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40 Ships American Flag Passenger Fleet In 1955

40 Ships American Flag Passenger Fleet In 1955

Featured in the Ships and The Sea magazine in the Spring 1955 issue was a complete “handbook” of American-Flag ocean-going passenger ships.

  • The feature story opened with this grim news: “America’s fleet of ocean-going passenger vessels is fast diminishing. 40 active ships with a total passenger capacity of only 12,162 persons and directly employ only 8112 officers and crew. As a meagerness of the fleet, here is a handbook of the active passenger and cargo-passenger ships.”

1955 air travel passengers surpassed ship travel liner passengers between New York and Europe. Summers were still heavily booked and America’s liners were sold out.

During the previous year, Alaska Steamship Company discontinued all passenger services, retiring the American flag passengers ships SS Alaska and three others. For years that followed the only cruise to Alaska were on Canadian coastal liners out of Vancouver until the 1960s.

The East Coast had a lot of foreign competition for trans-Atlantic and Caribbean cruises. While the West Coast had little competition with Matson being a prime source of line voyages to Hawaii and in the following year to the South Pacific. American President Line maintained line voyages to the Orient with many passengers taking a return voyage which was a cruise. Mexico cruises never took off until the mid-1960s when Princess Cruises premiered using the Canadian Pacific coastal liner Princess Patricia.

  • Most of the ships listed in the handbook were new and modern, especially the trans-Atlantic liners, the United States, Constitution, and Independence. Delta Lines “Del” series was the first modern (true mid-century) cargo-passenger ships to enter service after WW 2.
  • Into the latter part of the 1950s, Moore McCormick, Grace Line, Matson, and American President Lines would introduce new modern passenger ships serving South America, the Caribbean, Orient, and the South Pacific. With such new or modernized liners as the Santa Rosa, Santa Paula, President Hoover, President Roosevelt, Matsonia, Mariposa, and the Monterey.


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