SS Shalom - Israel's Flagship
During the 1950s, Israel's government-controlled flag carrier, ZIM Israel Lines, took delivery of a series of modest, West German-built passenger-cargo combi liners for transatlantic services, built in part as a WWII reparations deal. However, by the late 1950s, they were ready for something more. Transatlantic travel was booming, the State of Israel was a decade old, and the decision was made that it was time to assert itself in commercial shipping with a true Ship of State, a large,modern ocean liner to fly the Israeli flag on the Atlantic.
In 1959, an order was placed with Chantiers de l'Atlantique in St. Nazaire, France for a new, highly modern, 25,000 gross ton liner. Commander Edmond Brilliant, one of the founders of the Israeli Navy and the nation's most accomplished naval architect, was loaned to ZIM Israel Navigation Co. by the Israeli Defense Forces to oversee the new ship's design. Inspired by the new British-built Southern Cross and the Netherlands' new Rotterdam, the engines were placed far aft, somewhat unconventional for the era, but virtually standard today. This allowed large, open, unobstructed spaces on all passenger decks, which was further enhanced by using a pair of slender, parallel exhaust uptakes instead of a conventional funnel. 1959 was not the most auspicious time to be starting work on a new liner, seeing as how jet airliners started regular Atlantic service in 1958, and 1959 would be the first year planes carried more passengers over the ocean than ships, but ZIM Israel did make some effort at future-proofing the new ship. Class barriers were designed to be easily removable, to facilitate operation as a single-class cruise ship, while many cabins were also placed to be swapable between First Class and Tourist Class based on passenger demand for the particular voyage. Given that the ship would spend a good amount of time in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, substantial open deck space, outdoor swimming pools, and central air conditioning throughout further enhanced future use for cruise service. With IDF involvement in the design, and the Israeli government contributing a considerable part of the construction costs, ease of adaptation to a troop transport vessel was also incorporated from the start.
A controversy erupted during construction when it became known that ZIM Israel had decided to include separate, non-kosher kitchens in order to increase *Shalom'*s appeal to a wider range of clientele, particularly American tourists traveling to the Holy Land. All previous ZIM Israel ships had been exclusively kosher. Eventually, an agreement was reached with the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and other groups in which ZIM Isreal would serve only kosher food on board while in Israeli waters, but the matter remained a source of controversy throughout her time under the Israeli flag.
After 2 years of design, the keel was laid in 1961 and the nearly complete ship was floated out of the building dock in November, 1962. Paula Ben-Gurion, wife of the Prime Minister, traveled to France to perform the christening in December of 1963, and the ship was handed over to ZIM Israel in January, 1964, for her maiden voyage from Haifa to New York. A team of Israeli and international artists and designers contributed various pieces. Noted Israeli architect and interior designer Dora Gad was in charge of all passenger spaces, while Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo did two murals, and Italian sculptor Emanuele Luzzati, did several pieces for the First Class Swimming Pool. As built, she measured 25,320 gross tons and almost 629 ft. long, and had 4 steam turbines with a combined 25,000hp, giving a service speed of 20 knots. The standard configuration was for 72 First Class and 1,018 Tourist Class passengers, with a crew of 450, however, a number of cabins could be switched between the two. A handful of dedicated First Class amenities were located in the forward superstructure, while dedicated Tourist Class spaces were aft. Everything in the center was designed to be interchangeable between the two – all the major spaces in the center had no connecting corridors, and were instead arranged around stair towers, with separate doors to each room fore and aft that functioned as class barriers, allowing the lounges to be assigned to either by locking or unlocking the appropriate door. The 2-deck high synagogue also still ranks as the largest ever at sea.
By the time she finally entered commercial service in April, 1964, the situation had changed drastically from the time she had been conceived 5 years earlier. Passenger traffic on ocean liners was in terminal decline, with airliners making ships obsolete much faster than ZIM Israel had foreseen. After only 6 months in operation, Shalom was sent to the Wilton-Fijenoord shipyard in the Netherlands for a refit to add additional First Class cabins, intended to make her more appealing as a cruise ship.
