The Late, Great Ocean Liners

It’s not just cruise ships I am interested in, I am also very fond of the ocean liners from days gone by. They may not have been kitted out with amusement parks, water slides or ice rinks like some vessels are today but they certainly knew how to steal your heart.

I wanted to share a few of those vessels with you today. I am sure many a maritime historian can share stories about many other wonderful liners and if any of you are reading this then please do! These however are some of the stories of luxury liners that have intrigued me over the years.

RMS-Queen-ElizabethQueen Elizabeth – The original Queen Elizabeth had one of history’s most impressive maiden voyages, only over shadowed by the Titanic.

Built at the Clydebank shipyard it was decided her war effort would be so important that she must not have her movements tracked by German spies, this led to a fabricated rumour being spread that she was leaving for Southampton.

She left Clydebank on March 3rd 1940 and Instead of heading for Southampton she steamed across the Atlantic Ocean non-stop to New York all the while keeping strict radio silence in order to avoid detection by German U-boats. She arrived out of the fog like a giant grey ghost, catching everyone off guard. Even her captain had not been made aware of her destination until her voyage had begun.

Before she entered service as a pleasure liner in 1946 she transported thousands of troops around the world. Her service along with that of her sister the Queen Mary, was vital to the war effort.

MV-Wilhelm-GustloffMV Wilhelm Gustloff – This ship was the first ever purpose built cruise liner for the German Labour Front.

She provided Germans with exotic holidays and was also used as a public relations tool, the aim, to present a more acceptable image of the Third Reich. She was truly a wonderful ship and no money was spared in her décor. Her outer decks were not obstructed, all passengers were accommodated in outer cabins and all were equivalent in size. There was no first, second or third class on this ship, everyone was equal.

She kept a civilian role until the spring of 1939 when she served the German military. She was torpedoed in January 1945, it is estimated there were over 9000 people onboard, all of which perished making her sinking the largest loss of life ever occurred during a single sinking, That is several thousand more than the Titanic tragedy.

SS-NormandieSS NormandieNow this my friend was a luxury liner. Let me take a quick snippet from Wikipedia “SS Normandie was an ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France, for the French line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. She entered service in 1935 as the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat; she is still the most powerful steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship ever built”.

I think that says it all really but there are a few other things I would like to also mention. Onboard you would find stunning art deco interior, grille room, swimming pool, first class lounge and a children’s room just to name a few. She also spent a big part of her life racing across the Atlantic, battling Cunard White Star Line’s Queen Mary for the Blue Riband.

This impressive vessel however came to a very sad end. During the Second World War she was seized by US authorities and re-named USS Lafayette. During work which would see her converted into a troop ship she caught fire.  Because water tight doors had closed, the water pumped onboard by the fire departments could not escape, this caused the ship to have a serious list. She came to rest, capsized onto her port side in the mud of the Hudson River at pier 88.

SS Normandie Photo Album

Author: Danielle

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Roger Weston says:

    Nice article. I was so intrigued by the Wilhelm Gustloff that I included her in my novel, Fatal Return.

  2. nealberk says:

    And don’t forget that the QE2 carried on the tradition of troop carrier carrying troops to the Fauklands war.

    Oh the grand ships of yesteryear.

  3. CruiseMiss says:

    I wish there was at least one, I guess the Queen Mary 2 still kind of qualifies but it would be nicer if she actually left the dock at some point. They were true luxury vessels of the ocean.

  4. Nice work on digging up all those old facts! Those old ocean liners are sure pretty ships. I kinda wish more looked like them today.

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