Peter Knego’s latest Sea Treks/Decked! continues in Rotterdam with a historic Holland America Line “immersion” that includes stays at the Hotel New York and the SS ROTTERDAM prior to embarking the brand new MV KONINGSDAM for a gala dedication by Holland’s Queen Maxima and a short inaugural cruise to Amsterdam.

Holland America Line

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

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Hotel New York.

What better place to stay prior to the arrival and christening of Holland America Line’s brand new KONINGSDAM, than Rotterdam’s historic Hotel New York? The Art Nouveau/Gothic, copper roof-topped brick building with twin turrets was built in or around 1901 as the Holland America Line offices in the Wilhelminakade waterfront area named for the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina.

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Hotel New York lobby.

Although the emigrant hotel and pier complex that were once the starting point for Holland America Line’s transatlantic crossings have long since been demolished, the surviving building was given protected status in 1990 and converted into the Hotel New York, which opened its doors in 1993..

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Hotel New York restaurant.

The lobby and ground floor restaurant are embellished with vintage Holland America Line posters, imagery and models, including several of the glorious NIEUW AMSTERDAM of 1936, which closed HAL’s transatlantic service with her final sailing from the Wilhelminakade in 1971. She was sadly scrapped three years later but lives on in the company’s logo.

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Grand Staircase, Hotel New York.

My spacious room with a view of the cruise terminal was up two floors, then down a small staircase to what would be called a “tween deck area”, were it on a ship.

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Hotel New York, Room 215.

As it turned out, just my heavy luggage would have the pleasure of calling room 215 home for the night. I would be heading to the only “better” place in all of Rotterdam to stay…

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SS ROTTERDAM bow view.

Thanks to the construction of a new bridge linking the Wilhelminakade with the former red light Katrendrecht district, it is a mere ten minute walk from the Hotel New York to the glorious SS ROTTERDAM, the 1959-built former flagship of Holland America Line. Joined by friends and fellow ROTTERDAM enthusiasts Tom Cassidy and Dan Lotten (AKA “Rotterdan”), I paused to admire the beautifully restored, powerful form of the storied liner before embarking via a custom gangway that delivered us to her Main Deck lobby.

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ROTTER Dan checks in.

Our rooms weren’t ready but Dan had brought along an original deck plan to show the receptionist which suite he had requested at the time of booking.

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As it turned out, Dan would get exactly what he asked for, a starboard, ocean-facing suite with a large living room sporting original furnishings (except for a marble cocktail table added in one of the ship’s latter day HAL refits) and a beautiful marquetry panel. All of the ROTTERDAM’s current accommodation was rebuilt from scratch, except for the Suites and Executive Suites (former officers‘ cabins), which retain some of their original layouts and features.

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SS ROTTERDAM former first class Ambassador Lounge, facing forward from starboard.

Even hotel guests have to purchase tour tickets to wander the upper decks and visit the public rooms, most of which look just as splendid as they did when the ship was in service. Although I’ve covered the ROTTERDAM here in recent months, I’ll post more views of the ship in a separate update since there have been a few nips and tucks since my last visit.

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SS ROTTERDAM aft Promenade Deck, facing forward.

It was so nice to see the aft Lido area in its full regalia after a long restoration of the teak decking.

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Just as the sun broke through Rotterdam’s “May Gray”, I spotted the KONINGSDAM on her way up the River Maas.

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Although it somewhat diminished the majesty of her maiden arrival, the massive KONINGSDAM spun around in the turning basin and slowly backed her way upriver. I raced her to a point where I could get an up close view of her passing by.

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MV KONINGSDAM backs into Rotterdam.

A tugboat shot plumes of water into the air as the giant new HAL cruise ship encroached, exchanging whistle salutes with the SS ROTTERDAM in the process.

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Local excursion craft circled the ship, which literally dwarfed the waterfront.

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MV KONINGSDAM off the Wilhelminakade.

Finally, the KONINGSDAM had positioned herself off the Wilhelminakade, allowing me the chance to get a few shots before I raced off to meet friends for our scheduled visit to yet another impressive newbuild cruise ship of 2016.

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MV AIDA PRIMA at Rotterdam.

Aida Cruises’ freshly delivered 125,572-gt, 3,300-passenger AIDA PRIMA was berthed far off in Rotterdam harbor, her imposing presence trumped by the KONINGSDAM, which would have the cruise terminal all to herself for the next 24 hours. Marketed solely to German clientele, the AIDA PRIMA is a fascinating ship with some very unique features (including a vertical bow). We would spend about three hours on board but even that was not enough time to capture all of her public spaces. She, too, will be covered in a separate feature…

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Speeding past the KONINGSDAM at the Rotterdam cruise terminal.
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Taxiing to the ROTTERDAM.
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Still the spotless queen.

