Battery used Battery charging

Life Without Airplanes: from London to New York in 3 Days and 12 Hours

If we would stuff people in the ‘Queen Mary 2’ like we fold passengers into airplane seats, the ship could transport more than 500,000 people

Image; The SS Normandie.
Image; The SS Normandie.
View original image View dithered image

Flying has become cheaper than taking a train or driving a car. Yet, environmental concerns, dwindling fuel reserves and fast rising kerosene prices are threatening to turn airline travel into a privilege for the rich again.

This should not mean the end of mass travel or tourism, however. Before mass air travel took off in the 1960s, people crossed the globe in majestic passenger ships. Reintroducing ocean liners would be more than a nostalgic move: it could be a much more energy efficient (yet slower) way to travel.

Before mass air travel took off in the 1960s, people crossed the globe in majestic passenger ships.

Airlines all over the world are struggling to lower the energy consumption of their machines - by designing lighter planes and more efficient engines, by getting rid of needless weight inside the cabin, or by flying at lower speeds.

At the same time, they started investigating alternative fuels like algae, coconut oil, hydrogen and solar power. None of these things will save cheap airline travel when kerosene prices keep going up, though. There is a limit to energy efficiency, and alternative fuels for airplanes are highly speculative; maybe we should first try and see if we could run our cars on “green” fuels without destroying the environment before we try to implement them in jumbo jets. There is no alternative for kerosene.

Ocean liners

It has been said that there are no alternatives to airplanes either, when it comes to long distance travel. This might be true, but this alternative once existed and it disappeared because of planes. From the mid-19th century to the 1960s, millions of people crossed the oceans on passenger ships. Many hundreds of ocean liners were built. Most of these passenger ships were rather small and slow, but the superliners travelling the North Atlantic between Europe and North America were fast vessels with a much larger passenger capacity than that of a present plane (thesesites have a good overview of historical ocean liners).

Image: The SS United States.
Image: The SS United States.
View original image View dithered image

Motorised ships (first running on steam coal, later on diesel) brought a spectacular improvement in speed and reliability. While a sailing ship needed one to two months to cross the Atlantic, the first steamships made the journey in just 15 days. Steamships also made travelling times predictable, so that regular services could be established.

Both speed and passenger capacity went up fast during the following one hundred years. The SS United States, which was in service from 1952 to 1969, still holds the record for the fastest ocean liner ever built: she (ocean liners are female) crossed the Atlantic in 3 days and 12 hours, at a speed of more than 54 km/h. That’s 10 to 20 times faster than a sailing ship.

Contrary to present cruise ships, ocean liners were built for speed. Nations were in a constant race to possess the fastest passenger ship. Ocean liners brought thousands of European immigrants to the US, Australia and Canada. They caused a modest tourist boom in the 1920s and they served as the most important means of transportation between European countries and their colonies.

Yet, the fast growth of ocean liner traffic came to a rather abrupt end when cheap and fast air travel took off. Propeller driven aircraft like the DC-3, which were used in the 1930s and 1940s, revolutionised travel at medium distances, but their speed (240km/h) and range (1,650 km) were still too limited to present a danger for transatlantic ocean liners. With the arrival of jet powered planes at the end of the 1950s, however, ocean liners lost their reason for existence.

The death of distance

Most passenger ships were taken out of service in the 1960s - some were converted to cruise ships. Travelling at speeds of 900 km/h, jet powered planes lowered the travelling time between New York and London to less than 8 hours – 10 times faster than the SS United States. Jet engines killed distance: today, at least in theory, every place on Earth can be reached in less than 24 hours time.

Ferries take not only passengers on board but also their cars. Since the cars take more space and weigh more than the passengers, this is a very inefficient way of transporting people

However, it is interesting to note that distances shrunk at least as much by switching from sailing ships to ocean liners (which also introduced predictable travelling times) as they did by changing from ocean liners to planes.Today, there is only one ship left that services transatlantic crossings: the Queen Mary 2. Taking this gigantic ship as an example, replacing air travel by ocean liners does not seem to make a big difference. At service speed, the ship has an engine output of 90,000 kilowatts. Since she can take 2,620 passengers, this comes down to 34 kilowatts per passenger.

