Just signed papers for this, should get delivered late next week. Please reassure me that I'm not as stupid as I think I am.
Although the United States was the western terminus of the highly competitive transatlantic passenger trade, and Americans constituted the largest share of passengers heading back and forth, US-based shipping lines were traditionally minor players on the Atlantic. European-flagged ships were generally thought of by American passengers as offering higher quality standards of food and service, while Prohibition certainly didn't help matters during the 1920s and early '30s, as the ability to drink once outside US territorial waters was also a big attraction for traveling on a foreign line. Also not helping was that United States Lines, the flag carrier set up in the early 1920s to make use of the large amount of new transport vessels constructed for WWI and of the German ships taken in reparations, never had the right fleet to offer a regular weekly express service. The only large, fast ship under US registry was the ex-German Vaterland, which went for scrap in the 1930s.
Part of President Franklin Roosevelt's efforts to lift the country out of the Great Depression was a shipbuilding initiative under the US Maritime Commission, offering low interest loans, direct subsidies, and loan guarantees for companies ordering ships from US shipyards. Eager to replace the old Leviathan/Vaterland with an equally grand, but more modern and economical ship, United States Lines submitted their application for assistance, and received the first contract under the new program in 1936.
Design work for the new ship was entrusted to the New York-based firm of Gibbs & Cox, lead by America's foremost naval architect, William Francis Gibbs (who, interestingly enough, was actually self taught in the profession). Gibbs was passionately interested in safety, above all else, believing it was not the job of an architect to merely give their clients what they asked for, but that he also had a moral obligation to do whatever he could to make his ships as safe as possible for the passengers and crew who would sail in them. The loss of Titanic in 1912 affected him greatly, and caused Gibbs to focus on the importance of structural redundancy and compartmentalization, but it was the loss of Morro Castle in 1934 that had an even greater impact. That American-flagged liner caught fire en route to Cuba, and the burning hulk drifted ashore, running aground on the beach of Asbury Park, New Jersey, with 135 souls dead in the inferno. The wreckage became something of a morbid tourist attraction,and Gibbs traveled down from New York to view it himself, and became even more conscious than ever of the dangers of fire at sea, as a far greater threat than collisions. For the remainder of his career, he would be known for his focus, really zealousness, to fire safety above all else. The new United States Lines liner was the first major new contract he received after the Morro Castle fire, and would be his first major chance to put his fire safety concepts into practice.
However, United States Lines was insistent that their new flagship should be a proper rival to European liners, which meant suitably lavish and luxurious Art Deco interiors, which meant some limits on what Gibbs could do, the ship had to be a viable commercial enterprise, after all. Interior design was handled by an all-female team from Smyth, Urquhart, & Marckwald – lead by Dorothy Marckwald and Anne Urquhart, who worked closely with Gibbs to ensure that they maintained a single, unified vision for the ship.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt traveled to Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co in Newport News, Virginia to christen the new ship America in 1939, and fitting out was completed in 1940. America measured 26,454 gross tons and 723 ft long – only about 1/3 the size of the big British and French liners, but still fairly large for the era, and enough to make her the largest passenger ship under US flag at the time. She featured a set of 37,500hp steam turbines driving twin screws for a speed of 22.5 knots. As built, there were accommodations for 1,202 passengers – 543 in Cabin Class, 418 in Tourist Class, and 241 in Third.
As WWII in Europe was well underway by the time America was ready for service in August, 1940, the planned transatlantic service from New York-Bremerhaven via Le Havre and Southampton was not going to happen. Instead, United States Lines used her to open a novel New York-Los Angeles route via the Panama Canal. It at least brought in some revenue, but was obviously far slower than train, and, especially, the nascent airline industry, and was not terribly popular. Between 1940-1941, America was also used on frequent leisure cruises in the Caribbean, in between liner voyages. During 1941, several crew members were discovered to be part of a German spy ring – reporting on Allied and US ship movements in the Caribbean and Pacific and studying Panama Canal defenses. Also, her aft funnel (the only functional one) was found to be too short, resulting in too much soot accumulation on the upper decks, so both funnels were raised during the Fall of 1940.
Finally, as part of the ongoing US military buildup in preparation for direct involvement in the war, America was requisitioned by the US Navy in July, 1941, and renamed West Point for conversion into a troop transport vessel. Refitted to carry 7,678 troops at a time, West Point spent 1941-1946 in Naval service, carrying both American and Commonwealth forces to and from Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Southeast Asia, steaming 550,000 miles and transporting over 500,000 troops.
West Point was handed back to United States Lines in 1946, after completing postwar repatriation voyages, and was renamed back to America and thoroughly restored to prewar configuration, finally entering transatlantic service to Bremerhaven in November, 1946. After 1952, she was partnered with the much larger, and significantly faster, United States on the route.
Airline competition from 1958 onward began siphoning off passengers, and United States Lines started deploying America on more and more frequent cruises to Bermuda and the Caribbean from 1960 onward, with frequent periods of lay-up. Finally, United States Lines pulled her from service in November, 1964, and offered her for sale.
The buyer was Chandris Lines of Greece, who renamed her Australis, and gave her an extensive refit – adding air conditioning throughout, an outdoor pool, and increasing passenger capacity to 2,258. After completion of the refit in 1965, Australis was remeasured at over 30,000 gross tons, and entered service on the Britain-Australia route, primarily carrying immigrants heading south from Europe, on one of the increasingly few routes where ocean liners could still operate profitably against airline competition. Between 1965-1977, Australis made 62 round trip voyages from Europe-Australia and carried over 300,000 new residents to the latter country. Eventually, airlines caught up on that route as well, and Chandris pulled Australis from service and laid her up in New Zealand until 1978, when she was sold to Venture Cruise Lines of New York.
Under Venture ownership, Australis was renamed back to America, registered in Panama, and refitted for Caribbean cruises from New York. The refit was a hasty, low budget job, and was not fully completed when America sailed on her first cruise for Venture – with leaking pipes, backed up toilets, and furniture and construction debris piled up in the halls. Passengers mutinied, and forced the captain to turn back to port. On her second cruise, America was scored 6/100 in her US Public Health Service inspection, and was arrested on arrival in Nova Scotia, due to creditor claims of $2.5 million.
America was repurchased by Chandris for $1 million, renamed Italis, and plans were announced for a major rebuilding and modernization, however, the only major change made was removal of the corroded forward dummy funnel. Italis ran a few Mediterranean cruises for Chandris from 1978-1979, and, following a charter as a hotel ship for an Organization of African Unity conference, was laid up in Greece.
Italis was sold to the Intercommerce Corporation in 1980 and renamed Noga, for rebuilding as a private prison ship to be moored in Beirut, under contract to the Lebanese government, but funding never materialized.
Intercommerce ultimately sold her to Saudi Arabian-based Silver Moon Ferries in 1984, who renamed her Alferdoss, with plans on reactivating her to carry religious pilgrims for the Haj, but, again, nothing was done, the ship continued to sit rusting and decaying in Piraeus. In 1988, Alferdoss was sold to a scrap metal company for $2 million, who proceeded to demolish the lifeboats and davits, before defaulting on half their payments. Finally, in 1992, Alferdoss was purchased by an investment consortium from Thailand, with plans to convert her into a luxury hotel moored in Phuket. The ship was drydocked, and discovered to be in excellent structural condition, despite over a decade with basically zero maintenance. The hull was cleaned and painted, the funnel spruced up, and the now renamed American Star left under tow for Thailand in December, 1993.
For reasons that are still unclear, the decision was made to sail via Gibraltar instead of Suez. On January 17th, 1994, American Star broke her tow rope in a gale off the coast of the Canary Islands and washed up on Playa de Garcey, on Fuerteventura. The ship sat beached for nearly 6 months while her owners, insurance company, and towing company bickered over a salvage plan, until on July 6, 1994, when the pounding wave action finally caused her to crack in two just aft of the funnel, causing American Star to be declared a total loss.
The 344ft stern section took the brunt of the weather, and collapsed into the sea in 1996, but the bow remained intact and upright, until deterioration began accelerating during 2005, leading to a complete collapse in 2007. During her time as a beached wreck, American Star was heavily looted by islanders, almost all salvageable furniture, artwork, and fittings were gradually removed from the bow, and there is apparently a bar near the beach decorated almost entirely with items salvaged from the ship.
@dr-zoidberg Step One: knock out all interior partition walls and paint everything remaining grey, Step Two: cover up all real hardwood floors with vinyl plank, Step Three: put ship lap on something, Step Four: profit.
