In 1958 the new flagship of the Holland America Line, ss Rotterdam, was named and launched by Queen Juliana at the Rotterdam Drydock Company.
From the northside of the river, at Schiemond, you had a good view. I watched the launch, not knowing that I should walk around that ship within one year.


Some pages of my musterbook


HAL officebuilding
A few weeks before I had to undergo my examination at the MULO (in 1959), my father noticed an advertisement from HAL requiring for young boys to be assigned on one of the ships. I applied and was engaged to be a Bellboy on board of their brandnew flagship ss Rotterdam.
First we were trained for a brief period by a retired Chief Steward, who told us (among other things) how we could recognize the officers. A Chief Steward was wearing three thick silver zig-zag stripes. At Peek & Cloppenburg we received our uniforms, which were different from the ones used on other ships.

The trousers of the uniform were green (can you imagine another color ?) with a silver piping and a jacket with darker lapel. Underneath we had to wear a white shirt with a black tie. In warmer regions we could replace this green jacket by a white cotton jacket, which was also used in the diningrooms.
The master of the ship was Commodore C. Bouman, the Chief Steward was mr. Van Hilten , the Adjunct Chief Steward, responsible for "boys civil service", was mr. de Waard assisted by Steward van Vliet.
New York 1959
s.s. Rotterdam outward bound for New York

The ship sailed for a technical trial for about a week in the direction of The Azores (mostly a region of bad weather) hoping to try out the stabilizers. During that trip photo's were taken and a film was made which the Line used for promotion of the ship. During this week I was assigned to the Photo-crew.

In August the ship was officially transferred from the builders to the Line during a two-day trip on the North Sea, in the presence of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard.
During that trip I was assigned to the Ocean Bar, taking care for the cigars, etc.

Arrival at New York
On 3 September 1959 the ship sailed on her Maiden Voyage to New York via Le Havre and Southampton, with an honored guest on board, Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix.
For this trip I was assigned as a Bellboy to the six stewards on Maindeck forward . Some names I remember are: Koos Schepping, George Toering (or Touring), Jan Slot, Simon de Wit and mr. Müller. There was also a stewardess was working on this deck, but I do not remember her name.
When we passed Lands End , most of the Bellboys, Elevatorboys, Pageboys and Deckboys were very seasick.
I will never forget the arrival in the harbour of New York. Every ship, arriving for the first time in New York, is welcomed by the tugboats and fire boats surrounding the ship, and all other ships blowing their horns. Passing the Statue of Liberty and looking to Lower Manhattan Skyline for the first time in your life, is something you will never forget.
We arrived in New York almost 350 years after Henry Hudson did in Westindian Company's service with his ship Half Moon .
We first berthed at Pier 5 in Hoboken to disembark the passengers. Thereafter we crossed the Hudson River to the spot where they were building the new Pier 40 at the foot of Houston Street.
We stayed in New York for about ten days as part of the Hudson festivities and we had a lot of time to look around. I was very impressed by the skyscrapers and with some friends I visited Empire State Building, walked around on Broadway and on Times Square.
Inaugural cruise Around South America

On 22 September we sailed outward, back to Rotterdam.
In October and November we also sailed these Transatlantics, but in December we sailed only to New York, where the ship was prepared for her Inaugural Around South America Cruise.
On 11 December we left New York and sailed in 49 days via the Panama Canal to the Westcoast, down to the Straits of Magellan and along the Eastcoast back to New York, where we arrived on 29 January 1960.
Some highlights on this cruise were the Locks in the Panama Canal and the cities Lima , Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro .
Here we visited Corcovado , where a huge statue of Christo Redentor is overlooking the city.
From this mountain you have a wonderfull view on the city, the Guanabara Bay with the beautiful Sugarloaf mountain and the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.
Only a few days later, on 1 February, we left New York, sailed via Port of Spain and Rio de Janeiro down to Buenos Aires, crossed the Atlantic to Cape Town, passed Cape of Good Hope, along the eastcoast of Africa up to the Red Sea, passed Suez Canal to the Mediterranean and along Street of Gibraltar back to New York, arriving on 16 April.
Highlights on this cruise were my 18th birthday, celebrated on the beach of Durban, the excursion to Cairo , visiting a Mosque, the Egyptian Museum and the Pyramids in Gizeh. In Athens we visited Acropolis.
From New York we sailed back to Rotterdam, where I quitted the Line and found a job ashore.

Looking back I have to say that I would not have missed this experience.
Inaugural Four Continents Cruise

silhouet Rotterdam V

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Copyright © van der Leek 1998 - 2004.

30 April 1999.

Revised: 24 September 2000.