Passion for Transatlantic Passenger Liners

Posts tagged “oceanliner

Famous Four Stackers: Kronprinzessin Cecilie


SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie

The new Kronprinzessin Cecilie was completed in December 1906. She was named after Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia. No ship before her had such a large engine fitted aboard. Before her maiden voyage, the Cecilie sank in the harbor of Bremerhaven. It took nearly a year to repair her and ready her for her first Atlantic crossing. Her interiors were slightly more understated than her predecessors and the passengers loved it. A few of her first class suites actually had private dining rooms for those who wished privacy during a meal.

The Kronprinzessin Cecilie served the Atlantic run between Bremen and ports in the United States. On one voyage returning to Germany, the Great War erupted in Europe. On this voyage, she was carrying massive amounts of gold and silver. She returned to port in America to avoid the now enemy British ships. She took haven in Bar Harbor, Maine, and then on to Boston. While in Maine, the captain had her funnels repainted so she would resemble a White Star ship, namely the Olympic.


SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie disguised as RMS Olympic

In 1917, Kronprinzessin Cecilie was turned over to the US Navy and renamed USS Mount Vernon. She was refitted as a troop transport intended to carry American troops to the battlefront. She was struck by a German torpedo squarely in the center in 1918. She fought back against the u-boat and was able to return to Boston under using her own engines. She was repaired and returned to service. After the war, she returned to the US where she sat. At the outbreak of the Second World War, she was deemed too old to be useful. She was scrapped in Baltimore in 1940.



SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie disguised as RMS Olympic




Kaiser Wilhelm II

Kaiser Wilhelm II

This is another German marvel from the North German Lloyd, SS Kaiser Wilhelm II. She was launched August 12, 1902, at the Vulcan Company in Bredow near Stettin. She was a great leap forward in liner design for her time. She was the largest liner in the world at the time of her introduction.  She was also one of the ‘safest’ ships afloat. Her capacity was 775 first class passengers in 290 rooms, 343 second class in 107 rooms, and 770 third class. In addition to being large, she was also built to be fast. She won the Blue Riband for the fastest eastbound crossing in 1904. This ship was not the first to be named Kaiser Wilhelm II. There was another built in 1889

Kaiser Wilhelm II saw regular service on the Atlantic run. Her popularity with the immigrant trade had much to do with her appearance. Her paired four funnels towered overhead. Her speed made her even more attractive. Her accommodations in each class were impressive for her time. Her massive first class dining room was three decks high with a stained glass rectangular dome allowing sunlight through.


First class dining room aboard Kaiser Wilhelm II

The first World War broke out and the Kaiser was steaming west. Every effort was made to keep her from encountering British cruisers and she arrived late in New York two days later. In 1917, she found herself in New York again as the United States entered the war. She was seized. Just before the Americans came aboard, the German crew sabotaged her engines.

The United States worked to repair the damage and began converting the Kaiser to a troop transport. During this refit, she housed American troops. The Kaiser Wilhelm II was renamed Agamemnon and she began carrying men destined for war. Speeding back and forth across the Atlantic, she often encountered German u-boats. There was also a severe outbreak of the flu aboard.



After the war ended, Agamemnon transported soldiers back to their homeland. Nearly 42,000 soldiers were ferried home between her decks. Quite a bit more than she took to the front lines. The United States decommissioned her late 1919 and the War Department took control of her to continue her transport mission.

In the 1920s, the Agamemnon was removed from service as a transport and renamed Monticello. This ship would never sail again. She sat for decades and was considered too old to be useful in a new World War. She was scrapped in 1940.

Famous Four-Stackers: SS Kronprinz Wilhelm


The third four funneled liner from history was also German. Her name was Kronprinz Wilhelm. She was the successor to the wildly popular Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. She entered service in 1901 on the on the North Atlantic immigration route.  She was quite fast and caught the Blue Ribband speed record in 1902. She was considered to have beautiful interiors. Her magnificent first class dining salon rose three decks with a glass dome overhead. Her suites were fitted out in the best satins and silks. As with the other German four funneled liners before her, she followed the pattern of pairing the funnels in pairs.  A person could tell from a distance they were looking at a German greyhound. Germany was very proud of their new ship.

