- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

26 Aug. 2021; ms Amsterdam revisited.

My wife and I had the chance to sail on the 3 day maiden voyage with the ms Bolette, ex Amsterdam from 16 to 18 August. Sailing from Dover and going nowhere, apart from having a leisurely look at the Scilly Isles and at the Channel Isles. Hence here a little update about what the ship now looks like sailing for Fred Olsen Lines. You might find the text somewhat similar to that of the Rotterdam / Borealis but they are sister ships so also a sister ship text.

The ms Amsterdam (III) was sold together with the ms Rotterdam (VI) on 20 July 2021 and then they went together in lay up at Rosyth in Scotland.

The ms Amsterdam (III) as built in 2000. Still without the “Sun Visor ” above the bridge which was a later Signature of Excellence extension when the Ocean  spa was upgraded.

She was renamed in Bolette and scheduled to enter service about a month later than the Borealis.  Fred Olsen ships naming system starts with a B and Bolette is the name of one of the family members of the current managing director who is one of the direct descents in the Fred Olsen Family line.  When the ships were geared up to return to service the crews were flown in and put in quarantine on board the ms Balmoral which was also in layup in Rosyth. She is still there together with the Boudicca and they are scheduled to re-enter service next year. However the Bolette had much more time to prepare to return to service as she had more sea days, ” floating around”, than the Borealis.

The Amsterdam (III) was during her HAL days much less changed internally and externally than the Rotterdam (V) and Fred Olsen left her almost identical.

The ms Bolette after she entered service on August 15.  The outward appearance unchanged from her HAL days.

A problem with laid up ships is in general that the lack of constant inside cleaning and reduction in AC normally results in little mushrooms and related vegetation to start growing in the public areas where in the past food was consumed. However good the on board cleaning is, and how hard you work at it,  you never get all the crumbs and past dried out fluid spill residue out of the carpets. In hot climates this is a bigger problem than in cooler areas but it happens regardless to a certain extent. So even if you were not planning to change carpets on a grand scale, a year in lay-up does make it necessary. Fred Olsen was planning to change the inside décor but had to wait until it was certain when there would be a tentative date for the restart of operations.  Hence carpeting and soft fabrics had the overriding priority once the start-up schedule was decided upon.

Thus the carpet in all public areas has been renewed, the wall furnishings (vanity stripes in the hallways) and all the cabin soft goods. At least in the cabins I saw, which were mainly the suites on deck 7 and some cabins on deck 2 and 6.

Because the ship had more time to start up and needed less internal work (Fred Olsen was quite happy with the near original HAL lay out of the ship) the ship was much further along than the Borealis. Lots of maintenance work was still going on but less in the face than on the Borealis. But also here the Neptune Day Lounge for suite guests was in use for collecting HAL artwork which was in the process of being removed from the ships public area’s and step by step replaced by Fred Olsen artwork.

This is the starboard side aft of the Crows nest. the Holland America Antique Bird Cage has been left in situ but is now flanked on each side with a modern brass sculpture

As with the Borealis the art work in the cabins had been left in place and thus my cabin still showed the Dutch art from before.

Deck 7 suites, art work from the canals of Amsterdam.

The few cabins I was able to put my nose into were all as in the HAL days albeit with new soft furnishings. In some of the lower deck cabins the artwork had been changed but in the Suites on Deck 7 it was all original. The amenities for these cabins are roughly the same as was offered by HAL Although HAL had dispensers in the showers and baths and also on the wash basin which we had in our cabin on but slightly different to Hal ; with Fred it is all bottles with pump tops. But the world atlas was there and the binoculars which had been standard before as well.

What else did change? The Crowsnest on the Amsterdam less had changed in the years than on the Rotterdam and was thus left the same. All the ships models on the portside were still there, only the bandstand was in another location than on the Rotterdam.

The Four Seasons that originally graced the Ritz Carlton on the old Nieuw Amsterdam of 1938 and then ended up outside the Crows nest of the Amsterdam (III) before being taken off again with the sale of the ship.

Important for me as an historian, Holland America had removed the art in the staircase entrance to the Crowsnest. This art came originally from the Nieuw Amsterdam of 1938 and will be used again on board our own ships. Fred had replaced this with a rowing boat, which I think had something to do with their history but there was no write up to explain.

