On 30 June 1960, under the command of the Italian Line 's Senior Captain, Com.te Sup. Armando Pinelli, the Leonardo da Vinci set out on her maiden voyage from Genoa to New York, where she received the traditional festive welcome accorded liners arriving in the city for the first time. Soon after she entered service, the Italian Line announced that by 1965 at latest the ship would be refit to run on nuclear power. This however did not come to pass, and anyway at the time of the announcement it was already known to executives of the company that by 1965 the Leonardo da Vinci would be supplanted on the North Atlantic service by the new SS Michelangelo and SS Raffaello, the planning for which already had started in 1958.
After the Michelangelo and Raffaello were delivered in May and July 1965, respectively, the Leonardo da Vinci was used almost exclusively for cruising, mostly around the Mediterranean, but also sometimes to the Caribbean, South America, and North America. The majority of her Tourist-class cabins were considered too spartan for cruise service, and remained unused when the ship was used for cruising, further cutting the profitability of the ship. In 1966 she was re-painted in the new livery of the Italian Line, a white hull with a longitudinal thin, green decorative band, instead of her original black hull with a white decorative band. In February 1970 the ship departed on her most extensive cruise, a 41-day journey from the Mediterranean to Hawaii via the Panama Canal and back again.
During the 1970s competition from jet aircraft became more and more pressing on the North Atlantic service. In 1975 the Italian Line decided withdraw both the Michelangelo and Raffaello from service. But despite the withdrawal of state subsidiaries, the Italian Line did not withdraw from the North Atlantic service altogether and the Leonardo da Vinci returned to her original route for a short period until June 1976, when she too was withdrawn from service and laid up.
In 1977 the Leonardo da Vinci was brought back into service, this time for cruising under the banner of Italia Crociere (also known as Italian Line Cruises), a newly formed subsidiary of the Italian Line. The ship was used on one-night cruises from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas, but proved unnecessarily large and too expensive to operate on a service of that kind. On 23 September 1978 the Leonardo da Vinci returned to La Spezia, Italy to be laid up.
Despite numerous rumors to the contrary, she never saw service again. After the ship had been laid up for two years, a fire started on board on 4 July 1980. She burned for four days and eventually capsized. The burnt-out hulk was later righted and towed to the scrapyard at La Spezia where it was scrapped in 1982.
Read more about this topic: SS Leonardo Da Vinci (1960)
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