The US merchant shipping and shipbuilding industries have long been dependent on the largess of the federal government for survival, and it was no different in the 1920s. In 1928, President Herbert Hoover's administration pushed through a $250 million ($3.9 billion today) package to provide low interest, long-term financing to American shipping companies ordering vessels from US yards, with full government guarantees backstopping the debt. The idea at the time was to encourage the renewal of the US merchant fleet, which, at the time, had one of the oldest average ages in the world, and was still powered mostly by inefficient, smoke belching coal boilers, as the rest of the world was transitioning to mostly cleaner, thriftier oil.
One of the companies taking advantage of the loan program was the New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Company (doing business as the Ward Line), which, since 1841, had been the largest carrier of passengers, cargo, and mail between the United States and Cuba (which itself was a protectorate of the United States from the Spanish-American War until achieving full sovereignty in 1934).
Ward Line received loans for two new sister ships, and placed orders with the famous Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company in Virginia in late 1928, with construction beginning in January 1929. The two ships were delivered a few months apart in 1930 – Morro Castle (named for the fortress in Havana harbor) in March, and Oriente (named after the Oriente Province in Cuba) in May. Both were largely identical in design. In the case of Morro Castle, she measured 11,520 gross tons and 508 ft. long, and featured a 14,000hp General Electric steam turboelectric powerplant driving twin screws for a speed of 20 knots.
Although tiny by the standards of the hotly competitive transatlantic trade, for the less densely trafficked US-Cuba route, the ships were considered impressively large, and the luxury of their passenger accommodations easily rivaled the best on the Atlantic, bringing a new standard of comfort and service to the Cuban route. Morro Castle carried just 489 passengers – 394 in First Class, plus 95 in budget-oriented Tourist Class, plus a crew of 240. She featured richly paneled public rooms, with finely carved woods, with gold leaf detailing, expensive rugs and tapestries, and elegant furniture.
The spacious First Class Main Lounge and Dining Room were both two decks in height, encircled by elegant balconies, and the Smoking Room featured dark walnut paneling with a vaulted ceiling covered in frescoes depicting the Age of Sail. The ship also featured what was thought to be the latest in modern safety features – with electronic heat sensors, an automatic fire alarm system, and electrically operated fire doors.
From 1930-1934, Morro Castle worked the New York-Havana run, taking about 2 days, 10 hours to complete the 1100 mile trip. Despite the ongoing Great Depression, she and her sister were highly popular and profitable, sailing at or near capacity on nearly every voyage throughout the year.
But, that all came to an end at 2:50am on September 8th, 1934. While sailing off the coast of Long Beach Island, New Jersey, inbound from Havana, fire was discovered in a storage locker connected to the First Class Writing Room. Despite the ship's apparent safety measures, it spread rapidly, feeding off the heavily varnished wood furnishings and paneling, and spreading through the gaps in-between decks and bulkheads. To make matters worse, the captain had died of a heart attack at dinner several hours earlier, leaving the First Officer in charge, and, as events would prove, he wasn't totally ready for the job.
The automatic fire alarms sounded as they were supposed to, but were too quiet – most of the sleeping passengers didn't hear them, and many of those who did assumed the noise was for something else, since a proper alarm would be louder. By 3:10am, the fire had burned through the ship's main electrical cables and hydraulic lines, rendering Morro Castle completely powerless and un-navigable, with no communications capability. Due to the way in which the fire spread, crew members, whose quarters were mainly toward the bow, clustered forward, cut off from the rest of the ship by the flames, while passengers, whose quarters were in the midships and stern sections, gathered aft. The separation of the ship and the speed of the flames made an orderly evacuation difficult, only 6 of 12 lifeboats were launched successfully, and with only 85 total people aboard, despite seats for 408 (and most of those were crew members).
As the ship's structure absorbed the heat from the flames, the decks even in unburned areas became too hot to stand on, and passengers began leaping over the side, with or without life jackets – the latter case, inadequate instructions during the voyage lead to a considerable number of deaths, when people's necks snapped on hitting the water.
Fortunately, the fire did occur in heavily traveled sea lanes on the approach to New York, so, after some delay, four other merchant vessels did eventually respond for help, followed later by two Coast Guard cutters, with the Governor of New Jersey taking to the air in his private plane to follow the burning ship's course and alert rescue vessels to the locations of bodies and survivors in the water. By the time it was all over, 135 passengers and crew, out of the 549 on board, had died.
Later that morning, the now totally abandoned hulk of Morro Castle washed up on the beach of Asbury Park, New Jersey, coming close enough to the Convention Hall for those standing on the boardwalk to reach out and touch the blistered hull. The ruins of the ship smoldered for two more days, before the fire completely died out on September 10th. For the next 6 months, the wreck of Morro Castle sat as a macabre tourist attraction on the beach of Asbury Park, with crowds coming to town to view the beached liner, and boardwalk vendors selling Morro Castle-themed souvenirs.
One of those who made the trip down from New York was William Francis Gibbs, America's foremost naval architect and co-founder of the firm of Gibbs & Cox. Gibbs had always been obsessed with safety, but, until then, had focused mainly on structural redundancy against flooding or collision damage, but the sight of Morro Castle caused him to reevaluate priorities in favor of a recognition of the much greater danger of fire on board ship. For the rest of his career, fire safety became his preoccupation, culminating in his masterpiece, the almost ridiculously strong, heavily overbuilt and fastidiously fireproofed SS United States of 1952.
The hulk of Morro Castle, obviously damaged beyond repair, was eventually refloated and towed away for scrap in March of 1935.
The official inquiry, released in 1937, faulted the acting captain, First Officer Warms, for not leaving the bridge to personally investigate the severity of the fire, maintaining full speed ahead for some time after the fire was known, for taking too long to call for assistance, and not making any effort to activate the emergency lighting systems, or move himself and his officers to the emergency steering station, even as systems failed throughout the ship. The crew in general were faulted for not organizing any significant firefighting efforts, not manually closing fire-doors as the automatic servo mechanisms failed, and not making any coordinated effort to evacuate passengers.
The design of the ship was also noted for worsening the crisis, only 6 out of 42 firefighting stations could be used at a time, due to inadequate water pressure to run all of them, some had been taken out of use due to some nuisance vandalism by passengers on an earlier voyage, and a 6-inch gap above the finished overheads and behind wood paneling allowed fire to bypass the fire doors and spread throughout the ship. In addition, the modern, electronic heat sensors were only installed in passenger cabins and crew spaces, not in the public rooms, such as the Writing Room where this fire broke out. The cause of the fire remains unknown, as the damage at the origin point was too extensive to make a determination. Theories range from an electrical fault, to spontaneous combustion of used shop rags, to arson by a disgruntled crew member.
The loss of Morro Castle was the worst tragedy to befall Ward Line, which had had a mostly sterling safety reputation over the previous 93 years in business, and was only the start of a series of difficulties for them – it was followed over the next few months by another of their liners grounding in Havana harbor, and then by the ship chartered to replace Morro Castle sinking on its maiden voyage. The negative publicity caused the company to rebrand as Cuba Mail Line in 1935, and ultimately ceased operations in 1942, when its entire fleet was requisitioned by the US Navy and not returned after the war. Postwar, the famous Ward Line trademark was revived twice by two separate sets of investors, with the last incarnation, Cuban-based Ward-Garcia Line, shutting down in 1959.
Morro Castle's identical sister ship, Oriente, remained in service until requisitioned to become the troop transport vessel Thomas H. Barry in 1941, and was used throughout US involvement in World War II and for several years after, until being decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet in 1949, ultimately being sold for scrap as surplus property in 1957.
During the late 1950s, Britain's Cunard Line began the planning process for a new transatlantic liner. At the time, Cunard were the dominant carriers on the Atlantic, carrying more passengers across the ocean per year than any other company, both shipping lines and airlines. Although United States Lines' United States had broken the speed record in 1952, Cunard's Queen Mary remained in a solid position as 2nd fastest on the Atlantic, and, importantly, between Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, Cunard had two similarly sized, similar performing ships, allowing for a regular weekly express schedule – which their American competitor couldn't offer. The 81,000-ton Queen Mary, delivered in 1936, and the 83,000-ton Queen Elizabeth, completed in 1940, were the two largest ships in the world and the envy of all other companies on the Atlantic.
However, Cunard was well aware that they couldn't last forever. Consumer tastes were changing rapidly, and foreign competitors were commissioning sleeker and more modern ships as the postwar era wore on. In the mid 1950s, Cunard began work on designs for a pair of 1,000 ft. long, 75,000 gross ton liners to replace both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, with an eye toward getting them in service by 1960.
