International Call Sign: Papa-Hotel-Echo-Golf
The fifth SS Rotterdam, also known as "The Grande Dame", is a former ocean liner and cruise ship, and has been a hotel ship in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, since 2010. She was launched by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands in a gala ceremony on 13 September 1958, and was completed the following summer. The Rotterdam was the last great Dutch "ship of state", employing the finest artisans from the Netherlands in her construction and fitting out process. Her career spanned forty-one years. She sailed from 1959 until her final retirement in September 2000.
Originally she was conceived as a running mate to the popular Nieuw Amsterdam launched in 1937, but work was put on hold at the outbreak of World War II in Europe. When economic conditions once again became favorable for completion of the new ship in early 1954, the beginning of the end of ocean liners as basic transport was visible on the horizon. The designers took this in mind and created a groundbreaking vessel, a two class, horizontally divided ship with movable partitions and a unique double staircase allowing for easy conversion to cruising. The christening and launch on September 13, 1958 by Queen Juliana was a huge crowd puller, with tens of thousands on both banks of the river. Rotterdam's machinery was shifted aft, to the now-traditional two thirds aft position, and in lieu of a funnel twin uptake pipes were fitted. To provide balance, a large deckhouse was built atop the superstructure in the midships position of a typical funnel. While very controversial at the time, her appearance became groundbreaking, and her unique design features can be found on cruise ships today.
Her sea trials and handing over to Holland America Line took place on July 20, 1959, just a few months before her maiden crossing of the Atlantic. On her maiden voyage she carried the then Crown Princess of the Netherlands to New York. As more and more transatlantic liners started to disappear due to the popularity of plane services, the Rotterdam was retired from transatlantic service permanently in 1969, and afterwards she received a small refit for permanent cruising and began her new life as a full time cruise ship. The Rotterdam also became a one class ship after this refit. She became increasingly popular throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, with mostly American and Australian passengers. Another refit in 1977 saw her passenger capacity decreased from 1,499 to 1144. By the 1980s the ship had settled into a routine of winters in the Caribbean and summers in Alaska, with the occasional (and very popular) world cruise. When Carnival Cruise Lines took over Holland America Line in 1989 she remained in service and continued to until 1997, when Carnival announced, much to the dismay of the ship's loyal fans, that to upgrade her to meet the new 1997 SOLAS regulations would cost 40 million dollars. Carnival had been opting to retire what they had supposedly called the "old ship." A replacement, the sixth Rotterdam, was ordered from Fincantieri shipyards in Italy. A gala finale cruise ended her final season on September 30, 1997.
She was sold to Premier Cruises and renamed SS Rembrandt. Controversially Premier was able to refit the Rembrandt for new safety regulations as well as many other things for half of what Carnival had predicted. She sailed for Premier along with the ex ocean liners Oceanic, Eugenio C and Transvaal Castle, all now named Big Red Boat I, II and III. She continued to serve as a fairly popular cruise ship out of Port Canaveral, Florida until September 13, 2000, when Premier Cruises shut down. It was midnight when this was made official and the captain of the Rembrandt was ordered to dock in Halifax, Nova Scotia and offload all passengers. She was subsequently placed under arrest by the Halifax Sheriff's department until the next morning, then days later she sailed to be laid up in Freeport, Bahamas.
On July 12, 2004, she arrived at Gibraltar for asbestos encapsulation and removal performed by the Cuddy Group of the UK. She next visited Cadiz where her hull was repainted its original Holland America grey, and then moved on to Poland and Germany for final restoration. She returned to the city of Rotterdam on August 8, 2008. She opened to the public on February 15, 2010 as a combination museum/hotel and school for vocational training. On 12 June 2013, she was sold to WestCord Hotels, which also owns the Hotel New York located in the former Holland America Line headquarters building in Rotterdam.