Stories from passengers
(Westport, Connecticut – USA)
Passenger: Mary Milligan
Date of travel: June 1974
Class: Cabin (second class)
Route: New York – Naples
“I am not only thrilled to be writing (hence, reliving) about our journey on the Raffaello—but also thrilled to have found this remarkable Michelangelo/Raffaello website—complete with amazing photos!
As a young girl of fourteen, we began our journey in June 1974 with a crossing from New York to Naples. My excitement started when my Dad announced that we would be moving to Cairo, Egypt from our home in the United States. It was then decided that we would make the first leg of our trip an ocean voyage aboard the Raffaello. Didn’t he realize that my friend Suzanne and I had just seen the Poseidon Adventure? I was terrified to make the trip but my folks decided to invite Suzanne along for the crossing to keep me company.
As we traveled down the West Side Highway in New York City—we could see those incredible smoke-stacks of the Raffaello looming on the horizon of the Hudson River. We quickly boarded the massive vessel and went directly to the ship’s kennels.
Since we were moving our entire household—that included our two Siamese cats: “Monster” and “Binty” (about 4 years old in 1974). The kennels were located right next to one of the funnels on the upper deck.
Then, it was off to see our adjoining staterooms in cabin class. Suzanne’s parents were waiting there for us and a bon voyage party followed. Oh those were the days when non-travelers could come aboard to celebrate with the outbound passengers.
It was fun sleeping in bunk beds in the tiny cabin and even more fun seeing my parents in their bunk beds! And all those narrow hallways that led to the cabins—would Suzanne and I EVER find our way around?
My mother seems to recall that we dined in the first-class restaurant (although we were cabin class). After looking at the photos it does appear that we were in the first class dining room. We had a wonderful waiter named Fortunato. He made such a fuss over us and in particular over me. Suzanne and I thought he was incredible—always bringing us ice-cream and other goodies. I began to wonder if maybe this trip was going to be more fun than I had imagined?
We made constant visits to the kennel to play with our cats. They were really well fed. I recognized various fish dishes and steaks from our evening meals that the kennel attendant was feeding to the cats and dogs—they had first class food too!
Our days were spent exploring the ship. We ventured down to tourist class and we were surprised by the engine vibrations and the slight swaying motion in the stern of the ship. We also enjoyed tea and cookies each afternoon.
We waited for the first formal night with great anticipation. Somewhere, I have a photo of Suzanne and me shaking hands with the captain (what a handsome man!)—we were awestruck—we felt like we had met a movie star. The next photo is of my parents grinning from ear to ear and meeting the captain.
We loved the nightlife in the first class ballroom. Wallis Simpson was on our sailing and I remember her looking so stunning in a black dress with a design of large apples around the hemline. A young boy asked her to dance—and she did! Later each evening, Suzanne and I would join in the conga lines on the dance floor. We also enjoyed one of the bands in particular. I don’t remember the name of the band but they sang Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘round the Old Oak Tree incessantly.
As our voyage was winding down we felt a sadness upon all of us. Could this be the same trip I had dreaded prior to setting sail? Why am I crying? Why is Suzanne so sad? Could it be that we will miss this grand lady that so swiftly carried us across the sea? Do we really have to say good-bye to Fortunato?
I must say that this was one of the best adventures of my life. In 1980 I flew back to the U.S.–along with our two cats to live in Connecticut.
Flash forward, I enjoy cruising on today’s modern ships but I also recognize the fact that glitz and neon lights are not needed to make memories that will last a lifetime”.