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Service of Raffaello






But also the Raffaello had her chance to write one page in the naval history for one time in her life. Even though the Royal Caribbean lines claimed that their "Voyager Of The Seas" was the first ship to have an on-board ice rink, this was not true. In 1970 the Raffaello's theatre was converted into an ice rink, and an American family was contracted to perform ice skating shows to the passengers. 


The two twins were theoretically well designed for use as cruise ships. They were very much "outdoors" ships, with lots of deck space, several swimming pools and an outside appearance of pure beauty. But her passenger accommodations were not suitable for cruises, divided into different classes. This resulted in the complete non-usage of the tourist class cabins during cruises, for they were considered too small and austere by the demanding cruise passengers. Generally cruise ships have only one class, the first class, and cruise passengers who were very much used to democracy did not look well upon the "old-fashioned" ship. Moreover, in the 1960's and 70's, the ideal cruise ship was also very small with gross tonnage of approximately 30,000 tons at most. In fact, in the '60s and '70s the cruise market was not developed as nowadays. Cruise travels were a kind of status symbol and few people could afford such holidays. These two things combined made the couple Michelangelo - Raffaello, large 45 000 ton, very unfavourable cruise ships.


Though being considered too large, did not stop the Raffaello from making a wide variety of cruises. In addition to making the usual Caribbean cruises, she also sailed to the: Black Sea, Israel, Rio de Janeiro and even to Nordkapp (North Cape) to witness the midnight sun. However, none of these choices proved very profitable to the company.

  Soon after the Raffaello had entered service it became clear that the liners had lost the battle for the North Atlantic: in 1969 only 4,7% of the people crossing the Atlantic chose to do so by ship, travelling in 8 days instead of 8 hours. One by one the legendary liners were taken off service, the Queen Mary in 1967, Queen Elizabeth in 1968 and the speed-champion United States in 1969. However, ever-growing subsidiaries from the government kept the Raffaello and her sister sailing for several years. 


The Raffaello probably didn't earn a single lire to Italian Liners during her career, nor did her sister. As the ships became more and more unprofitable, a problem arose with the crew: according to trade union regulations, ships of those sizes needed a double-up crew, thus 725 onboard and 725 on land, rotating in service on the ship. Thus the ship that usually carried only about 400 passengers on a crossing had a total crew of 1,440. When the trade union realised their jobs were under threat because of the jet airliner, they decided to fight for their income. Lightning strikes, lasting for 24 to 48 hours, became regular on the White Elephants. Often the reason for a strike was ridiculous to say the least, like once when the crew of one of the ships walked out because they were not served mineral water.

 Other than the crew's strikes, the complaints by the private cruise Companies, because of the invasion of government competition in the Mediterranean cruise market were not helpful to the situation.


In 1969, one brighter thing happened for the Raffaello as well. Maybe partially in an attempt by the Italian Line to revive the ships, the film "My Love Help Me" (in Italian "Amore mio aiutami"), featuring the Italian actors Alberto Sordi and Monica Vitti, was filmed aboard the Italian Twinins. The film was presented for the first time onboard the Michelangelo, by Alberto Sordi. In the movie, the protagonists mount aboard Raffaello but in reality the movie is filmed aboard both the ships. The main ballroom and the restaurant are aboard Raffaello, while the most of exterior decks and the cabins were aboard Michelangelo (the cabin of the two protagonists was the "Miramare" suite).


When the company tried to compensate for the ever-growing losses, they entered negotiations with the trade union about cutting the crew on both of the ships. The unionist would not hear it, instead they demanded a rise to their wages. Italia Line was forced to cut down the cruise speed of the ships to somehow control their expenses. By 1974, only four transatlantic liners remained in service: the Michelangelo, the Raffaello, the Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth 2 and French Line's "France".

 In 1974 the oil crises had struck, and fuel expanses of the liners had raised to 217% of what they used to be. This turned the unprofitable ships even more into the red: in fall 1974 the France was laid up. Both the Michelangelo and the Raffaello spent almost the entire year cruising, but as noted before, they were not amongst the most profitable cruise ships. 


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