The wreck of the SS America, lying just off the coast of the Canary Islands

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My family crossed the Atlantic on the United States twice in the 1950s, to and from Morocco. We also crossed once on the USS Constitution, which was similar.

It was just large enough to be exciting, with one pool, a movie theater, and a restaurant. People dressed for dinner, and manners were minded. It was travel at its finest, in my young mind.

On one trip , near the coast of North Africa, we spotted a small boat with a broken mast, two people aboard. Because we were so big and the boat was so small it took the captain all afternoon to get close enough to rescue them so we could take them back to shore.

In those days people still gathered on the dock in New York and threw long paper streamers, linking the ship with shore as long as they could.

I don’t think the massive cruise ships, so big you don’t feel the sea beneath you, could ever be as wonderful as the ships in the United States line.

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