• Crystal Cruises plans to resurrect what was once America’s largest, speediest, and most glamorous passenger ship.
  • It wasn’t that long ago that we made the bold claim that “Crystal Cruises may change cruising as we know it”—and it looks like the luxury cruise line isn’t slacking.

ssusa2On the heels of an announcement that it plans to pivot the brand from a cruise-only company of two ships to a veritable lifestyle fleet of ocean, river, and small ships, Crystal also just signed a deal to resurrect the famed S.S. United States—once the fastest, largest, and at times, most glamorous passenger ships ever built in America—as a 400-suite, 800-guest ocean liner.

ssus“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,” Crystal President and CEO Edie Rodriguez said in a statement.


Marlon Brando and Salvidor Dali enjoying after dinner coffee in the First Class Lounge of the SS United States.

Crystal Cruises will work with the S.S. United States Conservancy to conduct a technical feasibility study this year, to see how much work will be required to bring the 64-year-old ship up to modern standards; Crystal says it will cover all costs associated with the preservation.

An off-season cruise aboard the S.S. United States.  The great American liner’s trans-Atlantic days were numbered and being killed by the jet.  The “public” were heading in herds to Europe aboard 747s… while the S.S. United States was struggling with much superior service.


The S.S. United States new design… 

When the ship made its debut in 1952, it was a $70+ million beauty, more than 100 feet longer than the Titanic and the ship of choice for the glitterati, everyone from Marlon Brando to Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. But it was retired abruptly in 1969, and has been docked (and seemingly doomed for the junkyard) on the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

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  • In its glory days, the S.S. United States was the flagship for the States’ transatlantic passenger fleet, regardless of line.
  • Though its older competitor, the RMS Queen Mary (now preserved as a hotel in Long Beach, California), wowed for decades with lavish Art Deco interiors, the United States’s mid-century modernism both influenced and helped popularize a newer, fresher, more forward-looking aesthetic.

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  • It was the height of fashion as well as the speediest ship at sea. “I have family who sailed on the S.S. United States when it made its debut in 1952—the same year it broke the speed record for a passenger ship crossing the Atlantic, for which it won (and still holds) the Blue Riband prize,” says Traveler contributor Cynthia Drescher. “Photos of my family posing for the ship’s photographer on the stern and one large, brown suitcase bearing the ship’s luggage sticker are still prized family heirlooms.”

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So why the need for speed? Per the S.S. United States Conservancy, the S.S. United States was developed to be a “super ship” as part of a Cold War–era Pentagon project; it could transform into a troop carrier, “able to transport 15,000 military service members 10,000 [nautical] miles without refueling” and reach 38 knots, or 44 miles per hour, at sea.

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