There may still be hope for the S.S. United States as Crystal Cruises has signed a purchase option to restore the historic ocean liner and bring it back into service. The option commits Crystal to cover the costs of preserving the ship while undertaking a technical feasibility study, expected to be completed by the end of 2016 at an estimated $60,000 a month.
Known as “the Big U” and “America’s Flagship,” S.S. United States has a history that harkens back to the golden age of ocean liners. Before its retirement in 1969, the SS United States was the most glamorous and elegant ship in the world, having transported four U.S. presidents, international royalty, many of Hollywood’s “golden era” celebrities, as well as a million passengers.
I also have a personal history with this vessel, as it was the ship that carried me and my parents back to America from France in late 1962.
Conceived as part of a top-secret Pentagon project during the Cold War, the S.S. United States was to be converted into a war ship and carry 15,000 troops halfway around the world without refueling, if needed. The ship is 590 feet long, about five city blocks, which is 109-feet longer than the Titanic.
Crystal plans to turn the ship into an 800-passenger luxury liner with 400 suites that measure 350 square feet. To transform the vessel — at one time, the most powerful vessel in the world, setting a record, which still stands, for the fastest transatlantic crossing in 1952 — will cost between $700 million to $800 million.
The S.S. United States Preservation Society has owned the vessel since 2011; before that, it was owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. If Crystal Cruises is able to navigate the S.S. United States through safety and environmental regulations and finance the overhaul, the ship could hit the seas sometime in 2018.
I’d love to sail aboard the S.S. United States once again.