The International Maritime Museum Hamburg is exhibiting models of the three cruise ships of the Sea Cloud Cruises shipping company, as well as a complete first-class cabin of the „Sea Cloud II“. The model of the „Sea Cloud“ (1931) and cabin are on display on deck 6 of the museum since 2008. Models of the „Sea Cloud II“ (2001) and the „Sea Cloud Spirit“ (2021) were added in 2023 and welcome our guests in the entrance passage of the museum.
We would like to thank Sea Cloud Cruises for the donation of the models and the cabin to our collection and for their lasting support.
Sea Cloud (1931)
She Cloud is one of the most luxurious sailing cruise ships worldwide. Until she became what she is today, she had an amazing career in which she made history in several ways.
She is a steel-hulled, four-masted hybrid sailing ship, rigged as a barque, originally built after the design made by Gibbs & Cox, New York. That design combines elements from a sailing yacht and a windjammer. To a sail surface of 3000 m², her propulsion is supported by two SKL diesel-electric auxiliary engines that power twin propellers. Her top speed is 15 knots. She is 109,50 m long overall and almost 15 m wide.
Conceived as a private super-sailing-yacht, and after an eventful existence, she is now a luxury cruise ship where a crew of approximately 60 takes care of 64 passengers.
Largest private yacht in the world and diplomatic ship
The ship was built in 1931 at the Friedrich Krupp Germania shipyard in Kiel for the US entrepreneurial couple Edward Francis Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post and christened „Hussar V“. Merriweather Post designed the interior of the ship herself and became the sole owner of the yacht after the couple’s divorce. At the time of her construction, the ship was the largest private yacht in the world. Her owner married Joseph E. Davies, the US ambassador to the Soviet Union, in 1935 and renamed the ship „Sea Cloud“. She remained a private yacht until the US entered World War II, but also served as a platform for diplomatic activities. During the war, Merriweather Post offered the ship to the US Navy. In 1942, her masts were removed and she received a coat of navy grey paint. Thus refitted, the „Sea Cloud“ served the Navy and the US Coast Guard as a weather ship.
World War II
After a short period of service with the Coast Guard, the „Sea Cloud“ was commissioned on 9 April 1943 as the USS „Sea Cloud“ under the designation „IX-99“ for the US Navy and served in the Atlantic as a weather ship. Between December 1943 and November 1944, it was the scene of an experiment that was revolutionary for the time: On board the „Sea Cloud“, the „racial segregation“ that was still common at the time was abolished for the first time. The experiment was initiated by Commander Carlton Skinner (1913-2004).
Skinner was shocked when he saw a black man repairing the main engine of the USS „Northland“ after its failure in action and was subsequently denied a promotion (African Americans were only allowed to work as stewards on naval ships at the time). For Skinner, „racial integration“ in the Navy was not only a moral but also a practical necessity. The racist traditions in the Navy meant a waste of talent that could not be dispensed with, especially in wartime.
As a result, plans were drawn up for testing a crew without „racial segregation“. According to Skinner’s ideas, this was to be done on a ship in regular naval service. After many efforts, he was given command of the „Sea Cloud“ in November 1944, with a fully integrated crew. As expected, the experiment was a complete success.
US President Harry S. Truman reported in detail on the successful experiment before the Committee on Equal Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces in 1949.
From the Dominican Republic to Hamburg
After the war, Marjorie Merriweather Post received the ship back. It took almost four years before the „Sea Cloud“ was restored to her former glory. But after the meanwhile divorced again, calculated the costs for the permanent operation of the yacht, she decided to sell the ship. In 1955, the „Sea Cloud“ became the private yacht of Rafael Trujillo, the President of the Dominican Republic. He named her „Angelita“ after his daughter. After Trujillo’s assassination in 1961, the new Dominican government renamed the ship „Patria“. However, she remained inactive until 1966 when she was sold to Sea Cruises, Inc. and registered in Panama. However, the ship, now renamed „Antarna“, was not used until 1978. In that year it was finally bought by a newly founded Hamburg cruise company. It was brought to its original building yard and thoroughly restored to become the sailing cruise ship „Sea Cloud“. As such, she has been in service since 1981. In 1994, she was taken over by the newly founded Hamburg-based shipping company Sea Cloud Cruises GmbH.
The cruise ship was such a success that the shipping company had the „Sea Cloud II“, built between 1998 and 2001, and later the even larger „Sea Cloud Spirit“.
The original yard model of the Sea Cloud in a scale of 1:100 stands beside a cabin reproduction with original furniture on our exhibition deck 6.
Sea Cloud II (2001)
By the mid-1990s, cruise lines had developed the so-called „club ships“ that opened their business to large groups of new customers. During this time, the „Sea Cloud“ offered its guests a very different experience. Despite the small number of passengers she can take on board and a crew to passenger ratio of almost 1:1 (which makes her very expensive compared to modern cruise ships), she was a complete success. Therefore, only four years after the foundation of Sea Cloud Cruises GmbH, the construction of another ship with the same concept was started, the „Sea Cloud II“.
Her construction began on 24 May 1998 at Astilleros Gondán SA in Asturias, Spain. Due to the complexity of her interior and some delivery problems, her completion was delayed by about a year. The christening took place on 6 February 2001 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. The „Sea Cloud II“ is larger than the original and benefits from the fact that she was designed from the outset as a cruise ship and was built with the wishes of modern passengers in mind.
Like the original, the „Sea Cloud II“ is a steel four-masted hybrid sailing vessel rigged as a barque. She is 117 m long, 16.50 m wide and has 2700 m² of sail area. The sails are supported by two Krupp Man 8M 20 diesel engines driving a propeller. With them, the ship reaches a top speed of 12 knots. A bow thruster also facilitates maneuvering. On board the „Sea Cloud II“, a crew of 65 looks after the well-being of up to 96 passengers. Her main cruising grounds are the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
The original 1:100 scale yard model of the Sea Cloud II is displayed in the entrance passage to the museum.
Sea Cloud Spirit (2021)
The expectation that another sailing cruise ship would prove to be a success for the shipping company was confirmed. Only six years after her maiden voyage, Sea Cloud Cruises decided to order a third such ship, which was to be even larger than her predecessors.
The ship was ordered in 2007 from the shipyard Factoría de Naval de Marín in Asturias. However, the shipyard’s bankruptcy unexpectedly halted the project in 2010. It was therefore not until 2015 that the hull of the ship could be launched. But the future of the planned ship remained uncertain for a long time, until in 2018 the shipyard MetalShips & Docks (also Asturias) finally received the order to complete the ship. Work progressed well at first, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused further years of delay. Finally, om 29 April 2021, the „Sea Cloud Spirit“ was completed and christened on 14 September of the same year. On 16 June 2022, she visited Hamburg for the first time.
The design of the Spanish ship architect Iñigo Echenique envisaged retaining the style of the predecessor ships while at the same time further improving the comfort for the guests. The „Sea Cloud Spirit“ has a sail area of 4100 m², is 125 m long and 17.20 m wide. Her 85-member crew looks after up to 136 passengers. Powered by Siemens electric diesel engines, two propellers bring the ship to a top speed of 14 knots.
The original 1:100 scale yard model of the Sea Cloud Spirit is displayed in the entrance passage to the museum.