With the ash cloud still throwing European air travel (and beyond) into chaos over the last few days, and possibly well into the future, I had to think about how great it would be if the transatlantic ocean liners will still plying the seas.
(Editor’s Note: The Cunard Queen Mary 2 is the only transatlantic liner still in service.)
As a kid, I remember the newsreels of the Andrea Doria sinking after being hit by the Stockholm. My grandfather had taken the trip over on the Andrea Doria but returned on another boat, thus missing the tragic voyage. I still have the ship’s brochure. (I also have a booklet from the Leonardo DaVinci, which was built to replace the Andrea Doria.)
A few years later my grandfather’s brother returned to Italy on the S.S. United States, which is now on the verge of being scrapped. I remember going to the ship and being on the main deck…and crying uncontrollably because I was so scared and wanted to get off! The boat seemed so HIGH above the water (I was about 9 years old at the time).
About 13 years later I was on several boats as I took the grand tour around Europe. One passage was from Italy to Greece, a wonder trip. Another was an overnight voyage that left from Sweden and passed by the Carlsberg beer brewery at night. I took one look at the small cabin for four and even with a porthole, I decided to stay up on deck all night. Couldn’t bear to be below deck!
I guess I had lots of practice being on deck from several summers of taking the New London, Connecticut ferry or the boat from Pt. Judith, Rhode Island out to Block Island, Rhode Island. This was years before the place was discovered. A friend of my mother’s had bought an old house and was restoring it and she let us stay there. The trips took a couple of hours which was just about right for me before I started getting antsy. Since the cars were below deck, about the closet thing to being “enclosed” was in the seating area which also held the snack bar.
Another decade or so later, I traveled frequently to England and on one trip, I took the Hovercraft to France. I loved the Hovercraft because the pontoons inflated like huge tires and I felt that, in a pinch, the thing could float. At least that thought, true or not, reassured me. I also made my way one year to see the Mary Rose, Henry the VIII’s favorite ship which sunk in the Solent at Portsmouth.
Along the way I developed a fascination with the Titanic and saw the first traveling exhibit when it hit Atlantic City, New Jersey. It continues to be the sort of fascination that reinforces all the scary boat stuff I seem to harbor since those days on the deck of the liner that took my “uncle” back to Italy.
On a business trip to LA back in the early 80′s I took some time and visited the Queen Mary, now in Long Beach. Just a few weeks ago I saw a show on how they were doing a lot of restoration on this wonderful ship.
Of course, as a fan of classic movies, there are always scenes on liners and getting on and disembarking, complete with crowded piers of well wishers and streamers trailing off the side of the ships as they slowly edge away from the dock.
So, it didn’t take very long to wonder…WHAT IF THERE WERE STILL OCEAN LINERS crossing the Atlantic these days??
I found a great site that has many pictures and stories about many of the old liners. Here’s the introduction to Rob Lightbody’s Website:
The Transatlantic Ocean liners changed the world. Up until the 1960s they were the only way to travel to the “new world”.They were the equivalent of the 747 today – but much more exciting. Each arrival and departure in Liverpool, Southampton or New York was an event in itself.
They were extremely elegant, fantastically fast and unbelievably huge! The biggest man made objects that could move – and boy did they move! They were high society at sea, and THE place to be seen.
Are you American? If so, chances are your grandparents travelled on one of the great ocean liners like the Mauretania.
Are you European? If so, chances are a relative of yours left on one of these great ships, or one of your relatives worked to build them.
What you probably don’t know, is that these great ships helped us to win two world wars – they were the biggest troopships the world has ever known.
You can scroll down to see the many great liners that once graced the seas.
Sure it took about a week for a crossing, but travelers weren’t jammed into seats and subjected to foul air and the possibility of deep vein thrombosis.
…No problem with stretching your legs on a promenade around one of the great ocean liners! (although…those cabins below deck might still get to me…)
The S.S. United States (designed as a cold war weapon disguised as a passenger ship)…info on the ship and the efforts to save her)
The Andrea Doria (overview)
The Sinking of the Andrea Doria (with audio of the reports of the sinking)
The Hovercraft(s) across the English Channel (service stopped in 2000)
Filed under: Life, World News | Tagged: Block Island, Block Island ferries, New London Connecticut ferry, Portsmouth England, Pt. Judith Rhode Island ferry, Queen Mary 2, Rob Lightbody's Website, The, The Andrea Doria, the Hovercraft, The Mary Rose, The Queen Mary, The Solent, The Stockholm, the Titanic, The U.S.S. Constitution, transatlantic ocean liners | 2 Comments »