The UK government formed a committee, chaired by Oliver Lyttelton, 1st Viscount Chandos to asses the viability of Cunard's plans and determine if government financing was justified. The report of the Chandos Committee, released in January, 1960, determined that only one ship should be built, to replace only Queen Mary, retaining Queen Elizabeth as a running mate to the new ship. Although only 4 years older than Queen Elizabeth, construction delays during the Great Depression meant that her design was actually much older. Most design work on Queen Mary had been done in the mid-late 1920s, with construction beginning in 1929, whereas Queen Elizabeth was fully developed in the mid-late 1930s, making her a full decade more modern. Queen Mary had twice as many boilers, in twice as many boiler rooms, resulting in significantly higher fuel consumption, as well as higher manning requirements. The Queen Elizabeth was comparatively more modern, and it was thought that she could therefore remain in service much longer, potentially into the 1970s. The cost of the new ship would be around £30 million, with £18 million coming from a government loan. The Chandos Report also called for a traditional oil-fueled turbine steamship, considering and eliminating both nuclear and diesel power as options. In the meantime, in an effort to modernize their business, Cunard bought a controlling stake in charter operator British Eagle Airways in April of 1960, rebranding it as Cunard Eagle Airways, seeking approval from the government to launch scheduled transatlantic flights.
With government backing for one new liner, Cunard set to work on refining their ideas, under the project code Q3. Plans were still for a 75,000 ton liner, with a capacity of 2,750 passengers in the traditional 3 classes. In December of 1960, Cunard began accepting tenders, with 6 shipbuilders – Harland & Wolff; John Brown & Company; Cammell Laird & Company; Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson; Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company; and Vickers, Armstrong & Company all placing bids.
Early proposals from March of 1961 showed a radically modern appearance, with a slender exhaust stack instead of a traditional funnel, and a second thin ventilation shaft built into the mast forward. By October of 1961, the design had become much more conventional, with a rounded, terraced forward superstructure and a single large, classic funnel in the center, and discussions were being held with Harland & Woff Ltd. in Belfast, Northern Ireland toward a possible contract signing. That month, Sir John Brocklebank, chairman of Cunard Steamship Company, announced that the project had been canceled. In 1957, ocean liners and airlines were equal, each carrying 1 million passengers across the Atlantic, by 1961, ships had declined to 750,000 passengers, with air travel growing to 2 million. Building another giant, 3-class liner suddenly appeared unwise.
After taking some time to reconsider options, in January of 1962, Sir John Brocklebank announced that Cunard would proceed with a much smaller ship – about 950 ft long and 57,000 tons, able to fit through the Panama Canal, and with only two classes of passengers, able to easily convert to one class if needed. The new ship would be optimized for double duty as a single class cruise ship, particularly during the winter, when transatlantic passenger demand was at its lowest and demand for warm weather vacations was highest. After further refining, in August of 1964, 5 of the 6 original shipyards were invited to re-tender for the vessel now referred to as Q4 (Vickers Armstrong were left out), ultimately, only 3 responded – Harland & Wolff, John Brown, and Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson. John Brown & Company offered the earliest delivery date – Spring 1968 – and the lowest price - £25.4 million – and won the contract. The company's board had decided to build the new ship at cost, with no profit, expecting that the prestige of building Britain's and the world's grandest new liner would be worth it in publicity, attracting new orders to rebuild their declining business.
In the meantime, the British government threatened to withdraw support, unless Cunard dropped ambitions of competing with British Overseas Airways (BOAC) on the transatlantic service. As a result, Cunard formed a new 30-70 joint venture, called BOAC-Cunard, to take over transatlantic airline service, and quickly sold off their stake in Cunard Eagle Airways, which was renamed back to British Eagle.
However, Cunard had reduced their budget to £22 million, which lead to several months of negotiations and cost reductions, with a contract for 22 million finally signed in December of 1964, with Cunard taking out a new mortgage on 11 of their ships, and selling 6, to even come up with that. By that point, the design looked a lot like a scaled-down Q3 from 1961, with a classic rounded superstructure and a large single funnel. With John Brown & Co on board, the ship went through further refining by the time the keel was laid in July of 1965, eventually settling on a more modern look with a blocky forward superstructure and a thin exhaust uptake far aft, in place of a funnel. The ship also grew slightly -from 950 ft long to 963, and from 57,000 tons to 65,000, though still much smaller than Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, and still Panama Canal capable. Cunard and John Brown partnered with the British Ship Research Association, the National Research and Development Corporation, and Ferranti Ltd on a multiyear project to determine how much work on board an ocean liner could conceivably be done by a computer, with the result that the new ship would become the first passenger vessel with an onboard computer – the Ferranti Argus 400 Micro-Miniature – with the ability to monitor the ship's mechanical systems, automatically control boilers for maximum fuel efficiency, predict daily fresh water consumption, maintain inventories of consumable supplies, and monitor weather forecasts and automatically suggest new courses and optimal speed for maximum passenger comfort and minimal fuel consumption.
The superstructure and funnel were refined in a wind tunnel, with the funnel being designed to utilize on-rushing air currents to carry smoke and soot high above the ship, away from passengers. The hull made use of the most modern thinking in hydrodynamics, being Britain's first merchant ship to employ a bulbous bow for reduced drag.
Although initial plans had been for the new ship to replace Queen Mary, and sail alongside Queen Elizabeth until at least 1975, by the time Q4 was ready for launch in September of 1967, deteriorating business conditions on the Atlantic meant that two liners were no longer required, and the new ship would replace both. That being the case, Cunard decided to re-use one of the old names, naming the new vessel Queen Elizabeth (with Churchill, New Britain, Queen Victoria, and Prince Charles having all been considered, apparently).
On September 20, 1967, Queen Elizabeth II travelled to the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland to launch the new vessel, in front of a crowd of 50,000 spectators, with many more watching live on television, christening the new ship “Queen Elizabeth the Second”. To this day, it is unknown if Her Majesty accidentally misspoke, or if she really did want to name the ship after herself instead of her mother, at any rate, it caused a bit of controversy within Cunard. The company had already decided on Queen Elizabeth as the name, and were also afraid of offending the Scottish shipyard workers (construction was already delayed due to labor union troubles), as Queen Elizabeth I was only queen of England and Ireland, not Scotland, so many Scots regarded the name as wrongly implying she had reigned over Scotland as well. But, Cunard wanted to honor the monarch's decision to alter the name, and, after discussions with Buckingham Palace, the decision was made to call the ship Queen Elizabeth 2 – with an Arabic numeral instead of a Roman one, indicating that it was the second ship to be named Queen Elizabeth, not that it was named after the reigning monarch. The decision also helped with the image of modernity Cunard wanted, as Arabic numbers were unconventional in a ship name.
Queen Mary was retired in September of 1967, with Queen Elizabeth getting a temporary reprieve due to ongoing delays at the shipyard. In February of 1968, John Brown & Company was nationalized by the UK government, being merged into Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd., meaning Cunard now had to finish the ship with a different contractor than they had started with. Although the Spring 1968 target would be missed, Cunard felt confident enough with progress to retire Queen Elizabeth in December of 1968, as Queen Elizabeth 2 had finally begun sea trials in November – with Prince Charles sailing aboard on the first short trip from the shipyard to the drydock in Greenock, where she would be prepared for trials.
However, the sea trials were not a success, Queen Elizabeth 2 showed excessive vibration, high fuel consumption, and also suffered a mechanical breakdown. Cunard refused to accept delivery, and she returned to the yard for rectification. Several months of repairs and trials followed, with Cunard finally accepting the ship in April of 1969, with the maiden voyage from Southampton-New York starting on May 2nd. She arrived in New York on May 6th, crossing in 4 days, 16 hours, and 35 minutes.
Although she was now Cunard's only liner on the Atlantic, starting in 1970, the company was again able to advertise a weekly sailing schedule, thanks to a code-sharing arrangement with CGT The French Line, in which Queen Elizabeth 2 was partnered with SS France (France having been previously partnered with United States Lines' SS United States, retired in 1969).
For passengers accustomed to the rich wood paneling and ornate Art Deco furnishings of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth 2 was quite a shock. In an effort to lure back younger, fashion-conscious travelers from airlines and overcome the stodgy, old-fashioned stigma of ocean liners, Queen Elizabeth 2 was designed as a “ship for the jet age” - with sleek interior spaces making use of modern materials, like Plexiglas, plastic laminate, and polished aluminum, with modernist abstract art pieces commissioned to decorate the lounges and stairways.
As built, she featured two Brown-Pametrada geared steam turbines, fed by 3 Foster-Wheeler boilers, making a total of 110,000hp, with a top speed of 34 knots, and a sustained cruising speed of 28.5. Passenger capacity was 2,005 (564 First Class, 1,441 Tourist Class), convertible to 1,350 single class for cruising, plus 964 crew. She measured 65,863 gross tons, and boasted 6,000 square yards of space over 13 decks.
