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Prelude: June 27 — 28, 2008

I’m in Southampton at the glamorous Ibis Hotel, preparing for the week ahead on board Holland America Line’s spanking new MV EURODAM, the first of the “Signature” series of vessels (an enhanced “Vista class) to be completed by the Marghera, Italy-based shipyard of Fincantieri.

I arrived yesterday a bit bleary from the overnight flight to Heathrow from Los Angeles and a crankily cramped coach ride from the grimness of LHR to Southampton.


Tea with Daphne.

The gloomy day immediately brightened when lovely, spry Daphne Cox (an avid MaritimeMatters reader — for good reason) came to visit me for tea at a restaurant near the Ibis. It was my first meeting with the darling lady, mother to MaritimeMatter’s “founding father”, Martin Cox.


A carpark first glance: MV EURODAM.

Although tempted to get some rest, I decided a walk to Mayflower Park was more pressing, so donned some gear and strolled down the waterfront to see what was going on in the harbor I dreamt of as a teen age liner buff in the 70s. My first glance of EURODAM was from behind a casino car park, where her vertical superstructure towered well above the immediate surroundings. The familiar crane-scape spanned from her twin funneled frame down to the equally girthsome NORWEGIAN JADE (subject of a recent blog) at the Mayflower terminus.


EUROStern.

Once in the park, there was a gaggle of photographers, a few of whom witnessed the arrival of EURODAM that morning. Apparently, the new ship entered Southampton with no fanfare, although I assured those in earshot that much fanfare was to come, albeit probably not in the Solent.


NORWEGIAN JADE and EURODAM at Southampton.


NORWEGIAN JADE departs.

NORWEGIAN JADE cast her lines at 5:00 and podded away from the concrete quayside with the ease of a hovering spaceship, then sailed forward past EURODAM to make one of the slowest, seemingly tenuous turnarounds I have ever witnessed, to finally pod past the Hythe Ferry Terminal some forty minutes later. On the way, the NORWEGIAN JADE saluted the EURODAM but did not receive a reply (thanks, Patsy!).


Southampton’s Maritime Museum.

I walked past the shuttered Maritime Museum (it closed at 4:00), then into a Boots for a packaged sandwich and some crisps before heading back to my room for a very long night of rest.

June 28, 2008


Welcome at Southampton.


Cruise documents.


Southampton balloons.

It was a short cab ride from the Ibis to the terminal where EURODAM awaited. Southampton was having a rather busy day with RCI’s INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS at the Mayflower terminal behind EURODAM, Princess’ SEA PRINCESS up river and her sister, P&O;’s OCEANA (ex OCEAN PRINCESS) downriver at the Eastern Docks.

Beyond a canopy of blue and white balloons, hundreds of travel agents mulled about, awaiting their call to board the ship. Once past the gangway, I was led by a friendly crew member to my Deluxe Verandah Stateroom, 8177, at the very stern of the ship on Deck 8/Navigation Deck.


Cabin 8177, facing aft.

On EUR
ODAM, the overall look of the staterooms represents a departure from the tried and true floral motifs and polychromatic, saturated color schemes by longstanding HAL architect and designer, Frans Dingemans of Utrecht-based VFD. Seattle-based design firm NB is responsible for the pleasing, contemporary look, featuring walnut veneered surfaces, beige and chocolate soft fittings and an occasional splash of brightness, in the case of my 200 square foot cabin, an orange chair and a magenta floral arrangement.


Cabin 8177 balcony.

8177’s 54 square foot balcony featured two chairs, an ottoman and a cocktail table with plenty of room to spare.


From EURODAM’s Cabin 8177 balcony at Southampton.

I had a nice view of INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS and, further east, the OCEANA.


Elemis amenities.

The bathroom had a small tub and shower combo with an unmarked faucet control that was so simple, it took nearly twenty minutes for me to figure out (turn on the shower or bath by rotating the one on the left and adjust the temperature with the knob on the right). A nice plus in all HAL cabins are the Elemis toiletries (bath gel, shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer), which if not completely used by the guest are collected and given to charity at the end of the cruise.

I spent all morning and most of the afternoon documenting EURODAM, covering most of her length and towering height. A complete ship tour can be found in the accompanying EURODAM Decked! blog.

