The SS Raffaello of the Italian Line was built at the sunset of the great transatlantic ocean liner era. Part of the duo of the SS Raffaello and the SS Michelangelo, the two ships were the largest ocean liners built in Italy since the SS Rex and SS Conte di Savoia of the 1930's. Featuring several design advances, the most noticeable are the modern funnels. Designed as a transatlantic vessel, the ship soon encountered fierce transatlantic competition from the faster SS United States and RMS Queen Mary, as well as the expanding airline service. With this affecting passenger size, the ship was transitioned into a cruise ship.
After 10 years of service, the Italian government decided to end the subsidy, forcing the sale of the ship. At this time, the end of true transatlantic service had met its inevitable demise, a casualty of innovation.
One of the Last Ocean Liners
At the end of the 1950's, jet technology was still years away from providing viable worldwide passenger service. Italian Line executives believed another duo of ships to replace their existing fleet would be a viable option. The idea of the SS Raffaello and SS Michelangelo were born.
Designed as an ocean liner, the ship was built with three classes of passengers. The speed of the ship was important, thus the overall shape and design accommodated those needs. One unusual design decision was to omit portholes on the lower decks, to lend a sleek look of the ship. Keeping with the technological advances, the ship had retractable stabilizer fins and funnels designed to keep soot away from the passengers on deck.
One of the most easily recognizeable ships of its time, the SS Raffaello employed two unique funnels designed by Turin Polytecnic as a measure to help clear smoke from the decks of the vessel. By allowing air to pass through the trellis supports, and a cap to prevent heavier particles, the design remains widely used in current ship design, including the newest cruise ships.
Later in the service career of the SS Raffaello, the ship focused on cruising the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas in order to maintain solvency of the shipping line. With plenty of deck space, the ship overcame the typical issues of ocean liner turned cruise ship, especially smaller, cramped spaces and three classes of passengers.
During the summer of 1975, the Italian government ended the nearly $150,000 per day subsidy. Withdrawn from service, the ship was eventually sold alongside the SS Michelangelo to the Shah of Iran in 1976. Turned into a barrack ship, there was extensive damage in 1979 during the revolution, and the ship eventually sank partially.