Her first year was a tremendous success, with Cunard repaying £2.5 million of their government loans in just the first 6 months. Her first season of Caribbean cruises during the winter of 1969-1970 was sold out, and the second summer on the Atlantic ran at above 95% capacity. During the first week of June, 1970 she made a westbound crossing in a career-best 3 days, 20 hours, 42 minutes at 30.2 knots. As competitors – the French Line, United States Lines, Holland America Line, Swedish American Line, Norwegian America Line, HAPAG Lloyd, German Atlantic Line – all pulled out of the transatlantic trade one by one, Queen Elizabeth 2 was able to remain profitable by taking over the entirety of what passenger demand remained.
By the end of 1974, she was the only passenger ship sailing from Northern Europe to the United States, by the end of 1975, with the departure of the Italian Line, she was the only passenger vessel sailing to the US from anywhere in Europe (though Polish Ocean Lines and the Baltic Sea Shipping Company maintained irregular service to Canada into the 1980s).
By 1976, after just 7 years in operation, Cunard had repaid the 30-year £18 million government loan in full. After France was withdrawn from service in 1974, Cunard Line worked out a new deal with British Airways starting in 1976, that allowed sailings on Queen Elizabeth 2 to be sold together with tickets on the Concorde in a package deal – one way on the Cunard liner, with a return on BA's supersonic jet.
By this point, Cunard Line had given up the pretext of marketing the ship as practical, Point A to Point B transportation, that niche was clearly filled by the airlines, instead, Queen Elizabeth 2 settled into a new role as a nostalgic vacation, giving passengers a glimpse of the slower and more comfortable way of life of the good old days.
The number of crossings was gradually reduced, with Queen Elizabeth 2 operating the transatlantic run only during the warmer months, and running a longer and longer season of cruises the remainder of the year. To keep up with demand, a refit in 1972 at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, England added a block of 20 penthouse suites with private balconies to the top of the superstructure and expanded the forward superstructure for additional kitchen space, while another refit in 1977 added two more prefabricated duplex suites, performed by Bethlehem Steel in Quincy, Massachusetts.
During her early years, a couple notable incidents occurred – on a Caribbean cruise in January 1971, Queen Elizabeth 2 came to the rescue of the burning French liner Antilles in the Grenadines, taking on 500 passengers and crew. In March of that year, she was disabled for several hours after ingesting jellyfish into her seawater intakes. But, the biggest issues were two brushes with terrorism – in May, 1972, a bomb threat called in while she was in the middle of the Atlantic resulted in a joint SAS-SBS bomb disposal team parachuting into the ocean to be taken aboard, with a search determining it was a hoax.
In March and April of 1973, QE2 was chartered by an Israeli travel agency for two Mediterranean cruises to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Israeli independence. Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi put in place a plan to hijack an Egyptian Navy submarine and use it to torpedo the liner during the Passover cruise, but the plot was discovered in time for Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat to intervene and foil it.
More troublesome for those on board was a fire just off the coast of the Isles of Scilly outbound toward New York on July 23rd, 1976. A flexible coupling between the gearbox and a high pressure rotor ruptured, spraying lubricating oil over the hot engines, the fire was brought under control in 20 minutes, but Queen Elizabeth 2 limped into port on only 2 boilers, and was out of service for a time while repairs were made.
During the late 1970s, Cunard's new owners, Trafalgar House Investments, adopted a new plan to boost profitability by skipping regular overhaul periods, keeping Queen Elizabeth 2 at sea as much as possible and performing required maintenance while the ship was underway. This resulted in frequent mechanical breakdowns due to insufficient boiler maintenance during the late 1970s/early 1980s, with the result that her speed was often restricted by one or more boilers being out of service.
Following the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina, Queen Elizabeth 2 was requisitioned by the Royal Navy in May of 1982, for conversion to a troop transport and helicopter carrier. Over 12 days, the Vosper Thornycroft yard in Southampton cut down part of the aft superstructure to install 3 helipads, added steel reinforcing plates over 25% of the hull, installed an at-sea refueling system, and fitted a degausing cable. On May 12th, she departed Southampton with 3,000 troops and 3 helicopters, sailing to South Georgia where the soldiers were offloaded to the P&O liner Canberra for transport the rest of the way into the war zone (the British government had decided losing a ship with the monarch's name was too great a PR problem to risk, whereas losing a ship with the name of the Australian capital was less problematic).
Queen Elizabeth 2 returned to Southampton on June 11th, loaded with survivors of the sunken destroyer HMS Coventry and the frigates Antelope and Ardent, with Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother sailing out into the harbor on the Royal Yacht Britannia to welcome the liner in.
A quick refit at Vosper Thornycroft converted her back to civilian use, with the ship returning to Southampton-New York service on August 7th. The biggest changes made were to paint the black hull in a light dove grey, and to repaint the white and black funnel in Cunard's traditional orange-red and black (the previous scheme had been done for a modern look, and because Cunard management initially believed the thin funnel wouldn't accommodate the normal livery). The refit also converted her to a full-time single class ship – though there remained 3 separate dining rooms assigned on the basis of cabin grade, passengers would now otherwise have the full run of the ship on Atlantic crossings (other than a small lounge and cocktail bar reserved for the highest grade suites).
The grey hull proved difficult to maintain, with the ship perpetually streaked in rust, so the color reverted to black in the November 1983 refit, which also installed a retractable glass Magrodome over one of the outdoor pools. Mechanical problems continued to plague the ship between 1983-1984, with canceled cruises and an electrical fire taking her out of service for several days. Eventually, Cunard decided that the original John Brown steam turbines were simply too unreliable. Between October 1986 and April 1987, QE2 underwent a major £100 million rebuilding at Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven, West Germany, in which her original turbines and boilers were replaced by 9 MAN-B&W 9L58/64 9-cylinder turbodiesel engines with a total of 157,000hp, coupled to two 44Mw GEC electric propulsion motors, driving two new propeller shafts and propellers.
The new plant included 2 auxiliary boilers for hotel services and fuel preheating and a waste heat recovery system, and was capable of matching the same performance as the original turbines – 34 knots max, with only 7 engines required to maintain 28.5, reducing fuel consumption by 35%. The passenger accommodations were also heavily updated, reducing the 1960s modern appearance, in favor of late 1980s glitz. On the outside, the biggest change was a much larger funnel, needed to house the piping for the heat recovery system, which arguably improved the ship's proportions.
By the time she returned to service, Queen Elizabeth 2 was finally all alone on the Atlantic, with Polish Ocean Lines having pulled their Stefan Batory off their Gydnia-Montreal service during 1986. For 6 months from December 1989-May 1990, Queen Elizabeth 2 was moored in Tokyo, under charter to a consortium of Japanese companies, during which she was used as an expo center for trade shows and a venue for weddings, being visited by Emperor Akihito during that period. During June of 1990, she set a new career record for eastbound crossings, reaching Southampton in 4 days, 6 hours, 57 minutes at 30.16 knots.
The worst accident in the ship's history occurred on August 7th, 1992, when Queen Elizabeth 2 ran aground on uncharted rocks south of Martha's Vineyard on a 5-day cruise of New England and Eastern Canada, suffering a series of gashes over a 400 ft. length of her hull, 80 ft. wide, flooding 20 tanks and the forward engine room. Queen Elizabeth 2 made for Newport, Rhode Island where passengers were disembarked, then sailed to Boston for emergency repairs.
During the winter of 1994-1995, Queen Elizabeth 2 underwent another major refit at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg, Germany, that further toned-down the 1960s interiors, in favor of a more traditional, Art Deco-inspired look that added wood veneer paneling to many areas for the first time. The sliding glass Magrodome was removed, and part of the aft superstructure expanded to create a new Yacht Club bar and a new Sports Centre, while the layout of the interiors were heavily revised for better traffic circulation, eliminating the last vestiges of the old class barriers. After the refitting, she now measured 70,327 gross tons, having also increased in size slightly during the 1972, 1977, and 1987 refits. The final configuration gave her a capacity of 1,777 passengers (normal), 1,892 (with all available berths), plus 1,040 crew.
1996 saw Queen Elizabeth 2 pass out of British ownership, when Cunard Line's parent company, Trafalgar House Investments, was acquired by Finnish shipbuilding and engineering company Kværner , mainly for Trafalgar House's property development division. Kværner had little interest in operating ships, and immediately put Cunard Line up for sale. The eventual buyer was Miami-based Carnival Corporation, which took ownership of Cunard in 1998, merging it with Seabourn Cruise Line (a 50-50 venture between Carnival and a Norwegian investment consortium) to create Cunard Line Ltd. (in which Carnival initially held 65%, before buying out the other shares in 2001).
