The Lady in waiting….

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?



11 thoughts on “CLEANING UP THE BIG ‘U’”

  1. I blogged about this very thing last month: “To those who say Crystal should make a goodwill gesture and paint the ship and/or her funnels in situ while conducting their feasibility studies, I counter that regardless of the fact that it would be a waste of money, it’s quite simply environmentally impossible to sandblast lead-based paint without some of it getting into the Delaware River.”


  2. Here’s why your suggestion WON’T Happen. They will NOT invest the money it will take to do what you suggest because there is a possibility that NOTHING will happen. That after all the studies are done, Crysal will realize what everyone else before them has realized: “It will be to Expensive!” Just the cost and dangers involved in towing her to Breman ( Where it’s rumored where she will go for the conversion) will be monumental. I don’t want to be a skeptic on this,but once again, ” I’ll believe it when I see it.


    1. Did you read it carefully? “in situ” means a rehab where it sits. Negative thinking like your will doom the ship- just learn that you are not smarter than Crystal Cruises. They obviously see something you don’t. They are a highly successful cruise on solid financial footing. You can share Mark P’s negativity- but remember, there is always a way. Let’s put a man on the moon. “It can’t be done”.


  3. I have no problem with the idea of returning her to service; I do have a problem with changing her so radically. Would you really have had the old Queen Mary modernized, just to keep her in service for a little longer? And what will happen once a reconfigured United States has served her purpose as a new ship? Will she go the way of the France/Norway, scrapped after her lines are ruined and she is no longer useful?


    1. It’s not about what I might want or not want. I’m not the one putting this into effect. And, as for Norway being ‘ruined’- the 1980 refit brought her back to life in a spectacular way. You can take that as the truth, coming from someone who sailed on her five times.


      1. Anthony, your first sentence is somewhat disingenuous: the whole tone of your blog entry was one of approbation, so I think one might usefully ask whether you “want” the project to go ahead, and whether you’ve thought through to the end of the whole process. Personally, I (and many others) want to see the United States preserved as much as possible as she was built, with her original lines. True, her interior has been stripped and it would be nearly impossible to restore that, except for certain public rooms. But, assuming the project goes ahead and she’s re-made, would we still have the United States? True, we’d have the same plates and decks, most of the structure would be there; but the materials aren’t what make the ship the personality (as it were) that people want to preserve. Shifting to architecture, when a historic building is gutted and rebuilt inside, we’re at least left with the façade and an image of the original (as happened with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music not so long ago). Back to the United States, people don’t want to preserve the nuts and bolts; they want to preserve the shape and associated memories. And back to the old Queen Mary, do you really think she would have been preserved if she had been turned into a semblance of the modern cargo-container cruise ship? Personally, I don’t.

        As for the France/Norway, I’m not impressed that she sailed longer because of a conversion. My point was that (1) her lines were changed (and many say ruined) and (2) that she wasn’t preserved at all: her scrapping was merely delayed and now she’s gone. All we have left from the golden age of the liners (even if only from the end of the era) are, as far as I know, the Queen Mary and the Hikawa Maru. I’d like to see the United States not merely reprieved for awhile but preserved to join them.


  4. I guess it depends on whether or not you think that successive generations of people should have the chance to sample a ship (or ships) that would otherwise have gone to the scrapyard,

    As for your querying my thought processes, I can assure you that I have thought it through, If you consider those thoughts as expressed disingenuous, that reflects your interpretation, not my intention.

    And as for the Norway- did you ever, actually, set foot on the ship at all??

    “Her lines were ruined….” Really? The obvious addition of her two upper decks to which you allude were not added for almost a full decade after her return to service.

    Norway might have been ‘ruined’ in your eyes, but for the many people that got to sail on this miraculously resurrected ship, she was a thing of beauty, light and wonder. For us, Norway was not ‘ruined, even if she no longer met your lofty aesthetic criteria.

    You can have your opinions and, of course, you have every right to critique anything that I (or anybody else) might write.

    But Louis- here’s the rub; I’d rather have my memories of many happy trips on the Norway- and hopefully in time the United States, too- than your sense of offended aesthetic dudgeon. Because I know which of us really sampled these ships. Anyone can be a Monday morning quarterback, especially with many decades of hindsight.


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