Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2010 by Peter Knego
The MS PHILIPPINES is the last surviving genuine Italian ocean liner, having spent the past 34 years in Asia, either laid up or in part time use as an adjunct to the Manila Hotel. This page shows the beautifully preserved ship in her original guise as Italian Lines’ proud motorliner AUGUSTUS of 1951.
Philippine President Lines, Manila
by Peter Knego. First published on MaritimeMatters in 2000
Built as AUGUSTUS
For Italia SA di Navagizioni, Genoa (Italian Line South American service)
By Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, Trieste
Yard no: 1757
Most recently refurbished at Manila and Subic Bay, Philippines, 1999
207.4 by 26 m/ 681 by 87.3 feet
Two 12 cylinder FIAT diesels; Twin screw; 27,000 BHP 21 knots
The second unit in famed Italian Line’s first post war duo, the AUGUSTUS followed her 1951-built twin, GIULIO CESARE, in February of 1952. These two liners were not only remarkably streamlined and futuristic for their day, they set new standards on the South American run with pools for each of three classes and full air conditioning. The famed but tragic ANDREA DORIA and an entire generation of ocean liners, not only from Italy but worldwide, would draw inspiration from her trendsetting profile.
With sharply raked, bulbous bows, curved superstructures, modern masts, massive and streamlined funnels, terraced lidos and elegant cruiser spoon sterns, GIULIO CESARE and AUGUSTUS were visions of power and grace. Pronounced sheer, tumblehome, and camber were to become hallmarks of Italian post war ship design and these two ships, although relegated to the less celebrated South American run, were among the finest Atlantic liners of their generation.
AUGUSTUS/GIULIO CESARE’s external beauty held up to the most scrutinizing standards with pleasingly sculpted and multi-planed bridge wings, a suggestive nape at the aft funnel base, and even a trademark ventilator aft of the funnel that was nicknamed the “robot” for its unusual configuration.
Early artwork capitalized on the streamlined look of GIULIO CESARE
and AUGUSTUS. Peter Knego collection.
Internally, AUGUSTUS was divided into three distinct classes: 178 in a relatively small, but spacious first; 288 cabin; and 714 in less opulent but comfortable tourist. Various designers such as Gustavo Pulitzer Finali, Cervi, and Frandoli were responsible for different public areas, which also benefited from the works of such artists as Sbisa, Moscherini, and Music.
GIULIO CESARE and AUGUSTUS maintained a regular service to Buenos Aires from Genoa, calling at Naples, Cannes, Barcelona (or Lisbon), Rio de Janeiro, Santos, and Montevideo. Following the loss of the ANDREA DORIA, AUGUSTUS was diverted to the North Atlantic run in February of 1957, sailing between Genoa and New York via Cannes, Naples, and Gibraltar. She was kept on this routing with intermittent South American sailings until 1961, when the advent of the LEONARDO DA VINCI allowed her to return permanently to the South Atlantic.
In 1964, both ships were converted to two classes with the elimination of cabin class. Their new configurations were for 325 first and 858 tourist class passengers. Although still modern and magnificent, AUGUSTUS and GIULIO CESARE were often overshadowed by their North Atlantic counterparts ANDREA DORIA, CRISTOFORO COLOMBO, LEONARDO DA VINCI, MICHELANGELO, and RAFFAELLO. Indeed, the vast Italian fleets of the 1950’s and 1960’s were among the most beautiful and streamlined vessels ever built, each a “ship of state” in its own individual respect. Ironically with all of the aforementioned liners since scrapped or sunk, and a likewise fate for the fleets of fellow Italian
companies Adriatica, Costa (now a Carnival Corporation conglomerate with modern ships), and Lloyd Triestino, the former AUGUSTUS is the last unaltered survivor of this sadly lamented era.
Her career with Italia lasted until January of 1976, when she was laid up at Naples. The GIULIO CESARE met a relatively early end in 1973, when rudder damage, diminishing demand on the South American run and a financially strapped Italia sent her off to La Spezia breakers.
AUGUSTUS would carry on the remainder of the twentieth century in relative obscurity in another part of the world. Before we catch up with the second half of her story, let’s have a look at the ship during the Italian Line era.
Important reference material on Italian Line and the MV AUGUSTUS:
THE LIDO FLEET by Peter C. Kohler, TRANSATLANTICI by Maurizio Eliseo.
The AUGUSTUS had nine passenger decks, beginning just beneath the top of the house and in descending order with: Sun Deck, Lido Deck, Boat Deck, Promenade Deck, Upper Deck, Foyer Deck, A Deck, B Deck, and C Deck. Sun Deck was devoted exclusively to first class, beginning forward with the wheelhouse, chartroom, and radio room. A spacious sun deck followed aft along either side, encompassing the funnel casing, kennels, and the “robot” ventilator. Lido Deck began with a narrow full-wrap around promenade and officers’ quarters, culminating aft with a bar, the first class pool (shown above), and changing rooms
Boat Deck began forward with another narrow promenade, opening into wider expanses underneath a canopy of davits and lifeboats along either side. Internally, this level started off with the striking and sheered first class Belvedere Observation Lounge, which was lined with a panorama of windows overlooking the ship’s bow.
