Crystal Cruises has signed a purchase option for historic cruise ship S.S. United States, the New York Times reports. The luxury cruise line will conduct a feasibility study on a makeover of the ship, which could cost $700 million to $800 million, that could see it sail again.
The S.S. United States was the world's fastest luxury liner when it sailed in the 1950s, carrying 2,000 passengers on transatlantic routes. A Philadelphia philanthropist bought the ship from NCL a few years ago, but has struggled to raise funds to maintain it, bringing the ship perilously close to the scrap yard. Crystal has said it will cover the $60,000-a-month upkeep cost of the ship while it conducts the feasibility study, which is slated to take nine months.
If the study is favorable Crystal would transform the ship into an 800-passenger luxury ship that could sail a classic transatlantic route between New York and Europe. A concept rendering maintains the classic silhouette of the ship, but with some decks expanded in order to accommodate the addition of balconies, which were not present in the original design.
The renovation project is not without its challenges. The ship's steam engines would need to be swapped out, and the presence of toxic PCBs in some areas would mean working with the Environmental Protection Agency to bring the ship up to modern standards.
We spoke to Susan L. Gibbs, executive director of the S.S. United States Conservancy, which has been responsible for the ship since 2011 and has been focusing on finding the S.S. United States a permanent home and a way for it to succeed in the 21st century.
“We’ve been exploring a range of scenarios, we’ve always known we would need to activate the commercial potential of the ship,” she explains.
“We’ve been looking for partners, looking for investors in different configurations and in different locations … this is perfect. I think it is perfect because Crystal has the vision, the willingness to invest, the resources both financial but also vision (and) technological,” she continues.