The Last Surviving Transatlantic Ocean Liners

The first decade of the new millennium was a particularly difficult time for ocean liners. Increasingly strict fire safety regulations, a building boom of new ship construction (making relatively modern vessels available second end), customer preference for private balconies, economies of scale, and general age combined to result in the vast majority of all surviving 20th century ocean liners being sent to the scrapyard within the space of about 10 years. Unlike in past eras, there would be no new liners to replace them. As of 2015, the ocean liner is nearly extinct. For anyone that is interested in maritime history, now is the time to see one, or even sail on one, before the last few are gone forever. This is an overview of all surviving liners that were once used on the transatlantic route between Europe and North America. Obviously, there were many other liner routes around the world, but that was the most heavily travelled, the most competitive, and attracted the lion's share of the world's major liners.

SS Great Britain (1845)


Built: 1845 by William Patterson Ltd., Bristol, England, UK

Original Operator: Great Western Steamship Company: 1845-1847

322 ft. long

3,674 tons displacement

360 passengers

1,200 tons of cargo

The first true ocean liner ever built is, fittingly, the oldest surviving. Designed by the legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built for the Great Western Steamship Company (an off-shoot of the Great Western Railway), Great Britain was by far the largest and most technologically advanced ship of her day. She only served on her intended transatlantic route only briefly, before having her engines modernized and passenger capacity expanded for use on the immigration run between Britain and Australia in the 1850s. In 1882, the engines were removed and Great Britain was converted to a sailing bulk carrier, hauling coal. Her seagoing days ended in 1886 when she was irreparably damaged by fire and put in at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, where she was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and converted into a coal storage barge tied up on the Stanley waterfront. The stationary use lasted until 1937, when the ship was towed to Sparrow Cove, run aground, and abandoned.


During the 1960s, interest grew in the UK for her preservation and the hulk was towed back to Britain on an ocean going barge in 1970. Permanently drydocked in her original builders' yard in Bristol, Great Britain has been extensively rebuilt to nearly her 1845 appearance and is open to the public as a museum and events space. She is the only surviving ocean liner from the 19th century and the closest to original configuration of any surviving ocean liner.

RMS Queen Mary (1936)


Built: 1936 by John Brown & Company Ltd., Clydebank, Scotland, UK

Original Operator: Cunard Line/Cunard-White Star Line: 1936-1967

1,019 ft. long

81,237 gross tons

2,139 passengers

Possibly the most famous surviving liner, Queen Mary still ranks as the 3rd largest ocean liner ever built and the only surviving transatlantic liner from the prewar era. The ship had something of a convoluted construction. Originally ordered by the Cunard Line in the late 1920s as a rival to North German Lloyd's fast new sisters Bremen and Europa, construction was slowed after the stock market crash, and then halted entirely in 1931.


The British government finally agreed to provide the necessary loans to complete construction in exchange for Cunard merging it's transatlantic passenger operations with the ailing White Star Line, eliminating the need for the government to become involved in an inevitable bailout. Queen Mary finally entered service for the Cunard-White Star Line in 1936 and established herself as the fastest ship on the Atlantic, crossing in a record 3 days, 20 hours, and 42 minutes at an average speed of 31.7 knots. In 1939, Queen Mary was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and converted into a troop transport, going on to carry a total of 765,429 Allied military personnel over a combined 569,429 miles during the war, including setting the record for most people ever embarked upon a single ship, with 16,082 American soldiers on board for one Atlantic crossing in December, 1942. After the war, Queen Mary was initially used to repatriate troops, then partially refurbished to carry war brides to join their husbands in their new homes in the United States and Canada. Once that was done, Queen Mary was fully refurbished and resumed transatlantic passenger service in 1947. In 1948, Cunard was able to absorb the White Star shell company, dissolving Cunard-White Star Line. Queen Mary lost the speed record to the new United States in 1952, but remained a highly popular ship until competition from jet airliners began siphoning off passengers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Queen Mary was finally withdrawn from service in 1967 and sold to the City of Long Beach, California for conversion into a hotel, convention center, and maritime museum. Roughly 60% of the ship was gutted and reconfigured in a conversion process beset by delays and cost overruns, before the attraction finally opened in stages between 1971 and 1972. The ship remains in Long Beach to this day, having gone through a succession of mostly unsuccessful lease operators, but still hanging on.


