1965 - 1983
the end of the 1950s, aeroplanes were beginning to dominate
on the illustrious Atlantic trade. Proud ships as the Cunard Line’s two
Queens and French Line’s distinguished old Liberté,
built in 1930, sometimes carried close to no passengers at all. When they
did, the crew outnumbered the number of passengers most of the time. The
remarkable fleet that had once totally dominated the North Atlantic had
been turned into ghost ships.
|A wonderful aerial view,
showing the sweeping lines of the Raffaello.
many conservative shipping lines would not admit defeat to the air liners
and continued to produce great ships. The French Line commissioned the
enormous France in 1962. She was intended as a pure trans-Atlantic
liner, but she would within short be dependent on heavy subsidies from
the French government.
Line had commissioned the Leonardo da Vinci in 1960. She had been
a replacement for the lost Andrea Doria, but by the time she entered service
the ocean liner trade on the North Atlantic were losing money rapidly to
same time, the Italian Line were considering to construct two new liners
for the trans-Atlantic run. This utter futility could only be explained
with the fact that the shipping line’s directors were trapped in the old
day’s thinking ways. They figured Italy would need new superliners to compete
with on the oceans.
sketches of what would later become the Michelangelo and Raffaello
were drawn already in 1958. They showed two ships with black hulls and
with two conventional funnels each. But instead of the traditional look,
the Italian Line decided they would go for something more modern. The final
sketches showed two white-hulled ships with two strange-looking, lattice-like
funnels, placed far aft. Those lattice-funnels were from the beginning
intended for the sister ships Gugliemo Marconi and Galileo Galilei,
but their owners – Lloyd Triestino – had not approved of the design. The
original style was designed by Professor Mortarino of Turin Polytechnic.
though the airlines were taking over the North Atlantic, the Italian Line
management would not admit defeat and started construction of the two longest
Italian liners ever. The first of the ships was constructed at the famous
Ansaldo Shipyard in Sestri Ponente and the second vessel at CR dell’Adriatico
at Trieste. On September 16, 1962 the first of the duo – the Michelangelo
– was launched. Some five months later, on March 24, 1963, her sister followed.
Construction of the two ships continued until April 1965, when the Michelangelo
was completed. She set out on her maiden voyage between Genoa and New York
on May 12.
|The First Class Ballroom
on board the Raffaello.
was not far behind. In July she was completed, and on the tenth of that
same month, she made her first voyage, a Mediterranean cruise. That cruise
had merely been a warm-up for her maiden voyage that started on July 25
between Genoa and New York.
and Raffaello never earned a single lira in profit for the Italian
Line, but one cannot deny that the sisters were one of the most beautiful
and comfortable ships ever built. The Italians showed that they still were
able to produce first class ships for a worldwide market. The staterooms
and the public rooms on board the liners offered the passenger unlimited
luxury. There were at least one private shower and toilet in every cabin,
and on the ship there were altogether six swimming pools – three for adults
and three for children. The first class ballroom aboard the Raffaello
was dominated by huge crystal chandeliers, and the ship’s two luxury suites
were equipped with a large television in each room.
large and beautiful did not keep the Raffaello out of trouble. On
October 31, 1965, she suffered a severe engine room
fire, which made her limp back
to Genoa on one propeller, and in May 1970 she collided with a tanker in
|Raffaello had two De
Luxe Suites on board. This picture shows one of them.
though the Michelangelo and the Raffaello did not make any
money for the owners, they were ‘kept alive’ by the Italian Government’s
generous subsidies. But after nine years in service – in 1974 – the North
Atlantic operations almost ceased. From then on the Raffaello was
used mainly for cruising.
cruising was not the cure for the Raffaello. She, along with her
sister, continued to lose money. After some time, the Italian Government
declared to the Italian Line that keeping their subsidy was an impossibility.
The two ships had entirely relied on this money and now they were forced
to stop sailing. On April 21, 1975, the Raffaello made her last
cruise out of New York towards lay up, and the Michelangelo followed
less than three months later. On June 6, the Raffaello had reached
La Spezia where she would be laid up, all too close to the infamous scrapping
the Raffaello’s destiny was not to be scrapped at La Spezia. In
1976, the successful owner of the Home Lines approached the Italian Line
and offered a more than reasonable price for the two ships – he wanted
to put the sisters back into service in American cruise services, keeping
the Italian crew. But the Italian Line would not hear of it. The wanted
to get rid of the two embarrassing money-losers – they wanted them out
of the country. And so, the ships stayed in Italy until the end of the
year when another buyer emerged. It was the Shah of Iran’s government who
wanted them for use as accommodation ships for army personnel, oil workers and navy trainees.
The Italian Line saw no obstacles, and in December the ships were sold.
setting out on her last commercial voyage.
arrival in Iran, the Michelangelo was moored at Bandar Abbas, and
the Raffaello at Bushire. The Raffaello remained on the spot
until a few years into the Eighties. During this period, the ship was neglected
and fell into a poor state – rat infested and sun scorched. She would probably
have remained there until she fell apart or the scrappers took her, but
the never-ending hostilities between Iran and Iraq resulted in a turn-pointing
air attack on Bushire in February 1983. During this devastating attack,
the Raffaello was hit and slowly sank in the harbour waters. No
breaking up of the ship ever commenced and she remains there until this
remained in Bandar Abbas until 1991 when she was broken up by Pakistani
|The Raffaello - Specifications:
||904 feet (276.2 m)
||99.1 feet (30.3 m)
||45,933 gross tons
||Geared Ansaldo turbines
powering two propellers.