The Companhia Colonial de Navegacao of Portugal ordered three handsome medium-size ocean liners in the 1950's for their routes to Africa and Latin America. First came the Vera Cruz, which was used as a troopship, then a sister ship Santa Maria for a new transatlantic service to Venezuela and Florida. Finally in 1957 they ordered Infante Dom Henrique for the colonial route to Angola and Mozambique.
Santa Maria was ahead of her time in design with substantial use of aluminum allowing a higher superstructure, more in the style of modern cruise ships than of ocean liners. The well-designed interior featured decorative touches like murals, wall hangings and a variety of inlaid woods used in paneling and carvings of saints.
She was a three class ship with 78 First class staterooms and suites with private facilities and 75 relatively large Cabin class staterooms on B and C-Decks. There were also 194 simple 2, 4 and 6-berth cabins in Third class on D, E and F-Decks. Each class had its own lounge and smoking room with bar. First and Cabin classes each enjoyed an outdoor swimming pool and all dining rooms were on D and E-Deck.
Infante Dom Henrique was the largest Portuguese ocean liner to date. The interior design was 1950s modern in metal and glass which was in marked contrast to the beautiful woods used in the earlier ships.
First class occupied the Boat Deck, which included suites, staterooms and the pool area aft. A-Deck included the First class lounge and smoking room and the Tourist class smoking room and swimming pool. B-Deck had First class staterooms forward and the Tourist class lounge, gallery and bar aft. The two dining rooms were on C-Deck and Tourist class cabins on D and E-Decks.
"The comfort and luxury awaiting you are virtually indescribable... dining will be an exquisite and continuing adventure, for the artistry of our Portuguese chefs is world renowned. Once onboard, you'll exchange cares for the carefree relaxation induced by tangy salt air and the excitement of one of the most elegant, modern luxury liners afloat."
Santa Maria stayed on the same transatlantic route throughout her career, except for a notorious 12-day hijacking by 24 revolutionaries in 1961 who opposed the Portuguese prime minister and forced the ocean liner to follow a secret route off the coast of Brazil. Infante Dom Henrique was retired on independence of the Portuguese African colonies, and eventually became a cruise ship for new owners.
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Built: 1953 by Cockerill, Hoboken, Belgium
Infante Dom Henrique
Built: 1961 by Cockerill, Hoboken, Belgium