Italian Line S.S. Leonardo da Vinci 1960 - 1982
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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, CruisenShip Reviewer, Author and Lecturer
Commenced in the Passenger Shipping & Cruise Industry in 1960
Please Note: Photographs are from the ssmaritime collection, or as mentioned otherwise
Leonardo da Vincis History & Specification Page
Including some of Italia Lines earlier Liners in brief
The Italian Line like so many of its competitors lost most of its passenger liners during World War II, including two of their prestigious luxury liners the superb S.S. Rex as well as the magnificent S.S. Conte di Savoia.
Above the luxurious S.S. Rex and below the S.S. Conte di Savoia, both commenced service in 1932
The luxurious S.S. Conte di Savoia
But the liners that did somehow manage to survive the war, mostly dated from the 1920s and these ships by the late 1940s were due to be replaced.
Thankfully, in 1949 the Italian Line received
special subsidies from the Italian government for them to
construct two new liners for their Trans-Atlantic service between
Here we see the elegant S.S. Andrea Doria
This is the slightly newer sister the S.S. Cristoforo Colombo
However, as history proved, the Andrea
Doria collided with the Swedish American Line
M.S. Stockholm and the great Italian liner sank due to the
collision, whilst the much smaller
A New Ship in Planning:
But with the tragic loss of the Andrea Doria,
the Italian Line was now short of a ship and they desperately
required a new liner to join S.S. Cristoforo
However, amongst the board of directors of the Italian Line there was considerable turmoil regarding the collision and the ensuing court case, etc. But thankfully there was a part of the company that commenced to work on plans for a new ship that was so urgently needed to replace the lost ship.
Maritime architects decided to use the very same hull design as that of the SS Andrea Doria, but adapt it, and update it into a larger design for the new ship. The Andrea Doria was 29,083 GRT and 701 ft long and 90 ft wide, whilst the design of the new liner would be 33,340 GRT and 763.12 ft long and 92.19 ft wide.
This silhouette was a first look of what the ship would look like
Italian Lines released this Leonardo da Vinci brochure in 1960 and considering the ship was named
This is the cover of the brochure but sadly I do not have its interior
cover provided by Jason Macinnes,
As plans progressed many innovations were made for the new liner, as she would incorporate very high standards and many fully upgraded safety features, and as the plans for the new ship came towards a conclusion, there was no doubt at all that she would be one of the most advanced liners of her time!
New safety features included:
The liner would have lifeboat davits that would be capable of launching lifeboats against a 25 degree list, as well as lifeboats would be fully motorised, also her watertight bulkheads would be extended. Another astonishing innovation was, that her engine rooms would be separated into two compartments one located forward and one just aft, with each engine driving its own propeller and thus being capable of powering the ship independently from the other. Another great innovation was, considering the Andrea Doria was not known for her stability, the new ship would be provided with not just the usual two stabilizer fins, but four Denny Brown stabilizers fins.
There were a good number of other notable features and innovations such as; an Infrared-heated swimming pool in First Class, all First Class and Cabin Class cabins, as well as 80% of Tourist-Class cabins were provided with private facilities, and the ship would be fully air-conditioned. Whilst the Andrea Doria and her newer sister had three electric cranes located on their aft decks, servicing their holds there, the new ship would be completely free of any cranes, thus providing spacious Lido Decks with fine Swimming Pools and Sun Decks.
But I left one thing out, as they say the Big Daddy of the story, for the Leonardo would be given one of the most unusual features in passenger liner history. The truth is that provisions were made to convert the ship in due course to operate on Nuclear Power whenever it should become available. We know that the American State Maine Lines built the N.S. Savannah being the worlds first nuclear powered Passenger-Cargo liner, and she commenced her maiden voyage on August 20, 1962. But, although she did have passengers, but sadly she was seldom booked to capacity, due to many people being fearful of being exposed to radiation, etc, and thus this magnificent looking ship proved to be a complete failure. In due course she operated as a cargo ship and finally she became a stationary museum, and in this role she has been more successful than she ever was as an operational passenger ship!
