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Rotterdam (VI)

The sixth ship named Rotterdam  for Holland America Line as seen docked at Eidfjord in Norway at the 8th of june 2015.

At the middle of the 1990's, the Holland America Line was a fast growing company after it had been bought by the Carnival Corporation in the beginning of 1989. Carnival had ordered a class of four splendid, modern ships that were designed in the style where the company was known for. Sophisticated, classic interiours that were recalling the oceanliner service that the company was so proud of. This of course was the S-class and as it should be, the Dutch firm VFD Architects was responsible for all interiour spaces so they were truly built to a Dutch design, something where the companies passengers were used to. It was also expected that the companies most long-serving ship, the great Rotterdam that had been built in 1958 as the largest oceanliner ever constructed for the HAL and of course the largest liner built in The Netherlands, wasn't going to be part of the fleet for long anymore. Still in good condition but not completely up to the newest safety regulations and unable to furfill her extensive cruises for the company, the announcement that a new ship would be built under the name of Rotterdam and would start her services for the company at the end of 1997 was not a real surprise. The new ship would be very much like the S-class of ships, but as a nice extra touch she would recieve twin funnels just like the much loved oldie. It was also thought that this new Rotterdam would be the only ship built with this design, because it was a Holland America Line tradition that none of the five former Rotterdam's had sisterships.The order for the new ship was placed at the 14th of january of 1995, almost exacty two years before the anouncement came that the fifth Rotterdam would be taken out of service. 

Again at Eidfjord, Rotterdam shows her backside. Norway is frequently visited by the ship now she has Rotterdam as her homeport year-round. In winter, she sails long cruises towards South America, in summer she regularly swiches between cruises to Norway, the Baltic and western Europe.

The new ship was the largest one within the fleet of Holland America Line when she was launched at the 21st of december 1996. As her sisters in the S-class, her interiour spaces were very classical and designed by VFD also. The ship had been built at the Fincantieri Navali Italiani wharf at Monfalcone, Italy as yardnumber 5980 and measured 59.642 tons. She could accomodate a maximum of 1708 passengers, on a two-per-cabin basis, the number is 1316. Some 644 crewmembers as also present. Because a new law made it possible for the ship to be registered in The Netherlands, she was registered in Rotterdam, flying the Dutch flag. She has a lenght of 237,95 meters, a width of 32,25 meter and a draft of 7,80 meters. During building, and before the announcement was made that the 'old' Rotterdam would be taken out of service by september 1997, the ship was nicknamed 'Fastdam', because she was able to sail at 25 knots, faster then the normal speed sailed by cruiseships around the world. The ship had to be able to sail at this speed for future transatlantic crossings and also for the yearly worldcruise, untill then undertaken by the ship she followed in name. To reach the speed, the hull of the new Rotterdam was changed from the hulldesign of the S-class by broadening and lenghtening the hull, as well as increasing the beam to panamax measures so it would give more stability when sailing at higher speeds. Also the draught of the ship was extended to 7,8 meters (0,3 meters more then the S-class) for extra fuel, water and provisions. As on the old Dutch liners Oranje and Willem Ruys from the 1930's, Rotterdam's hull is sloping inwards up untill the Promenade Deck (4). From there to the upper decks, design is the same as the S-class, but lower down it is totally different. The twin funnels aboard are of course also a distinctive change from the S-class and although it is of course mostly a remembrance to the former Rotterdam, the twin funnels also have a technical reason. Because of the taller decks aboard Rotterdam, the design as it was build causes less smut and smoke on the aft decks. On the S-class, the decks behind the funnel are lower, so this problem is not there.

Rotterdam as seen from, well, Rotterdam at Rotterdam during her departure from the port at the 21st of june 2014. Someone from Rotterdam would love this sentence.

At the 7th of november 1997, the ship was delivered to the company and started her first cruise from the Catalonian port of Barcelona at the 11th of that month. Originally, it had been planned to start her first cruise at the 6th of october of that year, but due to labourshortage at the wharf this could not be met. The first cruise was delayed untill the 18th of october and later again untill te 30th of october, but at last departed thus at the 11th of november, a full month late. Passengers who had booked the delayed maiden voyage were recieving a 25% discount on a future cruise with the Rotterdam.

She was officially named at the port of Fort Lauderdale in Florida at the 9th of december by Princess Margriet, the godmother of the Dutch merchant navy. Like the former Rotterdam, she was sailing worldwide cruises, as well as a world voyage every winter. From the beginning of her carreer, she was the flagship of the company, from the year 2000 onwards she had to split the flagship title with the Amsterdamthat was built in the same way as Rotterdam, sporting the twin funnels. Two other ships were also built in the same class, the Volendam and Zaandam, both built in 1999. As flagship, the Rotterdam is often called the 'Flagship of Excellence', after the line's slogan 'A Tradition of Excellence'. 

When the newest Holland America Line ship Oosterdam was named at the historic quayside at the 29th of july 2003, also Rotterdam was present. The bottle of champagne that was released onto the bow of the Oosterdam, came from a pole that was attatched to the bridge of the Rotterdam. It was the first time in more then 30 years that two ships of the company were berthed together in the homeport and it was a sight that is still treasured by everyone in The Netherlands that is interested in passengershipping.

In 2004, the ship was chartered as a housing vessel for the Olympic Games at Athens, Greece during august and september. One year later, the ship was upgraded to the companies new 'Signature Of Excellence' standards, so she was now getting more facilities for children as well as a culinary arts center, where cookinglessons are given. Speaking of cooking, Rotterdam was used as the venue for a Dutch TV-show called 'Herrie aan de Horizon' (Madness at the Horizon) starring chef Herman de Blijker in 2008. In The Netherlands, he owns several restaurants of which one was awarded with a michelin-star between 1997 and 2002. From 2012 onwards, the Zwolle-based restaurant  De Librije was getting connected to the ship, giving the cuisine the standards set by this restaurant. That is quite a standard, the restaurant was awarded with three michelin-stars and was named the 33rd best restaurant in the world by the English Restaurant Magazine in that same year.

From the summer of 2011 onwards, the Rotterdam returned to the port of Rotterdam where she was stationed year-round ever since. It was the first time since Holland America Line left the city in 1971 that a ship of the company was truly sailing in the Dutch market. Nex to that, there is no other line in the world or no other port in the world that can say it still has a cruiseliner under the same name as that of the town sailing yearround from its quays when this ship has also the same port as her homeport printed on her stern. In this way, there is a very vivid connection to the former days of Holland America Line in the age of the oceanliner. When you want to have a look inside, this is very cheap as you can easily navigate to the next page, where her interiours are shown pictured during a cruise from the 6th of june untill the 13th of june 2015.

 

Rotterdam seen sailing te Northsea Canal from Amsterdam at the 25th of august of 2002, still before her update and so in her original form.

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