A Boeing 747 has an average engine output of 65,000 kilowatts and can transport about 500 passengers. This comes down to 130 kilowatts per passenger (for comparison: cars can have a maximum engine output from 50 to 300 kilowatts and more). Thus, to transport one passenger across the Atlantic, a plane needs 4 times more engine power than a ship.

Energy output does not say all there is to say about fuel consumption however, since it does not take into account the duration of the trip and the fuel efficiency of the engines. It says even less about the emissions of toxic fumes and CO2, because marine engines burn much dirtier fuel than aeroplanes. Therefore, to make a case for a revival of ocean liners, more spectacular gains are needed. These are not hard to find.


While passengers in a plane are squeezed together like sardines, the use of space on a ship like the Queen Mary 2 is far from optimal. The ship might have the speed of an ocean liner, but she is built like a cruise vessel. The Queen Mary 2 shows off 15 restaurants and bars, 5 swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre and a planetarium, to give some examples. It has cabins with balconies. In a plane, each passenger is folded into a seat - and that’s it.

Image: Cross-section of the Queen Mary 2 compared to the Titanic and to the Airbus A 380, currently the largest passenger plane with a capacity of up to 850 people.
Image: Cross-section of the Queen Mary 2 compared to the Titanic and to the Airbus A 380, currently the largest passenger plane with a capacity of up to 850 people.
View original image View dithered image

500,000 passengers

How many passengers would fit in the Queen Mary 2 if they would have as less space and leisure options as the passengers of a large jumbo jet? The ship has a gross tonnage of almost 150,000 GT – gross tonnage is a measure determining the internal volume (or enclosed space) of a ship, and comprises all spaces including engine rooms and crew cabins for instance. On the Queen Mary 2, this comes down to 57 gross tonnes per passenger. A Boeing 747 has a gross tonnage of 129 GT – which comes down to 0.26 gross tonnes per passenger. If we would stuff people in the Queen Mary 2 like we fold passengers in airplane seats, the ship could transport more than 500,000 people.

This would make transatlantic shipping definitely more eco-friendly than air travel, even without cleaner and more efficient engines. The Queen Mary 2 transporting 500,000 people would boil down to a power output of 0.18 kilowatts per passenger – comparable to the output of a well-trained cyclist and 700 times more efficient than the engine power per passenger of an airplane. Taking into account the duration of the voyages, the ship scores 70 times better than the plane.

Staten Island Ferry

Surprisingly, there are a few passenger boats that achieve similar figures. The best example is the Staten Islandferry, a passenger service that runs between Manhattan and Staten Island in New York. Ferries generally make far from optimal use of space, because almost all of them take not only passengers on board but also their cars.

Since the cars take more space and weigh more than the passengers, ferries are a very inefficient way of transporting people (some of them are also as luxurious as cruise ships). Yet, the Staten Island ferry does not take cars (anymore).

These ferries – which have a passenger capacity of up to 6,000 people - have a gross tonnage per passenger of 0.38 to 0.55 GT. That’s only slightly more than the available space on a jumbo jet. Of course, a trip on the Staten Island ferry only takes 25 minutes, and crossing the Atlantic folded in an airplane seat takes less than 10 hours. Stuffing 500,000 people in the Queen Mary would be a bit optimistic, because the trip would take more than 3 days – a bit of walking space might be very welcome.

Transporting more passengers also means you have to take more food and more lifeboats, and it would mean significantly more garbage. Therefore, let’s change those 500,000 theoretical passengers into only 30,000 passengers. This is not a random number.

