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Her final days of Cruising out of the America’s

The Transformation of SS Monterey:

Having been laid up since 1978, however the SS Monterey was towed on June 24, 1986 to Portland Oregon as she was to be transformed at a cost of $40 million into a full time cruise ship for Aloha Pacific Cruises, but she was first registered under American Maritime Holdings Inc (AMH-Inc). The in 1987 she was transferred to Aloha Pacific Cruises Ltd, but registered under AMH-Inc and US flagged. In the Tacoma shipyards the work have major structural work undertaken in the USA in order to allow her to remain under American registry. Upon completion, with the approval of the Maritime Administration, she was towed in December 1987 to the Wartsila’s shipyards in Turku Finland, to have all of her interior work done to transform her into a full-time cruise ship.

More on Monterey’s Rebirth:

The rebirth of the SS Monterey that had been laid up since 1978, into a new and a modern luxury 660-passenger cruise ship was finally in full swing at the Wartsila Marine Industries’ Helsinki yard.

However, the conversion work on the SS Monterey at the Wartsila Marine Industries’ Helsinki yard was performed under contract by Aloha Pacific Cruises Inc, based in Alexandria, Virginia. However it was also under a subcontract from Wartsila, Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, Washington, who had performed the ships actual structural modifications and repairs to the hull as well as the superstructure of the 563ft long SS Monterey. All this had to be done in accordance with the *“Jones Act.”

*The “Jones Act” specifies that all structural modifications of a US flag vessel must be carried out in the USA, in order to keep trading within American waters and from the US coastline.

The work that had been performed at Tacoma involved the addition of 17 modules, renewal of steel, tank tops and bulkheads and replacement of thin deck plate. Northwest Marine Iron Works, Portland, Ore., provided shell plate for the conversion. Tacoma completed the work in early October, and the Monterey was towed to Helsinki for her outfitting and interior work.

The Helsinki yard was performing all the outfitting and interior work on the American flagship, which includes the repair and upgrading of existing machinery and equipment, and the installation of new sewage and waste handling plants, a bilge water separator and bow-thrusters. Additionally, Wartsila would completely refurbish the Monterey's existing passenger cabins, as well as installing 127 new cabins, some of these being suites and mini-suites.

Monterey seen at the Finnish Wartsila Shipyards at Turku where she was rebuilt for Aloha Pacific Cruises

Wartsila Shipyards

In addition, the crew section was also being modernized with 23 new cabins are being installed to handle the new complement of 265 crew-members. Space for the new cabins was created by the enlargement of the superstructure to the fore and aft of the ship. Some of the new cabins were located in the existing cargo holds at both ends of the ship.

The Monterey’s Public rooms were also taken care of, such as the modernization of the ships Lounges and Bars, Cinema and Galley. Other new features of the Monterey included an all-day dining facility, boutique, deck/sport facilities, swimming pool and Jacuzzis. In addition, some five Conference Rooms were added on one of the lower decks.

Upon completion, she was delivered to Aloha Pacific Inc, in the spring of 1988, and the fully refurbished SS Monterey would soon commence her delivery voyage and then her seven-day San Francisco to Hawaii cruise service.

This is the huge aircraft carrier style stern that was added and it was hideous to say the least!

The once beautifully balanced Monterey was given some radical external rebuilding, which certainly horrified all those who knew and loved the Monterey from her Matson and Pacific Far East days. As one major shipping executive very clearly stated to me personally;

“This was a beautiful ship, but she has been completely disfigured and has even been given that huge aircraft carrier style lido deck high above her stern, in addition, Promenade deck has been extended far forward of the bridge, cutting off most of her foredeck. Both the stern and forward additions added many new cabins, but completely changed our beloved and beautiful ship!”

Her New Interiors:

Although, her exteriors were hideous, especially her stern as can be seen above, but her interiors were beautifully modified and cared for. Many of the Monterey’s original features remained, such as the famed carved Tiki Pole in the stairwell was thankfully retained, the cinema remain almost unchanged as did that superb Dining Room, although there the venue was given new carpets, soft furnishings and artworks and it refreshed this beautiful venue!

But let me go though the ship Deck by Deck and I am sorry, but I have never been able to obtain any photographs of the APC SS Monterey, only images of when she was with MSC Cruises of a later date and they are online on a separate page.

Sports Deck: This deck is located topside was ideal for jogging, and just what it was named for many types of sport activities!

Boat Deck: This deck had a spacious deck running right around the entire superstructure, thus the perfect deck for walking! Inside this deck was occupied with accommodations, from Royal and Deluxe Staterooms to outside and inside cabins. Whilst far aft there was the very popular The Veranda Café with a Terrace outside overlooking her stern lido deck.

Promenade Deck: Far forward was several Royal Deluxe Suites and Deluxe Staterooms and other Cabins. This was followed by the forward lobby then the delightful Card Room (starboard) and the Library (port). Next was the spacious The Palm Terrace, followed by the Boutique (starboard) and the Captain Cook’s Bar (port). The aft Lounge/Showroom was the magnificent Seven Pearls, whilst outdoors there was the Pool Bar and Swimming Pool with two Jacuzzis and the Lido Deck and of course there was that delightful wide promenade deck running along the sides of the ship!

