RETURN TO THE HOMEPAGE                                                                                                                                                                                                             M.S. AUGUSTUS 1952

The Italian tradition of luxury and style at sea was never so fully realised as it was with its postwar fleet of liners. Though its fleet had been virtually destroyed by the Second World War including the loss of the Rex and Conte di Savoia among others. Italia Line made a great effort to rise from those ruins, and thus were produced some of the finest and the most stylish, elegant, graceful and beautiful vessels to ever sail the oceans of the world.

Design and Construction (1950 - 1952):

First in this programme of modern and luxurious vessels were the Giulio Cesare and Augustus. Veritable floating resorts, these ships epitomised the ingenuity of Italian shipbuilders and showcased the grace and elegance of the postwar Italian ocean liner fleet. 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.

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 time.

Her diesel engines also have an interesting history and are actually older than the ship. Originally intended for the re engining of the prior Augustus of 1927, the 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 previous Augustus in 1944, they were kept in storage until being installed in the new ship.

The Augustus was launched in November 1950 by Francesca De Gasperi (the wife of the Italian Prime Minster) at the Cantieri Riuniti dell' Adriatico, San Marco shipyard near Trieste.

Italia Line era (1952 - 1976):

She sailed on her maiden voyage from Genoa to South America on the 4th March 1952.  In 1956 following the loss of the Andrea Doria she was put into service on the North Atlantic service before returning to her usual route in 1960 when the new Leonardo di Vinci entered service on that route. In 1964, both ships were converted to two classes with the elimination of cabin class.

Wilderness Years (1976 - 1999):

In January 1976 Italia Line retired the Augustus from service. She was initially laid up in Naples. She was sold to Hong Kong interests and from then on led a rather obscure and mysterious existance in the Far East. With her Hong Kong owners she was renamed Great Sea. After little 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 service never materialized, and Asian Princess was moved to an anchorage off Manila. In mid 1998, she was dry docked at Subic Bay, returning to Manila in early 1999, where she was refitted for use as a floating hotel and restaurant

Preservation in Manila (1999 - Present):

Eventually in 1999 she was acquired by the Manila Hotel and has a dedicated berth behind the Manila Hotel. Given a berth at Pier 15 South Harbour on the 2nd October 1999, she was renamed M.S. Philippines in a gala ceremony attended by President Estrada on the 12th October1999. On the 29th October 1999, 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. She remains there today as M.S. Philippines and until recently was used as a restaurant ship and conference centre. However in 2008 she was put up for sale. Currently there are said to be interests in Italy, the Philippines and the USA who are interested in acquiring her. So hopefully she will have a secure future.

She is one of the few historic ocean liners in the world today that survives in almost unaltered original as built condition. She is the last survivor of the famed postwar Italian liners that were some of the finest and the most stylish, elegant, graceful and beautiful vessels to ever sail the oceans of the world. Let's hope that she can be saved and have a secure future once again.


(c) The AJN Transport Britain Collection 2008                                                                                                                                                                                 A Edward Elliott