Crystal Cruises to relaunch historic ocean liner


Not satisfied with its expansion into yachts, river cruising and private jets, Crystal Cruises has signed an option on the historic SS United States. Launched in 1952, the ocean liner was the world’s fastest ship, taking a full 10 hours off the time for a transatlantic crossing. It became known as America’s Flagship, playing host to celebrities, such as Bob Hope and Princess Grace of Monaco, and even starring in several movies.

Her reign was short lived and in 1969 SS United States was withdrawn from service. She spent the next four decades passing through a series of owners. Since 2011, the slowly decaying liner has been docked in Philadelphia and late last year the current owners, the SS United States Conservancy, announced it could no longer afford the $60,000 a month it took to care for the ship. There was ominous talk of a “responsible recycling” project.

Enter Edie Rodriguez, CEO of Crystal Cruises and a woman with a plan. Ms Rodriguez heard about the plight of SS United States and, along with company chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, decided it would be a crime for the iconic ship to be scrapped. “As a proud American of an American-based cruise line, I felt like I would be remiss if we didn’t pursue it,” Ms Rodriguez told

Crystal plans to turn the ship into an 800-passenger luxury vessel that will sail around the world, including its traditional America to Europe route. Original features such as the Promenade and Navajo Lounge will be restored while state-of-the- art engines and marine technology will allow the ship to regain its title of fastest in the world.

The project is not without its difficulties. The ship hasn’t sailed under its own power since 1969 and, despite hazardous material removal in the late 1990s, some areas still contain toxic waste.Ms Rodriguez is undaunted: “You have to have a vision.”

A number of other luxury private vessels have been revived by cruise lines.

In 1931, Wall Street broker Edward Hutton and his wife, heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, commissioned the largest private yacht in the world, a four-masted windjammer they christened Hussar. It subsequently served as a coast-guard ship, naval weather ship, presidential yacht and school ship before being fully refurbished to become the luxurious Sea Cloud. Ten original cabins remain on the main deck, including Edward and Marjorie’s lavish quarters, decorated with antique furniture, marble bathrooms and the original gold taps in the shape of swans.

Built in Scotland in 1947, RV Paukan was styled after the traditional quarter-wheeler steamers of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. The ship made the long ocean voyage to Burma in 1950 and began service on the river the following year, taking passengers and cargo between Mandalay and Bhamo. RV Paukan was turned into a cruise ship in 1989 and has had further refurbishments over the years. There are 16 teak-walled cabins and many original features have been retained, such as the Ironwood decks.

After years of delays and speculation, Titanic II may finally launch in 2018. Although it’s not a refurbishment of the original (which is currently sitting under almost 4,000 metres of water off the coast of Canada), it will be an exact replica, right down to the lavish grand staircase and Turkish bath. The ship will carry 2,400 passengers and 900 crew – and sufficient lifeboats for all. Rather than sailing theoriginal Titanic’s planned route from Southampton to New York, Titanic II will sail from China to Dubai.