MV Stockholm (1948) – later Volkerfreundshaft/Volker/Fritjof Nansen/Italia I/Italia Prima/Valtur Prima/Caribe/Athena/Azores


Built: 1948 by AB Gotaverken, Stockholm, Sweden

Original Operator: Swedish American Line: 1948-1960

Rebuilt in Genoa 1994

525 ft. long

12,165 gross tons as built

16,144 tons as rebuilt

390 passengers as built

556 passengers as rebuilt

The unlikeliest of all survivors, the former Stockholm is now technically the oldest passenger ship in the world over 10,000 tons in size still in active service. However, her current appearance and configuration bears no resemblance to the modest combination passenger-cargo liner originally delivered to the Swedish-American Line back in 1948. Prior to World War II, Swedish American had attempted to use the "Stockholm" name for a grand superliner that would be one of the largest and most stylish ships of its day. Unfortunately, the first Stockholm was destroyed by fire at the shipyard in Italy when nearly complete and was a total loss. Work began immediately on a nearly identical replacement, but by the time the second Stockholm was finished, WWII had broken out and the ship was unusable. Even if Swedish American could have navigated the giant liner safely out of the Mediterranean war zone, there would still have been no use for it, since transatlantic passenger traffic had been halted entirely due to the war. With no choice, Swedish American sold their brand new flagship to the Italian government for conversion to a troop transport under the name Saubadia. Little used, Saubadia spent most of the war tied up in port until being destroyed by British bombers in the port of Trieste in 1944. The wreck was raised and scrapped after the war.


With the European economy still in ruins after the war, Swedish American decided against building another giant superliner and chose to make the third Stockholm a more modest design – catering primarily to passengers in Tourist Class (the modern equivalent of the old Third Class), along with a generous cargo capacity. Stockholm gained international fame in 1956, when a navigational error caused her to collide with the Italian Line luxury liner Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket, resulting in the loss of 52 lives and the sinking of the Italian ship. Stockholm's bow was sheared off, but the ship remained afloat and sailed into New York under her own power, loaded with hundreds of survivors.


Rapidly displaced by airliners, container ships, and newer and more glamorous vessels in the Swedish American fleet, Stockholm was sold to the East German government in 1960. Renamed Volkerfreundshaft, she was used primarily on political cruises for the Socialist Unity Party and for charter cruises for Western travel agencies as a means of earning hard currency. As the economic situation in East Germany deteriorated in the 1980s, Volkerfreundshaft was transferred to a Panamanian holding company controlled by the East German government and renamed Volker in 1985. In 1986, she chartered for use as an accommodation ship for asylum seekers in Norway, under the name Fritjof Nansen. In 1989, Starlauro Cruises (now known as MSC Cruises) acquired the old liner for conversion to a cruise ship, but immediately resold the ship and their plans to Nina Navigation Company.


Between 1990 and 1994, the ship was completely rebuilt in Genoa as a modern cruise ship. The superstructure was completely demolished and rebuilt, the engines and mechanical systems replaced, the interior of the hull gutted and rebuilt, and the stern reconstructed with sponson extensions to improve stability. Initally named Italia I, she returned to serviced in 1995 as Italia Prima, then became Valtur Prima, than Caribe, then Athena, and most recently sailed as Azores for Portuscale Cruises. In 2015, Azores began a charter to British-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages.


