Crystal Ends Plans for SS United States
PHOTO: A recent photo of the SS United States in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of the SS United States Conservancy)
It’s no surprise, but Crystal Cruises officially ruled out the idea of returning the historic SS United States ocean liner to service as a luxury cruise ship.
The decision was announced Aug. 5 after a six-month evaluation that determined that the iconic liner, docked in Philadelphia for 20 years, is structurally sound but that the technical and commercial challenges to return the ship to service were “insurmountable.”
“Unfortunately, the hurdles that would face us when trying to bring a 65-year-old vessel up to modern safety, design and international regulatory compliance have proven just too great to clear in both a technically and commercially responsible manner,” Crystal President and CEO Edie Rodriguez said.
Crystal is, however, making a $350,000 donation to the SS United States Conservancy, which is seeking redevelopment opportunities — such as a mixed-use development and museum — for what it calls "America’s Flagship."
The SS United States entered service in July 1952 and on its maiden voyage captured the Blue Riband awarded to the fastest trans-Atlantic ocean liner, a distinction it still holds. The liner was retired from active service in 1969. In February, Crystal and the conservancy entered into an option agreement to explore the feasibility of converting it into an 800-passenger cruise ship, a massive undertaking estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $700 million.
Crystal spent more than $1 million on a feasibility study led by retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Tim Sullivan. The study concluded that while the ship is structurally sound, modifying it to meet today’s standards would require significant changes to the hull that would pose stability challenges, Crystal said. Additionally, the installation of a modern diesel electric propulsion plant would require altering the existing shaft lines and rebuilding about 25 percent of the hull to reconfigure the ship to a twin shaft-twin rudder arrangement.
“Our company has great affection for this historic and irreplaceable vessel, and we will be making a $350,000 donation which will help support the Conservancy preserve the vessel through the remainder of the year,” Rodriguez said. “We firmly believe the SS United States is an American treasure and deserves to be preserved and redeveloped as a stationary destination for future generations to experience and enjoy.”
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