The onset of war means the ships that belong to the involved nations often get used for purposes other than what they were originally designed for. During the First World War, the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm became an armed merchant cruiser. She was to begin raids on allied commerce. She was staffed with a crew specially trained in search and seizure, expecting to capture ships belonging to the enemy. She was successful with at least 15 of these seizes. First Class Dining Room- SS Kronprinz Wilhelm First Class Music Room - SS Kronprinz Wilhelm kronprinzf

Coal is a very important element in the stories of the early superliners. It was the fuel for the engines. Without it, a ship can’t go much of anywhere. During WWI, coal supplies became very difficult to find. These big and fast ships burn tons and tons of coal in order to maintain speed. This fact and an outbreak of sickness aboard resulted in SS Kronprinz Wilhelm’s internment in 1915. She was laid up in Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth. She was in American territory because the US was still a neutral country. She would be safe in this environment.

In 1917, after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania by a German u-boat, the United States entered The Great War. SS Kronprinz Wilhelm was seized by the US government and renamed USS Von Steuben. She returned to her previous war time roll of being an armed merchant cruiser, but this time for United States. By the time Von Steuben returned to the seas, America and the Allies controlled most of the Atlantic. There was not much need for an armed merchant ship. (Had she remained in German hands, she would have been more active.) Von Steuben was reassigned to be a troop transport. For four weeks she stayed along the American east coast, taking men and supplies from one port to another. On Halloween of 1917, she embarked on her very first transatlantic voyage under her new name. Von Steuben received a bit of damage from colliding with the USS Agamemnon, which was also began her life as a German ocean liner SS Kaiser Wilhelm II. This resulted in men being thrown off the ships forcibly due to the accident. Von Steuben headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia for coal in December of 1917 and was rocked by a massive explosion. This explosion was not on Von Steuben. It was the SS Mont Blank, a French ammunition ship. The explosion devastated the shore line and caused a tsunami wave to crash into the land. The blast could be heard and felt for miles. Von Steuben stayed to help on the scene. She then headed toward Philadelphia. During the next months she went to Cuba and Panama.

This ship made it’s way into history’s sunset in 1923 when she was scrapped, but not before having her name changed again to USS Baron Von Steuben,and then back again to Von Steuben. She was scrapped in Boston.


New Cunarder Queen Elizabeth (3) Begins Career

This past year has been an roller coaster ride for the ocean liner enthusiast. The SS United States was put up for sale and we feared the worst. The SS Independence was involved in scrappers controversy which ended very badly for a beautiful liner from the ’50s. The SS United States was granted a ’20 month stay of execution’ thanks to a very generous multi-million dollar donation by Philadelphia philanthropist ‘Gerry’ Lenfest. (Save the SS United States! Donate, donate, donate, spread awareness and donate some more! SOS!) And finally, Her Majesty the Queen officially named Cunard’s newest addition to their luxury fleet. Her name is Queen Elizabeth! This name is significant in Cunard history. The story begins in the year 1940.

The legacy of ships named Queen Elizabeth begins in Clydebank, Scotland at the shipbuilders John Brown & Company. In 1940, the world is at war. The largest passenger liner ever built up to the time is the new RMS Queen Elizabeth. She is 83,673 tons of luxury that is about to begin her maiden voyage in secret. She is painted wartime gray and Winston Churchill orders the new pride of the British Merchant Marine to New York Harbor to keep her safe from air attack by the Germans. On March 7, 1940, the RMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York surprising the world. She is quickly converted to a troop transport and joined her sister RMS Queen Mary in trooping duty. After a wildly successful tour of duty during the War, RMS Queen Elizabeth returns to passenger service in 1946 as a fitting running mate to her very speedy, yet slightly smaller sister Mary. During the 1960’s, the popularization of airline travel nearly ruined the ocean liner industry and RMS Queen Elizabeth was laid up in 1968 in Port Everglades, Florida with the intention of turning her into an east coast floating hotel like her sister RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. These plans never came to be and she sat until late 1970, neglected and rusting. She was finally bought by a Taiwanese shipping billionaire and renamed Seawise University. She was to be turned into a combination cruise ship and floating college. While she was being refit into her new career, she caught fire and burned to death in Hong Kong. Her burned out hulk appeared in the James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun” as the headquarters of MI6. She was finally broken up and removed from the harbor the following year. You may read more about the original RMS Queen Elizabeth…HERE.

