The Liner That Became a Marriott

The Liner That Became a Marriott


The last passenger liner ever built at Newport News Shipbuilding was delivered on 9 October 1958.

Santa Paula (1958) sailed on New York-Caribbean and New York-Central America routes for Grace Line. Designed by Gibbs & Cox (of United States and America fame), Santa Paula and her twin, Santa Rosa, were 584 feet long and displaced nearly 20,000 tons.

Santa Paula was launched on 9 January 1958 by Patricia Nixon. The future first lady twice, without success, attempted to christen the liner with the traditional bottle of champagne. Finally, as the ship was pulling away, a worker hoisted the bottle aboard and smashed it against the bow.

Santa Paula sailed for Grace Line and its successor, Prudential-Grace Lines, until January 1971 when she was laid up in Hampton Roads, Va., a victim of competition and climbing costs.

The following year Santa Paula was acquired by Oceanic Sun Line, which hoped to convert her into a Mediterranean cruise ship named the Stella Polaris. The plan failed. In 1978, she was moved to Kuwait and converted into a floating hotel—the Kuwait Marriott Hotel and later the Ramada al Salaam. She was destroyed during the Iraqi invasion in 1990 and sat rusting for the next decade before being scrapped in 2002.