SS United States could sail again as early as 2018

Crystal Cruises plans to refurbish the ship so it can accommodate 800 guests, featuring 400 luxury suites that measure about 350 square feet. Some features of the SS United States will be retained, such as the Promenade and the Navajo Lounge.

A surprise

Through its long-running drama to raise money and save the ship from the scrap heap, organizers talked in general terms of transforming the ship into a waterside attraction. A return to sea-going service was never publicly discussed until last week's press conference in New York announcing Crystal's involvement.

William A. Fox, a naval architect and author of "Always Good Ships: Histories of Newport News Ships," said the restoration project will be "a huge undertaking."

"I was very surprised that the plan is to return her to service," he said in an email to the Daily Press. "Everyone was expecting a land-based project on the Brooklyn or Manhattan waterfront. The NNS-built carrier USS Intrepid is a successful major attraction there."

That said, he's pulling for the project to succeed. Initial reports put the cost of renovation at $700 million to $800 million, although those are preliminary estimates.

At the press conference, Rodriguez said the purchase option signed by Crystal lasts nine months. The only possible deal-breaker, she said, would be environmental concerns. The company hasn't decided where the ship would be re-fitted, but if all goes well, the SS United States could sail again as early as 2018.

That may be optimistic, Rodriguez said, but then again, her nickname is "Speedy Edie."

Fox noted that Norwegian Cruise Lines bought the SS United States some years ago but could not return the ship to service. Rodriguez was asked about that failure during the press conference .

What makes Crystal Cruises different?

"Failure is not an option," she replied. "This is a different day and age."

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