SS Rotterdam – Cruise Hotel

 August, 2010


Ship History

The SS Rotterdam is the legendary former flagship of the Holland America Line. She entered service on 3 September, 1959. She was 38,645 gross Tonnes. In 2008, after 49 years service, she was withdrawn. However rather than be scrapped, she underwent an extensive, but ‘sensitive’ renovation. In February 201, she opened to the public as a hotel.

Hotel Review

The renovation of the SS Rotterdam is excellent, I congratulate all those involved.  It is possible to get a reasonable sized cabin with double bed, with port holes, overlooking the river Maas for no more than the cost of a ‘bland’ budget hotel  – how great is that?

Our cabin had 1950’s style furniture and fixtures although the bathroom was clean and modern, rather than original (just as well). The cabin had a safe, high-tech tea/coffee makes, reasonable cupboard space, two beds pushed together to form a double and two tables and chairs.  The room appeared clean although when I moved the table a little I did notice a ring of dust on the carpet. I did not dare look under the bed.

The cabin had modern air conditioning (the two port holes do not open) but it was rather unpredictable. The room was very warm so I had the air-con on full ‘cooling’ output.  In the middle of the night my wife and I awoke in a pool of sweat to find the air-con was blowing out warm air.  I turned the dial to a hotter temperature and cold air started to come out – go figure.

Ritz Carlton (Grand Ballroom)

We paid to do the full ‘tour’ (self-guided with audio player).  We were able to see most of the public rooms, the bridge and engine rooms etc. which was excellent. However there were some rooms off-limits although they appeared to be unused.  We were lucky to be able to see the Grand Ballroom (Ritz Carlton) and the Theatre which are often closed for conference use. These two rooms are part of the highlights of the ships design.  If these were unavailable to see, given the fact that I had travelled from London especially, I would have been ‘gutted’.

Theatre, lower level (with new flexible seating)

One of two original dining rooms

I fully appreciate that private functions, such as conferences and meetings generate important income for the hotel.  However there is a definite tension between the Hotel services, including tours and the conference operations of the ship. Even of an evening it is not possible to walk around all of the decks of the ship with coming across ‘no entry’ barriers, closing many sections of the deck off and various public rooms, which do not always appear to be being used for anything. This is a shame.


There are two places to dine of an evening The Lido and Club Room.  The ship is in the middle of nowhere, so they have a captive audience.  Both dining rooms were relatively busy on both nights that I was aboard, which were a Sunday and Monday. The ship certainly had more atmosphere on-board of an evening than the Queen Mary Hotel (Long Beach) and is in much better repair, although Rotterdam is so much younger of course.

The Lido has been converted to be a modern (trendy) informal dining area, with an open Kitchen. It does not match the character of a 1950’s Ocean Liner at all, but they obviously want to cater to a wider audience than just maritime history buffs.  The menu prices are pretty high which raises ones expectations. The menu is not very extensive and the food was not outstanding either, although not bad. The service could be very slow. One evening we were seated and waited 20 minutes for a menu. Once seated the staff appeared to just ignore us.  I noticed that a staff member walked in after us with his partner and was enjoying his first course before we had even got our menu and knife and forks.  I would recommend that guests take a ten minute water-taxi ride to the restaurant of the Hotel New York. The prices are similar but the choice, quality of food and service are so much better.

The Club room was very attractive and a more formal room. However the cost appeared to be pretty high indeed, so I did not get to find out if the quality and service matched the price.

The Breakfast buffet served in the Lido was not too bad, but hardly worth 17.50 Euros per person.

Indoor Pool – low down in the hull of the ship

The Ocean Bar was very nice, quite intimate, and renovated from an original bar. It was shut on Monday evening much to my disappointment. It’s probably shut because no one uses it on a Monday and because it is shut, no one can! In fact I saw several couples trying to gain entry.

The ship had a shop which had a good collection of nautical items including many maritime history books, however on some days it is closed all morning which I found very inconvenient on a short stay.