The background was still Holland America but the boat was Fred Olsen.

One deck down, the Spa area (Atlantic Spa and Fitness) was unchanged apart from some sprucing up of the wall fabrics and the signs.  Coming onto the Lido Deck (Deck 8) the Dive Inn / Hamburger Bar of Holland America was renamed in “The Poolside” with a different menu.

.The Lido Deck with “The View” restaurant was identical to the HAL days with only the signage and fabrics changed. The speciality restaurant in the sb. forward corner, Italian food in the “Canaletto” by Hal has now become Indian Goa food in the “Vasco” by Fred Olsen. All the HAL art was still there with little reason to remove it as it fitted quite well in the new colour scheme.

Looking up to Deck 9 and 10 behind the funnel, the children’s playroom (Club HAL is still there but boarded up. The open deck Kids area above (Called “The Oasis” in HAL days) is in use as a smoking and relaxation area for the crew.

While on the Rotterdam the aft pool had been reduced to a paddle pool in HAL days, on the Amsterdam this pool had remained the same, and Fred kept it so.

Still identical with the Hal trademark of a modern ceramic bench sculpture in the aft pool.

Fred Olsen also has a trademark tradition in the pool area and that is the installation of a bronze bow / figure head from their old days. Every time a Fred Olsen ship was sold the figure head was removed and put in the garden of the Olsen family until it could be used again on a new ship. In the old days it was located on the bow with the later cruise ships it was installed in the aft pool area.

The one installed on the Bolette comes from the old Black Watch (II) / Jupiter which was a car ferry from the 1960’s and 1970’s. This ship had a double name, Jupiter in the summer as car ferry, Black Watch in the winter as a cruise ship. Her sister Black Prince /Venus followed the same routine in those days.

The figure head of the Black Watch (II) now on the Sea View Deck of the Bolette. One Lady belongs to Fred, the other one belongs to Me.

The main public rooms are on Deck 5 and 4 and thus here most of the changes were made. The show lounge is now called the Neptune Lounge and is unchanged in lay out, and so is the Ocean Bar on the starboard side behind it; and is still called the Ocean Bar. Same for the shops but the concession has changed from Dufry to Hardings and they were on this first cruise still busy with finding their feet. The Drugstore on the portside has been transformed into a Flower shop, something I have never seen before on a ship. Holland America had florists on board and a program for flower sales for special occasions but there was no dedicated outlet. Onboard here I was told that the  crew working in here do all the flower arrangements for the ship instead of down stairs as well as any requested by the guests.

Contrary to the Rotterdam, Holland America never introduced “The Mix” setup on the Amsterdam and thus  the area – that used to be the Sports Bar-, was still there, and also the Night Club behind it.

The Night Club.  Apart from the soft furnishings identical to the HAL days.

The biggest change is in the area of the Casino. Here the difference between products becomes clearly visible.

The Casino in the HAL days

On the portside the complete casino has been ripped out, including the Cashier booth and the two offices behind. (They must have had fun with getting the big safe out). Two new gaming tables were installed in the portside aft corner but no slot machines or anything else. The area has been re- designed as a sitting area and can act as an overflow for the Ocean Bar and the smaller Sports Bar area . This whole area is now called the Morning Light Pub & Lounge. I think it will work very well for Fred Olsen as they need a multipurpose day room as many of the established cruise staff activities such as the daily quiz / trivia still attract large numbers of guests.

The old HAL casino now a multi purpose room for day activities and in use as overflow for cocktail hour for the Ocean Bar and Pub area.

Although due to Covid-19 the ships was sailing with a 50% occupancy rate, it did not feel empty. The guests were out in force in the afternoon and evening to create a good atmosphere. It was just nice that we did not have to hunt for seats during cocktail time. Normally on a British ship you have to be early to get a seat during cocktail hour as the guests come out in force.

On the portside right behind it, is the Bookmark Café & Lounge, our ex Explorations Café, which has not changed at all. Behind it the Bolette Card Room, again unchanged apart from an aft section taken away and added to the space behind. This has become part of the new  “The Forrest Room” but with the doors firmly locked it was still a mystery. In Holland America Line days this used to be the Microsoft Workshop for computer lessons.

The Morning Light Pub area. Originally the HAL Sports Bar. To the left the shops which are in the original lay out of the newbuild in 2000, as the Amsterdam III never had the “The Mix” upgrade.

