Crystal Cruises’ plan to refit United States and return the historic liner to service after a nearly half-century layup is thrilling news to any linerfan. But it also raises a number questions. Here are three to start:
- United States will need an entirely new power-plant. Will her advanced 21st century engines—perhaps gas turbines—allow her to make a run at besting her own July 1952 Blue Riband-winning transatlantic speed record? That would be exciting and a great way to launch United States into the 21st century.
- Where will United States be registered? Hopefully, somewhere in the United States (but not likely). Most of Crystal’s current vessels are registered in the Bahamas. How would a “United States/Nassau, Bahamas” port registry look on the refurbished liner’s stern?
- If Crystal’s initiative proves successful, will it inspire other cruise lines to refurbish idled liners? Rumor has it that there’s a perfectly good ocean liner sitting in Dubai that could be restored and returned to service far more easily than United States. There’s also a nice ship in Long Beach, California, the Queen something or other. (You know, the one with the three red-orange funnels.)
Incidentally, for those of you who think that Crystal’s remodeling plans are too extreme or disrespectful of United States” heritage, consider this: United States is currently pretty much a floating, hollowed-out wreck. Check out this video and then try to argue the fact. Nothing less than a complete waterline-up rebuild will be necessary to get United States back to sea.
Yet restoring United States to her 1952 state, or anything closely approximating it, would be foolish. A 20th century ocean liner can never be profitable as a 21st century cruise ship. People, at a minimum, want spacious staterooms, verandahs, spas, specialty restaurants, Las Vegas-style theaters and other amenities that were either rare or missing on 20th century vessels. We’re lucky that it’s Crystal, a luxury cruise line, that’s planning to rebuild United States. With some other lines, we would be talking about the possibility of roller coasters, carousels and Ferris wheels crowding the upper decks of a rebuilt United States.
Let’s rejoice in the fact that if everything goes right a remodeled, modernized United States will win the hearts of a new generation. Or would you rather have the Big U pay a port call to Alang? That’s the choice.