I’m going to take a leap of faith here. That being that the SS United States does, indeed, pass her comprehensive, stem to stern, truck to keel evaluation, due to be under way by November 2016. The official go ahead is then given, and the ship proceeds, under tow, to a German shipyard for her stem to stern, projected $800 million regeneration.
The ship that re-emerges into commercial service combines many salient, lovingly restored features of the original construction; the great sampan funnels remain gloriously intact, as do the long, expansive indoor promenades. Even with the addition of two new decks, that sleek, beautifully raked bow and elegant counter stern stand out as proud testimonials to a unique, matchless maritime heritage.
Of course, the Crystal Cruises’ magic wand has also been waved over the now 60,000 ton ship. In place of 2.000 berths, there is now a capacity for just 800 guests maximum, housed in four hundred suites. Even the smallest of these romps in at an expansive 400 square feet.
And, with a crew imbued with Crystal’s sybaritic service and hospitality ethic, the United States is a clear winner in more than just speed terms. This marvellous marriage of old and new will be one of the biggest draws on the cruising circuit, and surely the most newsworthy.
But what then?
I would expect a sell out maiden voyage from Germany to New York, via Southampton and, perhaps, Cherbourg. And the sheer, emotional impact of being aboard the United States when she sails back into her former home port, under her own power, is something that you simply could not hang a price tag on.
Her future could be a mixture of the exotic and the truly dramatic. Crystal has already said that the United States will, indeed, make transatlantic crossings, along with coast to coast voyages that would take her from New York to Los Angeles, and back again. Within these two hugely diverse parameters, a whole host of other sailing options becomes apparent.
From New York, the ship could offer fast, five or six day round trips to Bermuda. She could sail down the historical eastern seaboard, calling in at evocative focal points such as Boston, Charleston and Philadelphia.
From Miami, the ship could offer a series of breezy, very destination inclusive Caribbean itineraries. Passing through the jungle shrouded magnificence of the Panama Canal, she could sail on to San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The ‘Big U’ could swing out from under the Golden Gate and set a course for the gorgeous Hawaiian islands. Her speed would make short work of the long haul out and back to those islands. From L.A, she could make a run for the dramatic, sun splashed hot spots of the Mexican Riviera.
The liner could run immersive ‘wine cruises’ up to Santa Barbara, and down to oft neglected Catalina Island. And all of these options- so numerous and diverse just in this listing- presuppose any potential European deployments, for which I think there will be a huge, ultimately irresistible demand.
A series of dream voyages on a ship that has yet to cut salt water again? For sure.
But, if ocean voyaging is anything at all, surely it is the sublime pleasure of savouring the often improbable. Not in some chilly, technicolor virtual reality scenario, but for real. Up close and personal.
I’ll leave you with that though, and let those voyages begin to take form in your heads.