While a good deal of the vessel seemed familiar from the earlier Vista series (ZUIDERDAM, OOSTERDAM, WESTERDAM, and NOORDAM), it was nice to see some dynamic new spaces (Silk Den, Tamarind Restaurant, the Sanctuary, Explorations Cafe) and established venues (The Crow’s Nest, the Lido, Slices, the midships pool) with an entirely new look, courtesy of Norwegian architects Yran and Storbraaten. I did manage to squeeze in a slightly gluttonous bite in the Lido (huge salad, basmati rice with fresh fish, spaghetti marinara, and the obligatory cookies)


Marchwood Incinerator, Southampton

At 4:00 PM, EURODAM was cleared to sail. From the vantage of my verandah, and, later, the Promenade Deck, the conditions were perfect with clusters of hovering cumulus in an otherwise brilliant blue sky. Captain Jeroen van Donselaar is one of the most whistle-happy masters I have had the pleasure of sailing with, giving my video camera ample opportunity to capture the ship’s throaty blasts as she maneuvered up the Solent, past the relatively diminutive 77,000 gt SEA PRINCESS to the turning basin, swinging her stern around by the domed Marchwood Incinerator (where the cruise ship trash is doomed — thanks to Patricia Dempsey for the info on that!) and an anchored armada of sailboats.


INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS at Southampton.


SS SHIELDHALL at Southampton.


P&O;’s MV OCEANA (ex OCEAN PRINCESS) at Southampton.


Red Funnel ferry returneth.


Leaving Southampton behind.

With just over 300 pre-“Prelude Cruise” guests on board, EURODAM slid silently past RCI’s mammoth INDEPENDENCE OF THE SEAS and throngs of ship spotters in Mayflower Park, central Southampton, the Hythe Ferry terminal, the preserved SS SHIELDHALL, P&O;’s OCEANA, and, later, off Portsmouth, an incoming Red Funnel ferry from the Isle of Wight.


Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse presents EURODAM.

Two press conferences preempted sightseeing just as we entered the channel between Portsmouth and the Isle Of Wight. I first joined the media group in the Queen’s Room/Culinary Arts Theater where HAL’s CEO Stein Kruse, Executive VP (Marketing, Sales and Guest Programs) Rick Meadows and VP (Public Relations) Rose Abello introduced the ship and her myriad amenities. I was able to ask if there will only be one Signature Class sister to EURODAM (there are no orders for more as of yet) and if HAL will convert its existing four Vistas into Signature ships over time (the second part of the question remains nebulous for now). Another, larger, presentation followed in the vast Mainstage Theater.


Gym, facing starboard.

A much needed workout in the extremely well-equipped gym followed, with impressive views from the ellipticals as EURODAM ventured on an easterly (and, ultimately northeasterly) course for Rotterdam.


The Tamarind, facing forward from port.


Tamarind sushi and sashimi appetizer.


Tamarind main course: Szechuan Shrimp with Thai Basil.

We were assigned dinner in the new pan Asian Restaurant, The Tamarind, where Master Chef Rudy Sodamin’s set menu was limited to just one well-received sea food or meat (wasabi soy encrusted beef tenderloin) main course for our media gathering.


Explorations, facing aft.

Following dinner, I joined some friends for a romp around the ship, ending the evening in Explorations for a quick look at my e-mail before shuffling off to cabin 8177 where that amazing Signature of Excellence bedding helped lull me into a brief but deep sleep.

June 29, 2008

Unfortunately, jet lag trumped the comfort of my bedding and had me up at 6:30, pacing about with cameras as EURODAM approached the Dutch lowlands. The early morning sun was doing its best to break through the gelatinous haze, beaming a few golden slivers off the port bow. On the starboard side, like a green pancake, lay Voorne (with the industrial skyline of Europort beyond) while on the port side, a long jetty extended from Hoek van Holland, a town fronted by a wide beach stretching northward.


Where the hull? P&O;’s MV PRIDE OF HULL at Rotterdam.


Elbows versus lenses on the Abel Tasman.

As we entered the mouth of the River Maas, the superstructure-heavy P&O; ferry PRIDE OF HULL was gaining on us, ultimately turning into Europort. Meanwhile, Captain Van Donselaar was giving Cruella de Ville a run for her money as he sounded the whistle to throngs of onlookers gathered on either side of the ship. Various small craft and the Jules Verne-ish Spido boat ABEL TASMAN were chock-a-blok with people who had come out to greet EURODAM on her maiden arrival.


Breakfast on bed.

