Historic SS United States could become cruise ship

Edie Rodriguez, right, Crystal President/CEO, and Susan Gibbs, executive director of SS United States Conservancy, unveil a rendering of the restored SS United States, Feb. 4, 2016, New York. (AP for Crystal Cruises)
Edie Rodriguez, right, Crystal President/CEO, and Susan Gibbs, executive director of SS United States Conservancy, unveil a rendering of the restored SS United States, Feb. 4, 2016, New York. (AP for Crystal Cruises)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The SS United States, an ocean liner bigger than the Titanic that once carried celebrities across the Atlantic at record speeds, may one day sail again.

Crystal Cruises luxury travel company announced plans Thursday to overhaul the ship at a cost of at least $700 million.

The massive steamship has been docked in Philadelphia for two decades, gutted and rusting at an unused wharf on the Delaware River.

But before it can be turned into a state-of-the-art commercial vessel, the SS United States must undergo a nine-month feasibility study.

In its glory days in the 1950s, the ship carried everyone from royalty to immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean, accompanied by three on-board orchestras. At the time, it was the biggest and fastest ocean liner that had ever been built in the United States -- at 990 feet, 108 feet longer than the Titanic.

On its maiden voyage in 1952, the powerful liner's 268,000-horsepower engines propelled it across the Atlantic in three days, 10 hours, 42 minutes. That record stood until 1990. The ship was decommissioned in 1969.

The SS United States is now owned by a conservation group, with a purchase option signed by Crystal Cruises.

This is not the first time that plans were in the works for refurbishment. In 2003, the Norwegian Cruise Lines said it planned an overhaul that did not materialize.

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