Continuing aft on the starboard side, there was a reading room. Immediately amidships of this space was the diminutive first class writing room. The uppermost level of the forward stairtower was just aft with its magnificently modern glass railings and burled panels. There was also an elevator that linked the first class decks in this portion of the ship. The deluxe suite accommodation followed along port and aft passageways, leading to a small gymnasium, playroom, solarium, and massage room on the starboard side.
The aft portion of Boat Deck was given over to cabin class which had its own pool, lido and bar.
Promenade Deck began forward with a first class observation area encompassing hold number three, continuing aft via narrow links to the spacious glass-enclosed first class promenade. Internally, it began with the remarkable social hall with its rounded panorama of windows and an aft bulkhead that sported sculptures and reliefs in bronze by Moscherini. The ceiling in this sheered salon contained an ovalesque recess in which the lighting was arranged in a zodiac fashion. In 1964, this room was converted into an auditorium.
The forward stairtower foyer was directly aft with vestibules leading off on either side to the promenades and passageways that led aft to the first class ballroom. The stairtower, itself, was adorned with sculptures by Moscherini.
The ballroom was the epitome of post war modern decor with its deco-inspired ceiling fixture made of mahogany, some very stylish Cassina furniture, and a tapestry on the aft bulkhead by Antonio Music depicting destinations visited on Marco Polo’s travels.
Continuing aft along the starboard side, adjacent to the funnel casing, the first class card room had a mahogany ceiling fixture in a similar style to that of the ballroom. The inboard bulkhead of this gallery space featured an oil panel on granular glass by Nicolo Costanzi.
Along the port funnel casing just aft of the ballroom was the first class bar. Rosewood paneling adorned the inboard portion of this space while the facade of the bar was beautifully and most uniquely punctuated by ceramic art inlays by Sbisa of Trieste.
Promenade Deck continued aft with the cabin class public areas. The promenades, themselves, were divided into two separate finite portions for first and cabin class to correspond with the salons they encompassed. This entire portion of the ship would be merged with tourist class when cabin class was eliminated in 1964.
The Ugo Carra-designed cabin class smoke room followed aft, with its gilt ceiling and side panels.
Adjoining the smoke room on its aft starboard side, the cabin class bar was a most inviting nook with its carved wooden facade and a panel depicting Christopher Columbus. A playroom, since converted into a small galley, was located on the port side. A foyer just aft included a stairwell leading to upper deck for access to the cabin dining room. A writing room, followed by a card room on its starboard side, coincided with a reading room and gymnasium on the port side.
All Italian liners had dedicated chapels, and AUGUSTUS was no exception. The aft portion of her Promenade Deck public rooms culminated in this space, which contained a large gilt panel of religious symbols and figurines and beautiful stained glass screens aft. The panel was moved to the theater (which would double as the chapel and a synagogue) in the 1964 conversion.
Promenade Deck concluded with AUGUSTUS’ tourist class pool area. A lido here stretched to either side of the ship, surrounding cargo hold number five and the pool, culminating in docking wings just beyond the pool basin.
Upper Deck began with the long, sheered fo’c’sle, which contained holds one
and two as well as a small deck house for the boons. Its internal forward
expanse was devoted to first class accommodation along with a small barber
shop and beauty salon.
Aft of the first class accommodation, two small annexes (one for children on
the starboard side and one for the captain on the port side) led to the first
class Dining Room.
The first class Dining Room spanned the width of the ship and had rows of
double portholes to let in natural light. More often than not, these
portholes were covered with sliding translucent screens depicting marine life
and fishermen’s nets. Gustavo Pulitzer Finale was responsible for the decor,
which also employed vivid murals of undersea life.
A galley serving both first and cabin class followed. The cabin class Dining Room, in many ways equally magnificent as its first class counterpart, was just aft of the galley. Stretching the width of the ship, its interior stylings were 50’s deco with circular lighting fixtures and modern, angular furnishing. The focal points were two cloth paintings depicting ancient Roman life on the fore and aft bulkheads.
The aft portion of Upper Deck was encompassed by a short promenade for tourist class passengers. A suite of public rooms began with the tourist class Lounge, which, if more modest than its cabin and first class counterparts, was most likely the liveliest room on the ship.
The tourist class Smoking Room followed. Its aft/starboard annex was the small Reading and Writing Room.
The aft/port portion of the Smoking Room led to the wonderful tourist class Bar. With “pearl” gray bulkheads and walnut furnishings, it was one of the most distinctive rooms on the ship.
Foyer Deck began with the spacious first class entry hall and continued aft with more deluxe accommodation. Pursers and shore excursion offices occupy either side of the lobby, with a small shop in the forward center portion.
The cabin class entry hall followed the span of first class cabins. Here is where another pursers office, shop, and barber/beauty salon were located.
The tourist class Mediterranean Dining Room was next. Two smaller wings on either side led aft to the large main salon. Banquet seating was utilized to accommodate a large number of passengers in each seating.
Foyer Deck culminated in a small fantail area with more sunning space for the tourist class passengers. A Deck contained a limited selection of first class cabins, but was largely devoted to cabin and tourist class accommodation. The narrow tourist class Foyer housed a third pursers office and barber shop. B Deck was exclusively devoted to cabin and tourist classes and also contained the hospital. C Deck housed the baggage rooms and more cabin and tourist accommodation.