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Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

Nieuw Amsterdam (III) of 1983

TONN. BRT: 33,930 NRT: 16,050 DWT: 4,850
BUILT AT: Chantiers de Alsthom Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France.
BUILT IN: 1982 YARD NO: V 27
ENGINES: Two seven cylinder two stroke Sulzer 7 RLB 66 diesel engines by C.M.M – Sulzer La Jolie, Nantes, France. ENGINE OUTPUT: 21,603 Kw./ 29,370 Pse. PROPS: Two (pitch)
SERVICE SPD: 20 Knots MAX.SPD: 22.75 knots (Contract)
LENGTH.O.A: 214.65 Meters BEAM OA: 27.26 Meters (Hull)
PAX.CAP: 1214 Lower beds with 1374 maximum in 605 cabins, 411 outside
CREW: 538 SISTERSHIPS: Noordam (3)
REMARKS: 1 Bow & 1 Stern thuster of 1000 Hp. Height keel – top radarmast 49.46 meters.
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After Holland America had decided in 1971 to become a cruise only company it built up a fleet of 5 cruise ships. The Statendam (IV) of 1958 Rotterdam (V) of 1959, The V ships of the mid 1950’s and the new built Prinsendam (I) of 1973. By 1980 question marks were placed about the longlivity of the Statendam and there were grave concerns about the high fuel consumption of the V ships. Also that year the company lost the Prinsendam due to a engine room fire in the Gulf of Alaska. Hence the need for replacement tonnage became apparent. The company decided to construct two ships which were patterned after the ms Prinsendam. This ship was only 8000 tons and could carry 400 passengers but it was decided to go for ship a size of 33.000 tons and with a capacity of around 1200 passengers. All the succesful features of the Prinsendam were to be retained and at the same time to expand upon using the cruise philosophy of Holland America. The result was the construction of the N-class, the Nieuw Amsterdam (III) and the Noordam (III). The ships were ordered in France which had partly to do with the fact that the Dutch shipyards did not have the resources to built the two ships (especially inregards to the interior work) and also because the French shipyard could offer very favorable terms as it was backed by the French Government.

The Nieuw Amsterdam was ordered on the 11th. of October 1980 by Holland America Tours N.V., Willemstad, Curacao. This was the company were the ship was to be registered although the controlling company itself was still located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Due to the extensive modular construction, whereby the ship was put together by means of pre fabrecated blocks, the hull was not constructed on a slipway but in a building dock. The keel block was laid on 14 November 1981 and when the hull was completed the ship was floated out for the first time on 21 August 1982 by simply filling up the dock. There was no christening in this case; that would come when the ship was conmpleted and ready for service. Between 12 and 14 March 1983 the technical trials were held of the coast of Normandy and as all went well the delivery was set for 11 May 1983.

Nieuw Amsterdam 1983 Air photo  from bow maiden voyage The new Nieuw Amsterdam maneuvring for the first time. This date could not be kept as the shipyard workers went on strike and that pushed the date back to the 17th. of June. The ship was handed over at St. Nazaire and registered for Holland Amerika Lijn N.V. Willemstad, Curacao. Under the command of Captain F.H van Driel it left 6 days later for Le Havre with a large number of company guests on board. The ship arrived there on the 24th. of June and preparations started for the christening on the 26th. with a maiden voyage departure scheduled for the same day. On the 25th. a full main switchboard failure was experienced which incapacitated the whole vessel and rendered the Main Switchboard completely obsolete. All guests were flown home and the departure had to be postponed. Spareparts are taken from the sistership, the Noordam, under construction at St. Nazaire.

Nieuw Amsterdam 1983 first crew Part of the Officers of Crew of the maiden voyage assembled on deck with Captain Freek van Driel in the centre.Unfortenately the engineers are missing in this photo. Anecdotal information from that day says that the Chief Engineer did “not have time for that sort of funny business” and kept his engineers below. As a result on Deck and Hotel are represented. the single person in the centre behind the pool is the ship’s bo’sun who found himself a prime position for posterity.To the left and right of him are the ships bell boys/

Nieuw Amsterdam 1983 DiningroomWhen the ship came into the service its diningroom chairs were red and those of the Noordam blue.

Nieuw Amsterdam 1983 Hudson lounge The Huson lounge, named after Henry Hudson and being the main cocktail lounge of the ship. At the starboard side was a small statue placed of Henry that originally came from the Nieuw Amsterdam of 1936. It had also stood in the Hudson lounge of the Statendam (IV) after its refit in 1971.

