SS Guglielmo Marconi - SS Galileo Galilei

The Italian ocean liners SS Guglielmo Marconi and her sister SS Galileo Galilei were completed in 1963 in the shipyards Cantieri Riuniti dell' Adriatico. They had been ordered in 1960 by the national company Lloyd Triestino for the Australian immigrant route Genoa-Sydney. Initially the two ships traveled to Australia via the Suez Canal in both directions, but in the later years the return trip was effectuated via the Panama Canal. They also routed to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The ships were very successful until the oil crisis of 1973, which combined with the increasing utilization of air liners contributed to the decline of ocean liners.

In 1976, the SS Guglielmo Marconi, acquired by Italia Line, was transferred to the route Naples-Brazil-River Plate. In 1979 she was transferred to Italia Crociere (owned by Italia Navigazione, which also owned Lloyd Triestino) as a full-time cruise ship, but this was not a success and she was sold to the Costa Cruises Group in 1983. After a lenghty remodelation, the ship reappeared in 1985 with the name Costa Riviera. Until 1993 she alternated cruising service between the Caribbean and the Alaskan seas. In this year a joint venture between Costa Cruises and Bruce Nierenberg, called American Family Cruises, was launched, to operate cruises aimed at young American families with children. This project was unsuccessful and the ship was transferred to Genoa in September 1994, retaking cruising in Europe, until being sold for scrap in 2001.

The SS Guglielmo Marconi had a total length of 213.7 meters, a beam of 28.6 meters, a draught of 8.6 meters and a register tonnage of 27905 gross and about 9500 deadweight (this as built). She had capacity for 1750 passengers (156 in first class and 1594 in tourist class), having a crew of 443 (this before 1983). The ship was propelled by four steam turbines actuating on twin propellers, which generated a total output of 44000 shaft horsepower and gave a service speed of 24 knots.

SS Guglielmo Marconi ocean liner
SS Guglielmo Marconi ocean liner
Meanwhile, the SS Galileo Galilei continued operating on the Genoa-Sydney route until April 1977. In October she was returned to her builders for a lengthy remodelation into a cruise ship to be used by Italia Crociere, which operated the ship only during some months in 1979, leaving her apart until 1983, when she was acquired by the Greek company Chandris Cruises. The ship was remodeled again, this time with additional cabins on her fore deck, and her name was shortened to Galileo. In 1984 she began cruising on the Caribbean under the brand Chandris Fantasy Cruises.

After the collapse of Home Lines in 1988, Chandris decided to create a new brand to take over the market segment formerly occupied by Home Lines. Thus the SS Galileo was sent to a very costly refit in Bremerhaven between October 1989 and February 1990. Most of her interiors were rebuilt and her rear superstructure was enlarged. The 1st March 1990 she emerged as the stylish SS Meridian, the first ship of the new brand Celebrity Cruises, cruising on the Caribbean and the Boston/New York–Bermuda service. We can see her in the lowermost photograph, displaying the symbol that every Chandris' ship had in the funnel, the Greek letter "chi".

SS Galileo Galilei ocean liner
SS Meridian cruise ship
In 1997, following acquisition of Celebrity Cruises by Royal Caribbean Cruises, the SS Meridian was sold to the Singaporean company Sun Cruises, which operated her as SS Sun Vista, performing service on the Far East. But the history of the vessel was destined to end abruptly. The 20th May 1999, in the Strait of Malacca, she suffered a fire on an electrical panel in the engine room, which cut all power and eventually caused her sinking shortly after midnight. All of the 1090 passengers and crew onboard were safely evacuated, but local marine officials conceded that all had been "very, very lucky" due to the state of panic of the crew and their incompetence.

After the remodelation in Germany, the vessel was able to accommodate up to 1428 passengers and her gross register tonnage had been increased to 30440 tonnes.

SS Oriana

Launched in the English shipyards at Barrow-in-Furness in November 1959, the SS Oriana was the last ocean liner operating for the Orient Steam Navigation Company. With her hull painted in a corn color, the SS Oriana served as an Orient Line ship until 1966, when the company was fully absorbed into the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, where the ship would have her hull painted in white, forever. In that time oceanic passenger routes had become unprofitable due to the increasing utilization of the now very efficient air lines, so the SS Oriana would be operated as a dedicated cruise ship from 1973.

