S.S. AMERICA, S.S. UNITED STATES sailing on the 'All American' team to Europe

SS United StatesThe Passenger experience

  • " I think if people are met by somebody who stretches out their hand to greet them, they are more likely to feel welcomed."* Passengers boarding the United States received a warm welcome, especially if they were the King and Queen of Greece. (above). * Peter Crome
Step aboard for a first-class sailing experience.

In 1954, the minimum first-class fare on the SS United States from New York to Southampton was $365 ($3,783 in 2022). For that price, passengers sailed on a floating luxury resort offering the refinement, service, and conveniences of the finest American hotels. They enjoyed expansive deck space and elegant public rooms. First-class had the best location, amidship, away from the vibration of churning propellers and the impact of waves slamming into the bow. It was a wonderful way to travel, civilized, luxurious, entertaining, relaxing, and friendly.

Setting the tone

Pursers on the SS United States were versatile, being able to greet royalty and run bingo games with equal ease. Chief purser Clarence “Bob” Gehrig had an incredible memory. A passenger might board the ship after a number of years. He would welcome them by name, recalling some special item that anyone else would have forgotten long ago. The friendly greeting made passengers feel as though they were his personal guests. [1] Pursers were also adept at fixing complaints, accommodating VIP parties, or having trouble in the dog kennels.  “If anything goes wrong – it’s our necks,” according to executive purser Henry Moreno.

The SS United States defined America on the high seas in terms of decor, atmosphere, food, and service. Passengers traveled on a happy ship, with an informal seagoing elegance that made them feel at home. “She was not as stuffy as the big British liners,” according to assistant purser David Fitzgerald. “Many passengers took her out of a patriotic spirit. Many felt they would be better understood on an American ship.”[1]

5.11 deck chair
Photo: SS United States Merchant Marine Academy Museum.

After a long sojourn in Europe passengers walking up the gangplank of the SS United States were back in the USA. The ship offered a slice of American life at sea with first-run undubbed movies, the latest hit tunes, pizza, and milkshakes. The menu contained familiar dishes such as Long Island duckling, New York strip steak, Maine lobster and sugar-cured ham, and apple pie. Where else could you order a Depression-inspired dish of vegetables with a poached egg named ‘vegetables a la Hoover’, or a healthy “Clara Barton Salad.”

Runing a 5 star hotel at sea

Chief Steward Herman Mueller had one of the toughest jobs, making certain the SS United States lived up to its designation as a luxury liner. The affable veteran started his seagoing career as a mess boy. Thirty years later he was in charge of a crew that included 760 men and women out of the total crew of 1,050. His share of supervisory responsibilities included all food service, hotel services, and keeping the ship spic and span. He did the latter so well that the ship always smelled and looked as new as the day it left the shipyard for the delivery voyage to New York.

Mueller also set the tone for passenger services, based on courtesy, a desire to be of service, combined with a dignified manner, and pride in a job well done. Good manners were also important and the following lapses were to be avoided; chewing gum, cleaning nails or combing hair, picking of teeth, and arguing with passengers.

For the most part, his staff followed through with personal touches that made the voyage memorable. For example, the bounty of food would occasionally overwhelm immigrant families who had endured the hunger and deprivations of post-war Europe. Not taking any chance of going hungry between meals a young family returned from the dining room with rolls and fruit stuffed in their pockets. The attentive cabin steward made sure that each day they had a fresh basket of fruit and pastries. A four-month-old baby woke up hungry in the middle of the night. Responding to the call for assistance, a nurse in a white uniform showed up at the cabin with a baby bottle, wrapped in a white damask cloth, set in a champagne bucket.  These were the touches that made the SS United States so special.

5.12 Golf on deck
A golf lesson on the SS United States

[1] S.S. United States William H Miller p108

US Lines adv

SS United States sailing out of New York

he following two items give you a glimpse into shipboard life on the United States.


Excerpts from the SS UNITED STATES  ” DAILY PROGRAM”  for Voyage 398 Eastbound Friday September 26, 1969. Each of the 3 classes had there own Daily Program





7:30 and 8:00 A.M.- Holy Mass in the Observation Lounge

6:45 P.M.-Jewish Services in the Tourist Class Theater

   Events of the Day


7:00 AM- Swimming Pool & Gymnasium Open Children’s hours: 9:30 AM to 11:30

9:45 AM-Children’s Movie Theater ” THE YEARLING” Gregory Peck & Jane Wyman. Running time 2 hours

10:00 AM-Teen Club open on “B” Deck, all teen agers invited

10:00 AM- Deck Games Promenade Deck

11:00 AM- Bouillon Served on Deck

11:30 AM-Teenage “Coke Party” in the “Teen Club”


1:15 PM-Movie in the Theater “CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG” Dick Van Dyke & Sally Ann Howes Running time 2 hours and 22 minutes.