Savanna seen arriving at
Construction & Launching:
The famed shipbuilder Ansaldo Sestri
With her hull completed, the great new liner is seen a little over a month prior to her launching
Then came a big day for this fine new ship,
for on Sunday December 7, 1958 she was launched and officially
named Leonardo da Vinci by Mrs. Carla Gronchi,
the wife of Giovanni Gronchi, being the President of
Leonardo da Vinci is seen during her triumphant launching on December 7, 1958
The Italian Line commenced a promotional
opportunity and as they had built a perfect scale model of their
new liner the Leonardo da Vinci, it received a popular viewing
Here we see a huge model of the Leonardo da Vinci at the Milan Fair in April 1960 and the model reveals her beautifully shaped bulbous bow
On Thursday May 19, 1960, S.S. Leonardo da Vinci undertook her Deep Sea Speed Trials which she did with great success, at first she reached a top speed of 25.3 knots and then on her next run she achieved a remarkable 26 knots. However whilst on her Trans-Atlantic services, she would usually operate at a service speed of around 23 knots.
Looking simply sublime, like a perfectly
polished gem the S.S. Leonardo da Vinci was delivered early to
her owners in
As was discovered during her sea trials, sadly just like the S.S. Andrea Doria and Cristoforo Colombo, the Leonardo da Vinci, even with her four stabilizer fins, she still proved to be prone to instability in rough weather, and this was due entirely to her hull design. The main problem being is that her designers took Andrea Doria hull design and simply stretched and widened it, but somehow this really did not work for a larger version and it affected her stability. Thus it was decided to fit 3,000 metric tons of iron onto the bottom of her hull, and it was stated that this was done to improve her stability. However, this caused a huge problem, for it now made; The Leonardo da Vinci excessively heavy for the power of her engines and sadly this led to fuel costs for her being extremely expensive, especially during a time of a fuel crisis, and fuel costs would obviously affect her eventual future!
Due to the possible conversion for the ship to
operate in the future on nuclear power, the Leonardo da
Vinci had what would be known as a rather different interior
layout to the majority of passenger liners. The reason being,
that the location for the future reactor was located amidships,
thus in and around the liners steam turbine power plant.
Therefore it was necessary to locate the dining rooms and galleys
one deck higher than they had been on the Andrea Doria and
In addition she became the first Italian liner to be fitted with an efficient water desalination plant with a capacity of over 184,000 gallons of fresh water per day. She also had two garages for 50 cars; one the First Class garage had a fold down door and cars could just drive on and off.
Some of the ships thirty Lounges, Dining Rooms
and other public spaces on board were designed by several famed
Italian designers, which included Vincenzo
The Italian Line published a brochure full of artist impressions long before the completion of the ship, and this brochure and a later one from 1966 are shown in full on Page Two. Her Deck Plan will be shown on Page Three.
An advanced artist impression of the S.S. Leonardo da Vinci from the Italian Lines 1958 brochure
The First Class Lounge from the abovementioned advance brochure
A black & white impression of the First Class Dining Room, revealing the sculptures along the wall as can be seen below
And here is the actual elegant First Class Restaurant, featuring a wall of fine timbers and four stunning sculptures
The liners namesake is seen here in the First Class Lobby, where he is honoured by a large hammered silver relief
portrait of Leonardo da Vinci by famed Italian artist & sculptor Renato Marino Mazzacurati (1907 - 1969)
The exterior design of the Leonardo da Vinci was somewhat similar to that of her two earlier sisters, but she was 63 ft longer and a good 2 ft wider, in addition she had a larger forward as well as an aft superstructure. The ships funnel was also beautifully re-shaped into a more modern shapely funnel, as well as being somewhat taller and also having a small smoke deflector fin.
