Why no escorts?When the SS Nieuw Amsterdam was launched it was boasted by the Dutch government that it was a ship of peace, because unlike other large liners no provision had been made in the design for it to be turned into a troopship. As she was laid down in 1936 this was an odd choice.
That said she was of course converted to a troopship and in less than a month, so the boast was perhaps worth very little in practice.
For the purposes of this story it is perhaps relevant the Nieuw Amsterdam spent most of 1941 racing around the Indian Ocean and Australia in the "US" convoys along with the Cunard liners and occasional French ones as well. The convoys were groups of unescorted liners running at high speed between India, Singapore and Australia, moving troops about.