RMS Caronia

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Green Caronia.jpg
The Caronia outbound from New York.
Name: 1948-1968: Caronia
1968: Columbia
1968-1974: Caribia
Owner: 1948-1968: Cunard White Star Line
1968-1974: Universal Cruise Line
Port of registry: Liverpool,  United Kingdom
Ordered: 1946
Builder: John Brown and Company, Clydebank, Scotland
Yard number: 635
Laid down: 13 February 1946
Launched: 30 October 1947
Christened: 30 October 1947 by HRH Princess Elizabeth (now Elizabeth II)
Acquired: December 1948
In service: 4 January 1949
Out of service: 25 March 1969
Nickname: The Green Goddess
Fate: Wrecked in Apra Harbour, Guam, 1974. Subsequently scrapped.
General characteristics
Tonnage: 34,183 gross register tons (GRT)
Length: 217.90 m (714.90 ft)
Beam: 27.80 m (91.21 ft)
Draught: 9.66 m (31.69 ft)
Installed power: Geared turbines, H.P. double reduction, I.P. and L.P. single reduction, 30,000 i.h.p., twin propellers
Speed: 22 knots
Capacity: 932 passengers (581 first class, 351 tourist class)

RMS Caronia was a 34,183 gross register tons (GRT) passenger ship of the Cunard Line (then Cunard White Star Line). Launched on 30 October 1947, she served with Cunard until 1967. She was nicknamed the "Green Goddess" by the people of Liverpool because her livery resembled that of the local trams, also known as "Green Goddesses".[1] She is credited as one of the first "dual-purpose" built ships. After leaving Cunard she briefly served as SS Caribia in 1969, after which she was laid up in New York until 1974 when she was sold for scrap. While being towed to Taiwan for scrapping, she was caught in a storm on 12 August. After her tow lines were cut, she repeatedly crashed on the rocky breakwater outside Apra Harbor, Guam subsequently breaking into three.


After World War II, the Cunard White Star Line operated three ships on the SouthamptonNew York run. The famous RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth operated an express service, with the smaller and slower RMS Mauretania sailing as the third ship on the route. The company placed an order for a running mate to the Mauretania, a ship of similar speed and proportions for the transatlantic run. Ultimately this was not to be the role of the new ship. Cunard White Star's executives decided that the new ship would be built primarily for cruising.

With cruising in mind, the new ship - soon to be named Caronia by Princess Elizabeth - received many different features from her Cunard White Star fleetmates. An outdoor swimming pool was a new thing, as was having a bathroom in every cabin. However, unlike modern cruise ships her accommodations still included two classes, first and cabin. Yet on cruises only first class accommodations were offered, meaning the 351 berths in cabin class went unused.

To distinguish her from Cunard White Star's liners, the company decided to give her a different colour scheme. Instead of going for the usual all-white cruiseship look, Caronia received a unique livery in different shades of green, making her highly attractive and instantly recognisable. Another striking feature of the ship was her funnel, one of the largest ever installed aboard a ship. Like those of the later SS United States, the funnel easily caught the wind, making the ship somewhat difficult to handle.[2]

1949-1959: A ship ahead of her time

The brand new RMS Caronia made her maiden voyage on 4 January 1949 between Southampton and New York[3]. Two more transatlantic crossings followed before the ship embarked on her first cruises from New York to the Caribbean. During her first years she spent most the year doing transatlantic crossings; only during the winter months was she engaged in cruising. In 1951 she made her first world cruise. From 1952 onwards she made transatlantic crossings only in August and September, with the rest of the year dedicated to cruising. In May 1953 the Caronia made what was perhaps her most famous cruise, associated with the coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II (who had christened the Caronia six years earlier). The ship was used as a hotel, as most of the accommodations in the UK were fully booked.

During her annual refit in November 1956, Caronia received complete air-conditioning[4]. During her annual world cruise in 1958 she suffered the most serious accident of her career. While sailing out of Yokohama harbour at very slow speed in order to avoid collision with an American military vessel, she was pushed by high winds against the harbour's breakwater, demolishing a lighthouse in the process. The ship's bow was seriously damaged, but fortunately the United States Navy allowed Caronia to use their Yokosuka drydock for repairs. During the same year Caronia's autumn Mediterranean cruise had to be cancelled due to political tension in the Middle East.

