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SS ATLANTIC – AMERICAN BANNER LINES – From a failed pioneering tourist liner to a celebrated university at sea.

Cruise History – Steamship History – SS ATLANTIC – AMERICAN BANNER LINES – From a failed pioneering tourist liner to a celebrated university at sea.

American Banner Lines 1957-1958


Arnold Bernstein 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. After these experiences he wanted to run an economy passenger and cargo service from New York to Antwerp and Rotterdam.


Troubles for Bernstein happened when the Atlantic’s service was delayed.

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 passage way to the toilets and showers. The Oriana and Canberra — still had cabins in tourist class without private facilities. Bernstein new that Americans wouldn’t tolerate this in the 1950s and meet the demand for 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).


First Class Baggage Tag, Tourist Class Dining Room and 4-Berth Cabin

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just four months before the beginning of regular passenger jet service and was not profitable and the ATLANTIC was withdrawn from service in November 1959 and later sold to American Export Lines.


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.

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 (former Atlantic) on its last 1990s cruise… Click here to check out THE SEMESTER AT SEA program which continues as a university at sea…

Atlantic – 1953 – built by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Chester, Penn. | ex- Badger Mariner C4 type cargo ship, 1957 purchased and rebuilt into a passenger cargo ship renamed Atlantic, 1959-1960 sold to American Export Lines not renamed, 1968 laid up, 1971 sold to C.Y. Tung renamed Universe Campus, 1976 renamed Universe, 1996 scrapped. 14,138 gross tons; 564 feet long; 76 feet wide; 28-foot draft. 880 passengers.


The UNIVERSE AND UNIVERSE EXPLORER confusion for all those alumni from the University at Sea programs…


The SS Brazil built in the late 1950’s 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).

(AMERICAN BANNER LINES listing in the Official Steamship Guide – July 1958 – First Class Trans-Atlantic Crossing $312.  Tourist Class $214.  7 days at sea, 8 nights, transportation and all meals. $40 a day first class and $25 a day tourist class. Times have changed.)

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