First private balconies: The SATURNIA and VULCANIA were the first liners to offer large numbers of cabins with private balconies. There had been various ships prior to that which had a handful of private verandahs and promenades for the suites, but not in the numbers the Italian twins offered.

Cruise Line and Liner History – The Italian Line – M.S. Vulcania

The Italian Line was founded in 1937 through a merger of the Genoa-based Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI), the Turin-based Lloyd Sabaudo, and the Trieste-based Cosulich STN lines, encouraged by the Italian government. The new company acquired the Cosulich-owned ships MS Saturnia and MS Vulcania, the Lloyd Sabaudo-owned SS Conte Rosso, SS Conte Biancamano and SS Conte Grande and the NGI-owned SS Giulio Cesare, SS Duilio, SS Roma and MS Augustus. The same year two previously commissioned ocean liners were delivered to the company: SS Rex, that captured the Blue Riband in 1933, and SS Conte di Savoia.

During World War II, the company lost many ships, including the Rex and the Conte di Savoia. Others were captured by the United States and converted into troopships; four of them survived the war: Conte Biancamano, Conte Grande, Saturnia, and Vulcania.

Commercial service was resumed in 1947 under the company’s new name Società di navigazione Italia. In addition to the four vessels returned to the company by the United States, two new vessels, SS Andrea Doria and SS Cristoforo Colombo were commissioned in 1953 and 1954. In 1956, Andrea Doria, the company’s three year old flagship collided with the Swedish ship Stockholm near Nantucket and sank, with passenger deaths estimated at 46 or 55. The company replaced the Andrea Doria with the SS Leonardo da Vinci, which went into service in 1960. This ship was based on the same design as Andrea Doria, but was larger, and featured technical innovations.

Italian Line TN Michelangelo – Atlantic Crossing Cruise 1965

In the late 1950s, aircraft passenger travel had yet to have a noticeable effect on ocean-going passenger numbers between the United States and the Mediterranean. The Italian Line, therefore, ordered two new ships, the SS Michelangelo and SS Raffaello. Construction of the ships took longer than expected, and they were not delivered until 1965. Being late into service, they were not able to profitably compete on the North Atlantic route. Although planned for cruising as an alternative, the ships had several design flaws that made their use as cruise ships problematic.

Despite huge financial loss, the Italian Line operated the transatlantic route until 1976, after which the Leonardo da Vinci was withdrawn from service; the Michelangelo and Raffaello had already been withdrawn the previous year. The Leonardo da Vinci became a cruise ship in 1977–1978, after which it was withdrawn due to high fuel costs. In 1979 and 1980 the company operated two ex-Lloyd Triestino liners, SS Galileo Galilei and SS Guglielmo Marconi, as a cruise ships, but this again proved unprofitable.

Because of the unprofitably of the cruise business, the Italian Line turned to freight shipping. It operated its principal container services between the Mediterranean, the west coast of North America, and Central and South America, carrying about 180,000 Twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of freight in 2001.

Previously owned by the Italian government, the company was privatized in 1998 when sold to d’Amico Società di Navigazione. In August 2002, it was acquired by CP Ships, and in 2005 the Italian Line name ceased to exist following CP’s one-brand strategy. CP Ships itself was bought-out in late 2005 by TUI AG, and merged with Hapag-Lloyd in mid-2006.


The MS Vulcania was built by Cantiere Navale Triestino, Monfalcone, Italy in 1926 for the Italian company, Cosulich Line. She was a 23,970 gross ton ship, length overall 631.4ft x beam 79.8ft, one funnel, two masts, twin screw and a speed of 19 knots. There was accommodation for 310-1st, 460-2nd, 310-intermediate class and 700-3rd class passengers. Launched on 18/12/1926, she sailed from Trieste on her maiden voyage to Patras, Naples and New York on 19/12/1928. In 1930 her accommodation was altered to 1st, 2nd, tourist and 3rd class, and in 1934 to 1st, tourist and 3rd class only.

In 1930 she was fitted with new diesel engines, which gave her a speed of 21 knots and was rebuilt to a tonnage of 24,469 tons. In Dec.1936 she commenced her last Trieste – New York voyage for Cosulich Line and in 1937 went to the newly formed Italia Line. In March 1937 she commenced running from Trieste to New York and in March 1940 commenced her last sailing Trieste – Naples – New York – Trieste. She was requisitioned by the Italian government in 1941 to carry troops to North Africa and in 1942-3 was used on three special missions to repatriate women and children, Genoa – East Africa via South Africa. In Oct.1943 she became a US Troopship and on 29/3/1946 was chartered to American Export Lines to run between New York – Naples – Alexandria. She commenced her last voyage on this service on 4/10/1946 after 6 round voyages and was returned to Italia Line on 15/11/1946. She then sailed New York – Naples – Genoa where she was reconditioned to carry 240-1st, 270-cabin and 860-tourist class passengers.

In July 1947 she made a single voyage from Genoa to South America and then, on 4/9/1947 resumed the Genoa – Naples – New York service. On 21/9/1955 she commenced her last voyage on this run and on 28/10/1955 was transferred to run between Trieste, Venice, Patras, Naples, Palermo, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Halifax and New York. On 5/4/1965 she commenced her last voyage on this service and was sold to the Siosa Line who renamed her Caribia. On 18/9/1973 she arrived at Barcelona under tow to be scrapped and departed under tow for Kaohsiung for scrapping on 15/3/1974.

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