SS ATLANTIC – AMERICAN BANNER LINES – From a failed pioneering tourist liner to a celebrated university at sea…

American Banner Lines 1957-1958


Arnold Bernstein chartered in the summer of 1948 a passenger ship the CONTINENTAL (ex ANCON of 1902) for four round voyages from New York to Plymouth and Antwerp. In 1950-1951 Arnold Bernstein was involved with the Incres Line and their ship the EUROPA (ex MONGOLIA of 1923). She spent two seasons running between New York, Plymouth and Antwerp. After these experiences he wanted to run an economy passenger and cargo service from New York to Antwerp and Rotterdam.


Troubles for Bernstein happened when the Atlantic’s service was delayed.

Bernstein acquired the C4 standard freighter BADGER MARINE in 1957 and was rebuilt into a passenger cargo ship renamed ATLANTIC and followed the pattern set by the Holland America Line’s STATENDAM, RYNDAM and MAASDAM by devoting over 85% of the interior space to tourist class.

Bernstein’s major innovation was that all cabins had private facilities. This was unheard of in tourist class at this time. Passengers aboard the Queens, Flandre, United States, America, etc., had to walk down the passage way to the toilets and showers. The Oriana and Canberra — still had cabins in tourist class without private facilities. Bernstein new that Americans wouldn’t tolerate this in the 1950s and meet the demand for tourist class with your own bathroom.

The ATLANTIC was not one-class. The ship had a very limited number of first class cabins (not more than 40 passengers) with over 95% of the remaining accommodations tourist class (840).


First Class Baggage Tag, Tourist Class Dining Room and 4-Berth Cabin

This was not the choice of American Banner Lines but because the Trans-Atlantic Steamship trade association (dominated by Cunard and the US Lines) set minimum first, cabin and tourist class fares. If the ATLANTIC had sailed without first class the ships would have had to charge higher fares for the tourist class service — almost equal to cabin class.


However the venture was badly timed just four months before the beginning of regular passenger jet service and was not profitable and the ATLANTIC was withdrawn from service in November 1959 and later sold to American Export Lines.


Bernstein, a very successful German-Jewish ship owner before he was arrested by the Nazis and had his ships confiscated in 1937. He was released owing to his high international profile and immigrated to the US, where he resumed his shipping career.

Shortly after selling the ATLANTIC Arnold Bernstein retired from the shipping business. He died on 6 March 1971 at the age of 83.

Acquired by the American Export Lines in 1960 when the decision was made not to build their proposed CONSTELLATION. She served the AEL route as the ATLANTIC sailing from the US to the Mediterranean along with making various off-seasons cruises. She was sold to Orient Overseas Lines in 1971, and used for an at-sea college after the destruction of the SEAWISE UNIVERSITY (ex QUEEN ELIZABETH) in Hong Kong. While sailing as a university at sea… during the summer months the ship made regular educational cruises to Alaska.


The Universe (former Atlantic) on its last 1990s cruise… Click here to check out THE SEMESTER AT SEA program which continues as a university at sea…

Atlantic – 1953 – built by Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Chester, Penn. | ex- Badger Mariner C4 type cargo ship, 1957 purchased and rebuilt into a passenger cargo ship renamed Atlantic, 1959-1960 sold to American Export Lines not renamed, 1968 laid up, 1971 sold to C.Y. Tung renamed Universe Campus, 1976 renamed Universe, 1996 scrapped. 14,138 gross tons; 564 feet long; 76 feet wide; 28-foot draft. 880 passengers.


The UNIVERSE AND UNIVERSE EXPLORER confusion for all those alumni from the University at Sea programs…


The SS Brazil built in the late 1950’s would eventually replace the “Universe” (former “Atlantic”). The “Brazil” started as one of Moore McCormick’s liners sailing from the east coast of South America to New York and back for 14 years. In August 1972, she was sold to the Holland America Lines and became the “Volendam”. Later she was sold and renamed “Monarch Sun” three years later. Then in 1978, Holland America noticed that Monarch Cruise Lines was making too much money with the “Monarch Sun”, so it purchased Monarch Cruise Lines and renamed her “Volendam”. Over the next few years, she was sold and resold, named and renamed, flying many different flags: “Island Sun”, “Liberte”, “Canada Star”, “Queen of Bermuda” and ”Enchanted Seas”.

Finally in the late 1990s, as “Universe Explorer”, she became a charter to the Institute of Shipboard Education in association with the University of Pittsburgh.

The university attempted to name the “Universe Explorer” they were not permitted to do so by Orient Overseas Line — the owners of the “Universe” and originally the “Atlantic”…

On December 7, 2004, she was beached and disemboweled in Alang, India (the graveyard of many great ocean liners).


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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