Double Decked! MV AUGUSTUS (1951), Part Two: MS PHILIPPINES Top To Bottom Tour

This is a top to bottom virtual tour of the MS PHILIPPINES (former AUGUSTUS) as the ship is today.  Some of the original furnishings have since been replaced with stackable conference seating and the ship has been moved to a new slip with direct access from the back patio of the Manila Hotel.  Recent reports indicate she is only used on occasion but still is beautifully maintained.

Double Decked! MV AUGUSTUS (1951), Part One: MV AUGUSTUS History and Tour


Philippine President Lines, Manila
by Peter Knego.  First published on MaritimeMatters in 2000.

MS PHILIPPINES History and Tour

History 1976 — Present:

The MS PHILIPPINES as seen in a night view from the patio of the famed Manila Hotel. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The handsome AUGUSTUS had a rather sedate, if mysterious, existence following her sale by Italia in 1976 to Hong Kong interests who renamed her GREAT SEA.  With little reported activity, she became OCEAN KING in 1980 and PHILIPPINES in 1983, for a time serving as an accommodation ship at Manila. In 1985, she was renamed PRESIDENT, continuing between Hong Kong, Keelung, and Kaohsiung in layup.  She became the ASIAN PRINCESS in 1987 and was eventually moved to Subic Bay for a planned refit for cruising in 1997.  The cruise operation never materialized, and ASIAN PRINCESS was moved to an anchorage off Manila.

This view from a tender shows a slight modification being made to the MS PHILIPPINES' stern to accommodate a new Chinese restaurant and galley. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

In mid 1998, she was dry docked at Subic Bay, returning to Manila in early 1999, where a refit for use as a floating hotel and restaurant began in earnest.  Given a berth at Pier 15 South Harbor on 2 October, she was renamed MS PHILIPPINES in a gala ceremony attended by President Estrada on 12 October.  On 29 October, the restaurant was opened to the public.  The hotel opened in early 2000, but closed shortly thereafter due to the uncertain political climate in the region.  Recent reports state that the ship is still maintained nicely and is occasionally used for functions.  In the meantime, the MS PHILIPPINES rests.

Martin Cox and I were able to spend several days on the ship in November of 1999, and while it was not possible to stay on board overnight, we did manage to fill the greater part of each day documenting every aspect of this floating former Italian time capsule.

From top to bottom, here is a deck by deck look at the MS PHILIPPINES:

Top Of The House (Deck 10)

Facing aft along the flying bridge. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The top of the house or flying bridge (Deck 10) is accessed on the port side of the wheelhouse and contains an auxiliary navigation station.

Facing forward from the top deck. Berthed in front of the MS PHILIPPINES is the Philippine presidential yacht. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

From this level, there is a sweeping view over the ship’s long bow, which is home to three cargo holds served by two pairs of king posts.

Sun Deck (9)

Facing inboard from MS PHILIPPINES' sculpted starboard wing. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Sun Deck (9) contains the wheelhouse, chart room (just aft on the starboard side), and the wireless office and station.

The immaculate wheelhouse looks much the same as it did in its Italian Line heyday, although the reddish brown paint work, recent radar equipment, and English telegraph faces are from more recent times. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The beautifully polished brass telegraphs now sport English signage and there appears to be a rather modern radar console.  Otherwise, the brass speaking tubes, horn controls, fire door panels, and wooden wheel are unchanged.

From the port wing, the view aft has changed little in the past 50 years. Even the casual observer can spot the original Italian Line funnel markings underneath the somewhat awkward new color scheme and MFHRI (Manila Floating Hotel And Restaurant International) letters. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Sun Deck was also home to the kennels during the AUGUSTUS’ transatlantic career.

Lido Deck (8)

The forward Lido Deck terrace is one of several forward-facing vantage points on board the MS PHILIPPINES. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Lido Deck (8) begins with a small wraparound promenade, which continues all the way aft via narrow walkways surrounding officers’ accommodation to what was once the first class pool area.

The wood decking utilized to cover what was formerly the first class pool area has not weathered as well as the original teak decking found atop most of the MS PHILIPPINES' other outside areas. This view is facing forward from aft Lido Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The slide-equipped pool has long since been removed.  The captain’s quarters are located in the forward starboard housing, while the rest of the accommodation is for officers.