2:00 PM to 4:00 PM- Trapshooting on the Fantail (Weather Permitting). There will be a nominal charge for this event. Tickets may be obtained at the Purser’s Office.

2:30PM-Complimentary Dance Lessons in the Ballroom featuring: Bob & Lillian Bradley of the SS United States Entertainment Staff

2:30 PM-Informal cards in the Observation lounge.

3:00 PM- Hostess Tour of the Fine Arts of the SS United States. Please assemble in the Observation Lounge.

4:00 PM-Orchestral Concert in the Ballroom during Tea Service.

4:00 PM- Movie in the Theater (same as above)

6:00 PM- News Broadcast in the Smoking Room- Atmospheric conditions permitting


8:30 PM-Dancing in the Ballroom Meyer Davis’ Orchestra

930 PM- Snowball Bingo in the Ballroom

10:15 PM- Movie in the Theater (same as above)

11:00 PM- Atlantic Revue in  Ballroom professional entertainment featuring: Dance Stylist-Bob & lillian Bradley Baritone-Lee Barry.







7:30 and 8:00 A.M.- Holy Mass in the Observation Lounge

6:45 P.M.-Jewish Services in the Tourist Class Theater

Events of the Day


10:15 AM- Children’s Movie- Theater     ” MAGIC BOY” ( Cartoon Feature)  Running time 1 hour and 23 minutes

11:00 AM-Bouillon served on Deck

11:30 AM- Teenage ” Coke party” in the Teen Age Club


1:15 PM- Movie in the Theater ” ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST”   Claudia Cardinale & Henry Fonda running time hours & 45 Minutes.

2:00 to 4:00 PM- Trapshooting on the fantail ( Weather permitting). There will be a nominal charge for this event. Tickets may be obtained at the Purser’s office.

2:00 to 5:00 PM- Swimming Pool and Gymnasium Open. (Children hours: 2:00 to 3:00 PM)

3:30 PM_ Informal cards in the Lounge.

4:00 PM-Afternoon Tea and Concert in the Dinning Room

6:00 PM- New Broadcast in the Lounge Atmospheric condition permitting.

6:00 PM Cocktail Dancing in the Smoking room- Meyer Davis’ Orchestra.


8:30 PM- Dancing in the Lounge Meyer Davis’ Orchestra.

9:00 PM- Horse Racing in the Lounge.

10:00 PM- Movie in the Theater (same as above)

10:00 PM- Atlantic Revue in the Lounge, professional entertainment featuring: Dance Stylist- Bob & Lilian Bradley Baritone- Lee Barry.



Thursday, 21 May 1953.


Thursday, 21 May 1953.

  • 1710:  Left North Springfield in/with K.Bournes car & also the following Hollingdale car. Doris & Ken Bourne, Albert & Margaret Hollingdale,John & Ivornia Hollingdale.
  • 2100: Checked into Hotel Taft, 50th at 7th Ave, NYC. Joined by Dorothy Lord Stanley Ganz.
  • 2200: To Brass Rail for Cocktails and supper
  • 0000: Moved over to Jack Dempsey’s for more cocktails and had picture taken of gang.
  • 0130: Back to hotel & bed. Rm 752                                                   TOP

Friday, 22 May 1953

  • 0830: Automat, 50th 6-7th Ave Breakfast.
  • 0950: To Boat-Pier 86, NR.foot 46th ST. cabin S 47- First class. Sun Deck. Joined on board by others, with our gang. John & Gladys Eaton, Bruce Eaton, Neil V Johns.
  • 1130: All ashore for those not sailing.
  • 1201: Tugs “Carol Moran” and Barbara Moran” pulled ship from dock and into N.R.
  • Bridge free of Pier 86. Harbor foggy. Opposite Statue of Liberty ran into Edmond Stanley Herbert Staples, owners & operators #9 Knox st Boston. Also aboard, but not seen as yet. Duke and Duchess of Windsor are aboard.
  • 1300: To Asst Chief Steward Mumsey for table setting- late Table 36
  • 1330: Time to eat.
  • 1400: Passed Ambrose Lightship. Spent afternoon getting acquainted with layout of ship.
  • 1600 Life boat drill with jackets, out at sea now. Foggy- the usual 5 sec blast every 2 minutes.
  • 20.30: Supper.
  • 2200: Movies.
  • 2300: in the lounge for a smoke before retiring around midnight. Advanced clocks 75 minutes during nite. Fog lifted during night.