SS United States (1952)


Built: 1952 by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia, USA

Original Operator: United States Lines: 1952-1969

990 ft. long

53,330 gross tons

1,928 passengers as built

During World War II, the Cunard liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary proved vital to the Allied war effort. Postwar, the US Navy began thinking in terms of partnering with private shipping companies to build similarly large and fast ocean liners that could be rapidly converted to troop transports in the event of another large war, reducing the need for the United States to rely on the British merchant fleet for its strategic sealift capabilities. At the time, United States Lines was looking to add a second large liner to pair with their luxurious America of 1940, so it seemed like a match made in heaven. The original plan was for United States Lines and the Navy to share the $50 million cost 50-50, but cost overruns left the Navy picking up $45 million of the eventual $70 million price.


Designed by legendary naval architect William Francis Gibbs, United States was easily the safest and most technologically advanced ship of its day. The ship was built in the modular method pioneered during the war, in which premade structural blocks were attached together in drydock and the ship was "launched" nearly complete. Built to Navy standards, United States featured a highly compartmentalized hull for fire and flood resistance, plus redundant engine rooms and mechanical systems. Navy requirements, combined with Gibbs' own obsession with safety, led to the complete elimination of all flammable materials in construction. The only wood used was in the pianos and butcher's blocks, and even the pianos were treated with special fire retardant chemicals. Within 24 hours, the ship could be transformed from a luxurious ocean liner to a troop transport with the capacity for 15,000 soldiers – an entire Army division, and United States carried enough fuel reserves to sail 12,000 miles non-stop at a sustained speed of 35 knots. Although the interiors, with their segmented spaces, low ceilings, and lack of warm woods, seemed a bit colder and more institutional than the European competition, United States was nonetheless comfortably furnished in the latest Mid Century Modern style.

On her maiden voyage in 1952, United States shattered the transatlantic speed record with a crossing in 3 days, 10 hours, and 40 minutes at an average of 35.6 knots. Details of the ship's power train design and actual performance capabilities were kept classified for decades, leading to wild speculation about the actual top speed attained on sea trials. She was most likely capable of short bursts of between 36-38 knots flat out, along with a top speed of 20 knots in reverse.


Like most transatlantic liners, United States lost passengers to jet airliners during the 1960s, while the ship's great size and thirsty engines made it poorly suited to Caribbean cruising. Deteriorating relations with labor unions, combined with the Nixon Administration's decision to cancel the annual operating subsidy, led to United States being withdrawn from service in 1969. Since then, the ship has sat inactive. Originally laid up in ready reserve status, the de-humidification and cathodic protection systems were turned off in the early 1980s and deterioration began to set in. The furnishings, fixtures, and decorative effects were sold off at public auction in 1984 in preparation for rebuilding into a cruise ship, which never happened.


In the 1990s, the ship was towed to Turkey and then Ukraine, where the interiors were completely gutted down to the structural steel bulkheads and all asbestos was removed, again in preparation for a rebuild as a cruise ship that never occurred. In 1996, United States was towed back across the Atlantic to Philadelphia, where she has remained ever since. In 2010, the nonprofit organization SS United States Conservancy acquired the ship with the goal of rebuilding it as a static attraction as a hotel, convention center, and museum. Since that time, they have been actively soliciting donations and corporate partners, but the ship remains in a limbo state.

SS Rotterdam (1959) – later Rembrandt/Rotterdam


Built: 1959 by Rotterdam Drydock Company, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Original Operator: Holland America Line: 1959-1997

748 ft. long

38,645 gross tons

1,499 passengers (as built)

1,144 passengers (final cruise ship configuration)

Few ships embodied the end of one era and the beginning of a new one like Rotterdam. 1958 was the first year more passengers crossed the Atlantic by plane than by ship, and the shipping companies' market share would remain in permanent free-fall. Fortunately, Holland America Line had the foresight to recognize the coming changes and opted to "future proof" their new flagship. Rotterdam was designed as a dual-use vessel, able to operate as a traditional transatlantic liner with passengers in 2 classes, as well as easily convert into a single-class cruise ship. Very modern in design and construction, Rotterdam also fulfilled the role traditionally expected of large ocean liners in serving as the Netherlands' last "ship of state", an oceangoing representation of the best that Dutch culture and industry could offer.


