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Vessel type Cruiseship
Year launched 1973
Cargo type Passenger
Country of build The Netherlands

Entering into service in November 1973 – Holland America Line's centenary year – the 8,566gt Prinsendam was the last cruiseship to be built in a Dutch shipyard. However, its career was cut short by a devastating fire in 1980.

First of many

Ordered by Holland America in 1970 at a cost of US$27m, Prinsendam was the company's first purpose-built cruiseship, and management initially planned to build two vessels of the same design. Although the second ship never materialised, the design was used as the basis for the subsequent, larger, N-class ships Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam.


Launched at the Merwede yard in July 1972, Prinsendam's delivery was delayed as a result of an engineroom fire during sea trials. The ship began working from Singapore, running cruises around the Indonesian archipelago, and went on to play a big role in the development of HAL's Alaskan trade, which had taken off with its acquisition of the Westours group in 1971.

In 1975 Prinsendam conducted HAL's first Alaskan cruise on the 'inside passage' itinerary and was based in Vancouver during the summer months, switching back to Indonesian cruises in the winter.

Fire onboard

On 1 October 1980, the ship left Vancouver to begin a 65-day Pacific cruise to Indonesia, including calls at Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Bali. Just four days into the voyage, Prinsendam was some 120 miles off the coast of Alaska when a fire broke out in the engineroom after a fuel line ruptured.

Attempts to extinguish the blaze proved unsuccessful and the ship sent a distress signal which sparked a rescue mission coordinated by the US Coast Guard and involving three merchant ships in the area.

Rescue operation

In freezing conditions, 45-knot winds and 35ft seas, the 563 passengers and crew were forced to abandon ship and were rescued by the US-flagged tanker Williamsburg – whose crew received commendations for their 'deeds of extraordinary American seamanship and maritime skill', as well as US Coast Guard and US and Canadian Air Force helicopters.

Prinsendam was taken into tow and further attempts were made to bring the blaze under control, but the ship took on water and eventually capsized and sank on 11 October.

Prinsendam fact file


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