Transoceanic passenger shipping service


Scott Mills

Member
Jul 10, 2008
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Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Hey guys,

Let me preface what I am about to say with a few caveats. First, I know this is a pipe dream, for many reasons. But I have always wanted to discuss it with someone, and neither my wife nor my friends are particularly interested in hearing me ramble about it. I am also a member of a few online communities, but encyclopedia titanica is the only place that I know actual mariners frequent, and in which people who are interested in the history of passenger ocean travel congregate.

In any regard, I have felt since I first learned Cunard would be replacing the QE2 that the passenger shipping market--not the crushing market--is entirely unrepresented today. I know why it originally disappeared, and generally have a grasp of the economics of the transatlantic trade in the late 60s, but I've always been curious as to why nobody but Cunard offered the service over the last 20 or so years.

My thought is that a line could offer regular service and be profitable--and I mean just that. Such service would be necessity (at leat at first) consist of one or two relatively small vessels rated for international ocean travel. You could either charter these, or buy older vessels that were built for ocean travel and converted to cruisers, and then reconvert them. It would also be a year round service, unlike cunards, and voyages would not be needlessly lengthened.

As I side note I travel a lot, and have thought about crossing on the QE2 and later the QM2 a number of times. The thing that really frustrates me though is that i don't want to sail then fly-- I'd like to go both ways! This is impractical with Cunard if you actually want to continue your trip on "the other side of the pond" because even when "on season" these ships schedules weren't regular. They will make on quick crossing, followed by a meandering 20 day crossing stopping all over Scandenavia at 3 times the cost--or something similar.

It's difficult to plan your holiday around something like this for most people with limited means (like this poor grad student.)

So my thought is that one ship in the Atlantic (you can expand on this later if feasible) and maybe one in the Pacific later who focused on this would be competitive. I'd also like to keep prices competitive with airfare (within a few hundred dollars). And before you complain and say its not possible, inside staterooms on QM2 are already near the price of taking a plane!

Obviously you won't attract a lot of business travelers. Who you would attract is people like me, or people who take QM2, interested in participating in the romanticized "crossing," those inclined to the adventure of freighter travel (business is good for companies who specialize in this,) and college students! I actually think you could attract a lot of young people to a tourist class if you could keep it cheap. The hostels in both the United States and Europe are thriving, and knowing undergrads like I do it would be so easy to market to them.

Anyway, I've rambled on enough. Do any of you have any thoughts on this? Am I mad for imagining something like this could work?
 
Jan 6, 2005
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Iowa, USA
The essential problem with ongoing transatlantic service is time, which very few people have much of today. A QM2 transatlantic crossing is six days, one way. Round trip is twelve days. Considering how difficult it is for most people even to GET two weeks' vacation nowadays, that's simply un-doable for many travelers. I believe Cunard offers a "sail one, fly one" package, so that people can have the experience of one crossing, but get back home quickly.

Refitting an older liner is difficult, because of SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations, which are constantly upgraded. Many a proud ship of the Fifties and Sixties has ended up at Alang simply because the costs of upgrading it to current SOLAS standards were untenable.

Another problem is the short attention spans of people today. We look back at Olympic and Titanic in nostalgia, but the fact is that today's travelers would probably take to the bottle on the second day out, because of "nothing to do" by today's standards. Playing bridge, walking the promenades and conversation in the lounges wouldn't cut it. For that reason, today's ships have everything from casinos to water slides to rock-climbing walls, and such amusements are extremely expensive to provide. Cutting them out would probably result in a distinct lack of patronage.

As much as it pains me to think that some things I love are gone forever, I think Cunard's present limited transatlantic service is probably sufficient to meet the needs of those relatively few people who have the means and the time to enjoy it.
 

Scott Mills

Member
Jul 10, 2008
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Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Well, you would obviously need to include entertainment. I would never imagine that people would be satisfied with just a room and nothing else--and lets face it casinos are just a money maker.

You just don't need a giant ship as lavishly accomadated with her half dozen reseaurants and her 4 theatres, multiple night clubs, etc.

Indeed just browsing the ship broker listings there are lots of ships for sale that are currently used for cruising that would be adequate to the task.

As for who would use such a thing, well me! I can't be the only one. Plus, as I've said, students, the people who are inclined to freighter travel, people who don't like to fly (possibly over 10% of the population) and the same people who fill up QM2 for her crossings.

By the way, QM2 takes 7 days to cross on purpose--they think people like the extra time at sea. In reality, she is capable of doing the crossing in just under 5.

And of course, if I had a ship fast enough I'd do the crossings fast.

You are never going to go fast enough to challenge air travel, but that's not the point. You'd just need about 800 people a week willing to travel the Atlantic this way. That doesn't seem like a lot to me.
 
Jan 6, 2005
276
7
113
Iowa, USA
Scott:

I understand your longing completely. My own fantasy - which would require a goodly sum courtesy of the Powerball people - would be to find an oceangoing steam yacht of the early 20th Century and restore it. With a trinket like that, who needs Cunard? :)
 

Scott Mills

Member
Jul 10, 2008
670
87
133
43
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Scott:

I understand your longing completely. My own fantasy - which would require a goodly sum courtesy of the Powerball people - would be to find an oceangoing steam yacht of the early 20th Century and restore it. With a trinket like that, who needs Cunard? :)

Yes, I have already done the calculation. To get a ocean rated cruiser that holds between 700 and 900 pax (about 10,000 gross tons) you need around $30 million. Then you will need to refit her, crew her, find a berth for her, etc. Minimum start up costs seem to be around $50 million. I would feel better with around a hundred. Any investors? ;)

I guess giant powerball I pprobably await too!

*edit

I assure you that the college students in their 20s who plan on back packing through Europe for 3 months ABSOLUTELY want to do two things--mingle with new people and drink too much--that a 5 day voyage to Europe could provide!
 

TOWER3

Member
Jun 11, 2019
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Garland, TX
I feel that should two or more ships be built for the route from Southampton or Le Harve to New York City, a modernized replica of the SS Normandie or a real life realization of the Poseidon seen in the 2006 film of the same name should be built.
 

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