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Ferry van Eeuwen


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ms Prinsendam


The ms Prinsendam is the last cruise ship to be built in Holland and at the same it was the last 'old' Holland Amerika Lijn ship that departed from Rotterdam which occurred on 30th November, 1973. The ship was built as a small cruise ship based at Singapore for the cruise trade in the Indonesian Archipelago. The expectations were high   -   even an option for a sister ship was taken    -   but this strategy proved to be unsuccessful. 

From 1975 the Prinsendam was switched to the more lucrative Alaska cruise trade and was based at  Vancouver. While sailing west of Sitka, Alaska and on 4th October, 1980 another engine room fire broke out. Luckily the  passengers and crew (520 in total) were all saved. Disembarkation took place in an orderly fashion without any panic. Despite furious efforts to extinguish the fire the ship the ship heeled over more and more and eventually sank on 11th October, 1980 at 08.35 local time.

I remember a informative statement about the cruise trade in general which I received during one of the discussions at the shipyard. Except the shipyard designers, also a representative of the Holland America Line was present. When at a certain moment I commented on the many very small passenger cabins on the ship he explained that this was only normal as a passenger  -  he literally said  -  should 'just have a bed to sleep on and no more room in the cabin then to put his shoes in'. He reminded me that after all the passenger's easy chair was in one of the lounges and not in his cabin. And that there was ample space in the other facilities such as  lounges, bars, terraces, shops and decks. The idea was that the passenger, feeling a bit claustrophobic, would leave his cabin to spend his money on things like the casino and drinks, only returning for some sleep. Let the money roll......  Never thought of the cruise trade in this way.

I also attended the sea trials of the ms Veendam (ex s.s. Argentina) and ms Volendam (ex s.s. Brasil). Furthermore when, I was at sea, I served as a 3rd Radio Officer on two other Holland America Line passengers ships: the ms Rijndam and the ms Maasdam


The passenger ship ms Prinsendam was built in 1971/72 by the Dutch shipyard De Merwede and was in service from 1973 to October 1980 when the ship sunk off the coast of Alaska. After the sea trials and while berthed at the Wilton Feyenoord shipyard in Rotterdam a serious engine room fire broke out that severely delayed the delivery (1973) of the ship. For any seaman such an incident is a strong bad luck sign. Such a ship was then traditionally named an 'unlucky ship' which was destined to ran into very bad luck in due time. How true it was in this case.

Click on the above picture of the launching hammer to view the actual launching of a ship. The launching of the dredger 'Prins der Nederlanden' is an example as the launching of the Prinsendam in July, 1972. Note the tight fit of the large dredger in the ship building hall! Further note how the spectators are dwarfed by the sheer size of the vessel. Everything must go as planned or disaster is near. The above picture shows a traditional launching hammer as it is used in the christening and launching ceremony of a ship.

The Prinsendam's first keel was laid down on September 21, 1971 and on July 7, 1972 the ship was christened and launched at the yard "De Merwede".

Official building year: 1973

Shipyard: De Merwede at Hardinxveld

Gross tonnage: 8.566 ton

L x W x D: 130,27 x 19,00 x 11,20 meter

Propulsion: By four diesel motors Stork 8TM410 with 8 cylinders each. Total power: 16.000 Hp

Service speed: 20 knots

Passengers: 375

Crew: 164


A view of the Lida Terrace. At the back ground the snow-covered Alaskan shore is visible.


The Prinsendam in this picture is still afloat but the tragic end is very near now. The communication satellite's dome can be clearly seen in this picture. A fact that is not very well known or understood is that when a ship heels over more than 30 degrees this equipment is useless as the antenna inside the dome cannot 'see' the satellite anymore.....