Back at the Hotel New York, I joined Tom Cassidy on a water taxi (only 5 Euros) ride to the SS ROTTERDAM, to meet up for dinner in the Club Room with Hans Hoffman, the ROTTERDAM’s former chief officer, his wife Monique and “Rotterdan” Lotten.

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Dionysos of the Gobbeleins.

We selected a table near the Dionysos tapestry, one of four designed for the Tourist Class Smoking Room by the late Giselle van Waterschoort van der Gracht. When the originals “disappeared” during the ship’s long layup last decade, the artist supplied her original sketches and supervised newly woven replacements at the ripe old age of 98.

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SS ROTTERDAM Executive Suite 6001.

Alas, by the time our leisurely dinner got underway, the jet lag and two nights’ of no sleep had done me in. I retired to Executive Suite 6001, which was carved from officers’ quarters on forward Sun Deck. In the living room, there were original furnishings and a painting by Toon Koster.

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SS ROTTERDAM Executive Suite 6001 bedroom.

And in the bedroom, a large flatscreen television and a brass window that opened up with a view over the ROTTERDAM’s long, glorious bow…

Friday, May 20, 2016

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SS ROTTERDAM Grand Ballroom, facing starboard from Boat Deck.

With less than seven hours’ worth of sleep in three days, I forced myself up early enough for a quick walk through the ship that had carried me on no less than six epic voyages and served as the backdrop to some of my fondest sea-going memories. That she still exists, let alone in her home port and so beautifully restored and cared for, is almost too good to be true. I wrapped up my self-guided tour in what is quite possibly the most beautiful space afloat and certainly one of the finest ocean liner public rooms of all time, the Grand Ballroom, nee Ritz Carlton.

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KONINGSDAM Naming Ceremony ticket.

It was cold and misty as I retraced my steps to the Hotel New York and retrieved my luggage, which was sent off to the KONINGSDAM. After a very quick breakfast, I boarded the newest and largest ever Holland America Line ship and made a strategic decision to not attend the naming ceremony in the World Stage once I was told photos would not be allowed during the event.

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Maxima’s blur.

Instead, I set up my cameras in Billboard Live, knowing that the ship’s royal godmother, Queen Maxima, would be passing through on her way to the World Stage. No one stopped me from taking a very quick, blurred image of the queen and her entourage as they marched through. I learned later that typical Dutch royal protocol is to state but not enforce the “no photos” rule.

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Gathered for the ceremonies in the Queen’s Lounge.

From there, I joined HAL guests in the Queen’s Lounge where there was plenty of champagne for all to enjoy while the ceremonies were broadcast on a huge LED screen.

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Maxima pours champagne over the bell.

I watched the screen as Queen Maxima blessed the ship’s bell in the Lido area, then headed down to the dock to witness the actual bottle break as the speeches and ceremony in the World Stage were shown pierside for the hundreds of spectators gathered underneath the KONINGSDAM’s bow.

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The bottle swings.

The bottle was so far away and with the dark gray skies and misty backdrop, my photo vantage was less than optimal when it finally did shatter against the hull.

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Maxima descends.

However, I was in a good place to catch a few final glimpses of the queen as she was escorted down from the gangway.

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One final pose for the press.

She stopped and posed for the press corps before being led into her car.

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Waving off.

As the procession sped away, the queen waved to the crowd. The ceremony was officially finished.

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MV KONINGSDAM Balcony Stateroom 11056, facing port.

Once back on board, I made my way up to my home for the next two nights, Veranda Stateroom 11056.

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MV KONINGSDAM Balcony Stateroom 11052 balcony.
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“I can see the ROTTERDAM from my veranda!”

Although there was not enough time to fully enjoy it, I did manage to step out onto the balcony for its bird’s eye view of Rotterdam and the great ship bearing its name.

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Dedicated in the Dining Room.

From there, it was off to Adam Tihany’s masterful Dining Room for the dedication luncheon. Paired with a 2013 Hayman Hill Chardonnay and a 2013 Spellbound Petite Sirah, the courses included: a Shrimp Crab Orange and Avocado starter and a main course choice of Black Olive Crusted Lamb Rack, DIlled Roasted Sea Bass or a Baked Vegetable Puff Pastry Torte. For dessert, there was a Vanilla and Lime Cheesecake followed by a chocolate longship filled with nougats and petits fours.

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Signatures of excellence.