Rotterdam Conclusion

It’s difficult to give this unusual operation a meaningful star rating.

For the chance to stay on-board and tour a wonderful historic ship, I’d give her five stars.  In terms of mediocre food, some poor service, locked public rooms and cordoned-off decks, I’d give two stars. Ships cabins, especially a 1959 ship, are of course rarely as large as ‘regular’ hotel rooms.

The Hotel NY

While in Rotterdam I also stayed in the Hotel New York which is just a five minute water-taxi ride form the SS Rotterdam.

The Hotel NY is the former offices of the Holland America Cruise Line (HAL).  It is steeped in nautical history and quite quirky.  It’s location is a little out of the way from the city centre, but is overlooking the river Maas. It is within very easy walking distance of the cruise terminal.

The reception staff were excellent, efficient and friendly all speaking excellent English. There is a little book shop selling many nautical books etc.

It’s not a cheap hotel. Many of the rooms are unique in shape.  Those with sea views cost more.  There are two round towers on the roof, each being a room.

The room which I stayed in was the cheapest grade (although not exactly cheap).  The room was spacious and had the highest ceiling I have ever seen in a hotel.  The bathroom was large with a bath/shower combo, the bed was two single beds put together but very comfortable.  There was a choice of natural and synthetic pillows.  The room had very responsive air-conditioning. The wardroom was actually a metal-locker (office/locker-room  style) but a littler small is you do not travel lightly.  There was a safe, but no mini-bar or fridge. The windows were large and could be opened to allow fresh-air in (rare these days).  The biggest disappointment for a Brit was there was no tea and coffee making facilities.  There was 24 hour rooms service, but it carried a fee of 4.50 Euros.

The Hotel restaurant is very large, quite noisy and very atmospheric. It always seems to be busy – from 7.00am often until 1.00am, which is a good sign.  I had three evening meals there. Once again the restaurant/bar is another quirky room, with lots of ship memorabilia.  The food was very good, with seafood being a speciality, the service was very friendly (English was not a problem) but not always very fast, yet adequate.  It was not cheap, although nothing in Rotterdam seemed to be cheap.

The buffet Breakfast at 17.50 Euro was a little disappointing and overpriced. I’d recommend a nearby coffee shop instead.

It is possible to take a water taxi to various locations from the Hotel, including the SS Rotterdam (ship hotel), alternatively there is a metro-station ten minutes walk away. Within two or three stops you are in the city centre. Rotterdam City Centre is only a few stops more.

Hotel NY Conclusion

It’s difficult to give this unusual hotel a meaningful rating. For atmosphere and quirkiness and the evening meals, I give it a five stars. The high room cost, poor breakfast, remote location* and lack of tea-making  facilities, brings it down a little, in my opinion.  Nevertheless I’d recommend it to nautical fans.

Malcolm Oliver

(*The location of course was necessitated by it being an ex-HAL office and being near the cruise terminal)

Below: Hotel New York: Former HAL Head Office

4 Responses to “SS Rotterdam – Cruise Hotel”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    “SS Rotterdam – Cruise Hotel” Wansbrough Says: September 28, 2010 at 20:58. I would say this pretty much summed up our stay on her too.

  2. David Abbott Says:

    I came to the UK on this ship from the USA in 1966, aged 6. Wow, it brings back a few – very fleeting now – memories of that trip! Thanks for the pics – I will have to try and go to see it once more!

  3. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Hi Mike, I must say that overall I enjoyed the experience.

  4. Wansbrough Says:

    I would say this pretty much summed up our stay on her too.
    We were very much taken with the old prints dotted all over.
    In total agreement about the speed of service in the Lido. We were seated and ordered within 30 minutes but waited a further 45 minutes for the food to arrive. When it did it was very nice but nothing to do somersaults about.
    On a positive note, the bed in our cabin was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept on.

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