MS Achille Lauro 1965-94 - ex Royal
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Part Two - MS Achille Lauro her Story
By the end of 1964, due to poor passenger
loadings the once popular Dutch, Royal Rotterdam Lloyd liner MS Willem Ruys was
with great sadness laid up in
The Willem Ruys was officially
handed over on January 6, 1965 and she was renamed Achille Lauro after the
managing director of the Lauro Line, whilst she was still in
Here we see the bow of the Willem Ruys having been sold to Flotta Lauro Lines and
a stencil was used to add the name ‘Achille Lauro’ above the ships original name
As reconstruction was close to completion, and they were ready to fit her newly reshaped aft funnel, but suddenly on August 29, 1965 Achille Lauro was rocked by an explosion with a raging fire braking out. Finally, when the fire was extinguished and the ship was declared safe, work continued, but obviously her completion was delayed.
Here we see the ship still burning after the explosion on August 29, 1965
A view of the Achille Lauro later with her modernised superstructure and her new funnels fitted
Externally some significant changes made to this already beautiful ship, the most obvious being her new sharply raked bow, giving her an additional 12ft in length. Then there were her two brand new higher slim-line stylish funnels, which were topped by sloped upwards twin smoke dispersers providing the Achille Lauro a better dispersion of her diesel fumes, as well as providing her with a distinctive look. The funnels were painted blue, with a traditional Flotta Lauro logo being a white star being added and the smoke dispersers were black.
A close up of her funnels and the forward superstructure
Flotta Lauro released this postcard of the Achille Lauro prior to her completion
from her new tall modern funnels with twin bladed smoke deflectors, her
promenade deck was extended far forward with glazing, whilst her upper also
glazed aft in order to protect the First Class swimming pool from the wind. Her
hull was repainted blue with just some white on the forward top of the bow section
and red boot topping. The previous forward and aft main masts were removed and
a new shapely Signal and Radar mast was fitted just behind the Bridge.
Apart from her new tall modern funnels with twin bladed smoke deflectors, her promenade deck was extended far forward with glazing, whilst her upper also glazed aft in order to protect the First Class swimming pool from the wind. Her hull was repainted blue with just some white on the forward top of the bow section and red boot topping. The previous forward and aft main masts were removed and a new shapely Signal and Radar mast was fitted just behind the Bridge.
An agents publicity cardboard cut out of the Achille Lauro, I saved and retain in my small maritime museum
Undoubtedly, she was a magnificent sight, considering she was designed pre-WW2 and was ordered to be built in 1938, yet upon completion of her rebuild and refit she looked very much like a new and a modern liner. Her gross tonnage had been increased to 23,629 and her length from 631ft to 643ft, this 12ft longer than before. This was due to her shapely new raked bow! Her new passenger capacity was as follows; 270 First Class and 917 Tourist Class, although there were a good number of cabins which were interchangeable between the classes.
Achille Lauro sailed for
all-new MS Achille Lauro seen in
Sent in by a supporter, but does not wish any credit, but thank you JCS
Southampton she headed for
Lauro is seen arriving in
Photograph by & © Jeff Eastwood
Lauro seen departing
The Achille Lauro even played a special role
in evacuating the families of British servicemen who were caught up in the
unrest in Aden, Yemen and she
made one of the very last northbound transits through the Suez Canal before it was closed during June 1967’s Six
Day War between Egypt and Israel. The
Due to the closure of the Canal, both the
Achille Lauro and her running mate the rebuilt Angelina Lauro, ex MS Oranje,
continued on the Australia liner service into the 1970s, but like all other
ships on the Australian service, she now had to sail via South Africa and many
returned via the Panama Canal, thus operating a around the world service. She
would make five return voyages to
A streamlined Achille Lauro, was the ship that pioneered the first ever
low-slung aluminium lifeboats when built as the MS Willem Ruys in 1946
However, the Achille Lauro did operate a
unique voyage for her return to Europe, for she departed Sydney on September
28, 1969, sailed via Wellington, Papeete, Tahiti and headed for South America
including a call to Rio De Janeiro, before heading for Southampton and
Rotterdam, etc. She undertook one further voyage via
However, during her liner voyages, the MS
Achille Lauro was also operating a few cruises out of
Achille Lauro May 1972 to September 1985:
During the 1972 and 1985 a great deal of turmoil would happen to both the Achille Lauro and Flotta Lauro Lines, for we will see the end of the liner voyages to and from Australia and New Zealand, but not her final visit there, as she would return as a full time cruise ship later. There will be collisions, and bankruptcy, and so much more. Thus read on, it is fascinating!
