Service of Michelangelo
Although this promotion, not all people thought it was a good idea to pay even so small a price for a pleasure trip. It was soon clear to almost everyone that the Atlantic market was simply too small to support the once so large fleet. By the end of 1973, only four ships carried passengers from Europe to the US: the Michelangelo, Raffaello, Queen Elizabeth 2 and France. All of the ships were kept alive by alternative cruising, but most importantly government subsidiaries.
At this time the little money the Italian Twins did made was from cruising. Other than the strikes' crews, also the complaints by the private cruise companies, because of the invasion of government competition in the Mediterranean cruise market, were not helpful to the situation.
Things turned even worse when the oil crisis began in 1974. The price of an oil barrel rose from $35 to $95 dollars almost overnight. Since the Michelangelo, like all other Atlantic liners of the time, used oil as fuel, her running cost became enormous.
Michelangelo spent most of 1974 and 1975 cruising instead of Atlantic crossings, but cruising was not the ultimate cure for her. Even though she had vast deck space (an important feature for a cruiseship), she was considered too large for the cruise market of that times. The irony is that in 1979 the biggest ship of the time, the "France", was transformed into a cruiseship under the name Norway, and turned out very profitable.
As explained on the "Designing" page, the problem that impeded the success of cruising for the Michelangelo and Raffaello was the fact that their accommodations were divided into three classes: first, cabin and tourist. This was unacceptable on the cruise market, which was much more democratic than the liners were. The 700-odd tourist class cabins were considered "too spartan" by cruise passengers, and were not used on the Michelangelo's cruises. Italian Line tried many different kinds of cruises for the ship, from the ordinary Carribean cruises into special voyages to Rio de Janeiro or Nordkapp (North Cape). None of the tried routes proved succesfull, and on 26 June 1975 the Michelangelo set out on her last crossing from New York to Genoa.
By 1975 the government subsidiaries to her were 100,000,000 lire per day, or $700 per passenger.
Italian newspapers started demanding reasons for why the taxpayer's money was spent on the "floating memorials of a bygone era," and proclaimed that the ships should be sunk, not subsidied. The Italian government stated that they simply could not keep paying Italian Lines 100 millions Lire a day to keep the ships running, and in spring 1975 the government informed Italian line that their ships wouldn't receive any more government support. This meant the death of the Italian Sisters.
The Michelangelo might not have been a profitable ship, but she was well liked among the few people who travelled by liner. During her last crossing she carried 1.202 passengers, probably her record in the 70's, all wanting to pay a final visit to her. Her last voyage was short from brilliant or solemn. The ships library and laundry were closed during the entire crossing, the shops closed soon after leaving New York, the cigarettes and schnapps ran out, the air conditioning was switched off while Mid-Atlantic, the once exceptional service was sloppy and souvenir hunters were "taking into custody" everything that was not secured.
On 12 July 1975, Captain Claudio Consulich steered the ship into the port of Genoa for the last time, and the successful docking was greeted by shouts "Bravo Capitano!" both from the ship and the several thousand people standing on the pier. Before the passengers had a chance to leave the ship, the crew started taking down wall decorations and packing the cutlery and crockery.
So after only 10 years of service, 121 Atlantic crossings and 245 839 passengers for line trips, the flagship of Italy was laid up.
After spending a short time in Genoa, the Michelangelo was sent to La Spezia, sadly to be laid up too near an infamous scrapyard. There she met her sister for the last time. However, her destiny was not to be scrapped just yet. Several steamship lines eyed the sisters for purchase, but most deemed the ships too large. In fact, in the '60s and '70s the cruise market was still developing. Cruise travels were a kind of status symbol and few people could afford such holidays. For this reason, the bigger cruise ships of that times were about 30.000 tons tonnage in size.