by Ian Sebire

Pinpointing the transition from traditional liner services to the modern cruise industry is an elusive task. Nevertheless waypoints exist, significant ships and events that in hindsight are indicative of a sea change. Oceanic was one such vessel.

The launch of the Oceanic at the Riuniti Adriatico shipyard on 15th January 1963.
The launch of the Oceanic at the Riuniti Adriatico shipyard on 15th January 1963.

She was the first new build for Home Lines, a cosmopolitan alliance of Swedish American Line, the Trieste Cosulich family and Greek tycoon Eugen Eugenides established after WWII to provide berths for the burgeoning emigrant trade from Southern Europe to South America. The Swedes were particularly influential, providing the name (Home was an anglicised version of the Swedish holm), livery (the distinction being the blue disc on the yellow funnel contained just a single crown rather than Swedish Americas three) and two of the original three liners. These were Brasil, the former SAL Drottingholm and Italia, the former Kungsholm. The two erstwhile Swedes joined the company’s first ship Argentina (previously Norwegian American Line’s Bergensfjord), which cast off from Genoa on her maiden voyage to Buenos Aires on 13th January 1947. Initial success ended abruptly in 1949 as the collapse of the Argentine currency and economy dried up the flow of migrants. Starved of their lifeblood the trio were diverted to the more lucrative New York service. Nevertheless, despite substantial refits they looked dated alongside the new American Export Constitution and Independence and Italia’s sleek new builds. The ever adaptable Home Lines reviewed the market. This time they felt there was opportunity in the service from Northern Europe to the USA, filling a void left by the now impotent German passenger lines.

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