The five following images correspond to the sea trials of the SS Oriana effectuated in November 1960 out on the Firth of Clyde where, during woeful weather conditions, she achieved a maximum speed of 30.64 knots. This was an emblematic ship, large and built with distinctive features, such as the characteristic stacks and open astern filled with multitude of balconies. The two last pictures show the ship cruising a water channel in Panama circa 1969-1970, fully painted in white.

SS Oriana ocean liner during her sea trials
SS Oriana ocean liner during her sea trials
SS Oriana ocean liner during her sea trials
SS Oriana during her sea trials - Bridge
SS Oriana during her sea trials - Engine room
SS Oriana ocean liner circa 1970
SS Oriana ocean liner circa 1970
Between 1981 and her retirement from service five years later, Oriana was based at Sydney (Australia), operating in the Pacific and South-East Asia. Deemed as unnecessary for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company requirements in early 1986, the vessel was sold to Japanese interests for use as a hotel, museum and restaurant ship, being moored at Beppu Bay (Kyushu Island). This venture failed so in 1995 the SS Oriana would be sold again, this time to Chinese interests. Transferred to Chinwangtao, port nearby to Beijing, she served there as a Government-owned hotel and accommodation center. But the ship would be sold once more. In October 1998 she arrived to Shanghai to be refitted in ZingHua Harbour as a floating tourist attraction funded by Hangzhou West Lake International Tourism Culture Development.

After a costly renovation, the SS Oriana was opened to the public in February 1999 in the Pudong business district of Shanghai. But during the 18 months of operation and despite the more than half million visitors, the attraction did not procure the desired profits. In September 2000 an auction took place to find a new owner for the SS Oriana. In June 2002 she arrived to the Chinese port of Dalian, looking freshly painted, being the event covered on local television. She would undergo a refit before opening to the public in her new permanent mooring at a resort area. Everything went by tranquil until June 2004, when a furious cyclon raged on the area, causing the hull of the ship to be holed when hitting against her berthing. The ship began to leak water in and heeled. Since repairs proved to be unfeasible, she was sent to the scrapyard and dismantled in 2005.

The SS Oriana had a total length of 245.1 meters, a beam of 30.5 meters, a draught of 9.75 meters and a register tonnage of 41920 gross and 19843 deadweight. She had 730 cabins, 17 public rooms and 11 passenger decks, being able to carry over 2000 passengers (638 in first class and 1496 in tourist class), having a crew of around 980. During her cruising period from 1973 she carried about 1750 passengers in a single class and the crew was reduced to 780. The ship was propelled by two sets of steam turbines Pametrada geared to twin screws, which generated 80000 horsepower and gave a cruising speed of 27.5 knots. Auxiliary power was given by four auxiliary steam turbines, each driving a 1750-kilowatt 220-volt direct-current generator.

MV Aureol

The MV Aureol was a mid-sized British ocean liner for both passengers and cargo, launched in Glasgow in 1951, operated by the Liverpool-based company Elder Dempster Lines. She spent most of her working life on the route from Liverpool to Lagos (Nigeria), before being transferred to Southampton in 1972. She was withdrawn from service in 1974, but the Greek oil tycoon Yiannis Latsis purchased and renamed her as Marianna VI (after one of his daughters), to serve as an accommodation ship based at Jeddah (Saudi Arabia). In 1989 she was laid up at Eleusis, remaining so until 2001, when she was transferred to Alang (India) to be broken up for scrap.

The MV Aureol had a total length of 164 meters, a beam of 21 meters, a draught of 7.6 meters and a register tonnage of 14083 gross, 7689 net and 6827 deadweight. The propulsion plant comprised two 4-cylinder Diesel engines and two shafts, developing 10800 brake horsepower and a top speed of 16 knots. Capacity for passengers was 329 (253 in first class and 76 in cabin class) while crew was 145.

MV Aureol ocean liner

~ Classic ocean liners (II) ~

~ Return to Civilian Ships ~