1954 - 1982
World War II was over, the Italian Line stood without their two most prestigious
liners. All that remained of the former Blue Riband-champion Rex
was a capsized, burnt out and derelict hulk south of Trieste. British bombers
had finished her in 1944, while the Conte di Savoia had been set
afire and destroyed by the Nazis the previous year. As Italy belonged to
the states that had lost the devastating war, it would take a long time
before the country, and for that matter the Italian Line, would recover.
from the war did not seem to settle until the early Fifties. By then, the
financial situation for most countries pointed upwards. The merchant fleets
also seemed to regain power as the ships that had served their countries
during the duration of the hostilities had been returned from their Admiralties
to serve passengers, not soldiers. By this time, the Italian Line had started
planning two new liners for the trans-Atlantic run. These ships were not
to be the same size the Rex and the Conte di Savoia had
been, or not as fast. Planned
to be around 30,000 gross tons, these liners would catch attention because
of luxury and style – two things the Italians certainly know how to deal
|The Cristoforo Colombo
departing Genoa on her maiden voyage.
of the two sisters entered service in early 1953. She was called Andrea
Doria after a famous Renaissance sea-hero. When she arrived in New
York she received a gala in the harbour reception. Indeed, Italy and the
Italian Line had recovered from the now more and more distant war.
sister was, just as the Andrea Doria, built at the Ansaldo Shipyards
in Genoa. She was launched and christened Cristoforo Colombo in
1953, and completed and ready for her maiden voyage in 1954. On July 15,
she cast her moorings and left Genoa for New York. She too was cordially
welcomed upon arrival in America. She was the largest ship in merchant
service in Italy – at 29,191 gross tons she precisely beat the Andrea
terrible blow to the Italian Line occurred on July 25, 1956. As the Andrea
Doria was inbound to New York in dense fog, commanded by Captain Piero
Calamai, another liner was outbound for a crossing to Göteborg. This
was the Swedish American Line’s Stockholm that was under the command
of Captain Gunnar Nordenson. The two ships spotted each other on the radar,
but as they came closer they had decided to pass each other on two different
sides. This resulted in the two vessels turning the same way, towards each
other. In a cloud of sparkles, the two ships crashed together. The Stockholm
seemed to remain afloat, but the Andrea Doria had immediately taken
on a dangerous list to starboard. She was mortally wounded and sunk in
the morning hours of the 26th.
of life had not been heavy. All the people that had survived the crash
were rescued by the Stockholm and the grand CGT-liner Île
de France that happened to be in these waters. Still, the Italian Line
was mortified. They had lost their fabulous lady of the seas, and the public had
lost their faith in them. All that remained was the Cristoforo Colombo.
Colombo was the bigger ship, but as Andrea Doria had came out
first and set the new standards, the public seemed to be more attached
to her. But she was just as luxurious as her sister with her grand first
class ballroom and splendid dining room. One of the few ultra-luxurious
suites – an ‘Apartment Deluxe’ – was prized at $1000 per person in peak
summer times for an Atlantic crossing.
Colombo soon settled in her own Atlantic career – without the Andrea
Doria as her big brother, or ‘big sister’. Both passengers and crew
became fond of her. The dockers at New York also appreciated this streamlined
Italian marvel, even though they sometimes were on a strike, letting the
ship dock herself – a procedure that could take hours and hours. On February
5, 1957 such a strike was on when the Cristoforo Colombo arrived
at New York harbour. She had to go in-between the piers herself, using
her engines with the finest precision. When she came in too close for engine
manoeuvring, she lowered her anchor, attached it in the harbour bottom
and pulled the chain in, thus moving the whole liner closer to the pier.
She repeated this until the ship finally was safely moored. This was a
time-consuming procedure, but as strikes were common, the officers had
learned how to handle the problem quite quickly.
|An 'Apartment Deluxe'
on board the Cristoforo Colombo.
the replacement for the Andrea Doria came. She was over 30,000 gross
tons and was called Leonardo da Vinci. Again, the Italians could
be proud to boast two express liners from the Mediterranean to New York.
Cristoforo Colombo and Leonardo da Vinci were called express
liners in spite of their 23-knot service speed. The required speed for
the coveted Blue Riband of the Atlantic, which was held by the American
liner United States, was approximately 35 knots. But there were
many ships with a service speed below 20 knots, so 23 knots should be looked
upon as quite fast, therefore the epithet ‘express liners’.
years after the introduction of the Leonardo da Vinci, the Cristoforo
Colombo was given the most honourable task. In the spring of 1964,
the ‘Pietà’ from the Vatican was carried on board her to New York
for the World’s Fair. ‘Pietà’ was put in a crate that was filled
with plastic foam. The crate was lowered onto a rubber base in the first
class pool where least damage was likely to happen to it. Special safety
precautions were made when the actual loading occurred as well. The Cristoforo
Colombo had been put in dry dock so that she would not move an inch
and thereby perhaps jeopardise the crate and its content. Only easily removable
snap hooks secured the crate so that it could be released easily in case
of accident. In case the Cristoforo Colombo would sink during the
voyage, the crate had been floatable. When at New York it was lifted by
a heavy-lift floating crane onto a barge that was put alongside the liner.
Colombo and the Leonardo da Vinci were kept as the flagships
and the prime Italian ships on the North Atlantic until 1965 when the brand
new Michelangelo arrived. Shortly after, her sister Raffaello followed,
and the Cristoforo Colombo was taken out of trans-Atlantic service.
Instead she replaced the two smaller Saturnia and Vulcania
on the Adriatic trade. She was painted entirely white in 1966 in order
to match with the other ships in the Italian Line who had abandoned black
|In 1966, the Cristoforo
Colombo was painted white to match her with the rest of the company's
the Cristoforo Colombo was taken out of the Adriatic service. She
was supposed to go on the South American run to replace the Giulio Cesare
that had suffered some serious mechanical problems. She stayed here until
1977 when it was realised that it was utter futility to keep the Cristoforo
Colombo running. Ships like her had become very uneconomical to run.
She was sold to the country of Venezuela, but they had no intention to
keep her going, but used her as an accommodation ship for workers at Puerto
Ordaz. In 1981 she was sold to Taiwanese scrappers. They towed her across
the Pacific, but upon arrival at Kaohsiung they towed her to Hong Kong,
hoping someone there would express interest in buying the ship. However,
no one appeared and in the autumn of 1982 she was towed back to Kaohsiung
where she was scrapped.
|The Cristoforo Colombo
||700 feet (216.6 m)
||90 feet (27.9 m)
||29,191 gross tons
||Steam turbines powering