A realistic option: 30,000 passengers

The Queen Mary 1, who sailed the Atlantic from 1936 to 1967, was just like many other ocean liners converted to a troopship in World War II, often transporting as many as 15,000 American soldiers. On one trip she took 16,082 soldiers – the largest amount of passengers ever transported on one vessel. The gross tonnage of the Queen Mary 2 is almost two times larger than that of the Queen Mary 1, so it must be possible to transport 2 x 15,000 = 30,000 people on a ship like the Queen Mary 2. This would come down to 5 gross tonnes per passenger and 3 kilowatts of engine power per passenger.

Image: The SS New Mauretania.
Image: The SS New Mauretania.
View original image View dithered image

These figures closely resemble those of the earlier ocean liners at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Große, a German ocean liner launched in 1896, had a gross tonnage of only 14,350 GT but could take 1,506 passengers, which comes down to a gross tonnage per passenger of only 9.5 GT. Even the infamous Titanic had a gross tonnage of only 18.5 tonnes per passenger.

If the passengers of the Queen Mary 2 would have the same moving space as the passengers of the (luxurious) Titanic, the ship could still hold more than 8,000 people, three times more than its capacity today (more, in fact, since older steamships had much larger engine rooms). Therefore, transporting 30,000 people on the QM2 is far from unrealistic or uncomfortable (this is uncomfortable). You would need 60 Jumbo Jets to transport 30,000 people.

Sustainable travel

Every one of those 30,000 passengers on the Queen Mary 2 would have 20 times as much space than a passenger on a plane, while at the same time consuming 43 times less engine power (taking the view that both engines has similar efficiency). Taking into account the duration of the trip, the ship is 4 times more energy efficient than the plane. Now this looks like an option that could be useful in a peak oil world.

If flying would become too expensive for most of us, passenger ships might continue to provide mass travel and tourism at a democratic price. We would pay another price, of course: the world would become bigger again. London and New York will be 3 days and 12 hours apart. Engineers could design faster ships, but only at the expense of much higher fuel consumption. The majority of fast ships (hovercraft, catamarans, hydrofoils) were taken out of service because of high fuel costs.

Unfortunately, governments and businesses prefer to keep up their faith in larger airports and faster planes as if there is no alternative

Switching back to ocean liners would surely lower long distance passenger travel and change life as we know it, but it would not be the end of modern civilization, nor the end of tourism or business. A weekend of shopping in Paris will be hard if you live in New York and only have 3 days free. But you could still get anywhere you want, if you take the time. Unfortunately, governments and businesses prefer to keep up their belief in ever larger airports and ever faster planes (like the Lapcat) as if there is no alternative.

Dirty fuel

One very important note: replacing planes by ocean liners would be an ecologically sound idea, but only if marine engines become cleaner. Most ships make use of very dirty (unrefined) diesel oil that needlessly poisons the air and heats up the atmosphere. This is not a technological but a political problem. All we need is (much) stronger regulation (which is on its way).

Wind energy and solar energy can also help to lower the fuel consumption of ships (see these articles on Low-tech Magazine). Other issues to consider are wastewater treatment and garbage disposal – again things that should not be harmful, but at the moment they are because of a lack of sufficient laws and control (read more about the rather sickening practices of cruise ships here).

Pictures & illustrations: SS Normandie (intro) / SS United States & Mauretania / Others from Wikipedia


To make a comment, please send an e-mail to solar (at) lowtechmagazine (dot) com. Your e-mail address is not used for other purposes, and will be deleted after the comment is published. If you don’t want your real name to be published, sign the e-mail with the name you want to appear.



When you’re calculating the energy consumption of the plane and boat, you’ve omitted mention of the duration of each journey. Watts aren’t a measure of energy, but power. Using fewer watts for a long period can be more expensive than using many for a short duration - ask anyone who’s accidentally left their car headlights on for too long about that!

Using the above figures:

  • For the boat voyage, 34kW per person over the 84 hour trip gives a total consumption of 2846kWh for each passenger.

  • For the flown voyage, 130kW per person over the an 8 hour flight produces a total consumption of 1104kWh for each passenger.