Nieuw Amsterdam 1983 Navigation Deck pool The N-ships had two outdoor swimmingpools. One with fresh water, seen here on the Navigation Deck and one with salt water located on the Promenade Deck behind the Lido restaurant. Together with a Jacuzzi, this was considered very innovative and luxurious in 1983.

The planned Alaska season had to be canceled as the ship could not get there on time and an alternative schedule was devised. The rebuilding of the Main Switchboard took nearly a month to complete. (Arbitration into this accident would last well into 1988 before being completetly resolved)

By the beginning of July the ship was finally ready for sailing and christened by Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, sister of the Dutch Queen. The date being 9 July and the time 11.20 in the morning. Princess Margriet is also the God mother of the Dutch Merchant Marine. The remainder of the day was filled with festivities and the ship departed the next day for her maiden voyage. This was a direct crossing to New York where it arrived on July 18th. On the 14th of July two stowaways were discovered in the double bottom of tender 15. Originally coming from Ghana they had boarded in France. When questioned, they stated that it had been their the intention to go back home by means of the ship. Somehow they had not understood that the ship was going to New York. Upon arrival at New York, these two were taken from their quarters to be handed over to the authorities. As they were walking over the open deck, they both jumped overboard at 10 am. and had to be retrieved from New york Harbor with the ships lifeboat number 2; the boat was manned by the ships crew and American customs officials. Both were later sent home via France. (At least they will be able to tell their grand childeren that they saw the New York skyline and swam in the Hudson River. Not everybody in Ghana can lay claim to that.)

Nieuw Amsterdam 1983 maiden arrival New York Maiden arrival in New York with the traditional fire and tugboat welcome while passing the statue of Liberty.

After two cruises to nowhere the ship departs for its first regular cruise on 21st. with a sailing from New York to Hamilton (Bermuda), Philipsburg (St. Maarten), Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) and then back to New York. Later in the year it repositions to through the Panama Canal to the West Coast to start the winter season with 14 day cruises from San Francisco to Acapulco and back. Between 11 and 26 November 1983 the ship has to dry-dock at Triple A. shipyard in San Francisco to repair a leaking oil seal one of the propeller shafts. 14 Days later this is repeated for the other propeller. In 1984 the ship is re-registered for Holland America Tours N.V. of St. Maarten with Holland America Line – Westours of Seattle as managers.

Nieuw Amsterdam starboard prop The starboard propellor of the ship. Nowadays most seal issues can be repaired with keeping the ship in the water.

Although the N class had been designed for making summer cruises to Bermuda (to replace the aging V ships) the success of Holland America in Alaska resulted in the ship being full time asigned to this market during the summer. In the winter 7 day cruises are being made from Tampa to the North West Caribbean. During the winter dry-dock of 1985 two outside cabins are added on B-deck increasing the maximum capacity to 1378 passengers. In 1986 the funnel “wave” logo is substituted with the new company logo.

Nieuw Amsterdam Funnel in 1986 The new logo, which was really an old logo, having been designed for the commission of the Nieuw Amsterdam II of 1936. It features that ship, with the sailing ship the Haelve Maen crossing its bow.

The ship makes her first long cruise between 25 September and 1 November 1991 from Los Angeles to the South Pacific. On 9 July 1993, while at Juneau the ship is 10 years in service and has by that time steamed 987,527 NM. and made 158 Alaska trips and 211 Tampa runs. On August 9th. 1994 while approaching Ketchikan the ship runs into a fog bank and hits Gravino point. The bulbous bow and portside propeller are severely damaged and there is a 200 ft. crease along the portside bottom. The ship sails on one engine from Ketchikan to Seattle where also most of the passengers are disembarked. Repairs follow at Todds shipyard (arrival August 12) were the damaged steel is replaced and new propeller blades are installed. The estimated cost in repairs and loss of revenue are in the region of $ 20 mln. The ship sails 12 days later empty to Seward to get back into the schedule again by August 28th. In November 1994 the Captain and officers are cleared from any blame as the ship was sailing under pilotage. Normally this does not absolves the captain from being responsible but the regular pilot had handed over the conning of the vessel to the apprentice pilot without informing the Master who was located at the other side of the bridge. The apprentice pilot under estimated the strength of the current near Gravina point, and without the benefit of good visibility, reacted to late when the current pushed the ship towards the rocks.

For 17 years the ship gave good service to the company and together with her sister it was a trend setter for the cruise industry. As Holland America was moving in the top spot of the premium market, a high density ship such as the Nieuw Amsterdam was fitting less and less well into the company’s planning and the ship was offered for sale.