As transatlantic passenger traffic continued to decline, Rotterdam was withdrawn from Atlantic service in 1969 and began sailing as a single class cruise ship full-time. By the mid 1990s, Holland America was under the ownership of the Carnival Corporation, and Carnival announced that bringing the old liner into compliance with new Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations would be prohibitively expensive, so Rotterdam was withdrawn from service in 1997.

After her retirement, Rotterdam was acquired by Premier Cruise Lines, renamed Rembrandt, and brought into full SOLAS compliance for a fraction of the price originally quoted by Carnival. Rembrandt returned to service with Premier in 1998, but her new life was brief. The already financially weak Premier collapsed in September of 2000, and Rembrandt was withdrawn from service and laid up. In 2004, a group of Dutch investors bought the ship and towed her to Gibraltar for a through refurbishment. After years of expensive and extensive renovations in Gibraltar and the Netherlands, Rotterdam opened to the public in 2010 as a permanently moored hotel, museum, and events venue in her old home port of Rotterdam, located adjacent to Holland America's old 19th century headquarters building. The conversion was especially sensitive and left most of the ship's original 1950s architecture and furnishings intact.


MV Aleksandr Pushkin (1965) – later Marco Polo


Built: 1965 by VEB Mathias-Thesen Werft, Wismar, East Germany

Rebuilt: 1993

Original Operator: Baltic Sea Shipping Company: 1965-1985

578 ft. long

19,860 gross tons as built

22,080 gross tons as rebuilt

650 passengers as built

820 passengers as rebuilt

Built as the second in a series of five largely identical liners in the Ivan Franko class as part of East Germany's war reparations agreement with the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Pushkin was one of only three transatlantic liners to remain in service beyond the 1970s. Designed for easy conversion between a two class ocean liner and a single class cruise ship, Aleksandr Pushkin spent most of her time in service under the Soviet flag sailing under charter to Western travel agencies as a means of earning hard currency. In between charter work, the ship kept up a regular sailing schedule between Leningrad and Montreal until 1980, when the Politburo tired of subsidizing the money-losing Atlantic service and Aleksandr Pushkin was shifted to full-time charter cruising until 1990, when she was withdrawn from service and laid up.


In 1991, she was acquired by the new British-based cruise line start-up Orient Lines and extensively rebuilt into a Western-style luxury cruise ship, returning to service in 1993 as Marco Polo. In the conversion, the ship's interiors were largely gutted and rebuilt, eliminating most visible traces of her former life as a Soviet liner. Since the dissolution of Orient Lines by its then-owner Norwegian Cruise Line in 2008, Marco Polo has sailed under charter to several different operators and has been part of the UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages fleet since 2010.


MV Kungsholm (1966) – later Sea Princess/Victoria/Mona Lisa/Oceanic II/Mona Lisa/Veronica


Built: 1966 by John Brown & Company Ltd., Clydebank, Scotland, UK

Original Operator: Swedish American Line: 1966-1975

660 ft. long

26,678 gross tons

28,891 gross tons as rebuilt

713 passengers as built

782 passengers as rebuilt

Like Rotterdam, Kungsholm was another "end of an era" ship. Built as the final flagship for Swedish American Line and Sweden's final ship of state, she was likewise designed for easy conversion to a single class cruise ship as needed to make up for declining demand on the Atlantic route.


Swedish American terminated transatlantic services in 1970, after which Kungsholm was used exclusively as a cruise ship until 1975, when, beset by rising fuel and labor costs, Swedish American terminated all passenger services and sold the ship to Flagship Cruises. Under Flagship, the ship was re-registered in Liberia, but retained her old name in order to trade on the reputation for high quality service Swedish American had long cultivated.