In 1972 Flotta Lauro decided to give the
Achille Lauro an overhaul and she headed for
By now Flotta Lauro had already decided that
due to low passenger loadings, the Achille Lauro would be withdrawn from her
Australian Passenger Liner service. Thus when her overhaul was completed, she
again headed for
Lauro operating cruises out of
Having cruised from
Lauro is seen in
The Achille Lauro now became a full time
cruise ship based in Genoa and she would operate 14 night Eastern Mediterranean
cruises, always departing on a Saturday, with ports as follows; Genoa, Naples,
Alexandra, Port Said, Beirut, Haifa, Istanbul, Piraeus, Capri, Genoa.
1975’76 fares commenced from £386 or September 2016 - A$679, for an
inside twin bedded cabin to £642 or A$1,149, for a
twin or queen sized bedded Suite with a verandah. Whilst at the end of the year
she operates a special Christmas cruise, this time departing Genoa on a Tuesday
December 21, 1975 visiting the same ports, which was badly planned, for it
would have been better if the ship had been in Israel on, or close to Christmas
day!, but it called into Haifa on the 28th.for
the day. When she returned to
For her cruise duties her passenger numbers were extensively reduced, although her official ship plan for these cruises did still show her as being a Two Class ship, but I do believe that she operated as an 800-passenger One Class Cruise ship!
However, whilst the Achille Lauro was
sailing through the
However, whilst the Achille Lauro was
sailing through the
The Achille Lauro being a modern looking ship both externally and internally, she was popular with the European traveller and German Tourist companies found that she was the ideal cruise ship for them and chartered her for several years. Thereafter it were the South African’s who chartered her for five months from November 1979 to March 1980 and they repeated this charter for another two seasons.
However, when the Achille Lauro was on a
There was no doubt, but Achille Lauro’s bad luck seemed to keep up with her, from the day she was taken over by Flotta Lauro Lines. Originally, when she was the MS Willem Ruys she had the nickname of being the “Lucky Ship” because she sat unscathed throughout WW2 in her dock partially built, despite all the bombing and the attempts to destroy her, yet the ship that should have been destroyed became a great Dutch Liner! But even whilst she was being rebuilt into the Achille Lauro she was wildly ablaze and her bad luck some how followed repeatedly and sadly this would continue to her very last day!!
Yet, I still love this amazingly beautiful ship, but sadly her trials were far from over as much more was yet to come!
Towards the end of 1981, Flotta Lauro Lines were encountering severe financial problems and already some of their cargo fleet had been impounded for non-payment of fees, etc.
When the Achille Lauro had been repaired from
her fire damage, she returned to
It must have been all too much, for the company founder, Mr. Achille Lauro sadly died on November 15, 1983 a man who built a fine Shipping Company, having seen it during the days when his company was flourishing, but when these two new ships arrived into his beloved company and with the downturn of traffic in the 1960s & 70s and the ongoing disasters, his beloved company was now close to ruins!
However the Achille Lauro once again returned
to her cruise duties in July 1984, making five of her regular 14-night
Lauro seen in
The Greek Shipping giant, Chandris Lines came
to the party in 1985, and came into an agreement with Flotta Lauro Lines making
a charter agreement to operate the MS Achille Lauro from
She departed on her first cruise on March 5,
1985 and she being well marketed by Chandris, British, and American Companies,
she was reasonably successful! Her cruises gained more and more popularity with
the majority of passengers being from
Achille Lauro is seen during one of her cruises berthed in
As the first Chandris charter season was slowly coming towards an end of what had been an excellent first season, the Achille Lauro departed Genoa on October 3, 1985 for a 11-day cruise, visiting; Naples, Alexandria, Port Said, Ashdod, Limassol, Rhodes, Piraeus, Capri and then back to Genoa.
Onboard were 755 passengers and very quickly
passengers onboard had settled into a happy routine of shipboard life. There
were all the usual sports tournaments, of quoits, shuffleboard, and pool games,
but enjoying reading a book in one of the ships many lounges, or having a lazy
afternoon around the pool with a cool drink was another popular sport. In the
evening there was fine dinning, followed by entertainment and dancing and of
course not to forget the famed midnight buffets. Also at night polish dancers who
would add a touch of class with Ballet performances. Thus there was much to
keep passengers busy onboard as well as whilst visiting their first ports of
Onboard the Achille Lauro was Leon (69 Years)
and Marilyn (58 Years) Klinghoffer who had decided to celebrate their 36th
Mr & Mrs Leon & Marilyn Klinghoffer.
The Achille Lauro arrived at
Once passengers had disembarked at
However, just four hours after the Achille
Lauro had left
On the bridge, one of the
gunmen fired more shots and then ordered De Rosa to sail in a North Easterly
direction toward the Syrian
That night, as the ship was cruising about 30
miles north of
At exactly what point these sadistic threats
became reality is not known. But in a now familiar ritual of terrorism, the
hijackers had decided to underscore their seriousness by taking a sacrifice.