Although Queen Elizabeth 2's 1987 refit made her mechanically modern, and the 1994-1995 Project Lifestyle refurbishment had updated her interiors, she was still fundamentally a 1960s ship, and Carnival have been notoriously against the idea of operating older, smaller vessels. With the backing of the world's largest passenger ship operator, plans began during 1998 to replace Queen Elizabeth 2 with a modern vessel, under the name Project Queen Mary. As planning for the new ship was still underway, Carnival spent $30 million on further upgrades to Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1999, expanding the shopping mall and further adding to the Art Deco décor. In 2002, Queen Elizabeth 2 is believed to have become the first civilian ship to log a documented 5 million nautical miles. The last commercial flight of Concorde passed over Queen Elizabeth 2 in the Atlantic on October 24th, 2003, with the ship's master sending a special farewell message to the jet's captain to commemorate the occasion, marking the end of a 27 year partnership between the two British icons.
With the new, 148,000 ton Queen Mary 2 delivered in 2004, Queen Elizabeth 2 was pulled off the transatlantic run to become a full-time cruise ship, including her highly popular around-the-world cruise over Christmas and New Year's that had been going on since the 1970s. During 2004, Queen Elizabeth 2 surpassed RMS Scythia of 1921 to become the longest-serving ship in Cunard's then 164 year history. In early 2005, at the end of that year's world cruise, drunken crew members tore down a tapestry by Swedish artist Helena Barynina Hernmarck depicting Queen Elizabeth II launching the ship and threw it into the ocean, and also vandalized two other tapestries that were part of the series, plus a portrait of Her Majesty and Prince Philip, originally commissioned in 1948 for the RMS Caronia.
Carnival and Cunard initially stated that QE2 would remain in service until October of 2010, when new Safety of Life at Sea fire safety standards would require her withdraw without extensive reconstruction, however, in June of 2007, Dubai World's development subsidiary, Istithmar, made Carnival an unsolicited offer of $100 million for the 38 year old ship, with the requirement that she be delivered to them by October of 2008, to become the centerpiece of the new Palm Jumeirah artificial island development on the Dubai waterfront, under the management of Istithmar's Nakeel Properties division. The deal was far too good to pass up, and Queen Elizabeth 2 left Southampton for the final time on November 11th, 2008, following a farewell celebration hosted by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Her final voyages were a special, round-trip transatlantic crossing in tandem with Queen Mary 2, making her 710th and final call in New York on October 16th, then returning to Southampton on her 806th and final transatlantic crossing.
During one of her final cruises, on March 18th, 2008, the ship's 21 year old engines pushed her to 32.8 knots, confirming her as still the fastest conventional hulled passenger ship in service. At retirement, she had circumnavigated the globe 26 times, traveled 5,875,264 nautical miles, and carried over 3 million passengers on a total of 1,374 voyages, including 806 Atlantic crossings.
However, the effects of the Great Recession intervened, the planned redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth 2 as a floating hotel, convention center, and entertainment complex were repeatedly delayed. From 2008-2017, she sat around in the harbor of Dubai, occasionally moving to new anchorages, occasionally heading out to sea on brief shakedown cruises, as Dubai World maintained her in seaworthy condition in a state of “warm layup”, now under the flag of the Republic of Vanuatu (one of the few remaining countries in the world that would agree to register a non-SOLAS compliant passenger ship).
During this lengthy period, a host of rumors sprouted, some confirmed and retracted by Dubai World themselves, others unsubstantiated. Queen Elizabeth 2 was to be moved to Hong Kong as a luxury hotel, scrapped in Shanghai, returned to the UK for refurbishment as an active cruise ship, docked at the O2 Arena in London as a hotel, chartered out as a hotel ship in Cape Town, South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, or maybe moved to Singapore, Japan, or Australia.
Back in the UK, groups formed in Scotland, Liverpool, Southampton, and London seeking the ship's return for preservation there, some of which received official government support.
Finally, the Dubai government committed the funds for a major refurbishment and restoration of the ship, which included returning some interior spaces to their 1969 appearance. Work was carried out between 2017-2018, with the ship opening to the public in stages between April and October of 2018.
Now under the management of the Dubai Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, and with her national registry changed from Vanuatu to the United Arab Emirates, and docked at the Port Rashid yacht marina, adjacent to Dubai International Airport, Queen Elizabeth 2 contains a luxury hotel with 224 rooms and suites, a 515 seat theater for live performances, 8 bars and restaurants, a large health spa and fitness center, several meeting and events rooms, and a museum dedicated to the history of Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Cunard Line, which includes tours of the preserved bridge and officers accommodations, and engine room spaces. Much of the publicly accessible interior spaces are little changed from her days as a Cunard liner, though, with the extensive changes made by Cunard during the 1980s and 1990s, that does mean that many of them are far from their original 1969 configuration, though a few rooms have been restored closer to their vintage appearance.
Queen Elizabeth 2 ranks as one of only three 20th century ocean liners surviving in close to original configuration.
During the 1960s, there was a gradual softening of relations between Japan and North Korea, enough that a regular ferry service between the two countries became a possibility. This was realized in 1971, with the introduction of the first Man Gyong Bong – a 3,400 ton combination passenger-cargo vessel built in the Chongjin Shipyard in Chongjin, North Korea. She carried about 300 passengers, and, at a speed of about 10 knots, could make the trip from Wonsan, North Korea to Niigata, Japan in little over 2 days.
The Man Gyong Bong provided a valuable service for ethnic Koreans in Japan, allowing them to visit their relatives in the North. During the 1950s and '60s, the North Korean government, and North Korean-sponsored organizations in Japan, had heavily encouraged immigration to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, painting a rosy picture of life in the Communist paradise, and it worked quite well, with about 100,000 Japanese citizens moving to North Korea during that time (most were ethnic Koreans, though several thousand ethic Japanese migrated as well). Once there, travel abroad to visit their old homeland was strictly forbidden, but, with the introduction of the Man Gyong Bong, their family members still residing in Japan could at least come and pay them a visit at their new home in North Korea.
Man Gyong Bong was small, not terribly practical for cargo transport, and, especially, very slow. By the mid 1980s, the DPRK government was already considering a replacement. As a present to President Kim Il-Sung, on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1992, the pro-DPRK General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) conducted a fundraising campaign among their members, raising the $32 million necessary to build a larger and faster ferry.
The result was the Man Gyong Bong 92 – delivered in September, 1992 – 5 months after Eternal President Kim's 80th. Man Gyong Bong 92 measured 9,672 tons (nearly 3 times the size of the original Man Gyong Bong, enough to make her by far the largest passenger ship under the North Korean flag), and 414 ft. long. Construction was again handled by the Chongjin Shipyard, with the ship being operated by the DPRK state-owned Daizin Shipping Company.
Despite the increase in size, passenger capacity was reduced to about 200, albeit in more spacious and comfortable facilities than before. Cargo space was expanded significantly, with the ship being equipped with roll on/roll off (ro-ro) ramps for trucks, and large cranes for self-unloading and loading. Most importantly, the new ship was capable of 23 knots, enough to make the Wonsan-Niigata trip in a much-improved 28 hours.
From 1992-2006, Man Gyong Bong 92 plied the North Korea-Japan route, making about 2 round trips per month, with ticket prices topping out at around $1,500 in First Class. Most passengers were Japanese Koreans visiting relatives in North Korea, or students from Chongryon schools traveling to North Korea for study abroad programs. The cargo space was mostly filled with food and medical supplies, as well as Japanese electronics and modern consumer products not otherwise available in the DPRK.
However, starting in 2002, the whole arrangement began to unravel. That year, North Korea publicly admitted to kidnapping a number of Japanese civilians during the 1970s and '80s. Although General Kim Jong-il stopped short of explaining the exact method used to smuggle captured Japanese into his country, the fact that the original Man Gyong Bong was the only direct connection between the two nations at the time made it perhaps the obvious mode. This lead to increased media and political scrutiny on the operations of Daizin Shipping and Man Gyong Bong 92, with official investigations launched in Japan and the United States from 2003-onward.
These investigations lead to the conclusion that Man Gyong Bong 92 happened to be the primary method used by North Korea to import the foreign electronic components necessary for their missile program, with about 90% of required parts transported by the ship during the 1990s and early 2000s. Furthermore, evidence was also found that the Chongryon was operating a network of North Korean spies within Japan, receiving orders from, and passing information to, handlers sailing on the ship as crew, and, as if that wasn't enough, Man Gyong Bong 92 was also being used to smuggle North Korean-manufactured methamphetamine into Japan for distribution by the yakuza, earning the North Korean government (and the Kim family) about $7 billion over 10 years in the process.
As a result of deteriorating public relations, Daizin Shipping cut back sailing schedules to only one round trip every few months from 2003 onward. Finally, after North Korea's test firing of their new Taepodong-2 ballistic missile in July of 2006, Japan issued a temporary ban on all North Korean ships in their waters, which became permanent a few months later, due to North Korea's nuclear weapons testing.