I’m not normally keen on room service breakfast, finding the menus on most ships rather limited and the food, when delivered, tepid. Not at all so on EURODAM! It arrived, as requested, spot on at 8:30. My two “over easies” were piping hot, the mueseli just magnifico, and the fruit both fresh and flavorful. The English muffins were butter-melting and the crispy, golden hash browns too tempting to ignore. It all came with a sweet little vase of flowers and HAL’s beautifully polished silver and fine china making it look almost as nice as it tasted. Even the coffee was good enough to sustain me until I could get a fresh cappuccino at Explorations. I felt a little guilty not savoring the feast but had to keep the break quick in order to get back up top for more waving and whistling.


Maiden sailing up the Maas.

From the mouth of the Maas to central Rotterdam, there were thousands of people out to greet us, some in cars strategically readied to move upriver as the ship passed. Jetties, marinas, balconies and waterfront parks were filled with spectators. Soon, the Euromast and Erasmus Bridge dominated the skyline, all rather surreal for this first-time visitor who had only seen such sights in the background of photos of Holland America Line ships. In the meantime, honking horns, whistles and small craft salutes were heeded with the chatty EURODAM’s rumbling response.


Raymond Phillip’s official EUROwave!

Erik Elvejord and Raymond Phillips at HAL were very simpatico to my request to be on the bow for part of our arrival, allowing me access through the temporary “War Room” set up in the crew lounge on forward Deck 4 where some 57 inaugural and christening events were being staged for 35,000 guests and visitors between the Southampton call, four days quayside at Rotterdam and the three night “Prelude” cruise leading to the official maiden voyage from Copenhagen on July 5.


EURObell to Euromast.

From the vicinity of the ship’s shiny brass bell, it was a marvel to watch as she spun around in the basin to back nearly two miles into the Wilhelminakade passenger terminal, where HAL’s first sailing to New York took place in 1873.


Backing toward the Wilhelminakade.


Going with the flow at Rotterdam.


Greeters line the Wilhelminakade.

From the fo’c’sle, I raced back into passenger territory and up to midships Deck 12 for views of the fireboat spray between the ship’s stern and the Erasmus Bridge. Like a perpetual champagne burst, the “Eau de Maas” flowed skyward until we were alongside the terminal.


Hey Huys [ye olde Dutch spelling for “Het Huis” (“The House”)] on gate post.


Huis ten Donck.

Shortly after our 11:00 AM arrival, we joined a tour to Huis ten Donck, a private mansion near Rotterdam owned by a family with ties to the Dutch Royals. Enroute, we saw some of the sights of the city of 600,000 residents. Once at the home, we were offered champagne, canapes and a chance to wander the Manor. The interesting tour is not open to the general public but is available for special group charters.


Huis ten Donck ceiling.


Toasting from the back garden.

Construction on the Louis XV style house began in 1746 and it was thoroughly restored in 1967. It has three floors and is a protected national monument. The surrounding lands are overseen by a nature conservancy.


Our Spido awaits.


Spido interior, facing forward.

It was a short ride to the Spido (pronounced “speedo”) boat JAMES COOK, which outwardly resembles a symmetrical stapler. These interesting craft apparently come in different shapes, the lower decks surrounded in floor to ceiling glass panels through which tourists can enjoy the passing scenery. We were served a surf and turf lunch with a shrimp and smoked fish starter, followed by a steak. Not such a great “surfer” and unwilling to “turf”, I made do with the accompanying asparagus and a couple of potatoes as the COOK navigated the waterways of the Maas, Europort and Rotterdam.


EURODAM at Rotterdam.


EURODAM at Rotterdam, ctd.


Onlookers at Rotterdam.

As we neared the Erasmus Bridge, I dropped the dessert spoon and headed up top to get some misty shots of the EURODAM. Moment later, the JAMES COOK pulled alongside the Hotel New York (the historic former Holland America Line offices) at the Wilhelminakade, where we disembarked. We then queued up to reboard EURODAM in time for her “scenic cruise” for a capacity crowd of local travel agents and VIPs along the Maas and out to sea, returning at 3:00 AM the following day.

There was a formal dinner in the Pinnacle Grill with the media group at 8:00, again with a fixed menu featuring surf and turf appetizers and entrees. Feeling overtly old-fashioned and vaguely vegetarian, I opted out of the menu offerings and requested a caesar salad as a prelude to an absolutely delicious eggplant parmesan main course.

