She was originally operated by the Netherland Line, and sailed between Amsterdam and the Dutch East Indies for nine years. the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was the largest Dutch ship at the time she was built.
The ship was built as a luxury liner. Famed artists designed the ship’s teak and marble interior, as well as her many statues, mosaics, tapestries and chandeliers.
At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was chartered by the Holland America Line and re-registered in Batavia, Indonesia. She was used as a cargo ship on the Batavia to New York City route.
After a refitting, the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt returned to service on the Amsterdam – Batavia route in 1946. Indonesians were fighting for their independence from the Netherlands at this time. The ship ferried Dutch troops returning home to Europe from Indonesia for several years.
By 1950, the political climate in Indonesia had become so unstable that the ship was withdrawn from the East Indies service. She was switched to the Amsterdam – Australia service and departed on her first voyage to Australia on September 2, 1950. She serviced Australia and New Zealand for the next twelve and a half years, with occasional service to Canada and the United States.
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