After that, Man Gyong Bong 92 sat idle for 5 years, until 2011, when she was re-activated as a cruise ship – the impetus being that tourism was basically the only industry in North Korea not subject to international sanctions, and provided some opportunity, however limited, to earn some revenue from foreign tourists. From 2011-2013, the ship was used for 5-day cruises from Wonsan to the Mt. Kumgang resort area near the South Korean border. Accommodations were somewhat less than luxurious. For an all-inclusive fare of about $500, passengers were treated to foam cot mattresses on hard wooden bunk beds in open dormitories, if they were lucky, or just a mattress on the floor if they were less so. Food quality was said to be abysmal, but still much better than that experienced by most North Koreans outside Pyongyang, given that the food existed.
In 2013, North Korea purchased the old 1980-built ex-Soviet Black Sea ferry Dmitriy Shostakovich, which had been running gambling cruises out of Singapore as the Royale Star, and used it to replace Man Gyong Bong 92 in the Mt. Kumgang cruise service.
After that, the ship was laid up again, while North Korea began attempting to negotiate with Japan to reopen the old ferry service. From 2017-2020, Man Gyong Bong 92 was used very occasionally on irregular runs from Rason, North Korea to Vladivostok, Russia (the route more typically served by the original 1971-built Man Gyong Bong, which is still in use), and, in 2018, also used her to carry the North Korean delegation to the Olympic Games in South Korea, with Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly Kim Yong-nam on board. However, since 2013, she has spent most of her time idle in port, and has not moved at all since early 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with all of North Korea's merchant ships, due to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un's decision to completely isolate the country, no exports, no imports, no commercial fishing, out of a belief that the virus lives in seawater.
After 2 1/2 weeks, the car is finally drivable again, turned out to be a bigger job than anticipated. He found two more splits I didn't notice before, and also decided to take apart the seams and restitch, instead of gluing and patching. Unfortunately, I'm going away this weekend, missed 3 car shows over the last one, and can't drive it to work much, since I'm on the road the next 3 days.
Now, I'm going to need to Svend the rest of the interior to match, because the drivers seat cleaned up noticeably lighter than the rest.
During the 1980s, the cargo shipping trade between North and South America was booming, and all prospects pointed for that growth to continue. But, there was a problem – namely, many busy port facilities in South America had not been built to handle the volume of traffic they were now expected to deal with, so delays in port and backlogs of cargo ships waiting offshore for their turn to dock became more and more common. Brazil, in particular, was known for routine 72 hour wait times for docking.
Norwegian shipping company Ivarans Rederi AB, founded in 1902 (and privately owned by the Christensens, one of Norway's wealthiest ship owning families, hence the “C” on the company's funnel livery), believed they had a solution to the problem, which they arrived at by looking back to the not-to-distant past – the passenger-cargo combi liner. Combination passenger-cargo liners had been the backbone of most passenger shipping fleets around the world until the airline era, combining a modest passenger capacity with considerable cargo space, and working lower density routes that didn't justify building big, dedicated ocean liners. Like ocean liners themselves, combi liners became largely obsolete during the 1960s, with airlines taking over their passenger market, and modern container ships taking over the cargo business.
But, Ivaran's chairman and CEO, Erik Holter-Sørensen (grandson of company founder Ivar An Christensen) believed it was time for combi liners to make a comeback. Brazilian regulations provided priority berthing for passenger ships with at least 50 passengers, and most other Latin American countries had similar laws, which meant that a modern container ship with a token passenger space could cut the line ahead of all other container vessels – dock, unload, load, and turn around and leave while others were still circling offshore waiting their turn. The focus would be on cargo, but, the thinking was, if the passenger spaces could be made pleasant enough, the trips could have enough novelty value, if marketed correctly, to at least cover the extra operating expenses.
In 1985, an order was placed with Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan, South Korea. The new ship launched in July of 1987, and the finished Norwegian-registered MV Americana was delivered in February 1988, at a final cost of $25 million ($57.8 million today – more than double what a new container ship of similar capacity costs to build now); setting out on her maiden voyage from New York-Rio de Janeiro on March 5th, following a christening ceremony in port on March 3rd, and two days of public tours.
The new ship measured 19,203 gross tons and 592 ft. long. She featured a single 7-cylinder Burmeister & Wain diesel engine, built under license by Hyundai, which made 14,280hp, for an impressive top speed of 24 knots, and a cruising speed of 19.5. A pair of 45-ton cranes allowed for self loading/unloading in ports without the necessary facilities.
Americana carried 1,120 standard 20-foot shipping containers, along with 108 passengers in 88 staterooms, which actually rivaled the best premium cruise ships of the day. The ship's hotel department consisted of 25 crew dedicated to the passenger services, plus a doctor, as US law requires ships departing from US ports with at least 13 passengers on board must have a qualified doctor as part of their crew compliment.
The ship featured an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, a health club with whirlpool bath, sauna, and masseuse, a library, a casino, and a cocktail bar that converted to a nightclub in the evenings, plus the main lounge, called the Neptune Lounge (with a white enameled grand piano), and the restaurant, the Buena Vista Dining Room, which accommodated all passengers at a single seating and changed menus daily during a trip. Sheltered promenade and open sun deck spaces were provided, all with teak rails and decking, with an additional outdoor bar.
All cabins featured individual HVAC controls, TVs, satellite phone, and private bathrooms, and most came with bidets, outside views, and a full-size bathtub. Interiors were by Oslo, Norway-based Platou Ship Design, the same firm that designed the luxury yacht-style cruise ships Sea Goddess I and Sea Goddess II for Sea Goddess Cruises (later known as Cunard Sea Goddess Cruises) in 1984-1985, which were considered the pinnacle of mid '80s luxury at sea, and featured extensive use of light wood paneling, mirrors, polished brass, and vibrant colors.
Ivaran provided a cultural enrichment program on board, with organized shore excursions to historical sites in each port visited, and local entertainment being brought in to put on shows for passengers each night the ship was at dock.
Americana's itinerary could vary a bit, but the typical service was US East Coast/Gulf Coast to Latin America, with each trip taking about 46-48 days, stopping at about 15-16 different ports en route.
For most of her career with Ivaran, Americana was based at the Red Hook Marine Terminal in Brooklyn, sailing to Buenos Aires, with stops at Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, Rio Grande do Sul, Paranagua, Salvadore, and Fortaleza en route. Prices (in 1988 money) originally ranged from $7200 for the most basic inside single room on a 46-day voyage, to $16,800 (double occupancy) in the top suite for the longer 48-day sailings.
Although Ivaran confidently claimed that they expected the passenger space to cover its own costs, and that the ship could break even on that business at just 15% capacity, in practice, things didn't work out. Americana was highly popular in her first few seasons, but, by the early 1990s, the novelty had worn off, and she started leaving port with the majority of cabins empty on most voyages.
Operating costs proved higher than expected, and Americana would run at a loss throughout the 1990s, compounded by most of the major South American ports investing in expansion and upgrade projects during the decade, which severely cut back on Americana's advantage on turnaround times. Options for 2 identical sister ships, which, in 1988, Ivaran had confidently predicted would be delivered by 1992, were instead cancelled.
In May of 1998, financially ailing Ivaran Lines was acquired by CP Ships Ltd., at the time, still owned by Canadian-Pacific Railway, and the future of Americana was immediately placed in doubt. Americana had her registration changed from costly Norway to the much cheaper Bahamas in October of 1998. During April of 1999, Ivaran Lines was merged into CP Ships' US-based subsidiary Lykes Lines, and Americana made her final passenger sailing from New Orleans-Buenos Aires during May-June of that year. As her future with CP Ships, or lack of it, had already been decided, Americana was never repainted in Lykes livery.
Instead, Americana was chartered to Del Pacifico Transport of Nassau, Bahamas in July of 1999, starting transpacific service from East Asian ports to the Caribbean via the Panama Canal. Del Pacifico bought the ship outright from CP in December of 2000, via a holding company called Clover Container Ship II A/S.
During March of 2004, Americana was sold to Sinokor Merchant Marine Company of Busan, South Korea, and renamed Golden Trade, now under South Korean registry. Golden Trade was placed in transpacific service between China and South Korea and the North American West Coast. But, the ship was still compromised by higher fuel consumption than ideal for a cargo ship, due to that high speed capability, a comparatively low cargo capacity, and that giant, now mostly disused, superstructure containing the vacant passenger accommodations. Although Ivaran had hedged their bets by building the aft superstructure out of modular sections that could be removed for expanded cargo capacity, in the event the passenger business didn't work out, that was never done in practice.
