Stories from passengers
Silvio Di Renzo
Passenger: Silvio Di Renzo
Date of travel: 15 October 1970
Route: Naples – New York
“I don’t know what happened to the Italian Line tickets. I remember them being issued by the travel agent, all that I have are the memories of that travel several decades ago.
I was little more than a boy. I was fifteen years old. It was Thursday, the fifteenth of October 1970. It was a beautiful day, very sunny. The Michelangelo sailed from the port of Naples around noon. As she was slowly pulled laterally from the dock by tug boats, I remember feeling as though the land in front of me was moving and not the ship.
Slowly she began moving under her own power toward the open sea and within an hour or two Naples became a little dot on the horizon. At that moment, even at that young tender age, I realized that part of me would always remain on that peninsula. What I didn’t understand at the time was why there was such emptiness inside of me. After so many years I remember that moment as if it were yesterday.
The voyage was more or less normal, with no surprises. Some days the sea was a little rough, but nothing out of the ordinary.
I remember the movie theater on board. One strange thing about the locale, if we can call it that, were the entrances/exits. The entrances from tourist class were at the rear on the lower floor, the ones from cabin or second class were at the front near the screen, and finally the ones from first class were up in the balcony. I suppose it was a good way to keep all the classes segregated, but there were young people like me that came in from tourist and exited from second, therefore having access to most of the ship. I do not know why I remember this detail.
I remember this girl Ivette and I would go on “patrol” in second class to look at the ocean from below the control bridge, where one of the open decks of second class wrapped around the superstructure. It was the most forward point in second class where one could actually see the massive bow of the ship dip up and down in the waves. The poor souls in tourist did not have the right to this magnificent view because the only external bridge in tourist was at the very back of the ship. Ah yes, Ivette, an older woman, she was sixteen, I was only fifteen. The innocence of that age at that time. She was travelling with her father, I believe their destination was Toronto, Canada. I wonder if they’re still there.
Another thing I remember about the movie theater was its size. It was substantial for a ship. Of course I did not realize this until some years later when I was on a cruise aboard “Galileo”, whose movie theater was not even half the size. Granted, the “Galileo Galilei” was a much smaller ship.
I remember how I used to lean against the very back of the ship, the stern, where the mast or staff of the flag was, and look at the two massive beautiful smoke stacks sway ever so slowly up and down and left to right against the horizon as the ship continued her voyage toward New York. This spot became my favorite observation point.
My cabin was on C deck aft which was the lowest passenger deck on the ship. Noisy, but mostly a lot of vibrations due to its very close proximity to the ship’s propellers. I shared this room with an American gentleman. One morning, I accidently locked this poor guy in the cabin. I thought he had left, but actually he was in the bathroom. I was traveling with my mom and my sister. I would get up in the morning and go to their cabin which was a little up the hallway, so I really did not have to use the bathroom in that cabin. Luckily all the cabins, even the most spartan ones in tourist, had telephones so he called room service to “release” him. This reminds me that the locks on the doors were the old fashion type where you actually have a hole in the door that you can see through. Actually, this reminds me of another fact, if I’m not mistaken, that these twins were among the first ships on the north Atlantic to have private bath accommodations for every single cabin and not a restroom down the hall for every unspecified number of cabins.
Speaking of cabins, I remember the main color of the decor being a pale yellow, but I remember this as if in a dream faded by time.
I remember Wednesday, the twenty-first of October 1970. It was a beautiful sunny day, even though cold, when the ship docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritime Provinces. The seagulls used to dive dead weight into the sea to catch fish. It was the complete opposite the following day, Thursday, the twenty-second of October 1970, when we arrived in New York. It was a miserable, cold, dreary rainy day. Visibility was minimal. The exterior decks of the ship were very slippery due to the wet teak wood surfaces. From my favorite observation point, at the flag staff, at the very rear of the ship, I thought the smoke stacks would hit the bottom of the Verazzano Bridge, but it was only an optical illusion.
The Statue of Liberty was barely visible on the left side, the port side of the ship and the twin towers of the World Trade Center were barely in the construction phase farther north on the right, so they weren’t there, or if they were, they were not high enough to be visible, especially in the rain. The Michelangelo continued slowly north up the Hudson River and then docked at pier 84. For some reason, I am not sure why, I remember it being pier 84. We docked next to the “QE2.” The QE2 was a beautiful ship, enormous, slightly larger than its neighbor, the Michelangelo, but for me the Italian was more beautiful, more style, the decks more airy, more open, maybe because she was not designed for nordic routes as was the English. Maybe.
After a few hours we disembarked. A look behind and it was the last time I saw that ship. Who would have thought those two jewels of the “Italian Line” would have met such a sad end.
I wonder if somewhere there’s a passenger list of that voyage”.
Silvio Di Renzo