Thus, excluding engine efficiencies and other external factors, the trip by plane currently seems to be less energy intensive.


I think your representation of the energy involved in Atlantic crossings is misleading: “Thus, to transport one passenger across the Atlantic, a plane needs 4 times more engine power than a ship”.

Your units kW are power, and you seem not to have factored in the time component of travel, as they are different for a plane versus a boat. While the plane does indeed require more power than a boat, it uses less energy per person because, as you said, the plane trip is 10 times shorter. A 747 requires 580 kJ versus the QM 2800 kJ per passenger per kilometer (according to As the Atlantic crossing distances are roughly constant (though the routes do vary) the energy required per person in the 747 is considerably lower than the energy required for the QM.

Chris Gemignani

The biggest problem with your analysis is you’re not taking into account the relative speed of a 747 compared to the Queen Mary 2. The QM2 may be four times more efficient per hour of travel, but the 747 travels 20 times faster. Energy efficiency per passenger kilometer traveled would be a more appropriate measure.

I’m also perversely curious about the amount of human waste generated by 30,000 people over 4 days.

Kris De Decker

Great idea. And why not use these shipping containers:


Just a thought: why not use the human waste generated by 30,000 people over 4 days to power the ship?


Since shipping freight by ship is by far the most energy efficient way to move goods (even over rail), you would expect the same to hold for ship vs. airplane.

Of course 3 days and some hours is incredibly fast for a transatlantic journey by ship. Wonder if that takes advantage of seasonal winds or currents or something, and the return trip would be longer.

Robert Firth

I note that the Hindenburg in 1937 could transport passengers across the Atlantic in 2.5 to 3 days. Its four engines delivered a total of 3600 kW for 72 passengers, or 50 kW per passenger. With a little less luxury she could easily have carried 100 passengers, for 36 kW per passenger.

Sixty years later, we could surely do better. A lot better. Buoyant flight is the answer.

S.P. Gass

Very interesting. I’d like to see transatlantic ocean travel make a comeback. There is a group trying to “save” the S.S. United States, if interested:


Dorothy Gambrell of Cat and Girl went around the world on boats and trains.


Who on earth would want to be treated like walk on freight for 84 hours! The reason ships have bars and restraunts is to make economically viable. Do you know the cost of a transatlantic journey by ship? It is about 8 times more expensive than an Airline ticket.

Basic human rights would decree washrooms for these 30,000 people - all additional weight and hence KWH and CO2 per journey.

An A380 for 8 hours seems like heaven by comparision.

You should really be promoting the return of the EKRANOPLAN / Wing in Ground Effect Craft - a way of reducing Trailing Vortex /Lift Induced Drag to ZERO. All the advantages of Aircraft speed without the need for cabin pressurisation.


Not sure how practical this is, but perhaps use incineraters to generate energy from waste produced onboard to fuel the ship. With proper cleaning techniques (scrubbers, filters, etc.) they can be quite clean. Ash can be reused later.


can any 1 tell me the cost of flying a boeing 747 from london to new york in £s, as i thought it must have been a misprint, when i read last year that it was around £60,000 to fuel 1 for a flight to canada, from london, just wouldnt be viable, this being the time of the big fuel increases a few months ago now



Sam F.

An additional point: If the Queen Mary 2 were carrying 500,000 passengers, the resulting power required would be many times more than the power required to move 2,620 people.

Not only are you increasing the people weight of the cargo by 200 times, but also all those people need fresh drinking water, food etc.

Finally, of course you cannot pack people in like sardines for a three-day trip like you can for an 8-hour trip. Also, your gross tonnage figure fails to account for the size of the engine and other large space requirements in a ship. So using a more modest figure of, say, 15,000 people, this only gets you a savings of 2 times above what a plane gets. And that’s before we factor in the increase in power required to move 15,000 people.

Finally, of course, consider the energy and materials required to build these ships.


