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Jets Killed American Banner Line’s New SS Atlantic Transatlantic Service

Jets Killed American Banner Line’s New SS Atlantic Transatlantic Service

In the 1950s pioneer shipping executive Arnold Bernstein wanted to offer superior Economy Class steamship liner services from New York to Europe offering all staterooms with private facilities aboard the SS Atlantic.

ss Atlantic, banner lines

American Banner Lines new SS Atlantic.

  • Bernstein had chartered in the summer of 1948 a passenger ship the CONTINENTAL (ex ANCON of 1902) for four round voyages from New York to Plymouth and Antwerp.
  • In 1950-1951 Arnold Bernstein was involved with the Incres Line and their ship the EUROPA (ex MONGOLIA of 1923).
  • She spent two seasons running between New York, Plymouth, and Antwerp.

The 1950s mid-century designed SS ATLANTIC.

  • After these experiences, he would operate a new ship offering a limited First Class and large Economy Class passenger and cargo service from New York to Antwerp and Rotterdam aboard his new SS Atlantic.

A wonderful video aboard the SS Atlantic. 

Bernstein acquired the C4 standard freighter BADGER MARINE in 1957 and was rebuilt into a passenger-cargo ship renamed ATLANTIC and followed the pattern set by the Holland America Line’s STATENDAM, RYNDAM and MAASDAM by devoting over 85% of the interior space to tourist class.



Bernstein’s major innovation was that all cabins had private facilities. This was unheard of in tourist class at this time.

Passengers aboard the Queens, Flandre, United States, America, etc., had to walk down the passageway to the toilets and showers.

The new Oriana and Canberra – still had cabins in tourist class without private facilities.

Bernstein knew that Americans wouldn’t tolerate this in the 1950s and they demanded a tourist class with your own bathroom.

The Atlantic was not one-class. The ship had a very limited number of first-class cabins (not more than 40 passengers) with over 95% of the remaining accommodations tourist class (840).

This was not the choice of American Banner Lines but because the Trans-Atlantic Steamship trade association (dominated by Cunard and the US Lines) set minimum first, cabin and tourist class fares.

If the ATLANTIC had sailed without first-class the ships would have had to charge higher fares for the tourist class service — almost equal to cabin class.


However, the venture was badly timed just four months before the beginning of regular passenger jet service and was not profitable and the ATLANTIC was withdrawn from service in November 1959 and later sold to American Export Lines.

SS Atlantic, American Banner Line

SS Atlantic

Bernstein, a very successful German-Jewish ship owner before he was arrested by the Nazis and had his ships confiscated in 1937. He was released owing to his high international profile and immigrated to the US, where he resumed his shipping career.

Shortly after selling the ATLANTIC Arnold Bernstein retired from the shipping business. He died on 6 March 1971 at the age of 83.

SS Atlantic, American Banner Lines

SS Atlantic – Newspaper, Ship schedule and fares, scenes aboard ship.

New Life for the SS Atlantic

Acquired by the American Export Lines in 1960 when the decision was made not to build their proposed CONSTELLATION.

  • She served the AEL route as the ATLANTIC sailing from the US to the Mediterranean along with making various off-seasons cruises.
  • She was sold to Orient Overseas Lines in 1971, and used for an at-sea college after the destruction of the SEAWISE UNIVERSITY (ex QUEEN ELIZABETH) in Hong Kong.
  • While sailing as a university at sea… during the summer months, the ship made regular educational cruises to Alaska.


The UNIVERSE AND UNIVERSE EXPLORER – University at Sea programs…


The SS Brazil built in the late 1950s would eventually replace the “Universe” (former “Atlantic”). The “Brazil” started as one of Moore McCormick’s liners sailing from the east coast of South America to New York and back for 14 years. In August 1972, she was sold to the Holland America Lines and became the “Volendam”. Later she was sold and renamed “Monarch Sun” three years later. Then in 1978, Holland America noticed that Monarch Cruise Lines was making too much money with the “Monarch Sun”, so it purchased Monarch Cruise Lines and renamed her “Volendam”. Over the next few years, she was sold and resold, named and renamed, flying many different flags: “Island Sun”, “Liberte”, “Canada Star”, “Queen of Bermuda” and ”Enchanted Seas”.

Finally in the late 1990s, as “Universe Explorer”, she became a charter to the Institute of Shipboard Education in association with the University of Pittsburgh.

The university attempted to name the “Universe Explorer” they were not permitted to do so by Orient Overseas Line — the owners of the “Universe” and originally the “Atlantic”…

On December 7, 2004, she was beached and disemboweled in Alang, India (the graveyard of many great ocean liners).

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