In 1978, Flagship was purchased by British-based P&O Steam Navigation Company, and Kungsholm was rebuilt with the superstructure expanded, the forward dummy funnel cut down, and the aft funnel extended with a streamlined top for a more modern appearance. Renamed Sea Princess, she now spent part of the year sailing for P&O's Princess Cruises division in North America, and the other part sailing for P&O Cruises on Australian, and later, the UK market. Starting in 1995, the ship was assigned to P&O full-time and renamed Victoria. Increasingly displaced by more modern tonnage, Victoria was sold to Italian-based Leonardo Shipping in 2002 and renamed Mona Lisa for service under charter to German-based Holiday Kruezfahrten. Following Holiday Kruezfahrten's 2006 bankruptcy, Mona Lisa was briefly chartered as a hotel ship in Greece, before being chartered to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. as Oceanic II, operated for the Scholar Ship educational cruise program, interspersed with a temporary sub-charter to Louis Cruise Lines of Cyprus, and a season sailing for Royal Caribbean's Spanish market division, Pullmantur Cruises. In 2008, the ship reverted to the name Mona Lisa for a charter to Lord Nelson Seereisen of Germany, remaining with them through August of 2010, aside from a brief charter to Peace Boat for more educational cruises and another charter for use as a hotel ship during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Finally, unable to comply with new SOLAS fire safety regulations coming into force in October of 2010, Mona Lisa was withdrawn from active service. But, that wasn't the end yet. In the Fall of 2010, Mona Lisa was acquired by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering of South Korea and extensively rebuilt and modernized as purpose-designed hotel ship. Renamed Veronica, she was chartered for use as a hotel in Duqm, Oman from 2010-2013. Since the end of that charter, Daewoo has been actively trying to find a new use for the ship, so far without success. In the meantime, community groups are campaigning for her to be preserved in her old home port of Stockholm, Sweden.


RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (1969)


Built: 1969 by John Brown & Co./Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd., Clydebank, Scotland, UK

Original Operator: Cunard Line: 1969-2008

963 ft. long

65,863 gross tons as built

70,327 tons as rebuilt

2,005 passengers as built

1,777 passengers as rebuilt

Arguably the second most famous ocean liner in the world today, after the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth 2 was built to replace both the original Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth on the transatlantic run. The ship represented very much a Hail Mary for the Cunard Line. Unable to afford to replace their rapidly obsolescent freighters with modern container ships, the company had been forced into joining the Atlantic Container Line and Associated Container Transportation consortia to spread the cost. An effort to move into the airline business brought them into conflict with the government-backed British Overseas Airways Corporation monopoly, and in the meantime, their fleet of old-fashioned Atlantic liners was losing money at an alarming rate and adapting to cruise duty was proving difficult.


Cunard sank everything they had left into building Queen Elizabeth 2 – and then some, thanks to generous government subsidies – and if it failed to be a hit with the traveling public, it would mean the end of the storied 125+ year old firm. QE2's construction was fraught with difficulty. Begin by John Brown & Company, the ailing shipyard was nationalized and merged into the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders combine in the middle of the job. Strike action, management turmoil, and mechanical problems delayed completion by a full year. By the time Queen Elizabeth 2 finally entered service, she was nearly the last of her breed. Only two more Atlantic liners would be finished later – Hamburg and Vistafjord, and only Hamburg would actually be used on the Atlantic route, however briefly.


By 1969, transatlantic liners were very near to going the way of stagecoaches. Most of their remaining clientele was made up of nostalgia seekers, folks afraid of flying, and the elderly that knew no other way to travel. To find a new market, Cunard specifically designed the Queen Elizabeth 2 to embody the 1960s Swinging London vibe, marketing the ship as a fun and happening alternative to a boring airplane and aggressively targeting a younger, more fashionable crowd. The Ship for the Jet Age angle worked, clever marketing combined with good timing (there was almost no competition left by this point) made QE2 a hit right off the mark. Cunard was able to repay their government loans, and by the end of the 1970s, had already made additions to the superstructure to add more luxury suites to meet demand. Of course, Queen Elizabeth 2 was very much a liner of the '60s, which meant easy conversion to a single class and a significant amount of time spent sailing on cruises during the off-season and between Atlantic voyages. But, whereas every competitor on the transatlantic run dropped like flies during the 1970s, Cunard hung in. By the end of 1974, Queen Elizabeth 2 was the only liner still sailing to the United States from Northern Europe. By 1976, she was the only liner serving the US from any route, and by 1988 (with the retirement of the Polish and Soviet liners that served Canada), she was the only liner on the entire ocean.


