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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

HAL's "Grand Dame" Returns Home At Last

Buzz may be building as Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 nears her final sail date (November 11), but another beloved old ship was the focus of attention this week in Rotterdam. Holland America's Rotterdam V, its one-time flagship, pulled into Rotterdam for good; there, after years of planning, the ship will be permanently docked and serve as a floating hotel.

SS Rotterdam sailed for Holland America for 39 years. The 38,645-ton ship, christened nearly 50 years ago by the Netherlands' Queen Juliana, was a trans-Atlantic liner and carried 400 first-class passengers -- and 1,055 in tourist class. Moving at brisk speed of 23.5 knots, Rotterdam V cruised around the world, many times.

In 1969, the vessel was massively refurbished as a cruise ship -- since by then, due to the advent of jet travel, ocean liners had fallen out of favor. Now carrying 1,114 passengers, Rotterdam remained Holland America's flagship until 1997, when it was sold to the now-defunct, budget-oriented Premier Cruises. There the ship was renamed SS Rembrandt. Rotterdam V has, since that line's collapse in 2000, been basically idle.

Rotterdam V was replaced at Holland America by Rotterdam VI (now known simply as Rotterdam); measuring 62,000 tons and carrying 1,316, the ship is nearly twice the size of its predecessor.

This week's coming home at Rotterdam was a major victory for Rotterdam V aficionados. Throughout this decade, rumors ran rampant about efforts to save the ship by transforming it into a floating hotel -- rather than consigning it to the cruise ship version of a scrap heap.

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