First they separated Mr. Leon Klinghoffer from his wife. “No,” said
one gunman to the wheelchair-bound passenger. “You stay. She goes.”
Marilyn Klinghoffer never saw her husband again. For the next 24 hours she and
her friends were consumed by anxiety. When the hijacking was finally over, they
looked all through the ship for him, though they expected the worst. Some
passengers had noted that the trousers and shoes of one of the hijackers had
been covered with blood. And besides as one recalled, “We had heard
gunshots and a splash.” Giovanni Migliuolo the
Italian Ambassador to
Klinghoffer seen aboard the Achille Lauro prior to arrival at
Mr. Leon Klinghoffer was the only passenger
murdered aboard the Achille Lauro, and it is believed that he was singled out
by these animals who had taken control of the ship
because he was Jewish!
achillefire1; Leon and Marilyn are buried
together at the “
After various demands, the Egyptian
authorities gave the hijackers permission to leave the ship without punishment.
As they left the ship, they made a victorious lap around the harbour, soon
after they departed by plane. However, the American authorities forced them
This terrible event had a massive impact on
the cruise industry in the region, for it effectively destroyed
After the horrific Cruise in October on 1985
the Achille Lauro abandoned the rest of her last few cruises and remained in
The Achille Lauro continued her services; although she was reflagged early in 1987 when the Flotta Lauro Line was taken over by “Mediterranean Shipping Company” who is better known these days as MSC Cruises, and the new company became known as “StarLauro.”
The first postcard released by StarLauro
Achille Lauro having gained a new life she was sent to
A superb postcard of the StarLauro cruise ship MS Achille Lauro in South African waters
Whilst in Fremantle (
She departed Fremantle on February 16, 1987 sailing
The good news was that Achille Lauro would
beautiful MS Achille Lauro was finally back in
She then made an 11 night South Pacific Cruise returning to Sydney on February 8, and that evening she departed for a line voyage to Southampton sailing via Melbourne (AU), Fremantle (AU), Port Louis (Mauritius), Durban (South Africa), Cape Town (SA), Jamestown (St Helena), Funchal (Madeira), Southampton (UK).
Achille Lauro Returns to
Achille Lauro Returns to
The Achille Lauro returned in 1991 and having
Accommodations: It is interesting to note that for her line voyages as well as her Australian cruises duties her accommodation changed from the European capacity of just a maximum of 800 passengers to a maximum capacity of 1,343 passengers, using all berths onboard.
StarLauro decided to make a special promotional video in 1991, which was at first released to travel agents and then was made available to whoever wished to show it. You can now view this close to 20-minute video on YouTube - .
The Achille Lauro departed Sydney on April 26,
1991 for her 46-night line voyage to the
However, having operated a number of cruises
out of the
wonderful stern photograph of the Achille Lauro was taken in
see Achille Lauro at
Note there is a crew lifeboat drill going on whilst the ship is in port
At the completion of Cruise number 24, on which the Achille Lauro departed Sydney on Sunday April 26, and visited Noumea April 29, Lifou (New Caledonia), Pentecost Island (Vanuatu), Abrym Volcanoes (Vanuatu), Port Vila (Vanuatu), sail through the Havannah-Boulari Passages (New Caledonia) and arrived back to Sydney on Wednesday May 6, at 6.30 AM.
MS Achille Lauro has just concluded her 1991, 1992 cruise season and is about to depart
Photo sent provided by a supporter, but photographer is unknown - Please see photo notes at the bottom of the page
MS Achille Lauro final departure from Sydney was at 4 PM on Wednesday May 6, 1992 packed with passengers heading off for an adventure and many well wishers ashore, she slowly backed away from the “International Passenger Terminal” at Circular Quay and soon, with the aid of tugs her bow slowly turned towards Sydney Heads and she set sail with the blue ship looking a magnificent sight with the sun setting on her as she sailed through Sydney Heads and then she turned South and headed for Melbourne May 8, Fremantle May 13, Port Louis May 21, Durban, May 25, Cape Town May 28, Jamestown June 1, Funchal June 9, arriving in Southampton on June 13 being the conclusion of her final voyage from Down Under!
As we look back to the original liner the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd MS Willem Ruys, which was originally ordered in 1935 to be built in Rotterdam and her keel was officially laid on January 25, 1939 and her building continued until the sudden bombing of the great Port City of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940 and all construction was halted as air raids continued. There were even attempts during the war to destroy the ship, but amazingly this fine ship somehow survived, and she became known when completed and made her glorious maiden voyage in 1949 as “The Lucky Ship.” MS Willem Ruys was the pride of the Netherlands, as well as being a trendsetter, for she was the world’s very first liner to have low-slung aluminium lifeboats, that hung within the upper-works’ flanks.
