Sailing On

Architectural relics from great old liners find a home in the dining rooms of four new ships


The late 1990s saw the start of an immense building boom in cruise ships. Nineteen new ones arrived in 2001, and nearly 40 more are planned for the next two years. Most of these are enormous vessels, capable of accommodating more than 2,000 passengers. Filling all those cabins makes for an extremely competitive business, says Birch Coffey, an architect for Celebrity Cruise’s four new Millennium-class ships (a designation that, as with battleships, refers to the name of the first one delivered).

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A World In The Middle Of The Ocean

At their zenith the great transatlantic liners were lean runways for Schiaparelli dresses and Sulka dressing gowns, gorgeous stage sets for ship-to-shore gossip, bon mots, cocktail shakers, and dancing all night. It still can happen.

In the days when the North Atlantic was a crowded route, to choose a ship was to start the crossing. The fastest, the biggest, the newest: Often a single liner reigned as all three, with panache to spare for anyone who booked passage. Travelers who grew beyond mere statistics, though, peered into brochures and found the most stylish or amiable ship, or the most reliable. The record for the most comfortable one ever must certainly have been set by the German liner that returned to port unsteadily and slowly after its maiden season: too much furniture. Read more »

The Ship That Died Of Carelessness

The Normandie has been gone since World War II, but many people still remember her as the most beautiful passenger liner ever built. It is the saddest of ironies that she fled her native France to seek safety in New York Harbor.

SHE WAS THE largest moving object that mankind had ever built. She was the first liner to cross the Atlantic at better than 30 knots, the first to exceed 1,000 feet in length, the first truly modern ship. She coddled her passengers with a spaciousness, luxury, and cuisine that has never been equaled. She was the Normandie, France’s pride and America’s joy. She lived a life of glory and acclaim. And she died horribly, at the hands of strangers. Read more »

High Noon Of American Sail

On the fifth of January, 1818, a skeptical crowd peered through a blizzard to where the packet James Monroe lay at anchor in New York Harbor. It had been announced weeks before that the packet would leave on this day, inaugurating a new kind of transatlantic service. Shipowners would usually give definite sailing dates but would delay them any number of times until they had a full cargo. Here, however, was a new line claiming fortnightly service between New York and Liverpool on a rigid schedule, full hold or not.Read more »

“When Does This Place Get to New York?”

The Queen Mary in Peace and War

The first commercial transatlantic flight still lay three years in the future when the Queen Mary began her maiden voyage in May, 1936, but Sir Percy Bates, chairman of the Cunard Line, made the sailing the occasion for an extraordinary forecast. “The crux of the matter,” he said, “will lie whether, twenty-five years from now, it would be the universal desire to travel like rockets at supersonic speeds in a closed metal container, probably without windows, or whether many would still prefer a more leisurely progression.” Read more »

The Sway Of The Grand Saloon

In the sumptuous history of transatlantic passenger travel it wasn’t all mahogany panelling and ten-course meals. Consider, for instance, war and seasickness

“THIS IS NOT A CANOE” Read more »