Facing starboard and down: the understated post war deco elegance of the aft Lido to Boat Deck stairs. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Aft, a lovely Y-shaped staircase with glass insets (a Pulitzer signature touch similar to the main stairtower on the Lloyd Triestino VICTORIA of 1953) descends from the former lido area to the Boat Deck suite accommodation.

Boat Deck (7)

The original stark beauty of the Belvedere Lounge has given way to plush and vivid color schemes, as seen in this port-facing view. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Boat Deck (7) begins with a narrow terrace surrounding the former first class  Belvedere Observation Lounge.  A span of picture windows, tremendous sheer, and the oval facade of the superstructure make this one of the ship’s premier locations.

Presently located on the aft bulkhead of the Belvedere Lounge, this mural of the anointment of Augustus was originally located in the first class Writing Room, just aft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Now serving as the owner’s private club, the port side bar has been reconfigured and redecorated in reflective glass. However, the ceiling panels, plush seating with spindly tables, and an original stylized 1950s Roman mural on the aft port bulkhead survive.

The former first class Reading Room, facing starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The first class Reading Room on the starboard side is now the owner’s private suite.

Now a meeting room, the former first class Writing Room sports a large portion of the mural originally located in the Reading Room. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The inboard Writing Room, which sports a second mural, now appears to be a meeting room.

Facing down from Boat Deck level into the former first class descent. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999

In the vestibule just aft of the forward Boat Deck public rooms, the former first class stairtower begins its four deck descent.  Wrapping around a trapezoidal void, the stairs sport beautiful backlit burled wooden panels in the corners of the aft landings.  However, sculpted figures by Moscherini no longer adorn its tempered glass balustrades.

The starboard portion of Boat Deck, facing aft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Stretching aft from the narrow observation terrace, the outer portion of Boat Deck continues with expansive promenades underneath a traditional arrangement of lifeboats.

Boat Deck cabin 717 was undergoing renovation during our brief time aboard the MS PHILIPPINES. With bathroom and tub, it is not one of the ship's larger rooms, but in the Italian Line era, it was desirable for its convenient location and brass-framed window looking out onto the promenade. The beds, light fixtures and carpeting are new, but the original (freshly revarnished) woodwork and furniture thankfully remain. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

A range of deluxe cabins follow, all of which were being renovated during our visit.  Original dark wood paneling was being carefully revarnished, bulkheads repainted, and all soft furnishings replaced.  The large, adjoining midships suites (710 through 13 and 726 through 729) had been refurbished in the late 1970s.  Changing rooms on the port side and an old sauna and sun room to starboard, are all the way aft.

Aft Boat Deck sign and gate. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The outboard promenades were once exclusively first class, while the after decks contain the former cabin (later tourist) class pool and lido (where signs still say “tourist class limit” in Italian, Spanish, and English).

Facing forward toward cargo hold number four and the former cabin class pool from aft Boat Deck in November 1999. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999

Aft Boat Deck contains the smaller of two pools on board MS PHILIPPINES. During our visit, refurbishment of this area had just begun.

The larger of the two pools on aft Promenade Deck, as seen from aft Boat Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

From Boat Deck, the view over the stern shows the now expanded original tourist class pool and the extension of Promenade Deck to the fantail.

Promenade Deck (6)

The MS PHILIPPINES superstructure as seen from forward Promenade Deck. The sculpted nuances and curves would influence Italian passenger ship architecture through the mid-1960s, culminating with Home Line's state-of-the-art OCEANIC. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Promenade Deck (6) begins with an observation area and cargo hold number three, which is presided over by two large boons. Remarkably, the ship’s huge, square Cantieri builders plate is still mounted in the center of the bulkhead.

Facing aft along the starboard promenade. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The entire midships length of Promenade Deck is traversed by wide, traditional promenades.  With vertically sliding glass windows and no longer divided by class infrastructure, they are now fully air-conditioned.  Each promenade can hold up to 1,000 people for exhibitions and banquets.

