The news last month from the joint Crystal Cruises/SS US Conservancy about the cruise line’s intentions for the long moribund SS. United States was, it is safe to say, a complete curve ball that no one really saw coming.
The plan to return the ship to service as a deluxe, all suite, eight hundred guest cruise vessel, served and styled in the sybaritic Crystal standards, was simply too much for many to take in. From across the Atlantic, I could almost hear the sound of a hundred thousand jaws hitting an equal number of shoes in stunned unison.
Of course, all of this is subject to a full, stem to stern, truck to keel survey of the United States. The press conference indicated that this work is likely to be completed in situ, at Philadelphia, this coming November.
Once the shell shock of the initial announcement had subsided, the inevitable naysayers began to surface. Their disbelief and sheer incredulity began to build up a real head of steam.
We’ve all seen their arguments and opinions- which, to be clear, they are perfectly entitled to espouse. I happen to disagree with them, but I am also the first to admit that, for the moment at least, my opinions have no more credibility than theirs.
Herein lies something of a quandary for that formidable duo of Rodriguez and Gibbs.
Yes, they have funded the liner’s docking fees for many months to come. And yes, they have commissioned a team of hugely competent individuals to bring their incredible vision to actual fruition. But much is going on behind the scenes here that the ordinary public can, for various reasons, be unaware of, in the same way that tidal currents are invisible below the ocean’s surface. In some quarters, a lack of some kind of visual progress could, indeed, be wrongly interpreted.
But something symbolic- a real statement of intent- wow, how that would really galvanise public opinion behind this project. What I’m suggesting is something cosmetic, relatively cheap, and yet hugely symbolic to everyone interested in the project.
Why not tidy up the ship’s long neglected exterior right now, right where she is?
Make the rust fade like the last of the winter snow. Paint the hull, the superstructure and, above all, lavish some TLC on those awesome sampan funnels. Illuminate those stacks at night; let people see them from miles away.
It would be a huge, relatively inexpensive PR coup; a way of keeping the ship visible in the public eye- quite literally, as it happens. And, as the mechanics of her rebirth slowly gestate on the inside, could there be a more potent or visible statement of intent than this relatively simple act? I think not.
Forty seven years of neglect and false, raised hopes, finally disappearing into history under a stunning new sheen of colour and light. Lingering doubts finally vanishing astern.
That’s my take. Am I the only one who feels like this?