Stories from passengers
(New York – USA)
Passenger: Michael Marshall
Date of travel: August 1966
Route: Genoa – New York
“In August 1966, my family was returning to the United States after over a year living in Switzerland. My father — a business professor — had been on a sabbatical at a University in Lausanne, but his term had ended, so we were going back to our home in Massachusetts. As a nine year old, I had enjoyed our year in Europe, but was ready to go home.
After a nice three week trip across Italy which included stops in Venice, Florence and Rome, we boarded the Michelangelo in Genoa. My memories of the embarkation have faded, but I still remember being thrilled at the notion of another Transatlantic crossing (we had come to Europe the year before on the S.S. France).
I do recall commenting to my mother after our second day at sea that “I like this ship much more than the France.” When she asked why, I said “the Italians running this ship like children. The French who were running the France didn’t”. A broad generalization, perhaps, but one I still stand by. All my memories of the Italian staff and crew are those of warm, friendly people. As for the staff on the SS. France….well, let’s not go there.
I also recall seeing a film in the cinema. It was “Major Dundee,” starring Charlton Heston and Richard Harris. I distinctly remember it being in English with no subtitles, and still recall it being a big thrill for a nine year old who had spent the prior year in rather stuffy Switzerland, where the local regulations would never have allowed a child to see that sort of mainstream drama.
Perhaps my most distinct memory of the Michelangelo came halfway during the crossing. Two and a half days into the sailing from Genoa, in the middle of the Atlantic, the Captain came on the public address system during the afternoon on a beautiful, sunny August day, and announced that in one hour the ship would be passing its Eastbound twin sister the Raffaello.
The buzz started, and about fifteen minutes before the encounter, waiters started magically appearing everywhere with wine for the adults and fruit drinks for the children. As the Raffaello came into sight far in the distance, people started cheering, and as the ships approached each other, it was amazing to see how fast they were going (the Captain announced that the combined speed of the two ships as they closed was over 50 knots, almost 100 Km/h).
As the 46,000 ton, mirror-image sisters passed within about 200 yards (180 meters) of each other — over 1,500 miles out at sea — both horns started blasting, and the passengers on each ship proceeded to try and outcheer those on the other ship. The noise level was absolutely deafening, and as it peaked, someone started shooting off flares from the rear of the ship.
That event is a cherished, unforgettable memory, as I’m sure it is to all who experienced it.
In the years that followed, I cruised the Caribbean on The Amsterdam of the Holland American line, and since starting a family in the 1990s have been on other cruises on so-called “modern” mega-ships. But after looking at the photos on your site, I had to bring my children to the computer, and show them what real sailing used to be like”.