:: CLASSIC TRANSATLANTICS (II) ::

SS Leonardo da Vinci

The SS Leonardo da Vinci, launched in 1958 by Ansaldo Shipyards, was another ship operated by Italian Line. This ship was used in the Trans-Atlantic service Genoa-New York from 1960 and provisions were made to reconvert her propulsion plant to run on nuclear power circa 1965, but this never happened. Instead, she would be eclipsed in the Trans-Atlantic service by the delivery of the new "superliners" SS Michelangelo and SS Raffaello in 1965, being used primarily for cruising, mostly on the Mediterranean and occasionally on the Caribbean, South America and North America. In 1966 she was painted in the new livery of the Italian Line, a white hull with a thin and green decorative band running along, instead of a black hull with a white decorative band that we can see in the picture below.

SS Leonardo da Vinci transatlantic ocean liner
Curiously the SS Leonardo da Vinci survived in the Trans-Atlantic service the SS Michelangelo and SS Raffaello; in 1976 she became the last Italian Line's passenger liner to be used in service across the North Atlantic. Being an ocean liner, the SS Leonardo da Vinci was not satisfying as a cruise ship, for the majority of her tourist-class cabins were considered too spartan, remaining unused during cruising service, with the consequent reduction in the profitability. During 1977-1978 she served as a dedicated cruise ship for Italia Crociere, before being laid up because of her excessive fuel consumption.

Like her predecessors SS Andrea Doria and SS Cristoforo Colombo, she had resulted prone to instability in rough waters. But her stability problem was greater because of her larger size and consequently 3000 metric tonnes of iron were fitted along her bottom. This made the ship excessively heavy for the power of her engines and led to unusually high fuel consumption. Already out of service, in 1980 the ship suffered from a mysterious and devastating fire that lasted four days and eventually provoked her capsize; after this terrible fate, she was scrapped in 1982.

The SS Leonardo Da Vinci had a length of 232.6 meters, a beam of 28.1 meters, a draught of 9.5 meters and a register tonnage of 33340 gross and 5641 deadweight. There was capacity for 1326 passengers (413 in first class, 342 in cabin class and 571 in tourist class) in liner service and for 984 passengers in cruise service. The propulsion plant comprised four steam turbines Ansaldo actuating on twin propellers, with a combined output of 52000 horsepower, which gave a service speed of 23 knots and a maximum speed of 25.5 knots.

Because of the provisions made for conversion into a nuclear-powered ship, the SS Leonardo da Vinci had a rather unusual internal layout. A voluminous space for a reactor was reserved amidships, in and around the conventional propulsion plant. This made it necessary to place the dining rooms and galleys one deck higher than usual, separated from the main working passage. Since no passenger corridors passed through the area reserved for the reactor, the fore and rear passenger-accessible sections on the lowest decks were entirely separated from each other.

Finally, some innovations and exceptional safety measures were included in the project: fully independent engine rooms (so each of them could propel the ship if the other were damaged), retractable stabilizer wings, extended watertight bulkheads, motorized lifeboats and davits that could lower the boats even in case of a 25-degree angle of list.

A brochure from 1960 made in occassion of the inaugural voyage, labelled "Arriving July 9th... the new Italian masterpiece", claimed:

"Join us on July 9, and watch 763 feet of elegance, 33,500 tons of splendor, sail proudly into New York. You will see the arrival of Italian Line's majestic new flagship, Leonardo da Vinci, and the beginning of a new era in transocean luxury. What goes into a 33,500-ton work of art that will whisk 1,300 pleasure-loving passengers to Europe in regal style? 11 decks, 521 staterooms, 5 swimming pools (2 for children). Complete air conditioning. Closed circuit television. And of course, sumptuous lounges, ballrooms, dining rooms, etc. Luxury, luxury everywhere - a décor to lift the spirit and a staff of 600 to provide Italian Line's customary cuisine and service. (Magnificent is the word.) For those who like unusual facts: the Leonardo's electric plant will produce enough power for a city of 150,000. The distilling plant will convert 184,000 gallons of sea water a day. Infra-red heating around the First Class pool will make swimming a delight - even on cool days. (Such days do occur now and then, even on the Sunny Southern Route.) Come see all this grandeur on July 9. Or, better still, plan an unforgettable voyage on our masterpiece. The Leonardo da Vinci: express to the radiant Mediterranean - Gibraltar, Naples, Cannes and Genoa - from New York on July 16 and regularly thereafter. See your Travel Agent."

SS Leonardo da Vinci transatlantic ocean liner

SS Rotterdam

The fifth SS Rotterdam, known as "The Grande Dame", was launched in 1958 and completed in the shipyards Rotterdam Drydock Company the following summer. This ship was the last great Dutch "ship of state", employing the finest artisans from the Netherlands during her construction and fitting out. With a career spanning 41 years, she was also one of the most successful passenger ships ever, until her final retirement in 2000. As more and more Trans-Atlantic liners started to be retired due to the increasing popularity of air lines, the SS Rotterdam was no exception, being retired permanently from Trans-Atlantic service in 1969.

SS Rotterdam transatlantic ocean liner
The SS Rotterdam had been planned already in 1939, but the outbreak of the Second World War paralized the works. When economic conditions became favorable again in the early 1954, the beginning of the end of ocean liners as a fundamental transport mean was visible on the horizon. With a farsighted perspective, the designers created a flexible design with movable partitions and a unique double staircase allowing for easy conversion into a cruise ship. After a small refit in which the two-class layout was unified, the SS Rotterdam served as a full-time cruise ship from 1970 with her hull painted black. In a subsequent refit in 1977 her passenger capacity decreased from 1499 to 1144.