1959-1967: Competition catches up

1959 saw Caronia making regular transatlantic crossings for the last time. Competition from the jet airliner meant there weren't enough passengers for her in the North Atlantic trade. From here her transatlantic crossings were repositioning voyages. The first each year being a Sterling Cruise,[5] so called because all other Caronia cruises were paid for only in US Dollars, and taking a southerly route via the Bahamas instead of the usual direct route. Decreased passenger numbers in the North Atlantic also meant that more of Cunard's liners were rebuilt into cruise use and received a similar green colour scheme to that of the Caronia, which in 1962 were established as the line's official cruise colours when RMS Mauretania was rebuilt for cruising. In 1963 RMS Franconia and RMS Carmania followed. By this time the Caronia's itineraries had settled into a yearly pattern, each cruise having found its ideal individual place in the calendar.

By the early 1960s other shipping companies were catching up with Cunard and building their own purpose-built cruiseships, which in addition to being better equipped than the Caronia were better suited for cruising than she had ever been. To keep up with her newer competitors, Cunard decided that in November 1965 Caronia would be drydocked for ten weeks[4], new suites and a lido deck built, and her interior brought up to date. 1966 brought with it a seamen's strike in Britain, which upset the Caronia's itineraries badly. As a result of climbing operating costs, 1967 was the first year when the Caronia didn't profit her owners. Due to increased competition, Cunard decided withdraw her from service at the end of the year. Fittingly, Caronia's last voyage for Cunard was a transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton.

1968-1974: Final Years

File:Wreck of the Caribia.jpg
SS Caribia breaks up in Apra Harbor, Guam, 1974

In early 1968 the Caronia was sold to Star Shipping[6][7], a company owned by US and Panamian interests. She was initially renamed SS Columbia and sailed to Greece for reconstruction. During her last years with Cunard, Caronia's engines had fallen into disrepair in order to save money, and thus needed significant repairing. Instead of ordering new parts from the original constructors, the ship's new owners ordered similar parts from a Greek company. Whilst she was being rebuilt Andrew Konstaninidis bought out other owners of Star Line and renamed the ship SS Caribia. She also received a new all-white colour scheme. In February 1969 the Caribia embarked on her first cruise from New York to the Caribbean, during which her waste system malfunctioned. Things would get even worse on her second cruise, which ended with an explosion in the engine room. The Caribia limped back to New York, and she never made a commercial voyage again[7].

During the next five years there were constant plans to revive the Caribia[8], but she remained in New York and debt continued to accumulate. Finally in 1974 her owners gave in and sold the once great ship for scrap. German ocean tug Hamburg was entrusted with the task of towing the Caribia to Taiwan. Whilst near Honolulu the ship was in danger of capsizing; but repairs were made and her voyage to the scrapyard could continue. The ships encountered a bad storm near Apra Harbour at Guam. After the Hamburg's generators failed her crew were forced to cut the Caribia loose. The storm winds pushed her against Apra Harbour's breakwater, where the ship was wrecked[9].

Being a danger to local shipping, the wrecked Caribia was swiftly cut up. Her life ended just 25 years after she was commissioned. Despite being probably the most forward-looking ship of her time, she was in active service for only 19 years.


  1. "Liverpool Trams in Preservation". Ron's Liverpool Trams. http://liverpolitan.im/tram/preservation.htm. Retrieved 03 February 2009. 
  2. Stevens, Peter; Alex Bulloch (April 2004). "Yohohama Accident Cause" (in English). UK. pp. 3. http://www.caronia2.info/yoko58a.php. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  3. "Caronia". http://chriscunard.com/caronia2.php. Retrieved February 2010. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ljungström, Henrik. "Caronia". The Great Ocean Liners. http://www.thegreatoceanliners.com/caronia2.html. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 
  5. Stevens, Peter (January 2004). "The Sterling Cruise" (in English). UK. http://www.caronia2.info/m196501.php. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  6. "Cunard Ships from 1931". Chris' Cunard Page. http://www.chriscunard.com/archives4.htm. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Caribia - A Sad Ending > Page 2". RMS Caronia Timeline. http://www.caronia2.info/caribia2.php. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 
  8. "Caribia - A Sad Ending > Page 3". RMS Caronia Timeline. http://www.caronia2.info/caribia3.php. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 
  9. "Caribia - A Sad Ending > Page 4". RMS Caronia Timeline. http://www.caronia2.info/caribia4.php. Retrieved 11 January 2009. 

External links

ru:RMS Caronia