SS Independence is currently the only remaining steam-powered ocean liner to operate under the American flag. To qualify for American Flag status, a vessel must be:

  • built in the United States
  • registered in the United States
  • staffed with an American crew (excellent crew, at that!)
  • owned by U.S. citizens
  • must adhere to U.S. Coast Guard safety regulations (strictest in the world!)

For a great website about SS Independence,
click here.

I was VERY PROUD to have been a passenger on this American-Flagged vessel!

Because of their ships' American-flagged status, American Hawaii Cruises and her sister company US Lines are currently the only cruise lines allowed to sail solely between the Hawaiian Islands. (Other competing lines have cruises that offer stops in Hawaii, but you must also disembark at a foreign port.  Even the nearest foreign port, Fanning Island, is almost a 3-day round trip.)


Independence was built for American Export Lines of New York. Launched in 1951 from the Bethlehem Steel Company's shipyard in Quincy, MA, the ship embarked on a 53-day, 23-port maiden voyage to the Mediterranean.

Independence is considered to be among the finest passenger vessels ever built in the United States, with parts from more than 35 states. The exterior was given a traditional profile, yet the interior had modern amenities, including the first fully air-conditioned cabins.

Renowned industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss shaped the overall layout of the ship, originally designing it as three-class ocean liner to carry 1,000 passengers. Hence, cabins and public spaces remain roomy and there is plenty of open deck space, particularly on the tiered, aft section.

The passenger lists were highlighted by international heads of state and celebrities, including President Harry Truman, King Saud of Saudi Arabia, Anthony Quinn, Glenn Ford, Walt Disney, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock and Rita Hayworth.

I should say that in my humble opinion, SS Independence is NOT A CRUISE SHIP. It is a vintage ocean liner, and a grand one at that.  If you are looking for discos, spas, casinos, and shopping malls, this may not be the ship for you.  This IS your ship if you want comfortable accommodation, convenient transportation, and abundant and good food while you tour the Hawaiian Islands.  The ship has more than enough amenities for me!

The Future

Sadly, the era of steam powered travel is coming to a close. The last remaining US Flagged steam-powered passenger liner, SS Independence, will someday face retirement.  While she still has a few good years left in her, American Classic Voyages Company, the parent company of American Hawaii Cruises, has already started building two replacements scheduled for christening in 2004. While these ships will also bear the prestige of being US Flagged vessels, they may never live up to the illustrious history of SS Independence.
American Hawaii Cruises went bankrupt on 10/19/2001
Because this page is part of diary of my cruise in May, 2001, the information on this page has not been updated and may no longer be accurate.