Facing starboard in the sheered Cinema. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The 250 seat Chapel/Cinema, (until 1964, AUGUSTUS’ first class Ballroom) begins the lineup of public rooms.  Its red leather seats and the elliptical, backlit ceiling recess with its zodiac lighting arrangement have thankfully been retained.

The screen was formerly in the Chapel on aft Promenade Deck. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999

There is also a handsome gilt panel forward of the proscenium, engraved with ancient Christian symbols.

Facing forward toward the lift and the magnificent burled panel in the forward Promenade Deck vestibule. The lighting fixtures were a recent addition, styled after larger chandeliers in the Manila Hotel. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The Promenade Deck stairwell landing has the largest of the burled wood panels, spanning the inboard width of the vestibule around the elevator.

The view facing aft in the Barrio Fiesta Ballroom reveals that at least a good portion of the original first class Lounge remains hidden underneath new paint work, a new tapestry, and vivid soft fittings. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The 150 seat Barrio Fiesta Ballroom, originally the first class Lounge, follows.  While Italia’s large tapestry depicting the voyage of Marco Polo is gone (or hidden underneath new artwork), the space retains its stylized wooden ceiling fixture.

Facing forward from the aft/port corner, the most visible changes to the former first class Lounge are cosmetic and not structural. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The bulkheads are now covered in velour and mirrored surfacing.  Heavy rounded early 1950s velvet seating is framed by a large mural of a Philippine countryside on the aft bulkhead.  Handsome brass-framed windows in the aft part of the room look out onto the promenades, while a circular wooden dance floor and small bandstand occupy  the center portion.

Facing aft in the Magellan Card Room. The rosewood ceiling fixture has curiously been painted over. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999

Two gallery-style rooms conclude the former first class portion of Promenade Deck.  On the starboard side the Magellan Card Room has some of its original 50s furniture, but the outboard rosewood ceiling fixture has been painted over and Nicolo Costanzi’s inboard oil on granular glass has been replaced with a Spanish colonial painting.  The bulkheads are still trimmed in their original gilt surfacing.

Facing forward in the Rajah Bar. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

On the port side, the 60 seat Rajah Bar has new bright orange bar stools and modern chairs and tables.  The magnificent rosewood paneling has been left untouched, and still sports pearlescent porcelain inlays of abstract sea life, where “EMS Sbisa/Trieste” reads on the signature piece.

A close-up view the Sbisa signature bar inlay. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2009.

An athwartship passageway runs between the former first class and the former cabin class (tourist after 1964) public areas, although all barriers have long since been opened up to provide full access to the entire deck.

Top, the Sampaguita Smoke Lounge facing forward/starboard and (above) a detail shot of one of the original lighting fixtures. Photos and copyright Peter Knego 1999

Continuing aft on midships Promenade Deck, the next room is the 150 seat Sampaguita Smoke Lounge. Originally the cabin class (and later tourist class) Lounge, it is perhaps the most altered of all the public rooms, although the three recessed portions of its deckhead are left intact.  In the center bay of the forward bulkhead, a 70s style poster of the UN building replaces Ugo Carra’s mural of Venice.  There is a circular dance floor and small bandstand aft, and the new, high-backed, cushioned chairs provide formal seating.  The old chairs from this room are now located on the port promenade.

The Seaview Coffee Shop, shown facing aft/starboard, was used during our visit for buffet brunches that featured Western and Asian cuisine as well as local Philippine specialties. Below is a detail of one of its original Italian light fixtures. Photos and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Next aft is the 200 seat Seaview Coffee Shop, which was frequently used for afternoon buffets catered by the Manila Hotel.  Formerly the cabin (and later tourist) class Smoke Room, the only major post-Italia changes appear to be lightweight orange plastic chairs and a set of nature scenic murals on the forward bulkhead.  The rich wood paneling, backlit anodized aluminum “amoeba-style” wall fixtures, fixed wood and Formica tables (latter day Italian Line), and ceiling fixtures are original and still very splendid!

The Seaview Bar facing aft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999. In the aft/starboard corner, the lovely Seaview Bar still has its carved wood facade, abstract 50s style ceiling, and stylized melamine portrait of Columbus.
Facing aft in the aft Promenade Deck foyer. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

A small lobby follows, linked by a modest but elegant stairwell to the deck below.  Here, vestibules exit to either side.  A carved wooden panel from the ship’s early years is mounted on the aft bulkhead.  On the starboard side, the tiny cabin class Card and Writing Rooms were replaced with restrooms, while on the port side, the Childrens Playroom became a pantry and the Reading Room and Gymnasium have been replaced with a kitchen.