The EURODAM was filled to capacity with the evening’s special guests. I joined my new Hamburg-based friend, Oliver Muller, in the Crow’s Nest where we mused about all things “ship”, from the EURODAM to Alang. Finally, at 1:30, as EURODAM r
eturned from her brief spin in the North Sea, we called it a night.

June 30, 2008


Hotel New York.


One of several NIEUW AMSTERDAMs at Hotel New York.

Instead of taking a tour to the Hague and the Delft factory, I opted to sleep in and get caught up on some work.

I arose at 10:00 AM, once again feeling rested, and ordered a cheese omelete, which arrived moments later. After joining Oliver in Explorations for a cappuccino overlooking the River Maas, we headed to the Hotel New York where the spirit of NIEUW AMSTERDAM (1938) hovers over bars and counters and in images throughout the building. One can only wonder what might have been if the dowager liner was spared the scrappers in 1974.


Bas-reliefs from SS NIEUW AMSTERDAM at the HAL offices in Rotterdam.

HAL was kind enough to provide attending media with a fully-equipped press room in its local offices, adjacent to the terminal. The office is filled with wonderful HAL memorabilia, including a pair of Deco bas-reliefs from the NIEUW AMSTERDAM.


EURehearsal at Rotterdam.


MYLIN IV at Rotterdam.

With everyone else on tour, Oliver and I were the only two writers to indulge HAL’s generosity that morning and set up our computers with a view over the EURODAM and the rehearsals for the next day’s christening. The modern office has a wonderful vantage over both sides of the Wilhelminakade, including the slip where Carnival CEO Mickey Arison’s yacht, MYLIN IV, was berthed.


Blogging over the Maas.

Once 145 photos were sized, uploaded and captioned, it was time to put the laptop away and get something to eat. We returned to the ship, which was inundated with Dutch visitors, including Klaas Krijnen and his wife Marian. Klaas is the man largely responsible for the campaign that saved the 1959-built SS ROTTERDAM from the scrappers. Currently undergoing restoration in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, she is to return to Rotterdam as a floating hotel and convention center later this year.

Only Slices was open, so we grabbed a couple pieces of pizza before disembarking to cross the Erasmus Bridge and take some photos of the ship from across the river. We were not the only people out on the Maas to photograph EURODAM. It seems half of Rotterdam was taking advantage of the brilliant sun on her starboard side to do the same.


MV EURODAM at Rotterdam.


MV EURODAM at Rotterdam.

On the other side of the river, we ran into Klaas and Marian again and enjoyed a quick coffee before returning to the ship via a water taxi to the Hotel New York. Even the water taxi was full of camera-wielding Dutchmen, so there was no chance to get unencumbered photos as we sped across the river.


Pasta in Canaletto.

Because of all the special events on board and with most actual passengers on tour, regular dining hours were not being observed, so we missed dinner in the Lido. Oliver knew one of the dining managers and managed to find us a seat in the fully booked Canaletto, which was about to close. It ended up being my favorite meal so far on the entire trip.

As I always preferred the Odyssey Italian Restaurant to its fleetwide replacement, the Pinnacle Grill, I was so happy to have a full-scale gourmet Italian dining experience on HAL again. From the fresh, flaky bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to an antipasti selection, a crispy salad and a delicious linguini with mozzarella and mounds of fresh grated parmesan, I was satiated. And yet, I did manage to savor the multi-tiramisu dessert and pick at the cotton candy served at the tail end, missing neither surf nor turf in the process.


Erasmus Bridge.


Rotterdam cityscape over the magrodome.


Aft from forward Deck 12.


Twilit twins, ctd.

With the events winding down and a glowing twilight outside, it was time to grab the cameras for ano
ther romp about the ship.

July 1, 2008


Carnival CEO Mickey Arison and Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse answer questions for the media.

I took advantage of “premature christening day consciousness” (thanks again, jet lag!) to get some more photos sorted and then awaited room service at 9:30. Who needs to leave the cabin with service like this? The only flaw was that I somehow got double orders on the eggs and no muesli. Oh well, what came was delicious…

Out on the balcony, the air was heavy and hot as I stared over at the Erasmus Bridge and a fresh crop of spectators lined up to gawk at EURODAM. How nice to see a city so keen on passenger ships!

