1965 - 1991
the devastating First World War, the world found itself in severe shock.
Close to everything had been destroyed in enemy raids, and now Europe had
to start rebuilding itself. The great shipping nations such as Great Britain,
France and Germany gave priority to their merchant fleets highly, and soon
the world saw fantastic liners such as Queen Mary and the Normandie
upon the seven seas. Further down in Italy, the trend was followed, and
the stunning running mates Rex and Conte di Savoia were created.
The first of these two liners became famous for her speed, and she even
had the Blue Riband in possession for a while.
Europe had settled down completely after the war, another threat from the
Germans seemed to rise. In September 1939, World War II started and went
on raging for almost another six years. When the dreadful hostilities finally
came to an end in 1945, the merchant fleets were - once again - badly erased.
Since they had been used for military purposes they had been desirable
targets for the enemy. Both
of Italy's flagships, the Rex and the Conte di Savoia had
been victims of enemy aircraft bombing. They were both considered too expensive
to rebuild, and were subsequently sent to the scrapyard. Once again, the
merchant fleet had to be reconstructed.
|The streamlined, towering
hull of the Michelangelo prior to launch.
decided to start rebuilding their fleet with more moderate sized vessels.
In 1952 the much famed 29,000-tonner Andrea Doria hit the waves,
and shortly after that her running mate Cristoforo Colombo followed.
However disaster struck in 1956, when the Andrea Doria was accidentally
rammed and sunk by the small Swedish liner Stockholm. By 1960, a
replacement for the Andrea Doria was finished and named Leonardo
da Vinci. With her 33,000 gross tons she was the largest liner constructed
in Italy after the war.
same time, Italy's interest in another great ocean liner seemed to grow.
Since the jet airliner had not yet had a great impact on the Mediterranean
area, it still seemed to be a profitable idea to construct new giant ocean
liners. The Italia Line opted for a pair of liners to operate between Genoa
and New York. Actually, this was the first time since 1929 that a large
genuine sister set had been ordered. Famous pairs such as Queen Mary
and Queen Elizabeth, Rex and Conte di Savoia had rather
been running mates than identical sisters.
Italian trend was to name the county's vessels after famous historical
persons. The first of the new pair - who was being built at the Ansaldo
Shipyards in Genoa - was decided to be named Michelangelo after
the extremely famous Raennicance artist. On
September 16, 1962, the
Michelangelo was launched. Attending at the ceremony was a representative
from the Roman Catholic Church who gave the ship an official blessing.
In April 1965, the brand new ship was ready for her sea trials, which she
performed flawlessly, and a month later she set out on her maiden voyage
to New York, which she reached on the 20th.
|The sleek design of the
Michelangelo is clearly visible in this photograph.
many years of looking enviously on other nations, Italy could now finally
boast their new champion. The ship was constructed with speed in mind;
she would be able to maintain a good 27 knots as service speed. But the
desirable Blue Riband was deliberately left to remain with United States
Lines' United States. The size of the ship was also something the
Italians could be proud of. Both Michelangelo and her newly born
sister - the Raffaello - exceeded 45,000 gross tons, and with a
length of over 900 feet few other ships matched these two in size.
design of the Michelangelo was something quite new. Something unusual
for a liner was that her hull was painted in white instead of the conventional
black. From the beginning it was actually decided to use black as hull-colour,
but white was decided upon when the advantages of the colour showed itself.
For instance, white is more resistant in the Mediterranean warm climate
and white gave passengers a hint that this ship might offer the same amount
of luxury as many of the new, white cruise ships that had become more and
more common everywhere in the world. The two funnels were of an entirely
new sort. Of course, their practical use was excellent beyond perfection,
but the external result became that of two giant cages on top of the
superstructure. They were situated
a bit far back so it almost seemed as if the Italia Line instead had wanted
three funnels originally.
of the ship had left the classical touch that the Conte di Savoia
had sported, behind. Michelangelo was clearly affected by Art Deco-style,
and the trend set by the Île de France in 1927 had now reached the
Italian ships to the full. One of the most liked features on board was
the 489-capacity cinema. Added to this, the ship had thirty other public
rooms in which the passengers could make each other's acquaintance. In
all the ship had six swimming pools. Three of them were for children, but
the remaining were full-scale ones with heating utilities when the weather
|'Ristorante Prima Classe',
or the First Class Restaurant on board the Michelangelo.
31, 1965 the Michelangelo's first winter overhaul commenced. This
resulted in - among other things - that her propellers were changed because
they had caused considerable vibration during the vessel's first year.
When the ship was tested afterwards, the annoying vibration was reduced
and, to the Italia Lines delight, the speed seemed to have increased. During
these 'trials' she reached an immensely impressive 31.59 knots.
major problem that struck the Michelangelo occurred on April 12,
1966. When the liner was sailing towards New York she suddenly encountered
very bad weather. Waves fifty feet high hit the ship time and again, and
the horror culminated when two passengers were swept overboard. When Michelangelo
reached New York she exposed a severely damaged forward superstructure,
and momentarily reparations were made when in the Americas. Upon arrival
in Italy, the ship had her damaged part of the superstructure covered in
sorts of problems were something that ships and shipping companies could
cope with. As the 1960s advanced the new threat from the jet airliner became
more and more something of a really big problem, even for the Italian liners.
The game Italia Line had played when they put Michelangelo and Raffaello
in service had proved grossly unprofitable. By 1970, both ships were losing
money quickly. On some voyages, the crew outnumbered the passengers. But
the Italia Line did not want to give up already. Some suggestions said
that the Raffaello were to be transferred to the more profitable
South American run, but eventually this was never realised. The Italian
government had supported the two ships with giant amounts of money, but
as the liners never seemed to recover, they finally withdrew
their financial assistance. The Italia Line had nothing to do but to take
the Michelangelo and the Raffaello out of service. The last
trans-Atlantic voyage the Michelangelo made was in June 1975, when
she was packed with ocean liner buffs who tried to give her the honour
of being something else than empty on her final crossing. One of those
who wanted to pay a last tribute was the Duchess of Windsor.
|Although a very fine
ship, the Michelangelo's career never quite became what her owners
had envisioned. (Picture courtesy of Franco Guida)
Michelangelo had returned from this last voyage she was laid up
in Genoa and then La Spezia. The move to La Spezia, feared many fans, was
the ship's last one because the largest scrapyard in the Mediterranean
area was situated there. It seemed that the Michelangelo's life
would last only for ten years.
after several steam ship lines had eyed the sisters for a possible purchase
but considered them too large, the Michelangelo found herself a
buyer. The Shah of Iran was officially given the ownership of the vessel
in February 1977. He intended to use her as a permanently moored military
barrack. The Michelangelo left Genoa on July 8 the same year and
sailed through the Suez channel, past Saudi Arabia before she finally reached
her new home in Bandar Abbas on the 21st. In the Shah's presence, the Iranian
flag was hoisted, as the ship became an 'Iranian citizen'. The Michelangelo,
who luckily had escaped the ceremony of renaming, was rebuilt so that she
could accommodate 1,800 military personnel.
continued in this role for another fifteen years, but in 1991 the ship
was considered too old and was towed to Pakistan where she was scrapped.
|The Michelangelo - Specifications:
||902 feet (275.5 m)
||102 feet (31.2 m)
||34 feet (10.4 m)
||45,911 gross tons
||Steam turbines powering