The former Chapel, shown facing starboard/aft, is now a small meeting room. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The Chapel at the aft end of the deckhouse now is an empty space, presumably for meetings.  The elliptical ceiling recess is in typical early 1950s Italian style.

The stained glass panels as seen from aft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Its original stained glass panels are mounted on the outside doors.

Facing forward from the fantail toward the MS PHILIPPINES' wonderfully terraced aft superstructure. Fresh wood decking has just been laid down over the newly extended area aft of the pool. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The aft portion of Promenade Deck had just been extended to the ship’s fantail, utilizing the railings (including the wooden cap rails) from the now enclosed Upper Deck, just below.  The tiled basin of the pool was extended forward from its original configuration with a curious lack of conformity to the ship’s pronounced sheer, the result of which has the water level practically lapping over the forward lip and a foot or two below its after end.

The same view at night. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Recalling many a balmy night in the tropics during the AUGUSTUS’ heyday, the aft lido was brilliantly lit during our visit even though the hotel was not yet open.

Upper Deck (5)

The view aft from the MS PHILIPPINES' fo'c'sle is surreal in the twilit mist of Manila harbor. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999

Upper Deck (5) begins at the fo’c’sle head, which is long and steeply sheered.  Although it is green with age, the original AUGUSTUS bell still hangs from its mount.  Holds one and two follow, separated by a small deckhouse at the base of the attending kingposts.

Cabin 534, a triple, with fresh paint, new soft fittings and fixtures and original wooden dressers and mirror frames. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

This level continues inside with a selection of renovated former first class staterooms.  Samples were open for display, revealing new carpeting, bedding, and freshly painted bulkheads.

Cabin 546, a large double bedded outside. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999

Aside from vivid orange Naugahyde back boards, they looked stunning, with original wooden cabinets, desks, and wood-framed mirrors.  As an added bonus, some still had wooden Italia coat hangers in their closets!

The forward port annex to the Luzon Saloon Room, facing port. Formerly the captain's private dining room, its corresponding space on the starboard side was once the Children's Dining Room. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Amidships, Upper Deck begins with the two private dining rooms that adjoin the former first class Luzon Saloon Room.  Photo murals have either replaced or have been pasted over the original Pulitzer panels.

The Luzon Saloon Room facing starboard. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The 220 seat Luzon Saloon Room, the former First Class Restaurant, is situated amidships.  The murals by Gustavo Pulitzer have been covered or replaced with more poster-style images, and the aft bulkhead now sports mirrored panels.

The marine-themed Pulitzer screens (left) are still discretely located in recesses by the banks of portholes on either side. Backlit by the sun or fluorescent lights, they could be drawn over the portholes during rough weather to help passengers "forget" they were on a ship. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.
The lily-like lighting fixtures have also survived from the Italian Line era.

However, vintage Italia abounds with quadrants of portholes alternating with wood-framed glass panels (with fishnet-style imprints), bronze and etched glass ceiling and bulkhead fixtures, and heavy original velour chairs.

Although originally designed for the ship's cabin class clientele, the Visayas Saloon Room is one of the most elegant and impressive rooms on board the MS PHILIPPINES. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The ship’s galley is aft, and adjoins the former cabin class Dining Room, now the Visayas Saloon Room.

A serving station with carved silhouettes of culinary images. Photos and copyright Peter Knego 1999.
One of the bulkhead fixtures in detail. Photos and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Here, carved mahogany paneling, richly polished wooden support beams, chairs, and cabinets mingle with backlit bronze and amber “teardrop” patterned bulkhead fixtures, pointed “breast-like” ceiling fixtures, and more quadrants of bronze portholes.

The forward Visayas Saloon Room mural, in a port-facing view. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The piece de resistance is the trio of hand painted cloth murals affixed to bulkheads (two forward and one aft), depicting scenes from early Roman life.