It was time to don the dreaded suit and tie and head to a special press conference held by Carnival CEO Mickey Arison and HAL CEO Stein Kruse. I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Arison’s candor and openess about the current fuel and economic situations. Even though he acknowledged there are many challenges to face with a $700 million fuel cost increase over the past six months, I have a feeling if anyone is going to come out of this slump okay, it will be the nearly 90 ship strong Carnival empire.


All the ship’s a stage!

I squeezed in lunch in the Lido and a quick workout before disembarking at 2:45 to get a decent spot in the press area alongside the bleachers. Fortunately, I was in the shade of the towering Port Authority building and thus spared the the UV and heat that most everyone was enduring in their Tuesday best. We paparazzi were instructed that once Queen Beatrix arrived, no one was to cross in front of or call out to her.


Inaugural EURODAM bell.

A shiny brass bell with the ship’s name on it dominated center stage. Meanwhile, the front row filled with “A List” attendees such as Mickey Arison, Stein Kruse, Captain van Donselaar, Fincantieri CEO Corrado Antonini, Rick Meadows and their spouses, some of whom wore dainty hats. Just behind them, the likes of Frans Dingemans and Yran and Storbraaten sat with other top HAL brass.

An acapella quartet warmed up the gathering crowd.


The queen looks on.

When the springlike HM Juliana arrived wearing a lilac colored hat, floral blouse and lavender skirt, everyone stood before she took her place in the front row.


Drenching the bell in champagne.

The Dutch and U.S national anthems were performed and the ship was invoked by Reverend Mrs. Britt Aanes Ekhougen. The bell was blessed in champagne poured by Mariner Society Ambassadors, Dr. and Mrs. Johann Martin Schroder. Speeches from Captain van Donselaar and Corrado Antonini preceded the Opera Babes, who chirped Delibes’ “Flower Duet” in dulcet harmony.


Escorting the queen.

Stein Kruse returned to introduce the Queen, who was escorted to the stage by Captain van Donselaar and Mickey Arison.


The bottle breaks!

“I name this ship EURODAM! May god bless EURODAM and all who sail in her.” The queen rang the bell, releasing a magnum of champagne between the “R” and “O” on the ship’s hull.


A ship is born!

As the whistle blew, confetti exploded into the air. The Queen and her entourage posed for photos before exiting the ceremony to board the EURODAM. Meanwhile, many of the press corps raced to the gangway and up to the midships pool area where the ship’s officers gathered to greet the the Dutch royal.


Queen Beatrix chats with EURODAM’s officers in the Lido area.

The jovial Queen began her meet-and-greet on the starboard forward side, working aft and back up the port side of the pool, stopping to talk to a number of officers and crew.


Queen Beatrix exits.

All in all, it was a delightful ceremony. The day was far from over, however, so I returned to the cabin to swap the suit and tie for the tux. I was assigned a seat at a table hosted by gregarious HAL rep, Mike Wein, in the Rembrandt Dining Room. Our group had a fun time and the food was good (another special menu bursting with lobster, scallops and beef, which I eschewed for a nice white asparagus soup and baked goat cheese lasagne) but the accoustics weren’t and trying to talk over the din in the room was a formidable challenge.


The first flares drop over Rotterdam.


Funnels and fireworks.


Sparks over the Lido.

At 11:15, everyone gathered on deck to watch as fireworks lit up the sky off EURODAM’s starboard side. Again, thousands of locals gathered on the bridge and the river banks to share in the spectacle.


MV EURODAM’s Silk Den Bar, facing forward.

A few of us capped the night off in the Silk Den Bar, my favorite new haunt on EURODAM, but I fizzled out like a firework over Rotterdam and floated down to 8177.

July 2, 2008


Tom Cassidy and Hans Hoffman at the ROTTERDAM Info Center.

There were no scheduled events on this fourth and final day of EURODAM’s maiden Rotterdam call. Tom Cassidy (editor of OCEAN AND CRUISE NEWS) and I joined former SS ROTTERDAM chief officer Hans Hoffman (now a senior Rotterdam harbor pilot) on a mini-tour of Rotterdam. It would be great to spend time with these two avowed liner nuts and Hans’ tour, of course, would be steeped in HAL history.


ROTTERDAM Infocenter.

Our first stop was the SS ROTTERDAM Infocenter. Admittedly, it was deliciously surreal to see the 1959-built liner painted on the side of a building on an otherwise ordinary street in Rotterdam’s Katendrecht district.

