Un Minuto con…

Crossing the Atlantic by Ship or by Plane

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

During the post-war era, from 1950 to 1969, every major European country had a fleet of ships positioned in the North Atlantic in order to carry millions of immigrants to the United States.  The biggest passenger ships were the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth, each over 80,000 metric tons.

SS United States

Photo Credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

By the mid-1960’s, the Italian line had 4 ships: The Raffaello, Michelangelo, Cristoforo Colombo and Leonardo Da Vinci. When the first two ships entered service in May 1965, they weighed 46,000 tons and carried approximately 1200 passengers.  The average crossing of the Atlantic cost just under $600 in a 4-person cabin, in the tourist class. It took 7 days to reach Genoa, Naples, or Trieste, and the ships were sailing out almost every week. Crossing the Atlantic by ship was they way to go!

The airlines, on the other hand, were proud that their 707’s and DC8’s carried 180 passengers and took 8 hours to reach Rome from New York ‘s Idelwild airport. The apex airfare in the mid 1960’s was around $800.  The capacity, comfort and lower fares made the crossing on ships more desirable.

Pan Am Jumbo JetBut on January 20, 1970, it all came to an end.  Pan Am launched the B747 JUMBOJET service able to carry 354 passengers per flight. The end of the era was about to hit the steamship industry.  Many were skeptical in boarding a big Jumbo Jet, but in spring 1970, the airlines launched the $199 round-trip student fares and the final blow was given to the steamship lines.

Shortly there after, some steamship lines, redirected their focus on the cruise industry.   Ships got bigger and bigger and the cruise industry flourished.  Now the Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in service today, is 5 times the size of The Raffaello or Michelangelo, and carries over 5,400 passengers.

It is no longer an ocean liner, but rather, a theme park sailing the high seas.  The old steamships companies sold off their ships for scrap metal or they were abandoned. Some caught on fire, while others just sank. It was a sad story to see so many ships disappear.

The SS United States, the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic, was for years abandoned but may soon return to the Atlantic as a refurbished luxurious ocean liner to bring back the glory days of the ocean crossings.

My dream is to soon be able to go to Pier 90 in New York City, board the US United States, and return to Genoa in style. The great ocean liners will soon be able to have their revenge on cruise ships.


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

Image | This entry was posted in Blog, Culture, History, Italian, Italian American, Italy, Travel, Un Minuto con and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Un Minuto con…

  1. Dante says:

    Bring back $600 fares for a four person cabin and you can count me in!

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