Stories from passengers
(Paramus – New Jersey, USA)
Passenger: John Mattessich
Dates of travels: June 1969 (go), September 1969 (back)
Liner: Raffaello (andata), Michelangelo (ritorno)
Rotta: New York – Genova / Genova – New York
“The summer of 1969 is famous for several things. It was the summer of the Woodstock concert and the summer where man first set foot on the moon. It was also the time when my family took our most cherished vacation to Europe. In addition to visiting most of the major tourist sites in Italy, my parents had close relatives in Italy and Yugoslavia, and so we would be spending nearly three months away from the US.
On 6/15/1969, the family arrived at Pier 82 in Manhattan where we began our trip boarding the Italian ocean liner Raffaello.
The trip across the Atlantic Ocean took seven days, and we traveled in Tourist class. I celebrated my ninth birthday aboard the ship, and remember having birthday cake in the dining hall.
There was a stop at Algeria and also at the Rock of Gibraltar before the family disembarked at Naples. We took a bus to Pompeii to see the city ruined by the volcano in 79 AD. We returned to the ship the same day. The ship stopped at Cannes, France before coming to its final stop in Genoa.
On 9/1/1969, the European trip came to an end and we traveled to Genoa by train to board the ocean liner Michelangelo. The trip back to the U.S. took nine days. Only on the very last day of the voyage was there bad weather and rough seas.
One of my fondest memories of the two great ships was the arcade room. There were about five pinball games in the arcade, and it was, naturally, a great place to meet kids of my own age. On one of the pinball machines, an older boy turned several screws, which removed the backpanel, and exposed the credit wheel. This allowed anyone to manually set the number of credits. Typically, a player received a credit by inserting the required amount of money or by getting a high score. With the back cover removed, however, it was possible to adjust the credits to a large number, allowing one to play the entire day for free ! Vandalism, yes. Yet I suspect the crew knew about this little secret, and decided not to do anything to end our fun.
I remember going to the theatre with one of my new buddies to watch the Paul Newman film, Winning. Apparently, it was after filming this movie that Newman became very interested in auto racing, and he later became a racecar driver. The other movie I saw was significantly more educational to this 9 year old. It was an Italian movie, and it contained scenes with nude actresses.
I remember playing ping pong and spending time around the swimming pool. We still have a picture of my then 12-year old sister getting ready to dive into the pool. I made a friend – from Scranton Pennsylvania – who happened to be on both the Michelangelo and Raffaello with me! We remained pen pals for about a year, and then lost touch altogether.
Although my parents were relatively strict, I was free to roam the ship from day to night by myself or with one of my new friends. There just seemed to be no fear that anything bad could happen. It was probably just a sign of the times, because today as a parent of a pre-teen, I could not imagine allowing her to have the same freedom to explore.
My family never had a family trip that came close to this one we took in 1969. And clearly one of the things that made it marvelous was the journey aboard the two great Italian oceanliners”.
July 2005 (Paramus – New Jersey, USA)