The Leonardo had the same livery as the Andrea Doria and the Cristoforo Colombo having a perfectly painted black hull with a thin white band painted two-thirds of the way up from the bottom of the black-painted area.
There is no doubt externally, and I do mean visually, S.S. Leonardo da Vinci was a perfectly balanced looking liner, just simple perfection to behold at sea, be it back then and honestly she would still be today!
But sadly, her machinery was under powered and thus it was difficult to cope with the ships very poor underwater hull design and all that iron that had to be fitted to keep her stable, thus fuel cost added up to a fortune to operate her, and tragically that was the ships main downfall and a big problem. Due to the aforementioned this wonderful ship as far as passengers were concerned, her days were considerably short for such a sizable liner serving the Italian Line for she only served a total of 17 years, and then she was laid up several times for a good number of years. Such a magnificent looking ship, with interiors fit for an Emperor, she certainly deserved much better!
A aerial view postcard of the sleek S.S. Leonardo da Vinci at sea
Above we have two fine photographs of her shapely bulbous Bow and her magnificent cruiser Stern
On June 30, 1960, under the command of the
companys Senior Captain; Commander Armando Pinelli
S.S. Leonardo da Vinci departed
Italian Line postcard of Leonardo da Vincis maiden arrival
Not long after the Leonardo entered the Trans-Atlantic service, amazingly the Italian Line announced that by 1965 that their new ship would be refitted to operate on nuclear power. But as we know, that never came about, and to be honest it was just as well, for all too soon big changes were going to happen.
Leonardo da Vinci (right) and Cristoforo Colombo are seen
Cristoforo Colombo seems to look larger than the Leonardo da Vinci, but that is an allusion.
It had already been decided by the Italian
Line that the Leonardo da Vinci would be replaced on the
When she completed her Trans-Atlantic services
in July 1965, she commenced to operate a new service and she
departed on her new Trans-Atlantic service, but now from
Leonardo da Vinci is seen at
Leonardo da Vinci commenced cruises around the
However Italian Line decided to schedule S.S. Leonardo da Vinci on one of the most ambitious cruises ever, and would be a 42-day extensive 21 ports and 14 Countries voyage, being promoted by Italian Line as the Gala Cruise. The itinerary for this amazing cruise was as follows:
March 5, 1966, depart New York, and head for the following ports, Tenerife, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Bizerte, Palermo, Istanbul, Rhodes, Alexandra, Port Said, Beirut, Haifa, Piraeus, Kotos, Budva, Naples, Genoa, Cannes, Malaga, Algeciras, Madeira, Bermuda, arrive New York on April 16.
42-day Gala Cruise Brochure cover - More pages of this brochure, as well as a map of the route taken can be seen on Page Two
A New Look S.S. Leonardo da Vinci:
A New Look S.S. Leonardo da Vinci:
Then in mid 1966 the Italian Line decided that they would bring the Leonardo da Vinci in line with the Companys new livery introduced earlier, as seen on their two newest liners. She would now be painted all white, with her hull given green boot topping and a longitudinal thin green ribbon.
Although many preferred the more classic look on her as they considered the black hull a more elegant look. However, in general cruise ships had become what was known at that time, as the cruising white ships, therefore they were all becoming, what they call part of the In-Thing.
With the makeover as well as an interior refit, cruise fares could be increased accordingly considering she was considered as a luxury cruise ship! And soon she commenced on her cruise schedule and operated a good number of them, yet she still continued regular Trans-Atlantic liner voyages during the summer months. Cruises were becoming more and more popular and in general they were operated during the cooler (winter) months as they offered an escape to warmer climates!
