The Delta Line introduced three revolutionary passenger-cargo ships to its South American services in the post-war years in 1947, with the liners lasting in service until 1967.
- In keeping with the company’s trade name, “Delta Line,” the three vessels were given “Del” names DEL NORTE, DEL SUD, and DEL MAR.
- The three “Dels,” unusual design by the naval architect George G. Sharp of New York, made them unique on the New Orleans waterfront and the east coast of South America, an area where they traded for nearly a quarter of a century.
The liners were originally based on standard C-3 design cargo hulls all that were available for purchase during the late war years.
With the cooperation of Admiral Vickery, head of the construction division of the American Maritime Commission, Delta Line arranged that three of these hulls be redesigned as passenger/cargo vessels to re-establish the company’s services to South America.
The ships, built at the Ingalls Shipyard, Pascagoula, Mississippi, were fitted with D.R. geared turbines giving a 17-knot service speed.
The sister ships were all 10,074 tons, 495 feet in length and 70 feet in breadth.
Their total cost in 1946 was over $7,000,000 each.
A new day’s morning at sea could be started with a stroll along the glass-enclosed Promenade deck, a visit to the ship’s library – or breakfast in bed.
The latter “institution” was served with a full view of the sea sliding by outside through semi-square “windows,” which had replaced the traditional round porthole in many cabins.
Mid-morning coffee was served in the main lounge, a room decorated with murals of “old” New Orleans.
Glass partitions separated the various public rooms yet simultaneously created an open spaciousness associated with much larger ships.
Days were lazy and relaxed, with games available on the sports deck or a long siesta in one of the comfortable lounge chairs awaiting passengers out of the wind’s way on the aft deck.
Evenings began in the ship’s dining room and continued in the Grand Lounge while the band played – or on warm, tropical evenings at poolside.
Inside this structure were two decks of officer’s quarters, the main radio room and an emergency generator.
The actual exhaust gasses were discharged through two thin stacks just aft of the dummy funnel, somewhat disguised as kingposts.
The vessels were among the first commercial ships in the world to be equipped with post-war radar, highly refined after stringent combat use.
A scanning screen with three ranges of visual presentation gave the navigating officers views at 2, 6 and 30 nautical miles, a comforting fact in the highly congested Mississippi Delta and River Plate waterways.
The artist’s conceptions for the ship’s interiors…
Though routes and ports of call varied somewhat during the careers of the three vessels, their trade area was normally the Caribbean and the east coast of South America. On a southbound voyage, San Juan in
Puerto Rico was usually the first stop.
The ship might then precede top Bridgetown, Curacao of La Guaira before pushing out into the Atlantic for the long run around the eastern bulge of Brazil.
After 12 days at sea, the vessel would glide by the majestic prominence of “Sugarloaf” and slip into the beautiful bay of Rio de Janeiro.
Passengers would have just enough time to see the city’s sights before two long blasts on the ship’s horn spoke of an imminent departure.
Santos, Brazil’s second port of call, held a special place in Delta’s post-war cargo trade.
It was the world’s leading coffee loading port, and American consumption of the aromatic bean had made Delta the globe’s largest coffee carrier – so much so that Delta ships were known as the “Coffee Fleet.”
The southbound stop at Santos, however, could have been improved. Montevideo, Paranagua, and Buenos Aires had to be satisfied before coffee could be loaded for the northward voyage.
The first ship completed, the DEL NORTE, departed on her maiden voyage from New Orleans to South America on 26 November 1946.
Her sister vessels, DEL SUD and DEL MAR, followed on 28 March 1947 and 13 June 1947, respectively. Once in service, the three-passenger/cargo liners maintained a regular schedule of two monthly sailings from U.S. Gulf ports to the Caribbean and South America.
The “Del” trios quickly established an enviable record for dependable sailings and were soon offering 44-day round-trip cruises to such ports of call as Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Paranagua, and Buenos Aires.
Life on board these vessels pleasantly surprised passengers who had undertaken pre-war voyages in less refined ships.
Most appreciated was the air-conditioning, particularly after reaching some of the South American ports, but also enjoyed was the swimming pool situated aft of the main superstructure on each liner.
These facilities, together with the open sun deck and nearby bar and cafe, assured a first-class holiday for passengers as the ship sped southward to South America aboard the first class ships.Their principal cargo was northbound coffee with general merchandise and passengers providing additional income. After twenty year careers and with competition from jet aircraft and containerships, the Del Norte, Del Sud and Del Mar were withdrawn from service in 1967.