The SS United States, the fastest passenger vessel in the world upon its launch in 1952, may be put back into service by Crystal Cruises after 20 years spent languishing in Philadelphia.
Crystal signed a purchase option with the SS United States Conservatory, which owns the ship and pays for its upkeep. A feasibility study is taking place over the next nine months to determine whether the ship can safely operate and the environmental impact of running an ancient steam ship.
If the deal goes through, Crystal will invest at least $700 million in renovating the vessel. Crystal Cruises CEO Edie Rodriguez told Skift that the option of acquiring the vessel was one the small luxury cruise line couldn’t pass up.
The SS United States Conservatory was forced late last year to look for buyers because it could no longer pay for the upkeep of the 60,000-ton ship.
“When I saw there was a chance they could scrap the ship, I started to look into ways to buy it,” said Rodriguez. “It would be a crime against history to let it disappear.”
Genting Hong Kong, which owns Crystal, actually owned the SS United States in the early 2000s in a failed bid to operate the ship under its Star Cruises brand.
Rodriguez wouldn’t go into specifics about changes she will make to the historic vessel, but said it would probably accommodate 800 guests and that extensive changes have to be made to the interior of the ship and its outdated steam propulsion system.
Rodriguez also told Skift that after personally surveying the ship in Philadelphia, she expects it to pass all of the required tests within nine months.
Crystal has three new-build ocean vessels on the way as well and also plans to launch a private jet vacation product on its own Boeing 787 Dreamliner.