Lonely Planet Writer

Historic American liner set to become luxury cruise ship

An ocean liner, larger than the Titanic, and which once ferried royalty and celebrities at record speed across the Atlantic Ocean, could be set to rule the waves again.

The SS United States could be set to rule the wave again but it will need a total overhaul costing almost $1 billion before it can happen
The SS United States could be set to rule the waves again but it will need a total overhaul costing almost $1 billion before that can happen Image by Mihai Bojin / CC BY 2.0

The SS United States is now the subject of a major overhaul costing close to US$1 billion by Crystal Cruises luxury travel company.  For 20 years the huge steamship has been deteriorating while docked at an unused wharf on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. While the plan is to turn the gutted and rusting vessel into a state of the art commercial ship, it must undergo a feasibility study over a nine-month period. When the ship was in its heyday during the 1950s, the SS United States was synonymous with famous passengers as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean with three orchestras on board.

The SS United States was larger than the Titanic and set a record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1952 which stood for 38 years.
The SS United States was larger than the Titanic and set a record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1952 which stood for 38 years. Image by Les Chatfield / CC BY 2.0

When it was launched, the ship was not just the largest but also the fastest ocean liner that had ever been built in the US. During its maiden voyage in ’52, it traversed the Atlantic in three days, ten hours, 42 minutes – a record that stood for 38 years. News.com.au reports that the SS United States was decommissioned in 1969 and is now owned by a conservation group, but Crystal Cruises has signed a purchase option.

The New York Times describes the liner as having a Cold War past with the capacity to traverse 10,000 miles before needing refueling. Behind all its glitz and glamour, it was also secretly ready, if needed, to turn into a naval troop ship to carry 15,000 soldiers. As it transpired, it wasn’t called upon to undertake such a secret mission.

The cruise line hopes to relaunch it as an 800-passenger vessel called the United States by Crystal Cruises containing modern amenities such as a spa and entertainment venues.