Famous SS United States Up for Sale?

February 22, 2009
SS United States recently When Queen Elizabeth 2 left Cunard in November 2008 to become a floating luxury hotel in Dubai, it was a grave blow for many historic ship aficionados. Now various outlets are reporting that the legendary SS United States, the largest cruise ship ever built in the U.S., could be the next classic ocean liner up for sale. But the ship known by fans as the "Big U" may not be as fortunate as the QE2 -- many are suggesting that the United States may be scrapped.

The SS Untied States Conservancy, a group dedicated to the preservation of the classic ship, became especially concerned when Norwegian Cruise Line, which had owned the United States since April 2003, revealed on February 10 that the ship's title had been transferred back to its parent company, Malaysia-based Star Cruises.

A conservancy press release stated that it was told by NCL that the United States would be put up for sale, sparking fear that the ship could be sold for scrap. A spokesperson from the conservancy told Cruise Critic that NCL had given the organization first dibs at purchasing the ship or arranging for its purchase at a cost of $20 million. The conservancy is currently exploring options through its "Save Our Ship" campaign.

NCL declined to comment further, and Star Cruises has yet to respond to inquiries.

SS United States in the 1960's It's been roughly 40 years since the SS United States was last in service, and for over a decade, it's been left to rust, docked in the Delaware River just off of I-95 in Philadelphia (near an IKEA). It was only in 2004 when then CEO of NCL Colin Veitch enthusiastically told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he saw a future in cruise travel for the SS United States. Veitch has since parted ways with NCL, and with him perhaps any glimmer of hope for the ship's restoration. High end estimates for refurbishment run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Built in 1952, the construction of the ship was heavily subsidized by the US government, which wanted the option to use the Big U as a military transport vessel when it wasn't sailing trans-Atlantic pleasure cruises for United States Lines.

An incredibly fast ship, it still holds the westbound trans-Atlantic speed record, crossing the pond in some 3 days and 10 hours. Onboard, the ship reflected the golden age of ocean liners -- it was divided into three distinct "classes," first, cabin and tourist, each with their own dining rooms and lounges. Passengers could mix in the gymnasium and pool.

We'll be following the story.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor

--Ship shot from the 1960's is courtesy of Nicholas Landiak. Second photo is courtesy of Big Ship Films, LLC.

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