Rex: Italy's Ocean King - Oceanliners and Classic Cruise Ships Magazine

Rex: Italy’s Ocean King

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Italy’s first superliner, Rex, was launched on 1 August 1931.

Rex: Italy’s Ocean King

Boeing Y1B-17 fly-by near the Italian liner “Rex,” about 800 miles east of New York City. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Italy had never been a major player in the North Atlantic liners race, but Benito Mussolini was intent on making his nation a world power. Il Duce felt that a sleek, modern liner would help project Italy’s image as a great innovator and commerce leader.

Rex was in every respect a world-class ship of state, although she represented something of a throwback in style. While the greatest liners of the era, including Normandie, Bremen and Queen Mary, all embraced the new Art Deco movement, Rex was steeped in classic—some would say stodgy—design. Yet no expense was spared in creating a luxurious, sumptuous superliner that was more like a floating resort than a maritime version of a big city hotel. Real beach sand was sprinkled around her swimming pools to drive home the point at she was the “Riviera Afloat.”

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