Background The SS Rotterdam was once the Holland-America Line’s flagship, operating on the route between Rotterdam and New York. One of the largest passenger ships ever built in the Netherlands, it carried the Crown Princess Beatrix on its maiden voyage and stands as a legacy to what was once the world’s busiest port. Five decades on, it has been transformed into a 254-room floating four-star hotel. Open since 2010, it is a living archive of 1950s design, with much of the ship’s original furniture, lighting fixtures and artworks salvaged and restored.
What’s it like? The hum of music in the bar and main restaurant welcomed me on arrival up the gangway, and gave the ship a bit of old world charm. Staff were helpful but did not offer to take me to my room and handed me a map with a page for each deck. There are two receptions to the right of the entrance, one for checking-in and one for tourist assistance, and there is an ATM in the lobby. The stairwell leading to all floors is opposite, left of the entrance, and the room key card is needed to pass through doors on each floor of accommodation.
Where is it? Located south of the Maas, the nearest metro station in Rijnhaven but it is a ten-minute walk from here and, since it is docked at the tip of the old harbour (a desolate place, planned for regeneration), it isn’t a great walk come nightfall. Catch a ten-minute taxi from Rotterdam Central station (where much of the financial district is based) or a water taxi from Willemsplein (€2.50), which arrives at the ship’s private jetty. Water taxis also run regularly between the vessel and the New York hotel at Kop van Zuid.
Room facilities Rooms are located across four decks and are split rather confusingly between six location categories – from Inside Cabin to Royal Cabin – and five room categories, from Single to Executive Original Suite. They can be a little hard to find and, trawling the maze of uninspiring red-carpeted hallways, feeling not unlike a lost soul in The Shining, I realised the necessity of the harmonica-like extendable ship map provided at check-in.
The original 576 cabins have been converted into 254 en suite rooms, so they are fairly spacious. Decked out in 1950s décor, archive pictures from the ship’s heyday hang on the walls of some rooms, which are split between Manhattan, Original and Bahamas themes. I stayed in an Outside Cabin Superior Manhattan room (deep breath), which featured sixties-style blue and red soft furnishings, a king size bed (two mattresses pushed together) portholes providing a view of the old harbour, minibar, hairdryer, tea and coffee, a spacious workdesk, free wired internet and flatscreen TV. The bathrooms are clean and sparse with basic non-brand toiletries. Some elements of the room were disappointing, including the mucky portholes and the broken air conditioning vent carrying noise from my upstairs neighbours.
Restaurants and Bars There is a modern breakfast room with white glossy furniture and a hot and cold buffet (along with a worryingly comprehensive selection of doughnuts), and a more formal restaurant, the Club Room, serving 1950s classics with a twist for lunch and dinner, brunch on Sundays and afternoon tea on Saturdays. The Ocean Bar serves sandwiches and snacks, and is a good place for a post-dinner drink (open Mon-Thurs 4pm-1am; Fri-Sun from 10am) and there is a room service menu with a limited selection of 24-hour options (though, after two phone calls and a personal visit to my room, my order was still taken incorrectly).
Business and meeting facilities There is a separate gangway from the shore to the ship for business guests, where a reception deals with welcoming and booking in clients. There are 30 meeting spaces in total, ranging from minimalist white boardrooms seating 38 delegates each on the Boat and Sun Decks, to the Odyssey room, which features grand gold pillars and mythical ancient Greek-style wall-carvings, and accommodates 450 people for a reception.
The Grand Ballroom – which seats 180 – offers fine examples of original 1950s features, with seafoam-style lighting fixtures on the ceiling (pastel blue, pink and yellow glass bubbles), hardwood chairs renovated in Italy, a sweeping stairwell leading to an upper balcony, a huge mural of the Aegean sea and outdoor terraces. The Ambassador Lounge has more than a little Mad Men about it – with its red décor, hardwood dance floor and intimate corners, it was a popular spot for first class guests to unwind after dinner and now makes for a unique venue, accommodating 250 for a reception. The Theatre room is the most modern. It seats 550 theatre-style and features a stage and state-of-the-art AV system.
Leisure facilities The Cruise hotel has one of only two hotel pools in the city (the other is the Inntel), however, it is outdoors on the deck. Tours of the ship are carried out daily, taking in the living museum with its restored artworks (from €12.50).
Verdict An exciting and unique venue for meetings, but the location is a little out of the way and accommodation is basic.
How many rooms? There are 254, split between the Lower Promenade, Main Deck, A Deck and B Deck.
Room highlights The kitsch interior and abundant space.
Price You have to call up and ask for a specific date to get the best available price because there are so many room categories. The best available rate for a mid-week stay in September was €109.
Contact Cruise Hotel, 3e Katendrechtse Hoofd 25, Rotterdam; tel +31 102 973 090; cruisehotel.nl