After only her second transatlantic season, which posted huge losses, ZIM Israel decided to utilize Shalom almost exclusively as a cruise ship beginning in early 1966, other than very occasional New York voyages during times when a smaller ship was temporarily out of service, or when demand was unusually high. On November 26, 1965, off the coast of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, the inbound Shalom collided with the outbound Norwegian-flagged vegetable oil tanker Stolt Dagali, cutting the smaller, 13,000 ton vessel cleanly in half. Stolt Dagali's stern section sank in minutes, though the bow remained afloat. 19 of her 44 crew were killed. Shalom suffered a 40-foot gash in her bow, with some flooding in her forward cargo hold, but was able to limp into New York under her own power, and then sailed to Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia for full repairs.
The final inquiry apportioned blame to both ships – Shalom's radar had been malfunctioning and was offline for repairs, while her lookout had been given permission to leave his post for a coffee break just before the collision. US Navy divers confirmed that Stolt Dagali's engine telegraph was set to full ahead at the time of impact, indicating that she had made no attempt to avoid the collision, and was partially to blame.
Toward the end of the year, ZIM Israel, faced with mounting losses in passenger shipping, a freighter fleet facing heavy competition from containerization, and mounting pressure in the Knesset against operating subsidies, made the decision to phase out passenger services and focus exclusively on container shipping. On November 9, 1967, the barely 3-year old Shalom was sold to the German Atlantic Line, based in Hamburg, West Germany, and renamed Hanseatic for Hamburg-New York service.
German Atlantic was a relatively new firm, started with financial assistance from the City of Hamburg with the goal of reviving traffic in the port following wartime devastation. They had been without any ship since their previous vessel, also named Hanseatic, had been destroyed in a fire in 1966, and their new flagship, Hamburg, wouldn't be ready until 1969, so they seriously needed something in the meantime.
However, time was up for ocean liners, and German Atlantic Line made the decision to pull Hanseatic from transatlantic service after the Summer of 1969, after which she would be used as a full-time cruise ship. By the early 1970s, German Atlantic was struggling financially, and, in 1973, their majority shareholder, Greek tycoon Vernicos Eugenides, brokered a deal to sell her to Italian-based Home Lines, which he also controlled, and who were in need of a replacement for their popular cruise ship Homeric, recently destroyed by fire. Under Home Lines ownership, she was re-registered in Panama and sent to Genoa, Italy for a major refit, which removed all of her distinctively Israeli-themed decor elements in favor of a blander, more generic appearance, and her superstructure was expanded.
Renamed Doric, she returned to service in 1974 and proved popular with North American customers, remaining with Home Lines until 1981, when, with the new, larger Atlantic about to enter service, they sold her to Greek-based Royal Cruise Line to become their Royal Odyssey. Royal sent her to a shipyard in Perama, Greece for another major rebuilding, overseen by the Greek architects Michael and Agni Kazourakis in which her interiors were again completely gutted and reconstructed. Royal Odyssey returned to service in 1982, now featuring a new funnel modeled on that of Queen Elizabeth 2.
But, she remained with the line only until 1988, when she was again replaced by a newer, bigger ship, in this case the new Crown Odyssey. The former Shalom was sold to Regency Cruises, a new and chronically under-capitalized Greek startup, and renamed again as their Regent Sun, now running budget priced cruises for American passengers.
Changing economics in the cruise industry made smaller, older ships like Regent Sun unprofitable at low ticket prices, and Regency Cruises collapsed in bankruptcy in 1995, with Regent Sun being arrested in port at Nassau. In 1996, a new startup named Royal Venture Cruises signed a tentative charter agreement with Regency's creditors, but backed out due to lack of financing. Later, in 1997, Premier Cruises signed a letter of intent to buy her for their fleet of Big Red Boats, but backed out due to her rapidly deteriorating condition after 2 years with no upkeep and Premier's own precarious financial position. In 1998, her named was shorted to Sun, and she was sold to International Shipping Partners and renamed again as Sun 11. ISP worked out a deal with Canyon Ranch Spas to extensively rebuild the aging liner as a new ocean-going health resort called Canyon Ranch at Sea, and work began in 2000, with the entire interior again being gutted down to structural steel. The costs soon spiraled out of control and work was halted in 2001, when Sun 11 was sold to Indian shipbreakers. While under tow for the scrapyard in Alang, she began taking on water off the coast of South Africa and sank on July 26, 2001.
