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The designing and birth of the two superliners

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The hull colour of the new ships was also subject to some debate: black was the traditional hull colour for liners, but it was thought that a white hull might convince passengers that the ships would offer the same level of luxury that the cruise ships that were becoming more and more common on the seven seas. White also showed to be more resistant in the warm Mediterranean climate, thus reducing the need of re-painting the ship.


Some differences - Alcune differenze

Detail of the bar of the 1st class lido of michelangelo - Dettaglio del bar del lido di 1a classe della Michelangelo

Even though the Michelangelo and Raffaello were planned as identical sisters there were some small differences: the Raffaello was 0.7 meters longer, 0.9 meters narrower and 22 tons tonnage more than her sister.

There were also some purely cosmetic differences: the 1st class lido decks were slightly differently furnished, the Raffaello's swimming pools had an ornamental and luxurious appearance, while the Michelangelo's pool was very simple and its lido's bar had a characteristic triangular shape. The tables of the lidos of Cabin and Tourist Class were circular on Michelangelo and square on Raffaello. Moreover, the modern lamps (those similar to traffic lights) that lighted the lidos and some outdoor decks were slightly different and painted white on Michelangelo, black on Raffaello.

These are the only few elements which allow to distinguish the ships by outer appearance. The black colour of the top of the aft mast can't be used as an identification element, since they have been painted over several times, both Michelangelo and Raffaello had it black and white during their few years of service.


Italia Line decided that the new ships interiors, as their exteriors, would be among the most beautiful and luxurious on the high seas. In the spirit of the times, the interior furnishments were made in the Art-Deco style (also known sometimes as Ocean Liner Style, having originated from SS Île de France built in 1927).


The 1st class ballroom "Fiorenza" of Michelangelo - La sala da ballo "Fiorenza" di 1a classe della Michelangelo

The designing of the interiors of the ships were commissioned to different architects. The interiors of the Michelangelo were designed by famous naval architects Nino Zoncada, Vincenzo Monaco and Amedeo Luccichenti, who had already worked on several former ships of the Italian Line. Consequentially the interiors of Michelangelo had a more classical style then her sisters.

The interiors of the Raffaello were designed by architects like Michele and Giancarlo Busiri Vici who formerly had worked only on buildings and created very modern and futuristic designs, prime examples of this were the magnificent first class restaurant and foyer. Probably as consequence the modernist designers, in some other parts the Raffaello's interiors may look a little more cold or metallic than those of Michelangelo.

Regardless of how they were decorated, the 31 different public rooms for passengers made sure they would not get bored during the long journey.



The magnificent 1st class restaurant of Raffaello - Il favoloso ristorante di 1a classe della Raffaello

The restaurants of first and Cabin class extended themselves from "wall to wall" so they spaced trough the full width of the hull. Also the 1st Class main ballroom was extended through the full width of the ship, interrupting the long covered promenade deck. Toward prow there was the 1st class covered promenade deck and toward stern there was those of 2nd class. When required, the two covered promenades could be united, through the ballroom, by opening the glassed doors.  


Since the ships took a southern route to New York, it meant that like in the previous Italian liners, much emphasis was placed in the design of the outer decks. There were six swimming pools on the ships, childrens' and adults' pools for each class. When the weather turned chilly the first class adults pool was heated by an infrared lamps plant to ensure maximum comfort for passengers. For the first class passengers, there were kennels between the two funnels that even had their own small courtyard, reminiscent of the kennel of the Normandie from 1935.


The only bad thing to be said about the ships is the fact that there were no cabins with windows below the Main Deck. Even thought this made them safer and it contributed to give that slender line to the hull, it proved to be a handicap when the ships entered service, as people were getting used to a high level of comfort, such as cabins with windows. It is also a good remark to remember that all the furnishing and decorations were made exclusively by anti-burning materials. In fact, concerning safety requirements, Michelangelo and Raffaello were quite beyond the safety requirements of that times.


The Michelangelo and Raffaello were the last ships designed for use as pure liners, not as cruise ships and they were the last liners built subdivided in three classes. This allowed the ships to offer a large and economical tourist class for crossings, but made it impossible for the ships to be optimally employed for cruises (them having become a necessity for shipping companies when the aeroplane has effectively taken over the North-Atlantic route by the beginning of the 70’s). On cruise ships, there was in fact only one class, the first. The Cunard Line solved the problem on the Queen Elizabeth 2 (four years Michelangelo and Raffaello’s junior) by diving the ship in only two classes for crossing, with minimal differences so that they could easily be merged for cruises.

On cruises the ship’s passenger capability was to be limited to 1,200 passengers, because the Tourist class cabins were considered too spartan for by the demanding cruise passengers. Problematic was also the fact that there were no cabins with windows below the A-deck, cabins with windows considered an important thing by cruise passengers (today of course, you need your own verandah instead of just a window). It would have been possible for the Italian Line to rebuild the ships into more cruise-friendly units and ensure their future. It should be taken to account though that construction of these ships in the first place had taken a lion’s share of Italian Line’s funds and rebuilding the ships was financially not an affordable option.


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