On the other side Holland America had the Explorers Lounge which was in use as a day room and in the afternoon and evening for classical concerts by Lincoln Arts Center for the Performing Arts. This has now been split up in two parts whereby the aft part has been transformed into “The Oriental Tea Room”. The aft inner wall has been removed, creating an extra entrance.

This is the forward part that was the main Explorers Lounge.  The aft part is now  “The Oriental Tea Room”

The Rotterdam “La Fontaine” Dining room now has different names for the upper and the lower part has remained unchanged apart from the fabric. Originally this dining room had two wings on the deck 5 level. The Kings and Queens. The Queens was giving over to the Microsoft workshop but the Kings was still in use for overflow and special dinners. This has now been changed to the “Indian Ocean Room” Restaurant. The Holland America antiques have been removed and replaced with a Tropical mural.

Covering both deck 5 and 4 near the bow was our Main Stage now called The Neptune Lounge.  As mentioned above the place was left untouched apart from removing the Ladies holding the light fixtures on the sides of the lounge.

The “lamp shade ladies” were removed on both sides of the Lounge. According to the Stage Crew to make room for more seats.

Deck 4, the 2nd public room area has been changed very little.  The Cinema, we which called the Wajang theatre has been kept “As Is” With the kitchen, for cooking demonstrations, behind the movie screen and Fred continues to use it in its dual purpose role with the space now named The Auditorium.

In good HAL tradition, cooking demonstrations continued.

Right behind it is another speciality restaurant which started out life with us as the “Marco Polo” for Italian cuisine, then became “The Pinnacle” for North West fusion cuisine and is now the “Colours & Taste” Restaurant with menus inspired by the Far East.

Is the Fred Olsen product comparable to HAL now they have two of our ships?   It is and it is not. There is nothing wrong with the Fred Olsen product but I am missing a lot of the small Holland America touches that made us stand out so much from the Competition. Fred is not exactly in competition as it concentrates fully on the British Market so I hope they will do well and our two HAL Ladies will serve them well.

My personal verdict: Fred Olsen has draft beer in every bar, in every lounge,  but Holland America had nibbles, mixed nuts and canapé’s during cocktail hour that was something I really missed while on board.

A rather nice touch for me, although Fred Olsen might be Norwegian, he had left the  sculpture of our (former) Dutch Queen Beatrix in place and she was still casting her benevolent eye over the guests gathering outside the Guest Services Desk.

Now Princess Beatrix was the Queen of the Dutch when the Amsterdam came into service in 2000.

33 Comments

  1. elizabeth schmieder

    August 27, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    So nice to hear from you again Captain. We have missed you.

  2. Thank you Capt. Albert. Your tour was very complete and both ships will be missed from the HAL fleet

  3. Gretchen and Bob Dawson

    August 27, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    Wonderful commentary as always! Great to hear from you again after so long. Looking forward to cruising with HAL once again!!!

  4. Jolanda Oostewegel

    August 27, 2021 at 11:28 pm

    Nice to read, thank you for the update.

  5. Louise Rancourt

    August 27, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Wonderful!

  6. Natasha van Bentum

    August 27, 2021 at 11:39 pm

    Dank u wel, Captain Albert, for your colourful description.

  7. Great to read your update Cpt Albert. I enjoyed reading your article.

    No sign of cruise ships in New Zealand and Australia yet. We are all in lockdown in New Zealand as the delta strain spreads, particularly in Auckland.

    Take care. Dreaming of cruising again

  8. Thank you and (your lovely lady) so very much for braving the Amsterdam transformation to Bolette. for a couple of days. Nice that they have kept some of the HAL feel. I’m with you-draft beer is good but without snacks? Oh, well….to each his own!

    So interesting to see how these ships have been refitted to cater to the tastes of new owners and their particular markets. Always love your expertise and humor. Would really like to see what has become of the Prinsendam as we were on the final voyage. Love these smaller ships and the more intimate experience they provide. (Are you listening HAL????!!!). Look forward to your next postings!

  9. Thank you for that interesting tour and update. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

  10. Such wonderful memories of a beautiful HAL ship.
    Thank you for not only updating us on the status of the ship but reminding us of her valiant days at sea
    Looking forward to cruising again and perhaps having the privilege of meeting up with you again!