Just before the company realized the era of the ocean liner had come to an end, Cunard ordered the construction of a new superliner to compete with Italy’s duo Michaelangelo and Rafaello, and the SS France from her namesake nation. Her keel was laid in 1965 under the name “Q4” and was intended to represent the new image of Great Britain. She arrived in New York for the first time in May 1969 with the name RMS Queen Elizabeth 2. Cunard took quite a gamble with this new ship and for a while she was believed to be a bust. 95% of the transatlantic passenger service had been taken over by the airlines by this point. Fortunately, Cunard had decided to make her easily converted into a cruise ship for part of the year, while still making the traditional transatlantic voyages ocean liners were famous for. Her popularity grew and she became lovingly known by the nickname QE2. Queen Elizabeth 2 no longer sails for Cunard. She was retired in November 2008 and is now in the hands of Nakheel (Dubai World) and her future is uncertain. Hopefully, her life does not end at the scrappers. You can read more about the career of QE2…HERE.

The naming ceremony for this newest addition to the Cunard cruise fleet took place on October 11, 2010. The new Queen Elizabeth is a Vista class cruise liner just like her running-mate Queen Victoria. MS Queen Elizabeth is the third and probably final ship to join the Cunard fleet which also includes the last of the purpose built ocean liners, the fabulous Queen Mary 2.

Queen Elizabeth sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK on Tuesday October 12th 2010. Her maiden voyage will include the Spanish port of Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Gran Canaria, Tnerife, La Palma and Madeira. Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to arrive in the port of New York, USA on September 11, 2011. During this time there will be an exciting and historical meeting of all three of Cunard’s Queens. Oh to be able to attend! Perhaps one day I will be able to afford to take part in a real transatlantic crossing and follow the course of the great liners of that bygone age.

Here is to a very long and successful career for the newest passenger ship to carry the name Queen Elizabeth. Long Live the Queen!

If you are interested in learning more about the new Queen Elizabeth I would highly recommend Cunard’s website. For some fantastic photos, Peter Knego’s website Maritime Matters has some great ones! (His website is one of my favorite sites out there!)

The Importance of Transatlantic Ocean Liners

Thank you for stopping by ‘The Ocean Liner Blogger’s’ blog. If you have a passion for the era of the transatlantic passenger liner, then you are welcome to read and comment to your heart’s content!

Not long ago a friend of mine insisted that I start a blog about a passion of mine. I have many passions, but there is one passion that just won’t quit! I love American history. I also love ships, specifically the transatlantic passenger liners that brought immigrants to this country. Many people don’t realize that ocean liners are important to our national heritage. Without these marvels of engineering and purpose, the United States could not be everything that it is today. At the turn of the century when immigration was booming, the only way to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe was by ship. These ships became national symbols or ‘ships of state.’

For many people, upon hearing the term ‘ocean liner,’ there is only one name that comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, RMS Titanic is well known for a variety of good reasons. (None of these reasons should have to do with the DiCaprio/Winslet film by James Cameron. The story in that film is undeniably false.) To true addicts such as myself, the term ‘ocean liner’ evokes images of grand ships with names like SS United States, RMS Majestic, SS Ile de France, RMS Mauretania, SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and many, many more.

Imagine yourself living in Europe around 1913, just before the First World War. You are a poor Irish farmer who has decided to try to make something of yourself, but realize that you cannot do this where you are. The threat of war looms over you. America is calling your name. You gather your family and sell nearly everything you have. You have begun the greatest adventure of your life. All of your money goes to paying for a train ticket to the nearest port town, we’ll say Queenstown, Ireland, and steerage class tickets aboard one of the largest moving objects ever made by man. Your train pulls into the station and everyone is unloaded. Here, you go through customs. Your body is thoroughly inspected from head to toe to ensure you carry no parasites or diseases. Your family is poked and prodded. Tomorrow is sailing day. The women and the men are separated, and you are led into a room full of bunks. Here is where you sleep. The food is not that great, but it is enough to last until you get aboard ship. The journey to port has exhausted you, but you cannot sleep for the fear and excitement of starting a new life. All of the snoring around you does not help. Neither does the smell. When the light of dawn creeps over the horizon, everyone is awakened and prepared for boarding. The steerage passengers are required to board first so the first class passengers are not offended by your presence. Nearly one thousand other steerage passengers around you are led to the ship. The next step of your journey is a week at sea aboard a behemoth you’ve only read about presuming that you can read. Where is the opulence, the service? This is reserved for the first and second class passengers. As a steerage passenger, you are treated as cattle. Only certain areas of the ship are accessible to you…

This is how the journey to the United States of America begins for nearly all immigrants during this age. This nation is built by the poor who risked their very lives to start over in the land of promise. Without the ocean liners to bring these immigrants to New York, this country would not have evolved into the nation it is today. In 1913, the ocean liner is the only way to cross.

Stay tuned for pieces of maritime history!