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The MS Angelina Lauro – Fire at Sea – Classic Liner and Cruise Ship

The MS Angelina Lauro – Fire at Sea – Classic Liner and Cruise Ship

MS Oranje, later known as MS Angelina Lauro, was a passenger liner, a wartime hospital ship, and finally a cruise ship that was lost while being towed for scrap.

  • She sank in a storm in the mid-Pacific, on 24 September 1979.

The stricken cruise ship, MS Achille Lauro, smoldering in the Indian Ocean, a day after almost one-thousand people were rescued from a fire on board.

  • The ship underwent 25 years’ service as MS Oranje, and fifteen as MS Angelina Lauro. She was a cruise ship for the last seven years of her career.

British immigrants heading to Australia. 


Public rooms. 

MS Angelina Lauro

  • Oranje was commissioned by the Nederlandsche Stoomvaart Maatschappij (Nederland Line / Netherland Line) and was built in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1938-1939 by the Netherlands Shipbuilding Company.

  • She was launched by Queen Wilhelmina and named Oranje in honor of the Royal House of Orange on 8 September 1938.

  • She undertook sea trials in June 1939 and attained a speed of 26 knots (48 km/h), making her the world’s fastest motor liner at the time. She was built to carry passengers to the Dutch East Indies.
  • After World War 2 and the Oranje returned to service. Lasting into the 1960s, when many liners ended services and were sold.

The Netherland Line sold their flagship, Oranje, together with its Royal Rotterdam Lloyd running mate Willem Ruys to the Italian company Flotta Lauro, also called StarLauro, later in 1964. The ships were rebuilt and renamed Angelina Lauro and Achille Lauro, respectively.

Oranje was sent to Genoa to be extensively rebuilt at the Cant del Tirreno shipyards. On 24 August while she was being rebuilt a fire broke out in which six people died. The rebuild extended the promenade deck, and it was fully glazed in. The ship was also given a sharply raked bow which extended its length by 16 feet (4.9 m). The other outstanding feature was the tall louvered funnel topped by a large smoke deflector wing. The interiors were also transformed.

After the rebuilding was complete, Angelina Lauro was then listed as 24,377 GRT, 205.5 meters (672.4 ft) long and 25.5 meters (83.6 ft) wide. The new passenger configuration allowed for interchange cabins between first and tourist class. First Class could accommodate between 180 and 377 passengers and Tourist Class between 946 to 1050 passengers, making a total of 1230 passengers.

On 6 March 1966, the ship departed on its maiden voyage from Bremerhaven sailing via the Suez Canal to Australia. It continued on the Australian service until 1972 when Flotta Lauro discontinued the service due to low passenger numbers as experienced by all shipping companies at the time.

In 1972 Angelina Lauro received an extensive refit to ready it for a new role as a full-time cruise ship. After the refit, it accommodated 800 passengers in a one-class configuration. It was relocated to San Juan for regular cruises of the Caribbean but was managed by another Italian shipping company, Costa Lines.

In 1977 Angelina Lauro was chartered to Costa Lines for three years. The company took delivery on 1O October. The ship was based at Port Everglades for cruise duties in the Caribbean. Although the ship retained its name, Costa Lines according to their custom of using Christian (first or given) names, marketed the Angelina Lauro simply as Angelina. After this time, occasionally Angelina Lauro would operate a line voyage across the Atlantic from South America to Italy. For these line voyages, it reverted to its original two-class configuration.

Angelina Lauro was a popular cruise ship in the Caribbean until 30 March 1979 when tragedy struck. It suffered a devastating fire (eyewitness account) while on a cruise and berthed at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands.

The fire broke out in the aft crew galley and rapidly spread forward through the restaurants and passenger accommodations. Even though the well-trained crew did everything possible to contain the fire, the task was too great, and soon flames had reached the top decks. Most of the passengers and crew were ashore when the fire broke out, and all those on board were evacuated safely. It took four days for port firefighters to put the fire out, during which time onshore firefighters joined the battle. Some attempts were made to tow the ship away from the wharf; however, this failed due to the weight of the water that had been pumped into it. Slowly it ended up sitting on the shallow bottom with a list to port. It was very fortunate that no-one was killed during this incident.

Neil Whitmore, the maitre d’hotel on Sun Princess, described the efforts to aid the passengers in the aftermath of the fire: — “Most of the ships in port that day were on the final day of their seven-day Caribbean cruise having commenced from San Juan. As a result, passengers from the Angelina Lauro were divided into groups between the various ships in port taken and aboard for an overnight voyage back to San Juan.” — “Most of Angelina’s passengers had been ashore in shorts and tops and had lost all their belongings in the fire thus, some of our passengers gave them items of clothing. Sun Princess took 400 of Angelina’s passengers and provided them with a substantial self-service buffet dinner and a continental breakfast the next morning before they disembarked in San Juan where they were flown home to the mainland of the USA. It certainly stretched our catering facilities.”

Angelina Lauro was declared to be a total loss and remained dockside for some three months. Eventually, the German salvage company Eckhardt & Company of Hamburg was awarded the contract to raise it from the bottom and have it refloated. This was achieved on 2 July 1979. Lauro Cruises decided to sell the ship for scrap to Taiwanese shipbreakers, and it departed under tow for Asia on 30 July.

Angelina Lauro successfully navigated the Panama Canal and was headed across the Pacific towards Taiwan. However, on 21 September, in the mid-Pacific, M.S. Angelina Lauro’s fire-affected warped hull plates began to take on water, and it began to list slowly. The ship remained afloat for three days, but by the evening of 23 September, it was fully on her side. It was not until early the next morning, just before sunrise, that it slowly sank. It was twenty days after the ship’s 40-year milestone.

Angelina Lauro’s former running mate Achille Lauro (formerly named MS Willem Ruys), which became well-known for the terrorist attack in Egypt, continued cruising until November 1994, when she caught fire and sank on 2 December 1994.

Visit SS MARITIME for full information and background on this wonderful liner of the past.


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