Of all the vintage passenger ships in the world, the ROTTERDAM was the most original and deserving of restoration. In 1997, the ship was sold by HAL to Premier Cruises who renamed her REMBRANDT and basically left her “as is” until their financial collapse in 2000. REMBRANDT was laid up at Freeport, where she began to decay and came very close to being sold to Indian shipbreakers.

Largely because of the awareness raised by Klaas Krijnen of the SS ROTTERDAM Foundation, the ship was purchased by her original builders and towed to Gibraltar for repairs. Costs spiraled and the ship, renamed ROTTERDAM again, was sold to her present owners. She went from Gib to Cadiz, Spain, where she was given her original gray hulled paint scheme, then sent to Gdansk, Poland for the removal of her asbestos insulation. Once at Gdansk, the ship was sent away and ultimately was towed to Wilhelmshaven, Germany, where she has been completely stripped to the steel bulkheads and is now being reassembled. Her preservation will be one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken and already is one of the most costly at over $150 million and counting.


Original chairs and table from SS ROTTERDAM at ROTTERDAM Infocenter.

The ROTTERDAM’s history is too long and rich to recount here but here is a time line of her post-HAL career up to 2005 as well as a tour of the ship as she was as REMBRANDT.

The ROTTERDAM Infocenter is a marvelous place with an abundance of information on the ship’s building, transatlantic service and cruising career. What was most remarkable about ROTTERDAM all the way until her final sailing with HAL (and even with Premier as the slightly downgraded REMBRANDT) is that so much was never changed. Aside from the Lido Restaurant and some smaller spaces on forward Promenade Deck, she was an unadulterated midcentury Dutch masterpiece.


HAL architect Frans Dingeman’s intended redesign of SS ROTTERDAM’s Theater (later scrubbed, according to reliable sources).

Among the renderings on display are some shocking but thankfully now defunct views of a completely remodeled Theater and various other spaces made to look like a modern HAL cruise ship. What were they thinking?


HAL architect Frans Dingeman’s planned redesign of SS ROTTERDAM’s former Tourist Class Smoking Room (later Casino), since shelved.

The lovely Tourist Class Smoking Room was
for a while going to be resurrected in the style of a modern HAL Pinnacle Grill. A less comprehensive restyling has since been settled upon. The one key lesson to be learned from the preserved QUEEN MARY in Long Beach is that all the modernizations (costly ones, at that) stand out like a sore thumb and age poorly as time marches on.

Of course, the ROTTERDAM will have to function as more than just a museum or perfectly preserved time capsule in order to be a success in her new role at Rotterdam, so reasonable changes are expected. Officers’ spaces and Boat Deck cabins will make way for meeting rooms but key venues like the Ritz Carlton, Ambassador, First Class Smoking Room and Queen’s Lounge will return (as much as possible) to their original configuration.


Mock cabin set up at ROTTERDAM Infocenter.

Some of the ROTTERDAM’s cabins are being preserved with original furnishings to serve as hotel guest rooms.


Future home of SS ROTTERDAM (1959).


Uplifting future for SS ROTTERDAM.

From the Infocenter, we visited the quay at Katrendrect where SS ROTTERDAM will be permanently moored. The parking lot was under construction but the gangway infrastructures appeared to be ready for her arrival, now scheduled for early August. For more information, please go to SS ROTTERDAM


Newly reproduced “Gobelein” tapestries for SS ROTTERDAM and models of Dutch liners on display at Rotterdam’s Maritime Museum.

Hans took us to lunch near the Rotterdam Maritime Museum, our next stop. On display until they are placed on the SS ROTTERDAM, are the “Gobelein” tapestries, new versions drawn from the original plans and made by the same hands as those that were stolen from the former Tourist Class Smoking Room when the ship was at Freeport.

An hour in the museum went far too quickly to fully savor all the great exhibits, many of which include artifacts from Dutch liners like the 1938 NIEUW AMSTERDAM and ORANJE. There is a special HAL section and some stunning models as well as a vast research library. Click here for more info.

Time was closing in on us, so we made a quick exit into the rain and past the preserved line up of small merchant ships adjacent to the museum, then along the Rotterdam “walk of fame” with celebrity handprints in the tradition of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood (I found Jeroen Krabbe but where was Rene Soutendijk?) and, finally, back to the EURODAM.