This is very late, but in light of the newest TSA rules (basically flying as a prisoner with no access to bathrooms during the last hour – or more and full-body scans), I think I’d LOVE to go by oceanliner. I think air travel’s time has come and gone. It’s not sustainable, wastes precious oil reserves, and produces so much waste, not to mention that you check your civil rights at the airport. My next few trips will be cruises, but I’m hoping for a resurgence of these beautiful ocean liners. (And I have motion sickness! lol)

Shane Carr

What no one has mentioned, given the recent transatlantic terrorist activity, is safety. I am sure that if the chance to go UK to the USA (on business or otherwise) by passenger ship were available on a regular (say weekly) basis then lots more people would take up the service. This would make it cheaper. I always travel on business in Europe by train now. Its less stressful and because of the laptop and internet I get more work done than when I used to fly. You must also compare a boat trip with Business Class on a plane for fairness when comparing prices.


I’ve crossed the Atlantic twice on the old great liners- once on the SS United States and once on the Cristoforo Columbo of Italian lines.

Why not a middle approach?. Outfit 4 or so 45’ containers with bunks and minimal accomodations- and send them over on a scheduled large containership( 7 days transit). Today the maritime laws are strict- more than 12 passengers requires a doctor aboard- perhaps that can be loosened creatively? In the early 80’s a line serving south america did carry more than 12 passengers- but this was a dodge to get priority berthing in crowded, delay prone ports. It was a failure-


The energy comparisons clearly need to be done carefully.

I, for one, though, would much rather cross the ocean on a ship than in a plane, which I’ve done quite a few times.

I would be willing to travel by ship second or even third class, where I had a bunk, and space for my luggage, and could buy food a la carte at cafeterias. No need for expensive restaurants and ‘fine’ food. So I hope travel by ship does make a comeback before I croak (I’m 65). Probably not too likely that it will, though.


The problem with using ships as transport is more societal than anything else. Most folk can afford a quick dash in a plane to get somewhere, but taking days to do so means either their employer or their family gets that much less of their time - in this day and age of limited time off, using most of it to merely get somewhere isn’t an option.

Of course combining on-liner business meetings with travel could mean an entire committee arrives on the other side in consensus.. or making internet access freely available could add that bit of “quiet time” (remote office!) to accomplish things that many of us modern rushers crave.

Josh Allen

Personally, I would love to be able to take transatlantic and transpacific ferries at a low cost comparable to an airline ticket.

However, there are three things that will always keep this from happening: Fuel costs, Maintenance costs, and crew costs.

The average cargo ship holds over $1 million in diesel and burns about $100,000 per day when fully loaded.

Oceangoing vessels are usually scheduled to go into extensive drydock periods every 7-10 years. Sometimes less. This is to check for weakness in the hull and to repair, repaint and recoat the hull with a protective layer that reduces the amount of damage done by the sea water.

Then you have the full time crew. Unlike an airline crew, these men and women have to live and work onboard. Engineers, navigators, boatswains, cooks, doctors. It all costs money. Unlike a flight where the crew flies somewhere and takes a different flight later for minimal pay, these men and women are always on the clock and getting paid well for their time. I used to get paid $220/day and that was low on the scale.


I was going to suggest you correct the article’s figures to quote everything in Kwh. You can still make a point that ocean lines COULD be more efficient, but you’ll have to work much harder to get your conclusions.

The size of a typical cruise-ship cabin berth (I think) is much larger than the cabin berth of a typical train. If we were to build ships with train-sized cabin berths, I think we could double or triple the number of passengers per voyage.


