NEW YORK — Crystal Cruises on Thursday revealed a
grand plan to transform the SS United States — a mothballed, 65-year-old ocean
liner — into a modern, luxury cruise vessel.
The ship has been docked in Philadelphia since 1996.
Edie Rodriguez, Crystal’s CEO, revealed the company’s
plans today along with the ship’s current owner, the SS United States
Conservancy, at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal here. Rodriguez said Crystal
would cover all costs associated with preserving the ship while it undergoes a
technical feasibility study to determine if it can be revitalized.
Edie Rodriguez said Crystal would cover all costs associated with preserving the ship while it undergoes a technical feasibility study. Photo Credit: Arnie Weissmann
Crystal plans to transform the liner into an
800-passenger, 400-suite vessel called the United States by Crystal Cruises, preserving
historical elements of the original United States, such as its promenade and
Navajo Lounge. Crystal said it would be rebuilt extensively to meet current
standards and would be in full regulatory compliance.
“Our goal is that it reemerge as a modern luxury
vessel,” Rodriguez said, adding that the vessel would have the same 1.6 passenger-to-crew
ratio as the 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity. “It is our aspiration that it
emerges as America's flagship again.”
Susan Gibbs, executive director of the SS United
States Conservancy and granddaughter the ship’s designer, William Francis
Gibbs, said the conservancy planned to develop a land-based museum dedicated to
the United States, and hoped to anchor it in New York.
She conceded that the liner “obviously needs upgrades”
in order to “adhere to 60 years of rules and regulations.”
“Change is both exhilarating and challenging,” she
This is the second time that Crystal’s owner, Genting
Hong Kong, will own the storied ocean liner, long known as the Big U.
Genting's Star Cruises purchased the United States in 2003, intending to operate the ship
as part of NCL America, Norwegian’s U.S.-flagged fleet operating in Hawaii. (Star Cruises owned 100% of Norwegian
Cruise Line at the time.)
NCL's U.S.-flagged operations did not grow as planned,
and the SS United States Conservancy purchased the United States from
Norwegian/Genting in order to save it from being sent to a scrapyard.
The United States still holds the "Blue
Riband" record for fastest transatlantic speed, set in 1952 on its maiden
voyage from New York to England.