SS Galileo Galilei was
an ocean liner built in 1963 by Cantieri Riuniti dell'
Adriatico, Monfalcone, Italy for Lloyd Triestino's
Italy—Australia service. In 1979, she was converted to a
cruise ship, and subsequently sailed under the names Galileo
and Meridian. She sank in the Strait of Malacca in 1999 as
the Sun Vista.
Ordered by Lloyd Triestino in 1960, Galileo Galilei was
built in Italy for the Australian immigrant route. Galileo
Galilei was launched on 2 July 1961. On 23 March 1963, the
ship entered service for Lloyd Triestino, doing
Mediterranean cruises before departing on its official
maiden voyage from Genoa, Italy to Sydney, Australia on 22
April 1963. In November of the same year, she was joined on
the route by her sister ship SS Guglielmo Marconi.
Originally the ships traveled to Australia via the eastern
route, passing through Suez Canal in both directions, but in
the later years the return trip to Europe was via the Panama
Canal. They also routed to Australia via the Cape of Good
Hope in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The ships were very successful until the 1973 oil crisis,
which, combined with the increasing prevalence of airliners,
contributed to the decline of ocean liners. Galileo Galilei
returned to Genoa and repaired after she stuck a reef off
coast of West Africa on 13 January 1975. Galileo Galilei
continued to operate on the Italy–Australia run until April
1977, at which point she was withdrawn from service and laid
up. Her lay-up was short, and in October 1977 she returned
to her builders for a lengthy reconstruction into a cruise
ship. On 24 March 1979 the Galileo Galilei finally started
cruise service with Italia Crociere (owned by Italia
Navigazione, who also owned Lloyd Triestino). However,
already in September of the same year the Galileo Galilei
was withdrawn from service and laid up again.
In 1983, the vessel was purchased by Chandris Group. The
ship was again rebuilt, this time with additional cabins on
her forward deck, and her name shortened to Galileo. In 1984
the Galileo began cruising on the Caribbean under Chandris'
Fantasy Cruises brand. After the collapse of Home Lines in
1988 Chandris' executives decided to create a new upmarket
brand to take over the market segment occupied by Home
Lines. With this in mind the Galileo sent to a
multimillion-dollar refit at Lloyd Werft, Bremerhaven,
Germany between October 1989 and February 1990. Most of her
interiors were rebuilt, and externally her rear
superstructure enlarged. On 1 March 1990 she emerged as the
stylish SS Meridian, the first ship of the new Celebrity
Cruises brand, cruising on the Caribbean and the Boston/New
In 1997, following Royal Caribbean International's
acquisition of Celebrity Cruises, the ship was sold to Sun
Cruises, which operated her as SS Sun Vista. On 20 May 1999,
the vessel suffered an engine room fire, which cut all power
and caused her to sink on 21 May 1999 at 0121 hrs. All 1,090
passengers and crew were safely evacuated.