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Latest luxurious Holland America cruise ship ‘Noordam’ off on maiden trip

Noordam history covers a century

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

NEW YORK – The names of old and familiar Dutch passenger liners live on in ever larger and more luxurious cruise ships. The recent launching of the Noordam by Holland America Line, now U.S. owned, heralds the introduction of a fourth generation ship, with more than a century of history. Built in Italy and registered in the Netherlands, the ship has New York as its homeport. The latest Noordam joins the ‘Oosterdam’, the ‘Zuiderdam’ and the ‘Westerdam’ at the Carnival Cruises-owned subsidiary.

The latest Noordam measures sixty meters high with a length of nearly 300 metres, and a width of 32 meters. The ten floors of accommodations offer a wide range of amenities to 2,000 passengers and a crew of 800. The new Noordam has a tonnage of 82,500.

Struck by mines

The history of the first ‘Noordam’ underscores the fact that the seas were not without danger. Built in Ireland, the ship was launched in September 1901 and sailed on its 1902 maiden voyage from Rotterdam to New York. Disaster struck in October 1914, when sailing the North Sea she was damaged by a mine. Following repairs, she went back into service in May 1915 and was one of the few liners – flying the neutral flag of the Netherlands - to maintain regular service from the continent during the global conflict of WWI. Then off the coast of Terschelling, the Noordam struck another mine in August 1917, putting her in the dock once more. She did not return to service until March 1919, months after WWI had ended. In 1923 and 1924, she was chartered by Swedish American and sailed as ‘Kungsholm’ on the Gothenburg-New York route. HAL again pressed her into service as the ‘Noordam’ in 1926. The ship made her final voyage in April 1927 and was scrapped the following year.

Troop carrier

‘Noordam II’ which was built in 1938 by Smit in Rotterdam, HAL’s home port, also made war history. Plying the North Atlantic passenger route, it did not return home once the Netherlands was occupied. Instead, she and her sister ship ‘Zaandam’ sailed the New York - Batavia (Netherlands East Indies) route. Once the U.S. entered the war and with shipping capacity at a premium, the ‘Noordam’ was requisitioned by the US War Shipping Administration in 1942, and turned into a troop ship, ferrying tens of thousands of soldiers to Europe. Decommissioned, the 10,750 GRT ship made her first post-war voyage from Rotterdam to New York in July 1946, with 148 first-class passengers. After serving as an immigrant ship as well, the ship was sold to a Panamanian company in 1963 and chartered to French firm Messageries Maritimes. Under the new name ‘Oceanien’, she sailed on the Marseille - Sydney, Australia route, before she was scrapped in 1967.


In 1984, Holland America Line put a third ‘Noordam’ into service. Built in France, she made history as the longest of the HAL cruise ships of her day, with a length of 215 metres and accommodations for 1,350 passengers. When HAL was sold in 1988, the Noordam III became a Carnival Corp. liner. In 2005 when she had fallen back as the smallest of HAL ships, the Noordam III was sold to Louis Cruise Lines, which chartered her to Thomson Cruises. She still sails the cruise circuit as ‘Thomson Celebration’ along with another HAL ship, the former ‘Nieuw Amsterdam’ which now plies the waters as ‘Thomson Spirit.’

Founded in 1873 as the Netherlands-America Steamship Company (NASM), a shipping and passenger line, it became widely known as Holland America Line (HAL). Within 25 years, HAL owned a fleet of six cargo ships and passenger liners, and operated between Rotterdam and the Netherlands East Indies via the newly constructed Suez Canal.

HAL has earned itself a huge place in U.S. history as a principal carrier of immigrants from Europe to the United States and carried over 850,000 passengers to the New World. Its first vacation cruise took place in 1895, its second leisure cruise, from New York to the Holy Land, was in 1910. No longer able to complete with emerging airlines, HAL suspended its transatlantic passenger trade in 1971 and two years later, it sold its cargo shipping division. HAL shareholders changed course in 1989 by selling their cruise interests to Carnival Corp., the largest cruise company in the world. They then refocused their attention as investors in other enterprises, doing well enough to afford a trip or two on ships such as the Noordam.