Crystal Cruises is continuing on its ambitious growth path with the surprise announcement that it will restore “America’s Flagship,” the SS United States, and return her to oceangoing service.
Celebrated as the epitome of American post-war innovation and design, the SS United States was launched in 1952 and captured the transatlantic speed record on her maiden voyage – a record that still stands.
The 60,000 gross ton ship also remains the largest passenger ship ever designed and built in America. Before her retirement in 1969, the SS United States had a reputation as the most glamorous and elegant ship in the world, having transported 4 U.S. Presidents, international royalty and many of Hollywood’s “golden era” celebrities, as well as a million passengers.
The ship’s origin is equally intriguing. She was designed as part of a top-secret Pentagon program during the Cold War, which stipulated it could be quickly converted from a luxury liner into a naval troopship in the event of a war, carrying 15,000 troops with a propulsion plant capable of travelling 10,000 nautical miles – almost 1/2 way around the globe – without refueling.
“The prospect of revitalizing the SS United States and re-establishing her as ‘America’s Flagship’ once again is a thrilling one,” says Crystal President & CEO Edie Rodriguez. “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. We are honoured to work with the SS United States Conservancy and government agencies in exploring the technical feasibility study so we can ultimately embark on the journey of transforming her into a sophisticated luxury cruise liner for the modern era.”
During the announcement, made at a press conference at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in NYC, Crystal committed to covering all costs associated with preserving the ship while undertaking the technical feasibility study, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
“Crystal’s ambitious vision for the SS United States will ensure our nation’s flagship is once again a global ambassador for the highest standards of American innovation, quality and design,” said Susan Gibbs, Executive Director of the SS United States Conservancy and granddaughter of the ship’s designer, William Francis Gibbs. “We are thrilled that the SS United States is now poised to make a triumphant return to sea and that the ship’s historical legacy will continue to intrigue and inspire a new generation.”
In order to meet modern demands and be in full regulatory compliance, Crystal says the SS United States will have to be extensively re-built to meet over 60 years of new maritime rules and shipbuilding practices.
The modern United States by Crystal Cruises will be transformed into an 800 guest capacity vessel, featuring 400 suites measuring about 350 sq. ft. with dining, entertainment, spa and amenities in keeping with the ship’s history. Features of the original SS United States such as the Promenade and Navajo Lounge will be retained, while new engines and sophisticated marine technology will be installed to maintain her title as the fastest cruise vessel in the world.
For those trying to preserve the ship, this news marks a bright resolution to a long struggle. In October 2015, the SS United States Conservancy’s Board of Directors announced that the persistent challenge of covering the vessel’s monthly expenses had compelled them to engage a ship broker to explore the potential sale of the ship, most likely to a scrapyard.
This news resulted in an outpouring of public support worldwide and led to the Conservancy raising additional funds which enabled the organization to continue its preservation efforts and pursue negotiations with potential investors and partners.
“The Conservancy could never have reached this momentous milestone without the lifeline provided by our supporters from across the country and around the world. Thousands responded to our SOS last October and they refused to give up the fight for America’s Flagship,” said Gibbs.
Crystal says it is in the process of planning itineraries for the ship, which will include traditional transatlantic voyages from NYC, but also cruises from key U.S. ports as well as international voyages around the globe.