It was announced in June 1999 that the ship had been sold to American Classical Voyages and was to be used for their subsidiary American Hawaii. To achieve this a special act had to passed by USA Congress, allowing a foreign built ship to fly the American flag. The sale price was given as $ 114.5 mln. of which $84.5 mln was in the form of a six year loan from Carnival Corporation. The remaining money was paid cash.Target date for delivery was around 14 October 2000. AMCV was planning to built up the American Hawaii trade with newly constructed ships but until they came on line, temperory tonnage was needed. Also they wanted a fairly modern ship to train up their crew (which were only used the the older tonnage of the Independence and the Constitution) for their coming modern ships and for the required modern ways of cruising. In October 1999 AMCV announced that the would rebrand their American Hawaii product to United States Lines for which they had acquired the franchise. The ship was to be renamed Patriot with the first cruise commencing on 9 December 2000 from Honolulu.

In the mean time The Nieuw Amsterdam had been chartered out as the official hotelship for the Sydney Olympic Committee between 12 September and 3 October 2000. As such it stayed in Sydney for the duration of the games and was used as an “overflow” hotel when there was not enough accommodation available in the city itself. When the games were over, the ship sailed empty for Portland Oregan where the refit would take place. The ship was handed over on October 18th. 2000 at 09.10 off the Columbia River seabuoy, in position 046o 04’N & 124o 22’W. New owner was the Oceanic Ship Company (a Delaware Ship Corporation) which was a holding company for American Classic Voyages Co. In drydock the ship received a lighter blue hull coloring; new funnel colors and logo. Also the Nieuw Amsterdam name signs above the bridge are removed and not replaced. The Casino was removed as well and replaced by a Lanai area; a destination learning centre & Kumu Study both having windows overlooking the outside deck. The night club was remodelled into a Waikiki Beach Boy Club. The old Disco on Boatdeck was changed into the Kaleidoscope Room for small childeren at one side of the area and a Graffitti Club with internet access for teens at the other side. The old ships print shop next door was changed into a Video Arcade.

Patriot funnel A stylised American Eagle was welded to both sides of the funnel.

Furtheron the Library/bookchest was changed into a internet café and the Cardroom/Half Moon into a conference center. An extra bow and stern thruster were added to cope with the strong winds in the Hawaiian Islands; bringing the total power available on the bow to 4000 hp. and at the stern to 3500 hp. The cabins 002 and 004 were combined into one Presidents Suite. Part of the shops (Drugstore) was removed to increase the Shorexcursion Area now renamed into the Destination Services Centre. Although political assurances had been given that the ship would receive a years grace while going from Dutch to American flag to deal with a the differences in safey regulations; the local USCG decided that most safety equipment had to be changed to USCG type approved items before commissioning. This added a large expense, which the company had not expected nor budgeted for.

Patriot in business The Patriot ready for service. On the photo you can see the tender gangway hanging outside the B deck breakdoor. Tests were being done to see if it fitted on the barge that was to be used for tender operation during calls at Kona.

The conversion of the ship was finished on the 23rd. of november and the ship sailed empty for Los Angeles for travel agent inspections and a nowhere cruise. This cruise was cancelled as USCG continued to issue new requirements in regards to safety equipment (Modification of the Co2 Engine room supression system.) and for the same reason a similar cruise from San Francisco had to be cancelled. The ship barely departed on time for its maiden voyage on December 2nd. from San Francisco to Honolulu with 700 passengers and about 35% of the crew not having arrived. (Most Hawaiian crewmembers refused to fly to San Francisco do join the ship and preferred to wait until the ship arrived in Honolulu).Then the ship started on its weekly run around the Hawaiian Islands.

Schoonderbeek on loanYours truly spend six weeks on board the Patriot training the new crew in what was for them a very modern cruise ship. It was an interesting experience as I had never worked, nor been exposed to another company, having been Holland America born and bred.

On October 19, 2001 AMCV announced bankcrupty and applied for chapter XI protection. All ships and subsidiary companies ceased trading. Carnival Corporation entered into discussions with AMCV’s management to determine the future of the Patriot as it held an $80 million first preferred ship mortgage. Carnival and American Classic renegotiated the terms of the mortgage to defer principal payments and that would have enabled the ship to continue sailing during the summer of 2002 if AMCV would have been able to do so. However things did not work out. Not only where the Patriot was concerned but also with the two planned newbuilds, the two coastal ships under constructions and the river boat business. My personal opinion is that AMCV tried to do too many things at the same time. Buying the Patriot; building two new, very big ships: and building to coastal liners (Cap Cod Light and Cape May Light). For soo many things the needed expertise was very thinly spread, nor where the start up funds unlimited.

