Through the Years: Holland America Line’s Seven Rotterdam Ships

Holland America Line is lucky to have several company historians. Two notable figures are Captain Albert Schoonderbeek and Gerald Bernhoft, director Mariner Society. In anticipation of the launch of our new Rotterdam this month, the two brand experts sent in fun facts and information about the previous six Rotterdam ships that have carried the name for our company. Enjoy learning about all of the ships to bear the name Rotterdam for Holland America Line.

Rotterdam I was baptised by the daughter of Captain Hus, something that was never repeated. Except for sistership Maas (which was christened by the wife of Captain Deddes), all the other ships in the fleet were baptized by office people (or related to) or by royalty. The ship’s first crossing from the Netherlands to New York in 1873 was an arduous Atlantic crossing that took 14 days and 6 hours. In those days, propulsion was a combination of both steam and sail power.

By the late 1800s two more vessels to bear that name were built and joined the growing Holland America Line fleet. Rotterdam II of 1881 was the first non-German ship to sail through the Kiel Canal when it was opened to avoid upsetting Great Britain or Germany about who would be first. The Kingdom of the Netherlands was neutral so choosing Rotterdam wold not ruffle any feathers.

Rotterdam III of 1897 only sailed for nine years for the company, as she then had to make space for the arrival of Rotterdam IV. This ship is the first we have on record that two Dutch emigrants eloped from their family to get married in the U.S. She was rich and he drove her horse and carriage and they fell in love. The family did not like it and they eloped to New York and got married there.

Then in 1908 the “flagship” Rotterdam IV was christened and took her place as one of the most majestic and opulent vessels of her time. She was the first two-funnel ship for the company.

Rotterdam 1908

Two of her public areas were crowned by stunning Tiffany Glass domes. She was one of the first vessels to have an enclosed Promenade Deck, which was a new nautical design introduced to passenger ships by Holland America Line. This gave passengers the opportunity to go out on deck for fresh air without being in adverse weather elements, especially during fall and winter transatlantic crossings. Enclosed Promenade Decks are now a standard in ship building. She also carried notable figures from Europe to America. Some were starting new lives in the United States, others for a foreign or state visit. Among the most notable were Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa, as well as Winston and Clementine Churchill.

Rotterdam celebs

Rotterdam V was very much constructed with cruising in mind, but could still be a two-class transatlantic ship. By constructing the central staircase as a double helix and alternating the class decks, it could be a one-class ship when the connecting doors were opened. Thus, she outlived here contemporary north Atlantic liners, such as Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Untied States, France, etc.

Rotterdam V.

This concept was so successful that it was not so difficult to convert her to a hotel, and that is what she is now in the Port of Rotterdam. So, if you are planning to make a cruise on the new Rotterdam VII, you can stay the night before on the Rotterdam V in the port of Rotterdam and wait until the Rotterdam VII comes in. That is three Rotterdams in one night!


Join the Discussion


  1. RH March 25, 2024 at 8:03 am - Reply

    Where’s the info on ms Rotterdam VI? That was my 1st HAL cruise in 1999. It was very elegant. I have stuck with HAL since. Was on ms Rotterdam VI again in 2004. It was a bit battered from having recently survived Hurricane Ivan. I will visit ss Rotterdam V in August 2024 then board ms Rotterdam VII the next day. I will definitely look for the double helix staircase! And do both tours…above and below.

    • Julie March 26, 2024 at 1:53 pm - Reply

      Hi RH! Holland America Line sold Rotterdam VI in 2020. You will enjoy visiting Rotterdam V in Rotterdam before your Rotterdam VII cruise (that’s a lot of Rotterdam!). We look forward to having you on board.

  2. Elizabeth L Kliger August 11, 2022 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    I believe that my great-grandmother sailed on the Rotterdam with her five children in the late 1890s to join my great-grandfather in the United States. They purportedly made their way on foot to the port on an arduous journey from Brest-Litvosk in what is now Belarus. A younger brother who started out with them is said to have died at some point on the
    journey. They made their way to Galveston, Texas via another ship? On disembarking, the family settled in Purcell, Oklahoma. Four more children were born, in Purcell. My great-grandfather had joined his brother (and family) in Purcell a few months before my great-grandmother and children arrived.

  3. PaulG February 12, 2022 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    I sailed the Rotterdam V back in November 1979 and had the privilege of staying on in as a hotel in December 2011. One of the guides for the tour I took then was a crew member while I was aboard in 1979. What a fantastic experience.

  4. David E Ogron December 2, 2021 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Sailed on the Rotterdam V Dec 1996 and now will sail the new Rotterdam Jan 2022. Miss the wood and brass, etched glass and art of the old ships.

  5. Judy G.R November 13, 2021 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I was on the Maiden voyage ss. Rotterdam
    My parents and sister and I had an amazing time.
    I have souvenirs of that voyage: menus ,autographs etc and of many many other Holland American Ships
    I traveled alone at age 13 on the Nieuw Amsterdam and stayed with my parent’s friend ,the Chief Steward’s family (Reitbergen – spelling ?)
    My father and mother would win the fancy hat contest multiple times and I have the silver cups and dolls and sailor hat fir those voyages. All in the time of the hay day of transatlantic crossings. I hope to sail with the Nieuw Amsterdam and Rotterdam again as on my now bucket list.

  6. Philips October 17, 2021 at 5:36 am - Reply


  7. Kees van der Kooy September 7, 2021 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Passagier op de Rotterdam V in 1961, Rotterdam VI in 2013 en kijken uit naar de cruise op de Rotterdam VII vertrek uit Amsterdam op 20 oktober.

  8. Gail Farrall July 24, 2021 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    I am wondering if Captain Albert will be on the inaugural cruise of Rotterdam VII. Heard him speak on the Nieuw Statendam and he had a packed theatre.

  9. Lisa July 22, 2021 at 7:09 am - Reply

    Great History of Rotterdam..But, when is the official launch of the latest Rotterdam?

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