Maile Deck: This deck was fully occupied with Cabins. And whilst I am thinking of it the ship had one lift (elevator) located at the aft lobby.

Aloha Deck: Forward section is occupied with Cabins and aft the Pursers’ Office, Tours Office located on at the Main Lobby, it also had the entrance to the Dining Room at the aft side of the lobby. The Galley was located aft with the cold rooms close by.

B Deck: Reached by the forward stairwell you would have found the delightful Theatre.

C Deck: And again forward by the same stairwell was the Conference Center.

SS Monterey’s Maiden Cruise to San Francisco:

She is seen her berthed at Southampton on August 5, 1988

After re rebuilding she was ready to undertake a 46-night maiden cruise from Copenhagen, and she departed on July 31, 1988 from Copenhagen sailing to San Francisco where she arrived on September 15, 1988.

The front cover of SS Monterey’s 46-night maiden cruise


Map of the Maiden Cruise itinerary


The SS Monterey seen on August 23, 1988 while she was in dry dock that day at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point

shipyard Maryland - Baltimore for repairs to her stabilizers

Photograph by Mr. Dino Corti the ships official photographer for the “Kodak Cruise Service”


However, when she arrived in Baltimore the SS Monterey was prohibited by the U.S. Coast Guard from sailing continuing on its maiden cruise, due to her new stabilizers not having been properly installed by the builders in Finland. Thus she had to go into dry-dock and have adjustments made. Whilst the passengers were ashore, there was a 100 member media team due on board for a major function, and they came on the ship whilst she was in the dock, yet it still proved to be a huge success and it was televised by CNN and most major networks and newspapers! She departed a little late, but quickly made up time.

A Troubled Maiden Voyage to Hawaii:

Having arrived in San Francisco on September 15, the Monterey was to commence her regular seven-day Hawaiian cruise duties to Honolulu commencing September 16.

But when some 350 happy cruisers boarded the Monterey and she departed San Francisco for a Hawaiian Islands cruise, they certainly did not suspect that the demand for “Pepto-Bismol” might be a far greater requirement during this voyage than for “Dramamine.” As this was supposed to be an all First Class luxury cruise ship, amazingly this ship departed from San Francisco with a good number of food sanitation violations, that were in complete contrast to APC’s promotional literature, that clearly boasted of;

“Innovative cuisine with a hint of French and Hawaiian flair … exquisitely prepared … by chefs trained in some of America's finest restaurants and culinary institutes.”

The cover of an Aloha Pacific Cruises brochure for the Hawaii Cruises for 1988/89

Aloha Pacific uses black for all brochure covers to promote the idea of sheer glamour and luxury – BUT?

Let me quote the FDA’s take on the Monterey’s situation, which gave her a bad name from the very beginning and sadly she never regained her previous popularity whilst she was with Aloha Pacific Cruises like she had with Matson or Pacific Far East Lines! Thankfully she did regain it later with new Italian owners.

“The ship left port the evening of Sept. 16, 1988 even though a letter of warning had been hand-delivered hours earlier from FDA's San Francisco office that had advised the captain that the vessel should not carry passengers until food sanitation problems had been corrected.”

Please Note: The FDA is the American “Food and Drug Administration” who inspects all U.S. flagged passenger ships and liners that are under the Interstate Travel Sanitation Regulations, as issued under the Public Health Service Act.

“A recent refurbishing of the vessel in Finland, costing the liner's operator, Aloha Pacific Cruises, Inc., roughly US$40 million, had included a major overhaul of the galley, however the work was incomplete and the ship took on passengers with the shipyard's “riding crew” still aboard, still working on items such as plumbing and refrigeration. FDA investigators inspected the ship's food service facilities in August when the liner arrived in Baltimore Harbour from Finland to undergo some additional structural work, and again while it was en route to Newport News, Va. Major sanitation deficiencies uncovered in Baltimore prohibited granting the ship either a certificate of sanitation or certificate of sanitary construction.

Furthermore, because the problems were not corrected before the ship left Baltimore on Aug. 25, FDA's Baltimore office notified its counterpart in San Francisco (where the ship was headed via Fort Lauderdale, the Panama Canal, San Diego, and Los Angeles) requesting that the vessel be inspected upon its arrival in that city.

Docked at Pier 35 in San Francisco, the Monterey underwent another FDA inspection Sept. 15 and 16 during which inspectors found that conditions since leaving Baltimore had not changed. Among other things, the investigators found that:

* Refrigerators were not cold enough to control bacterial growth in foods.

* Blood from thawing meats was draining onto trays of vegetables.

* Dishwasher water was too cold to sterilize dishes.

* Food was stored on floors in walk-in refrigerators.

* Water drained onto galley floors from sinks not connected to drain lines.

* The disinfection system for the drinking water was not working properly.

