Chapter One: Our Atlantic Crossing

ship-banner


Grace-Kelly-and-ship-captain
Grace Kelly and ship Captain aboard SS Constitution in 1956

ATLANTIC CROSSINGS AND OCEAN CRUISES

Our first Atlantic crossing takes place in 1959, three years after Grace Kelly traveled on the SS Constitution for her nuptial voyage to Monaco in 1956.

In fact, the Princess-to-be is accompanied on this transatlantic crossing by her family, almost 50 guests, two dogs, and dozens of pieces of luggage.

Three years later in August of 1959 we sailed on the SS Constitution to Naples, Italy. At that time I was unaware of this previous very special passenger.

OCEAN LINER TRAVEL

This means of transportation is dramatically different today from years ago when it is a necessity. At that time it is the primarily means of transportation between land masses surrounded by large bodies of water like an ocean.
Our Voyage As children, our experience is an introduction to a twice in a lifetime adventure. At that time, these two ships are the recently introduced American Industry luxury liners designed by Henry Dreyfuss for American Export Lines.
Today’s Floating Amusement Parks These are the primary form of ocean travel today. Actually they are over the top to me. Fortunately, the long since departed American Export Lines luxury traveling hotels are immortalized.
Remember Yesterday’s Luxury Travel Forever In fact documentation exists of these first American Export Lines classic luxury liners. Documentation for the Designs and designers for the SS Constitution and Independence is by Erin Douding. Archives are in the Cooper Hewitt division of the Smithsonian museum.
first-class-cabin
Picture of a first class cabin with fabrics designed by renowned Dorothy Liebes of Liebes Studio. Henry Dreyfuss, a friend is the Industrial Designer of the twin ships themselves.

LUXURY TRAVEL 1950’s STYLE

As luxurious as the American Export Lines SS Constitution was, ocean travel is the usual means of crossing oceans in those days.
Airplane Travel 1950’s Style Airplane travel was available at a huge expense. So we actually benefit from its unaffordable cost. In fact we had a great nine day vacation instead. In addition the distinction of these two ships is that they are the first American built ships to embrace the feel of a casual country club, luxury travel as well as a speedy voyage.
Credit for research and documentation available on the Internet with the following information goes to Erin Dowding, currently an MA Student in History of Design and Curatorial Studies, Parsons School of Design in New York City

1. John Slater, President of American Export Lines
2. Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer is responsible for the construction and design of the ships
3. Dorothy Liebes of Liebes Design, credited with the fabric and soft material designs for both the SS Independence and SS Constitution
4. Both ships are the first American Export Lines ships worthy of comparison to European luxury liners.

quote-to-Henry-Dreyfuss

DETAILS OF OUR VOYAGE

Our Ocean Liner Cabin I remember our cabin being small with two sets of double decker beds. In addition there was enough room for one of our trunks that served as our clothes bureau for the voyage. But we spent so little time in the cabin that its size did not matter to us.
Ocean Liner Novelties
Our daily activities included engaging in games on deck. Playing hide-and-seek over the entire ship. Spending time reading and writing in the lounge. Eating delicious meals in the spacious dining room. A three piece genteel musical combo accompanies our dinner every evening.

SPECTACULAR INTERIOR DESIGN

Most noteworthy is the observation lounge with its circular dome lighting and curtains designed by Dorothy Liebes of Liebes Studio. Below are images oof this space during the day and evening.
observation lounge
The Observation Lounge with its circular domed lighting and curtains by the Dorothy Liebes Studio covering the expansive circular windows; Henry Dreyfuss Archive, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

A Movie Theatre We had the option of going to first run movies in the movie theatre that was located at the bottom of the ship. That location was a great spot when we were playing hide-and-seek. Since there were other children of various ages on the ship, we had enough companions to keep ourselves happily occupied.

The Center Staircase Design In fact the most direct access of great places to hide was the set of aluminum railings that descended the entire depth of the ship. The aluminum railed staircase was like a sculpture. Using the same design motif as the ship, it was both functional and beautiful.

aluminum-stairs
The center stairs with aluminum rails designed as well by Henry Dreyfuss running through the center of the ship; Henry Dreyfuss Archive, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Outdoor Swimming
pool-deck-pinterest
A highlight of the ship, the pool deck and tea time mid afternoon, pinterest.com
After lunch when the day was warmest, swimming in the ship’s pool was a must. Even more irresistible was the teatime cart that went around the pool deck. In fact, that was the only interruption we would tolerate to our luxurious swim time.

Automobile Storage To our amazement, the pool was emptied to lower the automobiles making the ocean voyage with us. Then the pool was emptied again at the end of our voyage to retrieve them to land for their owners.

 

Kennel in the Sky Everyday we took the tall trip to the smokestack level of the ship. It is the location of the dog kennel. Our miniature schnauzer actually took the trip to Italy with us. He seems to fared the journey well. In addition, he didn’t mind eating Italian food along with his dog food for a year.

Stormy Weather Most of our voyage was ideal with calm seas and sunny days. But on the rare time that it was not, the dining room tended to be empty and second helpings were aplenty. I wish to note that I did not suffer from sea sickness. Therefore it felt like I had the ship’s amenities all to myself. Best of all was two portions of pineapple sorbet.
Eleventh Birthday Celebration
pinteret-com
A festive cake fit for my eleventh birthday on the SS Constitution, pnterest.com

My Eleventh Birthday Celebration was another feature of our transatlantic voyage. A girl my age whom I befriended on board was invited to dine at our table. Then the three piece musical ensemble played ‘Happy Birthday’ as a birthday cake was delivered to our table. Oh, I was so embarrassed.

Our Destination
The destination of our transatlantic voyage that took nine days was Naples, Italy. From there, we had a four hour train ride to Rome. Then a short cab ride took us to our first destination.

 

Villa Eva It was a Roman villa turned pensione. We had several rooms with very high ceilings. It was a lovely space. In fact this is where we stayed until we rented our nine room apartment in Rome. The only redeeming factor to the end of this marvelous journey was that we sailed again the following June back to New York on the SS Constitution.

ship-banner

Continue Reading