Tot ziens and dankje to Hans for a wonderful day and hopes to see you (and the Hoffladies) again soon!


Waving to the Wilhelminakade.


EURODAM leaves Rotterdam for her “prelude” voyage.

A band was playing on the terminal terrace as Tom and I reboarded EURODAM.

After the ship’s thorough boat drill (HAL takes these very seriously), I joined Oliver up on Deck 7 for the sail-away. The balcony was lined with revelers who waved, some in quite regal fashion, to the crowds below. The fireboat returned to give us a nice spray as we edged westward along the Maas and out to sea.

A deliciously simple evening followed the rain that drenched us on Forward Deck 5, including a refreshing workout and wonderful recap of dinner at Canaletto (this time with a window seat as the setting sun and clouds dueled over the North Sea) and repose in the Silk Den.

July 3, 2008.


First glimpses of Hamburg.

I had the usual room service at 9:30, then went topsides as EURODAM sailed up the Elbe toward Hamburg. Northern Europe seemed to be enveloped in mugginess, although the sheer heat from earlier in the week had quelled somewhat.

With Hamburg-based Oliver as tour guide, I enjoyed the scenery as the pretty city came into view, from its traditional fishing trawlers off the stern to the tree-lined neighborhood on the port side with its fancy homes and the sprawling Airbus facility starboard.


EURODAM to Hamburg.


Hamburg to EURODAM. Photo and copyright Ulrich Graumann 2008.


Hamburg to EURODAM up close.
Blogger and Oliver Mueller are second and third from left under wheelhouse. Photo and copyright Ulrich Graumann 2008.

We approached the urban center, where Ulrich Graumann, who was kind enough to allow me to post his photos, captured our arrival from the Fish Market landing stage as a blue ferry neared our bow.


EURODAM to Hamburg, ctd.


Drydock #17.

The legendary Blohm and Voss shipyard was now on our starboard side, its Drydock #17 capable of accommodating the QM2. On the port side, was my intended afternoon destination, the preserved cargo liner CAP SAN DIEGO, tied up at the Overseas Landing Stage.


Hamburg Cafe Gnosa with MidCentury fittings.

Once EURODAM berthed at the new city terminal, HAL’s ebullient Raymond Phillips joined Oliver and me on a tour of the city, stopping first at the very accommodating Midcentury/Art Deco styled Cafe Gnosa for lunch and a cappuccino. Oliver assures me the chairs and tables are not from a ship but they sure have the “look”!


Urban Hamburg Window With Bicycles.

We took a cab through Hamburg to Oliver’s apartment, then a walk through the neighborhood to the commuter train, which took us to Ballindamstrasse (named for Albert Ballin) for a quick visit to the Ballin House, the formerHapag-Lloyd headquarters (sorry, no photos allowed) to stand under the famous “Mein Feld Ist Die Welt (My Neighborhood Is The World)” and peer in at the ballroom which immediately conjured up the splendorous interiors of Ballin ships like the early 20th Century liners IMPERATOR and VATERLAND.


Hamburg’s Rathaus.

Our rigid schedule included a visit to the Rathaus, the 1897-built Hamburg capital building whose 112 meter clock tower beacons over the city.


State meeting room, Hamburg Rathaus.


Festivity Hall of Hamburg’s Rathaus.

Although we were not scheduled for a guided tour, Oliver contacted a public relations representative who gave us a very quick look at the State Meeting Room and soaring Festivity Hall, the latter boasting splendid murals.


Rathaus from neighboring plaza.

We walked through the adjacent shopping plaza to another commuter train, exiting at the landing stage for my visit to CAP SAN DIEGO while Oliver and Raymond continued their tour of Hamburg.



MV CAP SAN DIEGO at Hamburg.

My first thought when laying eyes on the lovely 1962-built CAP SAN DIEGO was “NS SAVANNAH meets SS CANBERRA”. A product of the same era, she, indeed, shares many of their streamlined architectural features.


CAP CANBERRA curve.

For a mere six euros, a visit to the ship is an absolute must. As new ships get less and less attractive, she is a reminder of a time when the architect’s pen occasionally overruled practicality for the sake of beauty or concept.


Facing the CAP SAN DIEGO.

Surely, this rounded superstructure (very reminiscent of George Sharp’s Delta liners of the late 1940s, AQUARAMA and the aborted APL triplets that were completed into 1950s troop ships) caused some logistical challenges but in the end, it was worth it!