  11. Very informative, thank you, Captain Albert always very interesting to see how new owners refurbish and update their fleet. Lets hope Fred Olsen can maintain the traditions (and maybe some of their own) and high specs HAL is famous for and this ship becomes a favourite amongst its new clientele.

  12. Lucia Barnhoorn

    August 28, 2021 at 12:37 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. Always love reading your books and articles about Holland America Line.
    Hugs to you and Leslie

  13. Beste Albert, wat leuk dat je de maiden trip kon maken op de Bolette. Ik heb genoten van je verhaal en foto’s dank daarvoor. Kijk uit naar de volgende lezing aan boord van het ss Rotterdam in Nederland.
    P.S.,
    Wilde net de PC afsluiten toen jouw bericht binnenkwam dat eerst gelezen, nu ga ik pitten. Groetjes, Fred Essenberg

  14. How wonderful that you were able to visit this beautiful ship and see some of the HAL decor being retained. BTW, your wife is quite lovely.

    Looking forward to more of your reports.

  15. Nice to hear from you Kaptein! Thanks for the update of the ship I had several contracts and great memories on/of! Take care and be safe!

  16. Michael R Gallagher

    August 28, 2021 at 1:22 am

    Fascinating information on what happens when a ship lays idle for almost a year. Never given much thought to the little bits of food and drink that escape the cleaning crews!! I’ve had a similar problem at home, but will spare the details. At least I know I am not alone. Thanks so much for a great read!!

  17. thanx you for a wonderful detailed account. I remember the Amsterdam fondly as I did the 2001 world cruise on her. great memories. I also have memory of the Black Prince. I went aboard the ship in Cadiz, Spain, and Captain Thor Fieten (must have been bored!), gave me a tour of the ship and invited me to lunch. Told the guests I was his wife as his wife was also British. i asked the captain what would he say that night when I had returned to my ship Norwegian Crown and he just laughed. How I miss those those days. I sailed with you several times on different HAL ships including the Maasdam.

  18. Eric Scott Hillyer

    August 28, 2021 at 1:57 am

    Very, very interesting / love before and after photos. Thanks for taking the time Captain!

  19. Tallulah Bryant

    August 28, 2021 at 2:45 am

    Our last cruise before Covid was on the Amsterdam Oct 2019-Jan 2020 Tales of the South Pacific and Panama Canal Holiday Cruise. Never dreamed it would be our last time to sail on her. Thank you for this update.
    Hope to see you on another Dam ship for another meal together.
    OK and Tallulah Bryant

  20. Good morning Captain,
    So pleased you were able to sail aboard the Bolette (Amsterdam) once again, and thank you for the interesting report. Fortunately it sounds as if the ship is in good hands.
    I have sailed on a number of HAL ships and have always enjoyed the smaller HAL ships. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to sail aboard Amsterdam, however did enjoy a lunch at the Pinnacle Grill when she visited Sydney some years ago! I always made sure I was down at Sydney harbour to see her sail to her next port on one of her round world cruises.
    For old times sake we flew to Adelaide to join the Vasco da Garma ( previously P&O Australia and my favorite HAL ship Statendam ) late 2019 just for 6 days. Certainly not the Statendam as P&O had made many changes & CMV had retained most of the changes, certainly not any HAL artwork or antiques to be seen.
    From your report I am surprised to see that HAL antiques & artwork remain on the ship, except for the Four Seasons, which I recall past passengers asking HAL to keep, thank goodness. I would have thought the antiques and most of the artwork would have transferred to the new ships! Do you know why?
    My last 2 HAL sailings were aboard Maasdam in late 2019 and early 2020. I enjoyed daily the beautiful China display between the Pinnacle Grill and the MDR and the numerous antiques about the ship!
    I do hope you get the chance to sail aboard
    Borealis and perhaps Maasdam one day!
    Take care and keep safe, I look forward to reading your blogs when you return to sea.
    Best regards

  21. MS Amsterdam was the perfect ship for the World Cruise. Large enough for having all diverse amenities and cozy enough for a long, relaxed and social stay on board. I boarded the Amsterdam for the first time in 2002 for the world cruise and my parents travelled on it for almost 20 years. It will be sadly missed by us and all HAL world travellers in the future.