Thus the Federal Marshals seized the ship on Holland America’s behalf on Oct. 26 at Honolulu’s Pier 24. Carnival had brought a foreclosure action, saying that American Classic Voyages had stopped running the ship without paying off all of its purchase price. AMCVhad been hit hard by the travel slowdown after Sept. 11, as air travel from the USA mainland stopped for awhile and with it the necessary cash flow to survive. It had filed for bankruptcy, stopped the Patriots current cruise program and had the ship tied up in Honolulu. American Classic had assured Carnival Corporation that steps had been taken to enable passengers and crew to disembark the ship without difficulty and that crew members would be paid and have their travel costs covered to return home. Carnival being the largest creditor and interested party in the ship, now suddenly found itself in control again, while not yet being the legal owner. Carnival personnel worked with American Classic shore-based employees in Hawaii to address the issues that arose in securing and laying up the ship pending its eventual disposition.

The ship was released by the court in Honolulu on 16 January 2002 and reverted to her former owners, Carnival Corporation on February 4. She was at once renamed back to Nieuw Amsterdam but with a registration for Wind Surf Ltd. Nassau and flying the Bahamian flag. The ship sailed on the 15th of March from pier 29 in Honolulu, bound for Freeport in the Bahamas. It arrived with a maintenance crew of 150 aboard at the Panama Canal Pacific anchorage on March 28. Here the destination was changed to Charleston, South Carolina where the ship arrived on April 2, with the intention of wet docking and a general clean up. The latter was very much a necessity as maintenance during the latter part of the Patriot time had not been that great and had been non existent during the 4 months of lay-up in Honolulu, when its official owner ship was very much in limbo until the court made its decsion.

Holland America patriots We do not look so spic and span in this photo as the crew of the maiden voyage. But then the ship did not look so good either and needed a lot of TLC. One of my duties as captain was to drive an 8 seater bus and to go shopping each day for tools and supplies. A sort of navigating on land with the main challenge of not loosing my crew in Home Depot.

TLc needed Just a small example of what had to be brought back to normal. A ship that goes in lay-up for a prolonged period without any maintenance carried out, deteriorates very quickly. This is a corner of the observation deck above the Crowsnest.

Holland America had not expected to get the ship back and as a result it had to come up quickly with some viable idea’s to put the ship back to use again. As the ship had been constructed with Bermuda very much in mind (the ships length was the maximum possible for Hamilton Front street docking and there were sewage connections on the starboard side for hooking up to the shore system) the best plan was to start a number of cruises from New York to Bermuda and while this was going on, figure out a long term program. However it turned out not to be necessary. On 18 April 2002 it was announced that Thomson Holidays was subchartering the ship for all year-round cruises from Lois Cruises for an initial three and a half year contract. Lois Cruises had signed a 10 year bare boat charter with Carnival Corporation just before and would take care of crewing, maintenance and the other logistics. Thomson would market the ship, focusing on the British package holiday trade. The charter commenced in March 2003and this was also the moment that Carnival started to receive the rent.

The ship was handed over on May 7th 2002 at 20.10 hrs EDST off the coast of Charleston, SC and sailed at once for Pireaus with 13 HAL advisors on board and a Greek skeleton crew. It arrived in Pireaus on May 23nd. Also on May 7, Thomson Holidays announced that the charter had been extended to ten years and that the ship would replace the agingTopaz. (in 2009 this contracted was upgraded for the next two years due to the higher operating costs of the ship)

Thomson Spirit, The ship was renamed in Thomson Spirit and started to make Mediterannean cruises from Palma de Mallorca, Spain in May 2003. Since some time Thomson is part of the German travel giant Tui AG and as such now carries that company’s logo on the funnel.

ThomsonSpirit 2006 The Thomson Spirit sails in the Med in the winter and Northern and Western Europe in the summer and has proven highly popular in the english market.

2 Comments

  1. My wife & I cruised on her New Years ’88 – ’89 where I proposed to her, I bought the ring in St Thomas, we got married in Mar ’89 and have cruised HAL ever since. We hope to cruise on her again some time for our anniversary.

  2. kathleen Fischer

    March 17, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    My husband, parents and I were delighted to sail in August 1983 on the Nieuw Amsterdam from NY to St. Thomas, St. Martin and Bermuda. It was a wonderful trip and itinerary. A beautiful, brand new ship with the always wonderful Holland America crew. I was 3 months pregnant with our daughter. She will be joining us on the Konigsdam for the April 27 Med cruise. We can’t wait!

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