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HAL duo to Fred Olsen

Updated: Jul 28


Holland America Line ... it's impossible to write a short article about this company and its history, so let's pick up in 1997 when the former Dutch line had already been taken over by Carnival Corporation and thus becoming an American owned company with HQ in Seattle. The company has basically built new ships every few years troughout history, by the late 1990's the 4 Statendam-class ships were in service, called Statendam (1993), Maasdam (1993), Ryndam (1994 - seen below) and Veendam (1996).

The next 4 ships were designed as the Rotterdam-class ships, starting the namesake Rotterdam in 1997, she was the 6th ship in the fleet to be named Rotterdam as the 5th Rotterdam, a grand classic steamship from 1959 had just been sold out of the fleet.

In 2000 her sister Amsterdam would join the fleet as part of the same class of ships, both these ships had twin side-by-side smokestacks connected by a light bridge, based on the former Rotterdam design. In 1999 the Volendam was delivered from the same class and in 2000, only months before the Amsterdam, the Zaandam was delivered from the same class, Zaandam and Volendam were however designed with a different funnel, making the sisters Amsterdam and Rotterdam stand out with their twin smokestacks. Both ships were a modest 237 meters long and sailed a good 20 years all over the world with big success.

Their smaller size gave them the possibility to go into smaller ports where the giant cruise liners couldn't get. By 2002 however the Vista-class ships were entering service with Zuiderdam being the first one. The HAL fleet is dynamic to say the least, new ships coming in one after another. And then there was Covid19!

Being only 20 and 23 years old, the Rotterdam and Amsterdam had some years left in them but Covid19 changed a lot, brand new ships were laid-up as there was no use for them and older ships were disposed off ahead of schedule, some of the older iconic ships of the world, still sailing very successful before Covid19 were now being sold for scrap as the maintenance and running cost was too high for companies to pay as they were not getting any income from cruising, huge fleets of mega-sized ships were suddenly laid-up at anchor in some remote bays worldwide with only a skeleton crew onboard to keep the ships safe and seaworthy. HAL decided to sell both Rotterdam and Amsterdam sooner than planned to reduce cost and get some extra cash back. Luckily Fred Olsen, running a 4 ship fleet of older ships dating from 1970 to 1991, was willing to buy both ships in the middle of the Covid19 crisis.


Surprisingly both Volendam and Zaandam are currently still in the HAL fleet with Volendam serving temporarily (situation in May 2022) as a refugee center moored close to the center of Rotterdam to house Ukrainian refugees. Zaandam is still cruising as the smallest and oldest ship in current operation as long as Volendam is packed with refugees. Amsterdam and Rotterdam went in drydock for a complete overhaul and to be renamed respectively Bolette and Borealis for cruising under the Fred Olsen flag. Their fleetmates are currently Braemar and Balmoral as Fred Olsen sold the Black Watch and Boudicca when Bolette and Borealis came into the fleet. Boudicca has already been scrapped in May 2021 while Black Watch, although still afloat, is now waiting to be beached in India for scrap (situation May 2022).


I was lucky enough to have photographed a lot of the ships mentioned in this blog. When I was living in Singapore I photographed the Voldendam at Harbourfront Cruise terminal in 2014 (see photo on the left).


And both Rotterdam and Amsterdam visited Singapore as well in 2014 and 2015, easy for me to photograph them of course. Note that on the photos of the Amsterdam you can see the logo for her world cruise painted on the front of the ship just below the bridge.

I remembered that years before seeing both these ships in Singapore, I did see the Rotterdam sailing past her predecessor in Rotterdam, the former SS Rotterdam is now permanently moored not far from the cruise terminal to serve as museum, event space, restaurant and hotel, more about this ship will follow in another blog later this year.

In 2017 when I was on an assignment in Norway I managed to capture some of the HAL ships again, one of them was Rotterdam, sailing into the Geiranger Fjord.

And then of course after the Covid19 crisis sort of disolved in 2022, I was able to travel again, this time there was a great opportunity for me to see the Bolette (former Amsterdam) in Southampton in April 2022 as seen here below.


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