Crystal Cruises has unveiled plans to restore the retired liner SS United States, in the latest part of its massive expansion plans.
The task of bringing ‘America’s flagship’ into the 21st century has been priced at more than $500 million. As well as having to completely renovate the vessel, it will also have to bring the ship up to the latest environmental and compliance standards.
During the announcement, made yesterday at a press conference at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in New York City, Crystal also committed to covering all costs associated with preserving the ship while undertaking a technical feasibility study, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
“The prospect of revitalising the SS United States and re-establishing her as ‘America’s Flagship’ once again is a thrilling one. It will be a very challenging undertaking, but we are determined to apply the dedication and innovation that has always been the ship’s hallmark,” said Crystal president and CEO Edie Rodriguez. “We are honoured to work with the SS United States Conservancy and government agencies in exploring the technical feasibility study so we can ultimately embark on the journey of transforming her into a sophisticated luxury cruise liner for the modern era.”
“Crystal’s ambitious vision for the SS United States will ensure our nation’s flagship is once again a global ambassador for the highest standards of American innovation, quality and design,” said Susan Gibbs, executive director of the SS United States Conservancy and granddaughter of the ship’s designer, William Francis Gibbs. We are thrilled that the SS United States is now poised to make a triumphant return to sea and that the ship’s historical legacy will continue to intrigue and inspire a new generation.”
The modern United States by Crystal Cruises will be transformed into an 800-guest-capacity vessel, with 400 luxurious suites measuring about 350 square feet with dining, entertainment and spa. Crystal will keep the ship’s famous promenade and Navajo lounge.
“It is truly a privilege for the world’s most awarded luxury cruise line to be entrusted with the opportunity of restoring a ship that served as a symbol of patriotism and maritime supremacy and bring her into the modern day, while also giving guests a taste of a bygone era of luxury travel,” added Rodriguez.
The SS United States was launched in 1952 and made the transatlantic speed record on her maiden voyage – a record to this day that still stands. The vessel was retired in 1969.
While it epitomised the golden era of Hollywood, the ship was designed as part of a top-secret Pentagon programme during the Cold War, which stipulated it could be quickly converted from a luxury liner into a naval troopship in the event of a war.
The ship was put on sale by the Conservancy’s board of directors in October 2015.
“The conservancy could never have reached this momentous milestone without the lifeline provided by our supporters from across the country and around the world. Thousands responded to our SOS last October and they refused to give up the fight for America’s flagship,” continued Gibbs.
Crystal has asked retired US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Tim Sullivan to build and lead a team with a wide range of cruise line technical, legal and regulatory expertise to see about bringing the ship into their fleet.
“Tim’s integrity and leadership will help ensure the feasibility study is conducted with appropriately wide consultation, and rigorous adherence to both safety and environmental awareness,” said Rodriguez.
The Conservancy will work with Crystal to establish shipboard displays and other educational programmes. Planning is also underway for a land-based museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of America’s Flagship along with broader design, innovation and discovery themes. The museum will feature a wide range of original artifacts and historic components from the ship’s heyday.