I believe the future might be in ocean liners with an hybrid propulsion (wind/clean diesel, or wind/solar). When gas price will finally reach 200 $ a barrel, it might be the only solution


Ecoangel said the cost of traveling across the ocean by ship is 8x higher than an airline ticket. Unfortunately, this is a complete fabrication. I’m looking at a trip to visit England right now and the TRUTH is I can get an inside room on the Queen Mary II for 7 nights (which includes food and obviously a room/board) from New York to Southampton for $899 (or a balcony cabin for around $1300) in April or May of 2013. An airline ticket to return from England, on the other hand will cost me between $1200-1400+ for a coach ticket to Ohio (I would have to pay around $115 for a one-way ticket to New York, so add that to the cruise price) and it’s STILL $200-400+ less to take the Queen Mary 2 and that’s with a leisurely cruise with plenty of leg room and relaxation, not STUFFED into a tiny airline seat for over 10 hours with my legs feeling like jelly by the time I get off the plane and the horrible grumpy mood that comes with such MISERY.

A vacation is NOT about speed. A cruise can be as much fun as visiting the target country itself. The only problems are how much vacation time one can get and whether a return ship is available at the proper time (in this case, I can get 3 weeks no problem and about one week in England would be IDEAL, but unfortunately, there is NO return run on the Queen Mary until the following week, which means I’d need to take a full 4 weeks off to do the trip and spend 2 weeks in England (which adds to the overall expense of the trip since staying in England isn’t cheap and I’d have to use my entire 4 weeks of vacation time for the year to do it). In short, if there were more ships like the Queen Mary 2 that make that trip in 7 days, I could make this trip work for less money without ever spending more than an hour and 15 minutes on a cramped, miserable airplane.


For a cruise to be fun, the energy efficiency is lost. And that’s assuming that current tech will offset current safety, security, environmental, and comfort requirements - a big “if.”

Scott Wells

What was the “this is uncomfortable” photo referring to? The link is down.


“Since shipping freight by ship is by far the most energy efficient way to move goods (even over rail), you would expect the same to hold for ship vs. airplane.”

Ocean freight is an amazingly efficient way of transporting mass, and thus freight. The catch with passenger travel is that the longer the trip takes, the more mass per passenger you need, for room, water, food, bathrooms, crew, etc. 1 hour needs a chair, 3 hours needs a bathroom, 9 hours needs food and would like a bed, 27 hours really needs walking space and would really like a bed.

So, as shown in the article, if you go slowly enough in a self-contained vehicle then you start losing the putative efficiency of being slow.

Then there’s economics: a faster vehicle carries more passengers over a fixed distance than a slower one, spreading the capital cost of the vehicle over more people (and tickets.) If an airship costs as much as an airplane but is 1/6 as fast, capital cost per ticket will be 6x higher. Plus of course the opportunity cost to the passenger of spending more time in travel, though that would lead to willingness to pay more for speed, not planes being cheaper.

Basically if energy costs are overwhelming then you want to go slow, but if capital and overhead costs are significant the optimal speed goes up, to increase turnover and reduce overhead.


Even if a trip took a whole week, going in a comfy ship cabin and getting real food and sea air more than makes up for it. Consider that there are no practical luggage weight limits (an issue for anyone who has to transport heavy equipment), and it all looks like a bliss. Internet access and, of course, onboard electricity makes everything that much nicer. Make translantic ship trips cheaper (33% cheaper, say) than airplane fares, and there will be crowds queueing up for the rides.


As someone who worked on cruise ships, the logistics is huge! Serving 15000 pax is physically impossible. Let’s take the Caribbean Princess(T’was my last ship) which carries about 3600pax and 1500crew at full capacity.

Now if you want to convert her to be a commercial liner(hence downgrading services) you could free up about 3 decks(theatre, gallery, shops, most of the restaurants, spa)for additional pax cabins which would about double the capacity. The number of crew would be about the same, since you need more cooks, stateroom stuards, and all the waiters would be transferred to an enormous buffet, and the additional room service bases. To keep the pax “occupied” the rooms should be fixed up with game consoles, and other entertainment stuff. Still it’s a 3-4 days journey, and the cost of feeding and housing 7000+1500 people is enormous(also, the crew is not working for marbles -but the wage of many of them are really close), so I don’t think the price of tickets could be compatible to jets… maybe with no or really minimal profit.