After lunch, I took a moment to sign one of the panels by the pool, then headed to the gym for an invigorating workout before boat drill.

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Tamarind Dedication menu.

An early dinner with a fixed menu was provided in Tamarind, my favorite specialty restaurant in the entire HAL fleet.

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As KONINGSDAM cast her lines and began her seaward journey along the River Maas, I headed out to the bow to enjoy the spectacle.

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Wilhelminakade send-off.

Crowds had gathered everywhere along the river banks, including the Wilhelminakade, to see us off.

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Revelers gathered on the ROTTERDAM.

Before long, we were exchanging whistle salutes with the Grand Dame, waving to the revelers on her stern.

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It was hard to not get a little misty eyed as HAL’s newest and biggest paid tribute to her glorious predecessor.

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Excursion steamer escort.

Of the large and small craft escorting us out, the most interesting and charming was DE MAJESTEIT, a 1926-built paddle steamer that offers expedition cruises and charters in and around Rotterdam

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Fireworks off Hoek Van Holland.

It was twilight by the time KONINGSDAM reached the Hoek, where she was sent off with a fireworks grand finale before heading into the North Sea.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

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Reflections of Rijks.

After a late sleep in and a chance to finally relax in the comfort of the KONINGSDAM, I filed a story and then joined the media group for a canal tour and dinner in the Stedjelijk in Museumplein. It was a short walk from there to the Rijksmuseum, where HAL had arranged for a gala drinks and dessert event.

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The Grand Hall at the Rijksmuseum.

Holland’s most celebrated museum was the exclusive domain of several hundred KONINGSDAM guests.

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Rijksmuseum server.

Statuesque servers offered up wine, drinks and a variety of sweets.

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Selfies with Nightwatch.

The hall with the greatest buzz, of course, was the one with Rembrandt’s masterpiece, “Nightwatch”.

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MV KONINGSDAM at Amsterdam night.

I walked back to the ship with friends, and managed to get lost in Amsterdam’s network of cobblestones and canals before finally reaching the ship moments before a downpour. Once aboard, there was just enough time to pack and call it a night.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Neptune Suites

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MV KONINGSDAM Neptune Suite 7082 bedroom to sitting area.

After breakfast and before disembarking, I checked on Deck 7 to see if any of the suites were available to photograph. Although the 1,290-square-foot Pinnacle Suite was occupied, one of the forty five 465-square-foot Neptune Suites was open for inspection.

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MV KONINGSDAM Neptune Suite 7082 sitting area to bedroom.

Neptune Suites have bedrooms that are directly across from the sitting areas.

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MV KONINGSDAM Neptune Suite 7082 WC.

Their bathrooms can accessed via the bedrooms and feature large baths with Jacuzzi tubs.

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MV KONINGSDAM Neptune Suite 7082 powder room.

A powder room off the main entry hall can be opened up onto the large bathroom or kept separate for guests’ use.

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MV KONINGSDAM Neptune Suite 7082 balcony.

Neptune Suites have especially large balconies.

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MV KONINGSDAM Neptune Suite 7082 entry.

A large wardrobe lines the entryway to the Neptune Suites.

Signature Suites

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MV KONINGSDAM Signature Suite 7093 bedroom.

Fourteen Signature Suites measure between 393- and 400-square-feet.

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MV KONINGSDAM Signature Suite 7093 sitting area to bedroom.
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MV KONINGSDAM Signature Suite sitting area.

Signature Suites have a separate wardrobe and sitting area.

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MV KONINGSDAM Signature Suite 7093 bathroom.

Signature Suites also have bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs.

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MV KONINGSDAM suite salts.

HAL even provides special bath salts for suite guests.

Veranda Spa Cabins

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MV KONINGSDAM Veranda Spa Cabin 10034.

On the way back to get my luggage, I visited one of thirty eight Veranda Spa Cabins, which shared the same layout and basic features as my 228-square-foot Veranda Cabin, albeit with a different color scheme and some added spa amenities.

Interior Spa Cabins

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MV KONINGSDAM Interior 11054.

There are also eleven Interior Spa Cabins measuring 143- and 225-square-feet.

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Amsterdam Museum of Modern Art.
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On the Gogh.

And so my fling with Holland America Line’s sparkling new KONINGSDAM came to its end as I rolled my luggage off the gangway and stepped into rainy Amsterdam. I would spend the rest of the day in the Museumplein exploring the Modern Art Museum and the Van Gogh Museum before embarking on my next venture…

End of KONINGSDAM Treks/Decked! series

Special thanks: Erik Elvejord, Jerrol Golden, Jocelyn Wu

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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