After decades spent languishing at her berth in Philadelphia, the historic ocean liner S.S. United States has been given an unexpected reprieve by Crystal Cruises. The luxury line, which has recently embarked on an aggressive expansion of their all-inclusive cruise brand that includes new cruise ships, expedition vessels, river cruise ships and a small fleet of Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft, has announced will save the S.S. United States from the breakers, signing a purchase option agreement and undertaking a feasibility study to restore the iconic ship to service.

The S.S. United States is closer than ever to returning to service, thanks to Crystal Cruises. Illustration courtesy of Crystal Cruises

The S.S. United States is closer than ever to returning to service, thanks to Crystal Cruises. Illustration courtesy of Crystal Cruises

In order to meet modern demands and be in full regulatory compliance, the SS United States will have to be extensively re-built to meet over 60 years of new maritime rules and shipbuilding practices. The modern United States by Crystal Cruises will be transformed into an 800-guest-capacity vessel, featuring 400 luxurious suites measuring about 350 square feet with dining, entertainment, spa and other luxury guest amenities that are true to the ship’s storied history. Features of the original SS United States such as the Promenade and Navajo Lounge will be retained, while new engines and sophisticated marine technology will be installed to maintain her title as the fastest cruise vessel in the world.

Crystal’s ambitions for the ship are helped in part by the fact that the historic ocean liner had been stripped of her original fittings, interiors, and toxic asbestos insulation between 1985 and 1994. She has been moored in Philadelphia since 1996, and has managed to avoid being sent to maritime scrapyards like those in Alang, India, ever since. Norwegian Cruise Line, which had expressed an interest in the United States as far back as 1979, purchased the vessel in 2003, spending five years completing feasibility studies that concluded the ship could be put back into active service. Her birthplace in the United States also gives her the right to be flagged in the U.S.; something most modern cruise ships cannot do. It’s a desirable trait for cruise lines, which are forced to call on “distant foreign ports of call” when departing from U.S. ports in order to meet cabotage requirements set out in the 1800’s. Norwegian Cruise Line decided not to proceed with their plans, and the ship was sold to the SS United States Conservancy in 2010.

The S.S. United States was launched in 1952, and set the transatlantic speed record for fastest crossing on her maiden voyage. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

The S.S. United States was launched in 1952, and set the transatlantic speed record for fastest crossing on her maiden voyage. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Now, Crystal cruises wants to bring the 1952-built ship – which still holds the record for fastest transatlantic crossing, garnered during her maiden voyage – back to life. The luxury line will be examining exciting new itineraries for the 60,000-gross-ton United States by Crystal Cruises including not only the resumption of her traditional transatlantic voyages from New York City, but cruises from key U.S. ports as well as international voyages around the globe which are a signature offering of Crystal and part of the line’s “World Cruise.”

“The prospect of revitalizing 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 honored 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.”

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