ClassicDatsunDebate last edited by
@ranwhenparked these are great reads and much appreciated....thank you!
Just Jeepin' last edited by
The recurring theme: ships are incredible money pits.
BicycleBuck last edited by
BRAVO! That was a great read!
Chariotoflove last edited by
Every one of these ships goes through several rounds of rebuilding and refitting at huge cost, and it never seems anyone makes money off them.
@chariotoflove In this case, the 3rd and 4th owners made out pretty well, they ended up having to order larger ships to replace it to handle the demand.
But, the other 3, yeah, they lost a ton.
Regency was badly mismanaged, they started out as a high end deluxe line in the '80s, which seemed to do OK, but then went through a management change and decided to reposition into the budget market, and bought a whole bunch of ships really quick, all financed, which caught up to them quickly.
Chariotoflove last edited by
Are these companies often used at financial tools to park or shelter money from other businesses?
Shame the original interior didn't last long despite being designed for maximum flexibility. The ship feels like it wasn't particularly noteworthy after the original Israeli interior was gutted.
@chariotoflove Some of the smaller, shadier ones, probably. Regency Cruises had some questionable stuff going on in the '90s - they spent years rebuilding a Polish ferry at a shipyard they themselves owned, overcharged themselves for the work, then, when they all collapsed in bankruptcy, the engines and machinery all mysteriously disappeared, leaving the ship worth scrap value when the creditors took possession. Most of them are legit the main attraction in terms of investment, though.
@whoistheleader Yeah, that's a recurring theme with a lot of these. In the 1970s and 80s, it was just outdated, today, all that stuff would be desirable. Same thing happened with the Queen Elizabeth 2 - originally all done in an ultra-modern, space age style inside, like TWA's Worldport at sea, but all that was gradually ripped out in the '80s and '90s in favor of a retro Art Deco look, hardly anything original was left inside by the time it was retired.
@ranwhenparked And we say that's a shame but think of all the outdated stuff we wouldn't want to be confronted with on a ship that might be cool and interesting again.
@whoistheleader True, but I'd say most of what was done from the 1970s-onward was designed to be disposable and easily changeable, like amusement parks or airport hotels, not a lot of truly quality work being done anymore. Things became more commoditized, less reflective of national identity and culture, more about maintaining consistent branding standards.
Nobody's crying over Carnival's 1980s and '90s boxes going to the scrapyard. Still, its entirely possible that someday in the future, people really will want to experience the authentic 1980s environment of neon, brass, smoked glass, and marble, and will question why none of that was saved. Or, they could just visit the Trump Tower lobby.
AestheticsInMotion last edited by
These are great reads. I'd love to hear about a modern cruise ship for comparison
@ranwhenparked I don't have much interest in cruise lines but it's true they are more anchored (hehe) in corporate identity than national identity. There's no national pride in building the greatest like that, there's some advertising bragging rights and that's about it.
jminer last edited by
@ranwhenparked These are always great reads, thank you! I also feel like sinking on the way to ship-breakers is a fairly common ending to a vessel.
gmporschenut also a fan of hondas last edited by
non-kosher kitchens in order to increase *Shalom'*s appeal to a wider range of clientele, particularly American tourists traveling to the Holy Land.
My italian american friend was going to Israel for work for a couple weeks and reading up. "Did you know jews can't eat cheese and meat at the same time?...... imagine a whole nation without chicken parm"
@gmporschenut-also-a-fan-of-hondas Or quesadillas, or also crab legs. I mean, I like kosher food, I'm just glad I have more options.