History repeated itself in 1982. Just like her forerunners had been called into service in World War II, Queen Elizabeth 2 was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for service in the Falklands War. A hasty conversion into a combination troop transport and helicopter carrier was followed by one round trip voyage to South Georgia and a hero's welcome upon return to Southampton and a quick conversion back to civilian use.


Between 1986 and 1987, the ship's long troublesome steam turbines were ripped out and replaced by new diesel engines during an extensive overhaul in West Germany. Passenger accommodations were upgraded, and the ship returned to service with a higher top speed and better fuel economy than ever before, not to mention greatly enhanced reliability. Another major refit in Germany in the mid 1990s removed nearly all of the original 1960s Mod decor in favor of a retro Art Deco ambiance. By now, Cunard had realized that the ship's main attraction was for people seeking the romance and nostalgia of sailing on a real ocean liner and wanted to recapture the glamor of the 1930s – the exact image QE2 was originally specifically designed to shake.

In the late '90s, Cunard's new parent company, Carnival Corporation, began planning for a new large liner. Once the Queen Mary 2 entered service in 2004, Queen Elizabeth 2 was withdrawn from transatlantic service and became a full-time cruise ship. The original plans were to keep the ship in service through 2010, when new SOLAS fire regulations would force retirement, but Carnival was soon presented with an offer they couldn't refuse. In late 2007, Istithmar World, an investment company owned by Dubai World, the Dubai Government's giant holding company, purchased QE2 for the astounding sum of $100 million. Charted back by Cunard for a final season of cruises, Queen Elizabeth 2 was retired and handed over to her new owners in November, 2008.


Istithmar World's original plan was to extensively rebuild Queen Elizabeth 2 and berth her as the centerpiece to The Palm Jumeirah, a massive planned community of artificial islands being developed by Istithmar's sister company, Nakheel Properties. The global financial crises that set in during 2008 hit Dubai particularly hard and the conversion project was repeatedly postponed. Queen Elizabeth 2 was laid up in the Port Rashid area of Dubai with a live aboard maintenance crew and kept in full operational condition, including setting sail for occasional cruises into the Persian Gulf to maintain her engines. Over the next several years, several schemes came and went – a hotel in South Africa for the World Cup, preservation on the Thames in London, a hotel in Singapore, but so far, nothing has panned out. QE2 remains laid up in Dubai in largely operational condition. However, Dubai World's recent reductions in the size of her crew in the name of cost cutting has started to raise concerns over the ship's long term condition.


MS Vistafjord (1973) – later Caronia/Saga Ruby/Oasia


Built: 1973 by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd., Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, UK

Original Operator: Norwegian America Line/Cunard NAC: 1973-1994

627 ft. long

24,292 gross tons as built

24,492 gross tons as rebuilt

670 passengers as built

655 passengers as rebuilt

Although Cunard often marketed the Queen Elizabeth 2 as the last transatlantic liner, that was not strictly true. Hamburg was delivered to the German Atlantic Line of West Germany several months after QE2 in 1969 and was briefly used on the transatlantic run, before switching to cruises. Four years later, Vistafjord was delivered to the Norwegian America Line.


Vistafjord was ordered as an enlarged and modernized version of Norwegian America's Sagafjord of 1965, and, like Sagafjord, was originally designed for part time use as a 2-class transatlantic liner and part time use as a one-class cruise ship. During construction, Norwegian America made the decision to terminate the transatlantic liner service in 1971, so Vistafjord wound up being used as a full-time cruise ship upon delivery.