Inspectors also noted that the crew was less than meticulous in following the most basic hygienic practices to prevent food contamination neither hand soap nor towels were seen at any of the galley stations. Furthermore, according to the ship's health log, 10 crew members including two who worked in the galley, and three paying passengers had had diarrhoea. However, the cause of the diarrhoea was not established.

On Sept. 22, while the ship, despite FDA's letter, was en route to Honolulu, FDA representatives met at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., with the president of Aloha Pacific Cruises and the firm's lawyer. The firm claimed that all the sanitation violations cited by FDA in San Francisco had been corrected. FDA decided, however, to inspect the ship again before it docked in Hawaii and, if conditions were still insanitary, to request that the U.S. attorney in Honolulu seek a temporary restraining order to keep the ship from its island tour.

FDA and the Department of Justice both wanted the ship inspected before it docked in Honolulu because more passengers were to embark there. FDA considered requesting the Coast Guard to assist in putting inspectors aboard by helicopter or a launch from a cutter, but consultation with the Coast Guard indicated that would have endangered both the FDA investigators and the Coast Guard crews involved.

So, FDA San Francisco investigator Randall Zielinski (who followed the ship from his home district) and Honolulu resident post investigator Robert Howell got special authorization to go out on the harbour pilot's boat to meet the Monterey. They reached the liner about an hour before it docked in Honolulu Sept. 23.

Zielinski and Howell again found sanitation violations, which they documented with photos. Among the first people off the ship in Honolulu's port, the FDA investigators immediately had colour prints developed from the film at a local one-hour photo lab and delivered the evidence to the U.S. attorney's office in Honolulu. Armed with these prints and others taken during the San Francisco inspection, and with the FDA-prepared complaint and supporting affidavits, the assistant U.S. attorney sought a temporary restraining order to stop food service operations on the ship. The complaint for injunction named as defendants Monterey Limited Partnership (the ship's owner); Aloha Pacific Cruises, Inc.; James L. Kurtz, chief executive officer; Morten L. Mathiesen, executive director of hotel operations; and Captain Adrian Jennings, the ship's captain.

Zielinski testified for more than two hours at the hearing, using the colour photos to describe conditions aboard ship that could lead to contamination of food and possible illness among the passengers. The ship's doctor testified that there had been no more cases of diarrhoea on board since the ship left San Francisco.

At the close of the hearing, federal Judge Harold M. Fong said he was convinced that although some improvements had been made since the Baltimore and San Francisco inspections, the ship remained in poor sanitary condition. He allowed the Monterey to continue its interisland cruise with food service, but, waving the photographs at the defendants, ordered them to correct the violations or face penalties for contempt. He then issued an injunction requiring them to do so.

On Sept. 27, FDA re-inspected the ship while it was anchored at Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui and reported that galley conditions had greatly improved and no longer posed a health hazard. Nevertheless, plumbing deficiencies still prohibited the vessel from qualifying for certification, and unacceptable sanitation conditions persisted. By July 1989, the defendants still had not filed their answer to the complaint for injunction.

On July 20, 1989, the U.S. attorney's office filed a motion for default judgment against Aloha Pacific Cruises, Inc., Kurtz, Mathiesen and Jennings, based on the original injunction complaint to keep them from serving food until the sanitation violations were corrected. The court entered the default that same day, but, as of this writing, has not imposed a permanent injunction as requested by the government.

The Monterey is seen at anchor at one of the Hawaiian Islands during her very short career with Aloha Pacific Cruises

The Closing Facts:

SS Monterey commences service with Aloha Pacific Cruises from Copenhagen on July 30, 1988 and considering that her stabilizers had not been correctly fitted, she had to enter dry-dock whilst the ship was in Baltimore, then the disgraceful hygiene and safety problems on board, for the galley was filthy! Thus it was no wonder that the poor Monterey was laid up and finished with Aloha Pacific on May 13, 1988 at Honolulu!

After her disastrous time with Aloha Pacific, she was first sold to “Coral Cruises” and then she was resold again to “Naviera Panocean” of Panama. However, thankfully she then found a new home in Italy an she sailed on for 20 good years with Star Lauro (ex Flotta Lauro Lines) that later became MSC Cruises, and obviously she was a huge success. But she was eventually sold to the Indian breakers and the superb SS Monterey was beached at Alang India on Wednesday November 8, 2006 and they commenced to break her up in January 2007, after an amazing good 55 years of service!

View the full Maiden Voyage Brochure including her new Deck Plan on “APC Cruises 2


Page One         SS Monterey & Mariposa, the Matson Lines / Pacific Far East Line (PFEL) Liners.

Page Two          Matson / PFEL Photo Album.

Page Three       Matson / PFEL Cabin Plan.

APC Cruises      Aloha Pacific Cruises’ Monterey 1987 to 1988.

APC Cruises 2   SS Monterey maiden voyage brochure, Deck Plan of the rebuilt ship & details re the companies end!

Page Four          Monterey as a Star Lauro / MSC Cruises cruise ship.

Page Five         Monterey - MSC- photographs from various sources.

Page Six           Monterey - MSC - an excellent series of photographs by Johan Coeman.

Page Seven      Monterey - MSC - Cabin Plan.


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