving cruise liners following the end of WWII.

Her engines now silent, she has come home and has been preserved as a floating hotel/facility ship. The ship has been faithfully restored to her original dove gray livery and is proudly sited at the entrance to the cruise port Rotterdam near the hotel New York which itself once served as the headquarters of Holland America line.

It was my pleasure to sail on the S.S Rotterdam five times and once as the S.S. Rembrandt, so renamed following her acquisition by new owners. I sailed with my father on his last Christmas/New Years cruise in December 1996 which was also the last holiday cruise for the nearly 40-year-old Holland America line flagship. She was retired from Holland America line the following year, shortly after her farewell world cruise.

I had been cruising for many years before I boarded the S.S. Rotterdam for the first time in Vancouver, September 1995. I was instantly captivated by the cleverness with which innovation was integrated with tradition.

The thought came to me: “It’s a good thing I didn’t find this one first.” I may have never sailed on any other ship!

It is always very sad when a famous and cherished ship ends its days. It is miraculous for such a ship to be rescued from being grounded on the beach in Alang, India or sent to the breakers in China. So how very grateful are her devoted passengers who once took pleasure in languid cruises as well as those who may have never sailed but thanks to preservation are now able to savor the nostalgia of the S.S. Rotterdam. To still walk her decks and admire her public rooms proves that she is a most fortunate ship to have been so deservedly preserved.

So, when in Rotterdam, see her, enjoy her and imagine what it must have been like to have booked passage on the S.S. Rotterdam flagship of Holland America Line.

David Giventer is Ryndam’s future cruise consultant and photographer Ioana Cheregi is Ryndam’s human resources manager.

  • harm brink

    Thanks for your nice article on a special ship. When she came into service she was ahead of its time. In the ship were many innovations incorporated.
    It is good that the ship is preserved and saved from demolition. She is beautifully restored, which does a lot of money. It is homage to the Dutch shipbuilding and the history of the HAL.
    When she came home at aug 4-.2009 there were tens of thousands people to welcome her.
    On this page of my site
    you can find a photo report.

  • Bert Lamers

    The s.s. ‘Rotterdam’ came home on August 4, 2008 and not 2009!

  • Carla van Eijnatten Almond

    I saw the Rotterdam in dry dock when she was built. It was indeed a magnificent ship. Later, we could see her in drydock from the other side of the Maas (Schiedam/Vlaardigen).


    hallo ,ik heb 10 jaar onderhouds werk gedaan in vancouver ,het is het enige stoom schip waar ik gewerkt heb ,wij hebben veel werk gedaan aan de new amsterdam volendam , en norwegen ships ,en cunard[britisch] ,vr gr bart ,vancouver

  • Peter Beyersbergen

    I sailed in 1961, as a crew member in the dining room, to ports in the Caribbean and on the 80 day cruise around the world. It was a most enjoyable and beautiful ship to serve on.

  • Graham S Smith

    I remember as a junior deck officer steaming into Rotterdam on the small, British liner ‘Calabar’ two weeks before her launch. The Dutch pilot was bubbling over with enthusiasm for his country’s new flagship and justifiably so as she was truly a beauty and ‘ahead of her time’.

  • Joe Perchetti

    Great article. I’m looking for a history of ship Captains. Thank you.

  • Captain Albert

    Please have a look at or on the holland america line blog, captain alberts blog. There are a lot of biographies there already.

    Best regards

    Capt. Albert

  • Barry Morris

    I worked as part of the Travellers during the Caribbean seasons of 1972 and 1973. We performed in the Ambassador lounge for dinner music and dancing, with one night a cruise doing our cabaret act in the cabaret lounge. We were a trio of piano bass and drums, with vocals. Memories I have never forgotten

  • Peter Kugler

    I worked as 2nd cook going Rotterdam New York every 9 days in 1963

  • Aggie Scott

    I travelled on the Flagship Rotterdam from Rotterdam to New York in October 1964 when I immigrated from Germany to the US to work for The Singer Company, then headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, in NYC.
    On that voyage, I met the man who later became my husband. He was an opera tenor returning to the US from a long stay in Europe.

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