CAP SAN DIEGO builder’s plate.

Hats off to Hamburg architect Cesar Pannau for designing a beautiful ship, one of six (along with the now scrapped CAPs SAN ANTONIO, SAN AUGUSTIN, SAN LORENZO, SAN MARCO, and SAN NICHOLAS) that used to ply Hamburg Sud’s South America
route carrying general cargo and up to twelve lucky passengers. She was built by Hamburg’s Deutsche Werft Yard (hull number 785) and measures 9,998 gt with a length of 159.4 meters and breadth of 21.47 meters. Far more info, including rates, can be found here.


CAP SAN DIEGO wheelhouse, facing port.

I didn’t have much time but did my best to cover everything from shaft alley and the engine room to the cargo holds and top deck areas. When I reached the cafeteria, a very shrill employee screamed that she did not want to be in my video (I would liken her tenor to the hospital bed scream in Roman Polanski’s “The Tenant”). Otherwise, I had a great visit and found the rest of the crew, especially the gentleman at the ticket booth, to be extremely accommodating.


Forward lounge, facing port, CAP SAN DIEGO.

On my next visit to Hamburg, I hope to stay in one of the ship’s staterooms, relax and enjoy CAP SAN DIEGO’s combi-liner ambiance of days gone by.


I made it back to EURODAM to attend a special party, which due to an evening downpour, had to be switched from the open air aft Lido to the midships Lido under the Magrodome. I’ve never fancied Magrodomes as they tend to create a hot house environment and in this case, the hot house was more like a steam bath. Still, it was great to mingle with many of the press group, including Tom Cassidy, Avid Cruiser’s Ralph Grizzle and Geoff Edwards, Sea Trade Insider’s ever delightful Anne Kalosh, and PP Group’s Jeff Laign.

With an exotic, surfy/turfy buffet in the works, I snuck out to devour a salad at the Lido, making sure the greenery was out of my teeth by the time I remingled with the media.


Rainfire at Hamburg.

The City of Hamburg provided some wonderful fireworks despite the rain, so I grabbed the cameras and stood in the shelter of the bridge wing on Deck 7 to watch, ultimately ending up in the Silk Den as EURODAM pivoted down the Elbe and past one of my new favorite cities.

July 4, 2008


Umbrelladome.


Dessertdome.

The day began with some morning blogging, a cappuccino and Buffalo mozzarella with Oliver and Anne in the Crow’s Nest and then HAL’s extravagant Fourth Of July barbeque party under the Magrodome, now mercifully opened enough to let some air in. HAL really outdoes themselves with such events and this one did not disappoint with its murals of American iconography, fireworks umbrellas, and, most importantly, all the delicious, tempting morsels.


Mainstage dressing room.


Prop lobster.

Later, a few of us took a backstage tour, then I hit the gym for a final workout before some serious packing and cocktails in the Crow’s Nest.


Vista VICTORIA off Copenhagen.

As we hugged the Danish coast, EURODAM’s Vista cousin, Cunard’s QUEEN VICTORIA, passed off our starboard side in perfect light. I had to settle for a candid shot of her through a Rembrandt Dining Room window. I thoroughly enjoyed my courses of ginger carrot soup, a very fresh Caesar salad, and spaghetti putanseca, although I once again had trouble hearing what was said over the room’s din.


Starboard promenade, facing aft.


“Dreampark” on the Mainstage stage.

More packing, a romp around the ship, a quick visit to the Mainstage show ,”Dreampark”, and then farewell follies with some delightfully twisted media types in the Silk Den wrapped up my Independence Day at sea.

July 5, 2008

Ooh, the heat! Did we arrive in Copehnagen or the Mojave Dessert this morning? The architecture, Pulmantur’s EMPRESS (ex NORDIC EMPRESS, EMPRESS OF THE SEAS), MSC’s LIRICA and Hapag-Lloyd’s EUROPA indicated the former. A final breakfast on bed was followed by a quick exit, stage port, and off on a coach to Copehnagen’s airport for the flights home.

EURODAM was now poised to begin her official maiden voyage and I think she’s going to be a huge success!

Very special thanks: Rose Abello, Tom Cassidy, Martin Cox, Donita Dooley, Erik Elvejord, Andrew Gratt, Ulrich Graumann, Hans Hoffman, Klaas Krijnen, Oliver Mueller, Raymond Phillips

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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