An Italian Line postcard of a new look, all white S.S. Leonardo da Vinci
S.S. Leonardo da Vinci commenced on yet
another extensive cruise departing in February 1970, being a
41-day voyage commencing in the Mediterranean sailing via a host
of ports including transiting the
The Final Days of the Traditional Liners:
During the 1970s competition from jet
aircraft became more and more pressing on the
But despite the withdrawal of state
subsidiaries, the Italian Line did not withdraw from the
gleaming white Leonardo is flying the Blue Pieter, thus she is
due to depart
The photographer is unknown, *Please view the photo notes at the bottom of this page
As soon as her trans-Atlantic duties had
completed in June 1976, sadly she, like the
Michelangelo and Raffaello were also withdrawn
from duties and laid up at
However, in 1977 there was a reprieve, for she
was transferred to Italia Crociere Internationali
The S.S. Leonardo da Vinci seen in her final role in 1977
The Leonardo da Vinci commenced operating from
Therefore her cruise role to the
Disaster Strikes the Ship:
The Leonardo da Vinci remained laid up at
A tragic scene with the Leonardo da Vinci seen on fire
This once great liner is seen completely burnt out, and she will soon capsize
photographer is unknown,
The photographer is unknown,*Please view the photo notes at the bottom of this page
Having capsized, here we see the Leonardo partially righted
The photographer is unknown, *Please view the photo notes at the bottom of this page
The once so beautiful S.S. Leonardo da Vinci was declared as a total constructional loss. This was without a doubt a sad and a tragic end to one of the most elegant and stylish looking Italian Line ships ever built. Many seem to go wild over the weird funnelled S.S. Michelangelo and Raffaello, although these ships were stylish, but they did not have a patch of exterior style and the magnificence of the great S.S. Leonardo da Vinci, although they did fail her when it came to her underwater hull design!
The burnt-out Leonardo having
been righted is now seen at the
Photograph by & © Alan Blakely
With burnt-out hulk having been righted, she
was towed to the breakers yard of Cant. Navali
Specifications for the Leonardo da Vinci:
Ansaldo Sestri Ponete,
Yard N°: 1550.
Launched: December 7, 1958.
Sea Trials: May 19, 1960.
in June 1960 to
June 30, 1960
Tonnage: 33,340 GRT, 17,227 Net, 5,641 Dwt.
Length: 763.12 ft - 232.60 m.
Beam: 92.19 ft - 28.10 m.
Draught: 31.33 ft - 9.55 m.
Machinery: Four Ansaldo steam turbines.
Power: 38792 kW.
Speed: 23 service speed, 26 maximum.
Passengers: 1,326 total.
. 413 First Class, 342 Cabin Class, 571 Tourist Class Trans-Atlantic services.
. 984 passengers on Cruises.
. Air-Conditioning throughout the ship.
. Two sets of Stabilizers.
Broken Up by:
Cant. Navali Lotti,
Looking back, it was really quite remarkable
for in the very same year the S.S. Leonardo da Vinci commenced
sailing, the Italian Airline Al Alitalia had the
audacity to challenge their major competitors the Italian
Line, both being financially supported by the Italian
Government mind you, and around the same time S.S. Leonardo da
Vinci headed of on her maiden voyage, Alitalia placed their newly
acquired Douglas DC-8 Jetliner on the
As most will be aware the 1960s sadly
commenced the end for the many of the beautiful traditional
classic Liners, be it the Trans-Atlantic Liners or those that
sailed around the globe, even as far as New Zealand, Australia,
Asia and South Africa, etc, including many other Italian ships
did at that time. The Jet age had begun, especially with the
arrival of the Boeing 747, the Jumbo Jet which sounded the end
for countless excellent and most beautiful ships, and many where
either sold to
In service from 1960 to 1977
The great Trans-Atlantic Liner, S.S. Leonardo da Vinci is seen arriving in port
This is the way genuine ship lovers prefer to see this fine liner with her original hull
S.S. Leonardo da Vinci - INDEX
Her History page. (This Page).
Brochures 1958 & 1966, posters, menu & various photographs.
Page ThreeDeck Plan. (Online soon).
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