By the 1980s the ship had settled into a routine of winters in the Caribbean and summers in the Alaskan, with the occasional but very popular world cruise. After Carnival Cruise Lines took over Holland America Line in 1989, the SS Rotterdam remained in service until 1997, when the company announced that upgrading the ship to meet the current Safety Of Life At Seas regulations would cost 40 million dollars. But unlike most others in her genre, the SS Rotterdam was a particularly fortunate ship, and her history would not end here. Premier Cruises acquired the ship and renamed her SS Rembrandt.

Controversially the new owner was able to refit the ship according to the new safety regulations as well as many other things for half of what Carnival had predicted. She continued to serve as a fairly popular cruise ship out of Port Canaveral (Florida) until September 2000, when Premier Cruises shut down. After her final retirement, the ship saw some years of inactivity, on which some modifications were made to her, including asbestos removal and returning the hull to its original grey color. After restoration she finally returned in August 2008 to Rotterdam, where she serves as a combination of museum, hotel and school for vocational training since 2010.

The SS Rotterdam was not a huge ocean liner considering the contemporary standards. She has a length of 228 meters, a beam of 28.65 meters, a draught of 9 meters and a tonnage of 38645 gross tonnes, with a displacement of 31530 tonnes. She has ten decks and a total height of 49.8 meters. Originally she had accommodation for 1456 passengers (647 in first class and 809 in second class) and a crew of 776. In comparison with the RMS Mauretania from 1906 the SS Rotterdam is shorter but more spacious.

The propulsion plant, located astern to grant more space in the central area for passengers, comprises four boilers and two steam turbines with a total output of 38000 horsepower (about half than in the RMS Mauretania from 1906), which provided a service speed of 21.5 knots and a maximum speed of 25.5 knots. The engines exhausted through twin uptake pipes astern that took the role of a traditional funnel, which was somehow replaced by a large deckhouse atop the superstructure to balance the silhouette of the ship.

The appearance of the SS Rotterdam was controversial at the time and her unique design features can be found on cruise ships today. Another novelty was the absence of tanks for potable water, having three evaporators that distillated 700 tonnes of salt water daily. And as every modern ocean liner she was fitted with a full air-conditioning installation.

SS United States

The SS United States is a luxury passenger liner built in 1952 for United States Lines, designed to achieve the Blue Riband, trophy granted to the passenger liner performing regular Trans-Atlantic service with the highest speed. This ship remains as the largest ocean liner constructed entirely in the United States and the fastest one crossing the Atlantic in both directions. The SS United States operated in Trans-Atlantic passenger service until 1969. She changed hands multiple times from 1978 with many plans for a return to active service but nothing was materialized. In 1996 the ship remained docked on the Delaware River in Philadelphia and her future was uncertain.

SS United States transatlantic ocean liner
SS United States transatlantic ocean liner ~ Enjoy a long weekend to Europe onboard the SS United States ~
Inspired by the exemplary service of the British ocean liners RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth, which transported hundreds of thousands of US soldiers to Europe during the Second World War, the US Government decided to subsidize the construction of a large and very fast vessel capable of transporting a large number of soldiers. So, the SS United States was built in such a way to allow conversion into a troop transport with capacity for 15000 soldiers or a hospital if necessary. Following US Navy specifications, the ship was heavily subdivided and built with independent engine rooms to optimize wartime survivality. The cost of the ship ascended to 72 millions of dollars.

To minimize the risk of fire, the designers avoided any wooden elements in the framing, accessories, decorations or interior surfaces. Fittings, including all furniture and fabrics, were custom made in glass, metal and spun fiberglass. The construction of the superstructure involved the largest use of aluminum in any construction project of that time, and posed a challenge in joining the aluminum structure to the steel decks below. But the significant utilization of aluminum would provide extreme weight savings. With a beam of 31 meters, the hull could clear the locks at Panama Canal with just 0.6 meters of spare space on each side.

The SS United States has a length of 301.75 meters, a beam of 30.91 meters, a draught of 9.4 meters and a gross tonnage of 53329 tonnes, with a displacement of 45400 tonnes at normal draught. The ship has twelve decks and a height of 53.34 meters from the keel to the top of the fore funnel. She had accommodation for 2008 passengers and a crew of 1093, with a full air-conditioning installation.

The propulsion plant, the most powerful one installed in a merchant vessel, comprises eight boilers Babcock and Wilcox and four steam turbines Westinghouse actuating on four shafts, delivering a total output of 240000 shaft horsepower for a maximum speed of 38.3 knots and a service speed of 32 knots. Besides the ship was capable of steaming astern at over 20 knots. This propulsion power was equivalent to that of a Forrestal-class aircraft carrier and gave her the greatest power-to-weight ratio ever achieved in a commercial passenger liner. Finally, enough fuel and stores could be carried to navigate non-stop for over 10000 nautical miles (18520 kilometers) at an astonishing cruising speed of 35 knots.

As 2016, the SS United States remains in preservation, but the costs are very high and the SS United States Conservancy recently began to consider potential bids for scrapping the ship. The raise of funds in the late 2015 bought time for the emblematic ship just in time. On February 2016, Crystal Cruises announced that it has signed a purchase option for the SS United States. Crystal will cover docking costs in Philadelphia for nine months while conducting a feasibility study on returning the ship to service as a cruise ship based in New York City.

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