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JC Stays: SS Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Stepping back to 50s shipboard glamour - without leaving Rotterdam's harbour

We walked down the red-carpeted gangplank into the reception, and were transported into a world of 1950s glamour.

The former flagship of the America-Holland Line, and largest passenger ship ever to be built in the Netherlands, the SS Rotterdam took its maiden voyage in 1959, transporting immigrants across the Atlantic.

Now completely renovated, it’s an authentic experience of what it would have been like to travel on board in its heyday, but permanently moored in Rotterdam’s Katendrecht area, a former red light district turned trendy foodie hotspot.

As jazz music played, I imagined Frank Sinatra, who performed on board, singing New York, New York to a rapt audience.

Photos of former captains adorned grand pianos, while I was enthralled by the stained glass double staircase depicting the elements and cosmos, previously used to keep social classes segregated.

The ship’s 576 original cabins have been converted into 254 rooms, with three concepts to choose from; original, minimalist Manhattan and our choice, Bahamas.

Photos of the SS Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands by Elan Fleisher / elanhotelpix.com
Photos of the SS Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands by Elan Fleisher / elanhotelpix.com

Tropical floral curtains covered the portholes in our massive family room overlooking the city skyline and River Maas. Our king-sized bed had a matching floral throw.

Retro furniture in the living area was reminiscent of a scene from Mad Men including green and yellow upholstered leather armchairs with wooden armrests. A metal ladder hooked on to bunk beds, the top one hanging down on a latch.

There was even a separate little room for us to store our luggage.

And while adults will enjoy the glamour and unique atmosphere, little touches make the SS Rotterdam a dream if you’re staying with kids too.

Slightly hidden away on the main deck, by the piano bar where you’ll find live music on Friday and Saturday nights, was a playroom, plus an arts and crafts room on the promenade.

In the Lido restaurant, where the exposed pipework ceiling was another reminder of the ship’s seafaring history, tantrums were averted by a stash of toys.

This meant we could tuck in to the breakfast buffet of cereals, breads, cheese and smoked salmon without having to worry about the boys climbing on the velvet-chequered benches or maroon leather chairs that gave the dining room an American feel.

Outside, the restaurant’s terrace, its centerpiece a children’s paddling pool, was the perfect sunny spot for a drink.

And an audio tour gave you access to areas of the ship usually off limits. My two boys made a beeline for the steering wheel on the bridge deck although I preferred the quirky partitions incorporating the base of milk bottles in the glitzy Ambassador Lounge nightclub, where first class passengers would have boogied into the early hours.

I knew a stay here would appeal to my boat-obsessed son. But now? We’re all hooked.