During the 1970s, Vistafjord developed a reputation as one of the most prestigious and highest rated luxury cruise ships in the world, a reputation that would carry on well into the 2000s. In 1983, Cunard Steamship Company (the then parent company of the Cunard Line) acquired Norwegian America and reorganized it as Cunard Norwegian America Cruises, or Cunard NAC. Vistafjord was re-flagged in the Bahamas and painted in Cunard funnel colors, but kept her name and continued to be marketed separately from the rest of Cunard's fleet. In 1994, Vistafjord was merged into the Cunard Royal Viking Line, the new brand name adopted for Cunard's luxury cruise ships. Following Cunard's acquisition by Carnival Corporation, the Cunard Royal Viking brand was abandoned and Vistafjord joined the main Cunard Line fleet.


In the late '90s, Vistafjord underwent an extensive refitting, converting her interiors into the same retro Art Deco style adopted for the Queen Elizabeth 2. Once the work was done, she hoisted the British flag and was renamed Caronia, a traditional Cunard name. Displaced by the delivery of Queen Mary 2 and the shifted of QE2 to full-time cruise duty, Caronia was sold to the British-based 55+ cruise line Saga Cruises in late 2004, to become their Saga Ruby. Saga Ruby remained in service with Saga Cruises into January 2014, when, replaced by newer ships, she was retired from active service for the final time. That same month, she was sold to Singapore-based Millennium View Ltd., and renamed Oasia, was charted for use as a hotel ship in Myanmar.


RMS Queen Mary 2 (2003)

Built: 2003 by Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique SA, Saint-Nazaire, France

Operator: Cunard Line: 2004-present

1,132 ft. long

148,528 gross tons

2,620 passengers

This is the ship that, for decades, most industry observers assumed would never be built – a 21st Century transatlantic ocean liner. Once Carnival Corporation acquired Cunard Line in the late '90s, they immediately began planning a successor for the aging Queen Elizabeth 2. The venture became a pet project of Carnival chairman Mickey Arison, who saw the new liner as an important prestige project for his family's company. Queen Mary 2 was designed to incorporate the latest fashions in cruise ship construction – soaring atria, balcony cabins, electric propulsion pods – plus certain ocean liner features that hadn't been used on ships in decades – strengthened hull, long foredeck, raised lifeboats, 40 year service life, high speed power plant.


Like most liners from the late 1950s onward, Queen Mary 2 is designed for part-time use as an ocean liner and part-time use as a cruise ship. She uses the Royal Mail Ship designation as a special courtesy by Royal Mail. Although international mail is now primarily transported by plane, it is still possible to have letters and packages postmarked on board while in transit. Queen Mary 2's design was specifically designed to incorporate recognizable elements from great liners of the past – mainly Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth 2, and Normandie.The ship's popularity has not faded in more than a decade in service, and she remains the largest ocean liner ever built (and likely the last one to be built for possibly the next 30 or 40 years, if not forever) and also still ranks as the world's 5th largest passenger ship.


And, that's it. Just 10 examples left of what was, for over a century, the primary means of travel between the Old World and the New. Of them, Great Britain, Queen Mary, Rotterdam, and Queen Mary 2 are obviously safe for the foreseeable future. The others may well be living on borrowed time. Marco Polo and Azores have benefitted from thoughtful modernizations in the 1990s and are safe for the moment, but both are still small, aging ships that have been kicked around several different owners over a few years. Who knows how much longer their luck will last.


Veronica and Oasia are also in precarious situations. Daewoo spent a considerable amout of money refurbishing Veronica for hotel use, and the fact that they are still hoping to recoup their investment is the only reason she hasn't been sold for scrap yet. With nearly 2 years and no revenue generating work, who knows how long they will hold out. Oasia was purchased for a decent sum and is currently in use as a hotel, but it is a short term assignment and there's no telling what will come next.

United States and Queen Elizabeth 2, are, unfortunately, in serious danger. The SS United States Conservancy has been so far successful in raising the funds to pay docking fees and keep United States away from the scrapyard, but they still have nowhere near the money they need to actually safeguard the ship long-term, let alone start repairs and refurbishment. Queen Elizabeth 2 has been sitting idle for going on 7 years now with no activity and her owners go further and further into the red on that project by the day, with no serious options in sight.

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