There is a chance the SS United States could sail again

The foregone era of the classic luxury ocean liner may be set for a resurgence after luxury cruise brand Crystal Cruises announced plans to purchase and restore the historic S.S. United States – once the fastest cruise vessel in the world – into active service.

When the S.S. United States made its maiden voyage, Harry Truman was the US President, King George VI of England had just died ahead of Elizabeth II being crowned as Monarch of the Commonwealth and Hollywood had just released  ‘Singin In The Rain‘. That maiden voyage saw it claim the title of ‘Fastest Trans-Atlantic Crossing’ – a record which still stands today. In its 17-year working life, the ship carried four US Presidents, international royalty and a cavalcade of Hollywood celebrities among over a million passengers.

Crystal stepped in after plans from the S.S. United States Conservancy’s Board of Directors to find a recycling firm to scrap the ship were met with worldwide public outcry. The potential scrapping was being investigated due to the ongoing challenge in meeting the ship’s monthly maintenance and docking expenses in Philadelphia Harbour. Additional funds raised by the Conservancy in response has allowed it to pay its bills & continue negotiations with investors.

The SS United States holds the Trans-Atlantic crossing record
The S.S. United States in happier times of the past.

Over the next nine months, Crystal Cruises will cover all ongoing preservation costs of the ship – dubbed ‘America’s Flagship’ – while a technical feasibility study determines whether it is capable of resuming a full-time ocean-going schedule. The company has appointed retired United States Coast Guard Rear Admiral Tim Sullivan to put together a team of experts with cruise ship technical, legal and regulatory expertise to carry out the study.

Crystal Cruises currently operates two ocean-going vessels in Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, with plans for three more ships, each to be built with ice-breaking capability to allow them to cruise in the polar regions, coming into service from 2018.

The S.S. United States will need an extensive rebuild in order for it to meet modern standards and maritime rules, Crystal admitted. If the project is seen through, the ship will be transformed into an 800-passenger vessel, carried on a twin-share basis in 400 suites. Dining, entertainment and modern spa facilities will be installed, while mindful of maintaining the ship’s historic feel. Many of the ship’s original facilities will be restored to their original condition, with new engines and the latest navigational technology will also be fitted.

The decayed and rusted decks of the SS United States
A look onboard the S.S. United States – Crystal Cruises has its work cut out for it.

Crystal Cruises CEO Edie Rodriguez said the prospect of restoring the United States into active service was a thrilling prospect and that the company was proud to work with the ship’s conservancy and government bodies to see it return to a sophisticated existence.

“It will be a very challenging undertaking, but we are determined to apply the dedication and innovation that has always been the ship’s hallmark. It is truly a privilege for the world’s most awarded luxury cruise line to be entrusted with the opportunity of restoring a ship that served as a symbol of patriotism and maritime supremacy and bring her into the modern day, while also giving guests a taste of a bygone era of luxury travel,” Rodriguez said.

At this stage, no timeline has been provided on when the S.S. United States will enter service under the Crystal Cruises flag.

The SS United States remains docked in Philadelphia.
The S.S. United States ocean liner as it currently sits, docked in Philadelphia.

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