Premium cruise operator Holland America Line (HAL) is to begin operating from Southampton.

In a move that is a first for HAL, the company is to deploy the 61,849-ton Rotterdam, which entered service in 1997, in Southampton later this year.

HAL refused to be drawn on whether the city’s docks will see further departures by the company’s ships, but the operator is keen to “test the water’’ in Southampton with these two voyages.

On November 3, Rotterdam will set sail from Southampton on a 32-night voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and back.

After calling at the Azores, the ship stops off at the Caribbean ports of Tortola, St Maarten, St Lucia, Trinidad, Barbados and all three “ABC” islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, before returning to Southampton on December 5, via a call in Funchal, Madeira.

Then passengers will be able to embark on Rotterdam’s 88-night passage to the Far East departing from Southampton on January 10 next year.

The round-trip UK voyage takes an easterly route to Asia, passing through the Suez Canal and calling at destinations in Spain, Greece and India after a far-reaching journey to the Far East.

Rotterdam will undertake several overnight stays and extended time in port during calls throughout Dubai, Malaysia and Singapore.

Another highlight includes an in-depth two-week exploration of Indonesia, home to many HAL crew.

Lynn Narraway, HAL’s managing director for UK and Ireland, who is based in Southampton’s Carnival House, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer these two spectacular, inaugural voyages from Southampton during winter 2012 and 2013.

“Holland America Line has always been a leader in Grand Voyages, offering as many as four of these extended sailings in one year, including the 114-night annual World Voyage, however full voyage departures have always been from USA ports.

“Now with our presence in Southampton, for the first time, we can offer British guests the opportunity to take a no-fly voyage with us.”

HAL has been a part of the Miami-based Carnival Corpor-ation, which also includes Southampton-based Cunard, and P&O Cruises, since 1989.

It was founded in 1737 as the Netherlands-America Steamship Company, which had its headquarters in Rotterdam.