In January of 2010, Sinokor pulled Golden Trade from service, selling her to a Chinese scrap metal firm for $2.8 million. The former Americana arrived in Jiangyin for demolition in February of that year, almost exactly 22 years after her original completion.
Ultimately, Americana represented a bold idea who's time had either long since past, or simply hadn't come yet. Although there are many container ships out there with small passenger accommodations (carrying less than a dozen, often well less than a dozen, and, with COVID, its doubtful any are currently selling tickets), nobody has ever tried to build a modern combi liner on the scale of Americana, and, given how it turned out, that's probably not surprising.
This is not intended to be political, I had a lot of good times in Atlantic City pre-pandemic, and have always been kind of interested in the history of the town, and its ups, downs, further downs, and even lower downs, over the years. Few buildings are quite as emblematic of the city's fortunes as this one.
For anyone in the Southern New Jersey area with nothing to do tomorrow, a not-very-old, but very derelict building with a troubled history is getting imploded at 9am – the former Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, abandoned since 2014.
The property's long and troubled history started in 1966 – that year, two buildings opened at opposite ends of the same block - the 20-story Holiday Inn Boardwalk Hotel, at 2209 Boardwalk and the 11-floor Four Seasons Motel at 2300 Pacific Avenue.
In 1978, both hotels were acquired by Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione and closed down, with Guccione announcing plans to renovate both structures and link them together to create a new mega-resort called the Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel & Casino, which would open by 1980. The project required the acquisition and demolition of every other property in between the two hotels, creating a giant, L-shaped plot covering about half a city block. The City of Atlantic City used their powers of eminent domain (aka compulsory purchase, for those of you in the Commonwealth) to assist Guccione in assembling his new lot. The one holdout was a woman named Vera Coking, who operated a low budget boarding house in a 3-story 1920s building in the middle of the block. Coking refused to sell at any price, and launched a legal challenge over the use of eminent domain for a private, commercial development project. Guccione decided he couldn't wait for the matter to be settled in court, and began construction in 1979, building his new structure around Coking's property, hemming in her house on 3 sides with towering steel framework.
However, Guccione and Penthouse Entertainment soon ran into financial difficulties, and construction was suspended in 1980, leaving only the gutted Four Seasons and Holiday Inn buildings and the empty steel frame of the new structure between them.
Enter Donald Trump and his New York-based development company, the Trump Organization. In 1981, Trump signed a joint venture deal with Harrah's Entertainment to build a casino along the Boardwalk on the same block as the stalled Penthouse venture, leasing a lot bordering the Penthouse on two sides. Construction began in 1982, and the Harrah's Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino opened its doors in early 1984. Designed by well-known hotel architect Martin Stern, the 39-story building opened with 614 hotel rooms and suites and a 60,000 sq ft casino. The Trump Organization manged the hotel, food service, and banqueting operations, while Harrah's was in charge of the casino. Almost immediately, problems developed within the partnership. The summer season of 1984 failed to hit revenue projections – Harrah's blamed Donald Trump's insistence on building the hotel without adequate on-site parking and too-high of a ratio of luxury suites to normal rooms; Trump insisted that the building was intended to attract wealthy high rollers, who would arrive in chauffeured limousines from the airport, and that the Harrah's brand name, and its association with middle class customers at its Nevada properties was bringing the operation down.
In the Fall of 1984, Harrah's agreed to take their name off the casino, with it now becoming the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino. Later that year, Trump bought the stalled Hilton Marina Hotel & Casino in the Marina district of Atlantic City, directly next door to the Harrah's Marina Hotel & Casino, violating the noncompete provision in the partnership. At that point, the relationship broke down completely, and Harrah's sold their stake in Trump Plaza to Trump in early 1985.
Overextended, and with several unwise investments, including the money losing corpse of Eastern Airlines, Trump's business empire teetered on collapse in the early 1990s recession, he managed to narrowly avert bankruptcy by trading equity in various assets for debt forgiveness, loosing 50% of Trump Plaza in the process, but remaining in managerial control.
In 1992, Trump managed to buy the rusting, derelict Penthouse property next door, and announced plans for a major expansion of Trump Plaza. At that point, the eminent domain case against Vera Coking was renewed, this time with Trump in place of Guccione. The old Four Seasons Motel and all of the Penthouse's new framework built between 1979-1980 were demolished in 1993, while the old Holiday Inn was retained. Martin Stern was brought back in to renovate the 1960s structure and build an addition to link it to the Trump Plaza, turning it into the “new” East Tower of that property. A new entrance and porte cochere and surface parking lot was built on the remainder of the Penthouse site, with project being completed in phases between 1994-1995.
Trump Plaza was, along with Trump's other casino businesses, folded into a new, publicly-traded company called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc. in 1995.
Eventually, the case against Vera Coking was settled in her favor in 1998. The final expansion saw a new parking garage built on the edge of the Penthouse lot in 2000, finally solving a problem Trump Plaza had had from day one.
Overexpansion in Atlantic City, competition from legalized gambling in other states, a heavy debt load, and the post-9/11 travel downturn pushed Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts into bankruptcy in 2004, the company restructured and emerged with a new name, Trump Entertainment Resorts, with Donald Trump's shareholding significantly reduced in exchange for debt forgiveness.
But, just a few years later, the 2008 Great Recession started, and Trump Entertainment Resorts went bankrupt again in 2009. Immediately prior, the Trump Organization was defeated in an attempt to take the company private again, with Trump resigning as chairman and board member in the aftermath of that failure.
The company emerged from bankruptcy again in 2010, only to be hit by a lawsuit from Donald Trump in 2014, alleging that the Trump Plaza and sister property Trump Taj Mahal had been allowed to deteriorate so severely as to violate the terms of their licensing deal for his brand, demanding that they either be renovated or have his name taken off. Later that year, Trump Entertainment Resorts went bankrupt again, wiping out the remainder of Donald Trump's token shareholding. Trump Plaza closed for the final time in September of 2014.
That same year, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who had become Trump Entertainment Resorts' largest creditor through debt purchases, acquired and demolished Vera Coking's old boarding house in the middle of the block.
The remains of Trump Entertainment Resorts exited bankruptcy in 2016, now under the ownership of Carl Icahn and his company, Icahn Enterprises. Over the next several years, Icahn was unable to interest anyone in the old casino, with the ground lease arrangement being cited as a major obstacle. In 2018, Icahn finally bought out the land under the building, uniting the whole property under the control of a single owner for the first time. That year, he first announced plans to demolish Trump Plaza, explaining that the cost of rehabilitating the building exceeded the cost of building something new, and that the lot would be far more attractive to to investors without the structure on it.
After two years of delays, work began on gutting the building and demolishing lower-level portions in late 2020, and the main tower is scheduled for implosion tomorrow. Icahn has not announced any firm future plans for the site – early proposals called for retaining the East Tower (ex Holiday Inn) and the parking garage, before switching to total demolition, but more recent reports seem to be conflicting on that.
Even while the hotel was still operating, several floors of hotel rooms were closed off due to water leaks from the failing roof, and the building has become riddled with mold over the years. In addition, pieces of concrete cladding have been breaking loose and crashing to the ground in high winds, causing the city to label the building a threat to health and safety. I remember going to Atlantic City on the last day of operation – at the time, the sign out front proclaimed it the “U LAZA”, as the budget had not allowed for light bulb replacements in some time.
As for what will replace it, my money is on a vacant lot. This will be the 3rd casino demolished in Atlantic City's history, following the Trump World's Fair in 2000 and the Sands Atlantic City in 2007. The former remained a vacant lot until a strip mall was built on part of the site in 2015, while the remainder is empty; while the Sands site is still entirely undeveloped.
EDIT: And there it went
Parking garage and East Tower are still standing, I guess TBD if they go later through conventional demolition, or get saved and turned into something else
@skyfire77 How much do you want to bet it was just water?
Maybe water that had trace amounts of de-icing fluid diluted into it on the past, and preserved it's molecular memory. Does homeopathy work on planes?
@bicyclebuck What's also fun is when your company uses multiple applications with slightly different password requirements, and you have to sign in to each one separately one at a time.
And there's my company, which apparently picked a security question and an answer for me, I don't know the answer, and can't look it up to change it. We're a small subsidiary of a large company that's a subsidiary of an even larger company, and our IT is a mess, different IT departments at different levels and at sister companies are responsible for different things. Most contact info on the Intranet is outdated, they want everything submitted online, but depending on where that ticket gets emailed, things may not get done
For whatever reason, December seems to be a particularly bad month when it comes to maritime tragedies, and this week marks the 93rd anniversary of the loss of the White Star Line's first 20th century flagship.