…Or you could put a fridge in every single cabin, and stuff it with 3 days worth of microwave food, instant drinks and sodas to eliminate the galley department and much of the restaurant department, then have about 8000 TV-zombies disembark every 3 days on each side of the Atlantic :D. If i had a couple billion bucks to burn, i might build a ship for this project just for the sake of fun and social experiment…

Note: you might find that a 4 days getaway on a ship costs the fracture of a transatlantic flight(say, with Lufthanza). That’s because the ticket for the ship “just keeps it afloat” the wages, cost of consumer goods and the profit are all generated from on-board sales and charges, but since in this example we have eliminated everything that could generate income, we have to cover everything on the tickets.


Half a million people aboard the Queen Mary, packed like people are in a jet. Sure, energy efficient. But nobody would buy a ticket. Ever. Transatlantic trip time is about a week, man. A week. Sitting in an airline seat. A WEEK SITTING IN AN AIRLINE SEAT. Shared bathroom, no shower, no changing clothes, no shave, no brushing teeth, nothing. Sitting next to screaming babies and annoying people. A week of this. Sorry, man, but nobody would do that. Nobody SANE, at any rate.

Curiouser and curiouser

Fantastic idea. I’d travel like this. And I agree we should use human waste to power the ship.

Mr A. Cowe

Is it actually possible to sail from the UK to New York by ship , stop over in USA for 2 to 3 weeks then sail back , if so , which company , shipping line does it > .


Any marine engine can use cleaner fuel at in a mater of hours. In fact there are zones called ECA and SECA, where there is mandatory to burn only cleaner fuel so they use diesel.


Just found this site today, and after so many discussions with people I am just happy about your article. Thanks so much!

Russell Dawkins

According to a chart I saw in Scientific American the Boeing 747 was the second most efficient mode of transportation of all the examples on the chart, which ranged from bumble bees, ships and trains to walking humans. The 747 came in second only to a person on a bicycle. The efficiency was measured in BTU per ton/mile.


Hello, I’m researching an essay and wondered if anyone could tell me the ticket price (Tourist Class) for a transatlantic crossing from Le Havre to New York, specifically around the year 1969/70 on the SS France? Any information would be much appreciated! Thank you!


The SS United States’ travel time was 84.2 hours, but the ship achieved this over a distance of 2,906 nautical miles (5,382 km).

Halifax to Liverpool is only 2,534 nautical miles (4,693 km), which is 87.2% of the distance. Galway to St. John’s is 3110Km, which is only 57.8% of the distance covered by the United States.

That translates to journey times of 73 hours 45 min and 48 hours 40 min at the same speed.

Phil Cash

Dear Sir,

Have just read your article entitled “Life Without Airplanes: from London to New York in 3 Days and 12 Hours”.

I found the article very interesting, but one point which ought to have been mentioned was safety. Many plane crashes result in 100% casualties (humans can’t fly and there is usually little warning of a problem). Whilst no ship is unsinkable, they often take long enough to succumb to allow for most (if not all) to be rescued and if necessary, humans can float for several hours (subject to seastate & water temperature).

I (for one) would love to see a return off the grand ‘ships of state’ from the past (1900 - 1960), if only because I was born far too late to see such vessels, let alone travel on one. Even if the ocean liner does make a return, sadly, I suspect we will not see the likes of the Olympic; Aquitania, Nieuw Amsterdam or Leonardo da Vinci again, but a boxy and inelegant hybrid of modern cruise ships and container vessels.

Finally, just two edit points. There has never been a Queen Mary 1, the QM2’s predecessor was/is the ‘Queen Mary’. Also, the last picture label should say ‘RMS Mauretania’ not SS New Mauretania.


Phil Cash

Yawning Enthusiast

So, let’s say it’s the year 1920. A tennis player from Hong Kong needs to travel to Wimbledon by mid-June for the start of the tournament. How long will it take him to get there?


Large ships could be nuclear powered.