  22. Beste Albert,
    Dank voor jouw verslag en de tijd die je besteed aan de historie van de HAL.
    Hoop nog veel van je interessante verslagen en geschiedkundige feiten te mogen lezen in de nabije toekomst.
    Hartelijke groet, ook aan jouw vrouw,
    Henk Bouwman

  23. Thank you for posting this summary of your cruise!! Love hearing from you. Looking forward to more posts!!!

  24. Thank you so much for wonderful update on the former ms Amsterdam! Having spent more days on her than on any other ship (531), I found it fascinating to learn of the changes they have made as well as the things they left the same. Sounds like it is a bit of nostalgia – just enough remains the same to tempt me to want to try it out. Will miss her on the grand voyages! Now my two favorite HAL ships are gone – ms Amsterdam and ms Prnsendam. It’s so nice to know what has happened to these wonderful ships since leaving the HAL fleet!

  25. Bedankt, these mid size ships will be missed in the fleet, the old Amsterdam still looks good and I will be on her in the near future.

  26. Mary Beth Burns Texas, USA

    August 29, 2021 at 2:42 am

    My last world cruise was 2016 on the Amsterdam. and oh how I miss that ship, Your article almost brought tears but lots of joy as I read and recognized some of the venues you described, Thank you ever so much.

  27. Patrice Pallone

    August 29, 2021 at 3:00 am

    Thank you, Captain Albert, for this detailed & interesting update. We had no idea we would never return to the Amsterdam, when we disembarked in March 2020. I am very glad the new owners have kept much of the extensive art & antique collection (including the sculpture of your former Queen Beatrix), but that the valued “Four Seasons” will reappear on another HAL ship. We hope to hear more of your lectures on future cruises. Meanwhile, take care & stay well.

  28. Marianne Villeneuve

    August 30, 2021 at 3:36 pm

    So interesting to see everything that has changed as well as the things that have remained the same. Thank you for the tour.

  29. Beste Kapitein Albert,
    Wederom hartelijk dank voor deze update. Toch mooi om te lezen hoe het de oude HAL schepen vergaat, die goed verzorgd niet vergaan op een of andere schroothoop. Hopelijk horen we u weer op het ss Rotterdam met mooie verhalen.
    Met vriendelijke groet,
    Peter Helmer
    Ps ben benieuwd wanneer de nieuwe Rotterdam gedoopt wordt in Rotterdam!!!

  30. I miss the Amsterdam having sailed on her 7 times. Thankfully Fed Olsen has not destroyed a beautiful vessel. Not to say I don’t like the Koningsdam and Nieuw Amsterdam but they just don’t have the feel of the smaller vessels

  31. Geraldine Kee-Chaston

    August 31, 2021 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you so much for your blogs, Captain Albert. I have sailed with many of the HAL ships, including ms Rotterdam and ms Zaandam during the “Covid crisis cruise” I was among the passengers transferred from Zaandam to Rotterdam and I want to thank you so much for your leadership during a very stressful time. Your daily comments of information and encouragement were so reassuring they will remain in my memory forever! A special thank you for your gift of champagne to celebrate the progress towards being allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale.

  32. Thanks Captain an interesting read. Just for clarification the two ships left in Rosyth are Balmoral due to sail in December 2021 and Braemer due to sail again April 2022. Boudicca was sold and has since been scrapped.
    Fred Olsen Jr has his own unique design in carpets and soft fittings and the newer ships have been branded with house colours. He also oversees the art collections and there may be more changes yet to happen.

    The Forrest Room which will be opened soon will be a combined information centre promoting and a restaurant serving ecological food and environment. All the produce will come from the Fred Olsen Forrest Estate in Scotland.

    As I recall the model boat is a replica of an Umiak. A type of open boat made by the Vikings from animal skin and was propelled by oars or paddles.

    The absence of nibbles at present is a casualty of Covid 19 to cut down the risk of transmitting the virus.

    However it is good that HAL passengers who wish to give Fred Olsen a try will still be able to be reminded of their HAL days.

  33. Most informative and helpful and as a former passenger on Black Prince( and Jupiter), Black Watch, Boudicca Braemar and Balmoral look forward to enjoying the ‘Fred Olsen’ environment when, hopefully, I can book Cruises on Bolette and Borealis !

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