Saturday 23, May 1953

  • 0900: Up out for walk
  • 0930: Breakfast
  • 1045: Another walk. Still little fog no 5/2 b;. Saw porpoises. Rather damp out. No sun.
  • 1130: writing lounge to start daily log of doings.
  • 1200: 639 miles, sailing time 20h33min average speed31.13k
  • 1345: lunch
  • 1545: Walk around Sun deck, still fog. Medium sea running a following sea. Ran Into Commodore John Anderson (Captain), Commodore Wm Kaiser( Chief Engineer), Lt Harold Trask ( Surgeon). Quite a Reunion of old times.
  • 1730: Nap before supper.
  • 1900: Was offered table in private dinning room for rest of voyage. The Duke & Duchess eat all meals there.
  • 1930: Short walk to supper. Saw Duke & Duchess.
  • 2000: To Indian Cocktail lounge
  • 2045: Supper. Formal.
  • 2200: Writing room lounge after short walk around prom deck to settle supper.
  • 2300: Dancing
  • 0015: To bed. Advanced clocks 75 minutes.

Sunday 24 May 1953

  • 0315: Awakened by fog horn. Looked out. Very foggy & damp. Strong wind. Beaufort 4. Storming — ? flying out over waves today.
  • 1100: Breakfast.
  • 1130: Walk on sun deck and prom deck. Little golf but gave up as ship rolled & pitched too much. Fog lifted a bit as compared to type at 0315. Still heavy enough for 5/2 blast.
  • 1140: Writing lounge to get up to date.
  • 1200: 739 miles, sail time 22h45min, avg speed 32.48k.
  • 1215: Shirley feeling roll.
  • 1330: Lunch.
  • 1500: Stroll around deck- Sun deck as well as Prom deck. Watch sea kick up.Spray coming over Sun Deck. Put up safety lines.
  • 1600: Nap.
  • 1700: Went to writing lounge to see new pictures.
  • 1900: Cocktail in Indian lounge.
  • 2045: Supper.
  • 2200: Movies:
  • 2330: Dancing- inspite of heavy roll.
  • 0100: Capt (Commodore) Anderson came over to table. Another round of drinks.
  • 0200 Bed. Advanced clocks 75 minutes. Sea calmed a bit, not enough to remove safety lines.

Monday 25, May 1953

  • 1200: Up. No breakfast. Just plain tired, so slept late. After all have lost 3 hrs 45min since sailing. Trying to do 25 hour thing in 22 hr 45min day.
  • 1200: 738 miles, sail time 22h45m average 32.44k
  • 1330: lunch
  • 1500: writing room- few post cards sent.
  • 1600: movies
  • 1730: Walk around Prom deck. Saw Duchess playing cards.
  • 1800: Writing lounge to continue notes.
  • 2030: Cocktail lounge.
  • 2100: Gala dinner. Hats & favors.
  • 2300: Library lounge, smoke & sit. Dance floor very full.
  • 0030: bed, advance clocks 75 min. No sun today. Heavy sea running. Windy rain / wet.

Tuesday, 26 May 1953

  • 0915: Up. Sea moderated considerably, visibility much improved. Cloudy mist.
  • 0945: Breakfast.
  • 1015: Walk prom deck & Sun deck. Overtook American Shipper.
  • 1030: Writing lounge. Got all cards out (26)
  • 1200: Day run 739 miles, 22 hrs 45 min average 32.48k. 409 miles from LeHavre. The sun at last
  • 1330: Lunch
  • 1530: Short tour of ship
  • 1600: Ran plum into Duke of Windsor. Both of us coming around corner and met-bang-
  • 1700 Off Bishops light. Now in channel
  • 1725 Passed ” Italia” out bound
  • 1800: Passed couple of British Destroyers who sent over by light code ” Give our regards to the Duke”. Got little-most packing done.
  • 2030: Supper
  • 2200; Movies Another rank picture – walked out.
  • 2300: Smoking lounge, short walk on P deck- Met Staples & Stanley. Talked for while before retiring at
  • 0015: Bed. However kept packing as nearing LeHavre. ( the girl with boyish haircut is Mrs Peter Fuller Boston).

Wednesday May 27 1953                                                  TOP

  • 0200: Picked up pilot.
  • 0240: Docked at LeHavre
  • 0245: Now to sleep
  • 0645: Up
  • 0800: Breakfast
  • 0900: On Deck. Watched Duke & Duchess of Windsor leave boat 5 cars about 915 when they got off.
  • 1000: Pulling out of LeHavre.
  • 1130: In Commodore Anderson’s bridge room for cocktails. Tour of bridge 1215. Watch LeHavre harbor pilot- ” out of Dry dock”.
  • 1230: Finished packing.
  • 1315: Lunch
  • 1430: Immigration officials.
  • 1500: On deck watch coming up river to Southampton.
  • 1710 Tie up to docks after 6 tugs turned ship around.
  • 1730: Custom thru in no time flat
  • 1800: Picked up car- ” Little closet”
  • 1915: Winchester- ” Royal Hotel Rm 38″.
  • 2015: Supper.
  • 2100: Walk around town.
  • 2300: Bed, found 2 pots in room with pink bows on them. Shirley never stopped laughing about them.                        Copyright  L Driscoll 1998. 

Help save the SS United States Join the SS United States Conservancy