The Visayan Dining Room extension, shown facing starboard/aft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The Visayan Dining Room extension occupies what was formerly the tourist class Lounge, Smoking Room, and Bar.  Together with the Saloon Room, it holds 750 patrons.  In 1998/1999, when the ship was still ASIAN PRINCESS, these public rooms were extended into the promenades on either side, their porthole quadrants merely “relocated” in the process.

The former tourist class writing room has been incorporated into the expanse of the Visayan Dining Room Extension, although its original features have been largely left intact. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The bulkheads that compartmentalized the area were removed, but key features were left intact:  the Lounge’s circular dome, crescent-shaped piano platform, and a splendid gold leaf, glass and wooden cabinet; the Smoking Room’s descending wooden staircase; the shelves and desk in the Writing Room aft/starboard; and the sleekly curved wooden bar on the port side.

The wonderful former tourist class Bar, unaltered in its mid-century deco magnificence. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Rich maroon carpeting is a new addition, but it works beautifully within its vintage surroundings.  The fantail, which was under construction during our visit, now houses a Chinese restaurant and galley.

Foyer Deck(4)

The former first class Foyer, shown facing starboard, is the MS PHILIPPINES' main entrance, where the visitor is immediately greeted with the rumble and aroma of a living ship. The vintage chairs and pronounced sheer are but a few of the original AUGUSTUS' features to indicate what lies ahead.

Foyer Deck (4) begins with crew accommodation, followed by the former first class Lobby.

The former cabin class Foyer shown in a starboard/forward view. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The midships accommodation is similar to that of Deck 5, leading aft to the former cabin class Foyer.

The Mindinao Dining Room, facing forward/port. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The 500 seat Mindinao Dining Room follows, with two large private dining areas and a large main hall with banquet-style seating.  Intended for tourist class, it is more utilitarian than the other salons, but still features vintage paneling and cabinets.  The fantail area contains mooring equipment and a workshop where old furnishings are repaired and restored.

A Deck (3)

Contains former tourist class cabins and the original tourist class foyer, which is being used for crew access.

B Deck (2)

Devoted to more former tourist class cabins and the huge infirmary, which is made up of a series of sick bays (with original steel bunks), an operating theater, and a morgue.  Antique medical equipment and left over medications from generations past made this a particularly
interesting study at the time of our visit.

C Deck (1)

Has baggage rooms forward and more accommodation aft.  During our visit, the crew was just beginning to refurbish these areas, which still contained Italia water bottles and glasses in addition to all of the timeworn soft furnishings.

Machinery Spaces

The MS PHILIPPINES' engine room, facing forward. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Not only are the public areas, decks, and accommodation perfectly preserved, the MS PHILIPPINES’ powerful diesels are still fully operational.  Originally intended for the re engining of the prewar ROMA, these twin 12 cylinder Fiat diesels date from 1938.  At the time, they were the most powerful engines of their type, generating a remarkable 24,000 break horsepower (bhp), ultimately driving the ship’s twin screws at a service speed of 21 knots.  With the advent of the second world war and, ultimately the destruction of the ROMA, they were kept in storage until being installed in the new ship.

Even the brass instrument panels in the MS PHILIPPINES' engine room are kept beautifully polished. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Although the MS PHILIPPINES does not carry passengers on cruises, she can sail with little notice.  This is particularly useful in the advent of a typhoon, allowing the ship to leave the harbor for the relative safety of the high seas.  Imagine her motoring under her own power back to the sanctuary of Genova….

Facing forward along the starboard shaft. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

Our tour concludes just about as far down and aft as one can get on board this magnificent ship, just forward of her afterpeak in the starboard shaft alley.

Aft from the port wing, lit up like a former Italian Christmas tree. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 1999.

The MS PHILIPPINES is one of only a handful of perfectly preserved, fully operational, classic ocean liners left in a world of disposable maritime heritage.  Hopefully, the forces that have kept the ex-AUGUSTUS with us to this day will see that she continues to survive, despite dire global economic and political challenges.  Only the ROTTERDAM and possibly the AKDENIZ can match her magnificence, ton for vintage ton.


Special thanks: Martin Cox

Double Decked! MV AUGUSTUS (1951), Part One: MV AUGUSTUS History and Tour

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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