This Rotterdam, the fourth of five Holland America ships to carry that
name, was built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast. She was launched in March
1908, on the third attempt; the first was thwarted by gales and she
stuck on the ways on the second try. She was the largest Dutch ship up
to that time, a distinction she would hold until the arrival of
The first transatlantic liner with a glassed-in promenade deck (which,
oddly enough, does not appear on the card on this page), Rotterdam has
been described as "the first truly de luxe H.A.L. liner" (Kohler.) She
made her maiden voyage from her namesake port to New York on 13 June
1908, and during the early years of her career was involved in several
Holland America firsts, including the line's first mail-carrying trip
after obtaining the Dutch mail contract in 1909 and HAL's first
eastbound call at Plymouth in 1910. In August 1913, she set a company
record with a total of 2,937 passengers and a year later she carried a
record 1,386 first-class passengers, mostly Americans fleeing Europe at
the outbreak of World War I.
Rotterdam remained on commercial service until March 1916, and was then
laid up at Rotterdam until the war was over. She returned to service in
February 1919, on her prewar route.
Converted to oil in 1923 and modernized in 1925, Rotterdam spent the
balance of her career cruising, in addition to her transatlantic duties.
She was, in fact, on a cruise in September 1939, when World War II
began. After competing that trip she made two more neutral-flag Atlantic
crossings with returning Americans, and was laid up when she returned to
Rotterdam on 28 December. A month later she was sold for scrap.