MS Willem Ruys is seen at Anchor awaiting her berth in an Australian port in the 1960s
The next ship to adopt this unique lifeboat arrangement would be twelve years later being the Orient Lines very last liner to be built, the SS Oriana of 1959, and followed by P&O’s SS Canberra in 1961, whilst today, all ships have adopted this type of system! The Willem Ruys was sold towards the end of 1964, due to the poor passenger loadings as air travel was taking much of ocean travel business! However, Flotta Lauro obtained her and renamed her Achille Lauro as we have read on this page and even when rebuilding her, troubled started very quickly with a massive fire and she became a much troubled ship right trough to 1985 and onward!
MS Achille Lauro departed
Onboard were 979 persons, and of the 572 passengers were: 2 Belgians, 92 Britons, 90 Dutch, 2 French, 150 Germans, 2 Israelis, 12 Italians, 214 South Africans, and 8 Swiss.
The fire started in the engine room around 1.30 AM whilst many passengers would have been asleep and some were still up dancing the night away in the club. When Achille Lauro’s master, Captain Giuseppe Orsi was advised of the fire, he believed that his crew would be able to contain it and soon extinguish it, and therefore he did not make a distress call. However as the night went on, it became obvious that the fire was out of control and his crew was insufficiently trained for such a blaze!
Finally it was at 5.54 AM when Captain Giuseppe Orsi sent out the very first SOS, that is four and half hours after the blaze began.
By now, many passengers had realised that there was a problem onboard and they were told by stewards to take their lifejackets and go to the promenade deck and there they waited for the captain to give the order. Finally, at 8 AM, Captain Orsi advised passengers that the crew could not contain the fire and that he would have to give the order to “evacuate the ship.” Lifeboats were lowered and Passengers, be it in their pyjamas, or still dressed in their evening gowns and formal suits made a strange sight in the boats.
At 9.20 AM the first rescue ship, being the Panamanian-registered oil tanker, Hawaiian King, reached the Achille Lauro. The problem was however, being an oil tanker; the ship had no space for the survivors below deck, only on the deck in the open air.
Passengers in lifeboats were rescued by the Hawaiian King. Two passengers drowned during the rescue, in the shark-infested waters. One of them was German Gerhard Szimke, age 68. Mr. Szimke fell overboard during the rescue and drowned. And a British person died during transferring from a lifeboat to the tanker. Eight were others were injured
After the evacuation of the survivors, the nightmare continued for once rescued passengers were aboard the tanker, they once again had to wait out on deck, in the blistering sun, without much food, water, or medical treatment. However as they very soon discovered quickly, that while the tanker was a superior option than the shark infested waters of the Indian Ocean, but the ordeal was far from over.
Above & below: The tragic fire in her engine room ended the career of this once great and
distinguished Dutch liner MS Willem Ruys, which became the rather sad and tragic Achille Lauro
Thankfully latter that night, United States Navy helicopters lowered food, water and medical supplies to the oil tanker giving passengers some much need relief!
But with the heat being quite severe during the day, survivors were in great need of shelter from the elements that was not available on the tanker, and more ships came to their aid.
The tanker Lima arrived and Captain John Brand was requested to coordinate the surface search for survivors. He said that passengers on the tanker, “many of them elderly, had broken bones and other injuries as they fled the sinking ship.” But these tankers all managed to offer assistance to passengers who were still in lifeboats bobbing in the ocean.
Below we see a relay message (during the days of the TELEX) regarding the SOS received, it sent out by the United Kingdom Coastguard to all ships that were close to the Achille Lauro, and as we can see it was sent at 7.38 AM on November 30, 1994
The Greek tanker
Finally two United States Naval warships
arrived on the scene, the cruiser
Captain, Dimitrios Skapinakis of the Greek tanker
& below: On November 30, 1994, the Achille
Lauro caught fire 150 miles off the coast of
and then over the next few days she burned out, slowly sank to the bottom of the sea on December 2, 1994.
Click the Photo above for an Associated Press TV Video that can be seen on YouTube
presentation of passengers abandoning the tragic Achille Lauro during the huge fire
In closing: Remembering the Great Dutch Liner ~ MS Willem Ruys.
Royal Rotterdam Lloyd postcard originally painted by Victor Trip
MS Willem Ruys / MS Achille Lauro - INDEX:
MS Willem Ruys: Part One.
Photo Page One: First Class.
Photo Page Two: Tourist Class.
Page Three: Brochures.
Achille Lauro: .
Page Two: Deck Plans.
Page Three: Brochures.
Also Read: - Netherland Line.
. “ MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt - Netherland Line.
“ MS Sibajak - Royal
Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
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