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
During the 1890s, Britain's traditional dominance of the transatlantic shipping routes came under serious threat from Germany, as North German Lloyd commissioned a series of 4-funneled superliners that shattered speed records and set new standards for comfort and luxury. At the same time, White Star Line, the second largest British carrier on the Atlantic, had had mixed results with their pair of high speed express ships, Teutonic and Majestic, which experienced heavy fuel consumption and vibration. As a result, White Star opted to shift their focus toward passenger comfort above all else, prioritizing luxurious amenities over record breaking speed.
The new pivot was exemplified with the 12,500 ton Cymric of 1897, second largest British flagged ship of the time, but still smaller than the big Germans, but whose luxurious interiors marked White Star's new emphasis on comfort above all. Cymric had been intended as a combination passenger-cargo liner, hurriedly redesigned and enlarged early in construction. As a follow-on, White Star introduced the 17,000 ton Oceanic of 1899, which became the largest ship afloat.
A sistership to Oceanic, to be named Olympic, had been envisioned, however, with competing firms having even larger and better ships on the drawing boards, White Star's new managing director, J. Bruce Ismay, cancelled plans for Olympic in favor of an even more ambitious design.
The result was the Celtic-class, popularly known as the Big Four, four new express steamers for White Star's primary run to New York, and which became the largest passenger ships in the world in the early 20th century. Three would go on to respectably long careers, surviving into the 1930s, but the lead ship, Celtic, would have her life cut a bit short.
Celtic was ordered from Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Northern Ireland in September of 1898, as Oceanic was still under construction, with her keel being laid in March of 1899. Celtic launched on April 4th, 1901, with no christening ceremony, in keeping with White Star tradition, and the finished ship was handed over on July 11th, with her maiden voyage from Liverpool-New York starting on July 26th.
At 20,262 gross tons and 701ft. long, Celtic ranked as the first ship in history to exceed 20,000 gross tons, making her not only the largest ship in the world in 1901, but also the first built larger than Isambard Kingdom Brunel's white elephant masterpiece, the nearly 19,000 ton Great Eastern of 1859, which had been scrapped in 1889. As White Star was still fundamentally a conservative company, no new ground was broken with the powerplant, a pair of conventional quadruple expansion steam engines, generating 14,000hp, driving twin screws for a service speed of 16 knots. The conservatism extended to the interior, in an early form of branding strategy, White Star favored a “corporate” appearance across their fleet, with the interiors of all their ships being almost interchangeable with each other, and Celtic followed precedent with an ornate, heavily decorated Late Victorian scheme, that still featured lots of built-in upholstered benches in lounges, instead of freestanding sofas and chairs, and long communal dining room tables with swivel seats bolted to the floor.
The ship's massive size was matched by equally massive capacity – 2,857 passengers (300 First Class, 160 Second Class, and 2,350 in immigrant-oriented Steerage) – the largest capacity of any ship on the Atlantic at the time. The passenger space was supplemented by enormous cargo holds, with space for some 16,000 tons of freight.
From 1901-1907, Celtic was used as intended on the Liverpool-New York run. During that period, in 1902, White Star Line was acquired by J.P. Morgan's New York-based conglomerate, International Mercantile Marine Corporation, and, in the spring of 1907, Celtic was temporarily transferred to one of IMM's US subsidiaries, the American Line, for use on Southampton-New York service. Celtic rejoined the White Star fleet in the summer of 1907, inaugurating the company's own Southampton-New York route, as Liverpool continued to decline in popularity as the eastern terminus for the transatlantic service. Shortly before the IMM takeover, White Star sent Celtic on a cruise to the Mediterranean in February of 1902, with just 800 one-class passengers onboard, as an experiment to see whether warm weather holiday demand would be sufficient to boost profitability during the winter off-season.
During 1903, Celtic collided with the cross-channel freighter Heathmore in the River Mersey on April 15th, puncturing her hull and flooding one watertight compartment, but Celtic was back in service in May after full repairs. A rogue wave in the Atlantic inbound to New York on December 25th, 1905, smashed the stained glass dome over the Second Class Smoking Room, with flood waters spilling out into the Second Class staircase, again, the damage was fully repaired in early 1906.
Upon the outbreak of World War I, Celtic was requisitioned by the Admiralty, converted to an armed auxiliary cruiser, and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Celtic, now armed with 8 6-inch guns. From October 1914-January 1916, Celtic was used to patrol the North Sea as part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. However, operational experience eventually convinced the Royal Navy that large passenger ships, with unarmored hulls and limited maneuverability made poor combatants, so Celtic was converted to a troop transport vessel with a capacity of 5,000 soldiers. From 1916-1917, Celtic sailed between Britain and Egypt and other Mediterranean destinations. In April of 1917, Celtic was refitted to haul essential cargo from the United States to Britain, with a 700-ton capacity oil tank being fitted into one of her cargo holds for crude oil and refined petroleum products.
In October of 1917, Celtic struck a mine laid by the German U-boat SMS U-88 off the coast of the Isle of Man, causing significant structural damage and killing 17 crew. In the aftermath, Celtic was partially evacuated and towed to Belfast with a skeleton crew for full repairs, returning to service in early 1918. Just a few months later, on March 31, 1918, SMS UB-77 torpedoed Celtic in the Irish Sea, killing 6 crew and causing extensive flooding and structural damage. The stricken liner was towed into Liverpool for repairs, completed later in the spring. Finally, on May 17th, 1919, Celtic was decommissioned and returned to White Star for reconditioning as a civilian liner, being sent back to Harland & Wolff for a full refurbishment.
Celtic returned to service in 1920, with her passenger capacity cut back to 1,600 (350 First Class, 250 Second Class, and 1,000 in upgraded/more comfortable Third Class, recognizing the new immigration quotas being imposed by the United States government), now remeasured at 21,026 tons. On April 25, 1925, in the River Mersey, not far from where she hit Heathmore 22 years earlier, Celtic collided with the freighter Hampshire Coast, with only minor damage to both vessels' shell plating.
A more serious incident occurred on January 29th, 1927, when, in thick fog, the American-flagged Anaconda plowed into Celtic's forward starboard bow off the coast of Fire Island, New York, causing a few small punctures in Celtic's hull, but crushing in several feet of Anaconda's forward bow. Both ships put in to Boston for repairs, with Celtic sporting one of Anaconda's anchors lodged in her side. Following the repairs, White Star further reduced and modified her passenger configuration. As Celtic was considered increasingly old-fashioned and obsolete, and therefore no longer in demand for First Class travelers, her top grade was relabeled Cabin Class, with 300 passengers (at 2nd class pricing), with another 385 in Tourist Class (at 3rd class pricing), and 530 in the remaining budget-priced Third Class.
But, nearly two years later, the end finally came. On December 10th, 1928, in bound to Liverpool from New York, while waiting to take on a harbor pilot to bring her in for a call at Cobh, Ireland, Celtic was blown off course in a storm and ran aground on the rocks of Roche's Point, just outside Cobh harbor. The captain ordered engines full astern, and succeeded in getting her off Roche's Point, only to reverse straight into Cow and Calf Rock, where she became even more stuck.
Passengers and cargo were offloaded to tenders and rescue ships, and several attempts were made to pull her free, but within a week, inspections revealed extensive structural failures throughout the ship due to the pounding wave action, and Celtic was declared a total loss. She was sold to a Danish scrap metal company, which began demolition in early 1929, but work proceeded slowly due to the inhospitable location, and the last remains were not finished off until 1933.
Advancing age and Great Depression killed off her sisters not long after. Cedric, built in 1903, was laid up in 1931 and sold for scrap in 1932, Baltic, built in 1904, was sold for scrap in 1933, while the 1907-built Adriatic was the only one to survive into the merged Cunard White Star fleet, being retired from service in 1934 and sold for scrap in 1935.
@cé-hé-sin I believe the last mainstream/mass production automotive straight eight was in the 1954 Packards. The truth was, they were not all that far off from the contemporary Cadillac and Lincoln V8s, with up to 212hp that year, but it was more an issue of customer perception. People saw straight 8s as outmoded prewar technology and V8s as the hot new must-have thing. Had Packard retained their prewar market positioning as an American Rolls-Royce competitor, it probably wouldn't have mattered so much, as buyers in that price range are more willing to overlook outdated technology as long as the workmanship is superior, but, the mass market luxury segment is all about novelty and newness.
@shop-teacher Yeah, but I figure a lot of them will be consolidated into bigger class actions
@nkato this is why Ive said all along the SEC forced Musk to relinquish the wrong job, he should have stayed as non-executive chairman and hired a new CEO
@pip-bip because when you're trying to sell your full size flagship with quasi-luxury pretensions, repeating the word "sensible" over and over again is a super smart idea. Gee, I wonder why it was so hard for the Rambler brand to shed its connection to frugal economy cars?
@skyfire77 number of lawsuits that result from this - over/under 10? What's your guess?