Yes they are, some people referred to them as turned around waste paper baskets...
I certainly enjoyed looking at them when I crossed the Atlantic on her in 1972. Was quite an adventure in February with waves higher than the ship itself!
I live in La Spezia, I'm 44 years old and I remember both Mihelangelo and Raffaello idle in Portovenere in 1975-1976. Depressing sight, sad and rusty but still impressive for a child I was... I recall perfectly those days. alberto
I used to watch the sisters from my back garden on the Isle of Wight when little
I remember one Christmas the Micky (as I used to call her cos I couldn't pronounce her properly when about 5 years old) had her funnels all lit up like harlequins...beautiful
Such a shame when both were lost in the Iran/Iraq conflict at Bandar Abbas. I believe Micky was a floating restaurant prior to becoming barracking, so chances are she was stripped out or boarded out thus hiding her trimmings. As for Raffy, she went straight into being barracking IIRC. The Iranian armed forces needed extra accommodation and the two ships were bought for the purpose.
There is a great little site all about the ships, including their interiors, the accidents whilst in service and what happened to them, here...
In 1976 I was sent to Iran to establish a remote site catering company, to provide services to oil and construction companies. I obtained contracts and the company was off and running. I had only been in Iran six months or so when I received a call from a Captain in the Imperial Iranian Navy as to would I be interested in providing hotel services to the I.I.N.. The I.I.N. wished to enlarge operations at two of it's ports, Bandar Abbas and Bushier and these two vessels would save building support infrastructure to house the projected increase in personnel
I flew to La Spezia, boarded the Michelangelo and Raffaello wandering down the darkened companionways with an Italia line Rep. and flashlights. I found out that the sale depended on the hotel side of the operation being handled by an Iranian catering company. Though we being U.S. we were formed as an Iranian Joint Stock Company and thus qualified.
I negotiated a contract with the Captain all went well until the final clause. The force majeure clause. No way could the mention of war, acts of rebellion or insurrection be mentioned in a contract that must be approved by his Imperial Majesty and King of Kings. Well I gambled and removed the clause (more later).
Part of the deal was the I.I.N. would train sailors to be waiters, cabin room attendants and cooks' helpers.
I signed the contract with Admiral Habibollie C-I-C I.I.N. who in order to assist me gave me a hand written security clearance and entry to any Naval facility in Iran. I should have known I was in for it when I was turned away the first time I used it. The sentry couldn't read.
I hired ten ex-Brit. M.N. catering staff to manage the two ships and along with twenty or so our catering staff flew to Genoa. The Michelangelo was scheduled to sail for Bandar Abbas in a week, we would load stores and sailing day the "trained" naval catering staff would come aboard.
Sailing day they arrived and immediately disappeared into the bowels of the ship. No worries we would gather them up when they got hungry. We pulled away, I had them line up and my translator said "waiters one step forward", no one moved, we tried it for cooks dishwashers, nothing. I went up and down the line asking their occupations, most were drivers. I do believe I said the two words a pilot says just before he crashes, " oh ....!". The ship was being sailed by a ( engine and deck) skeleton crew from Italia lines and had their own cook but there were about a hundred Iranian officers and men, my former wife and our three children, five Brit managers and our seventy-five fully qualified truck drivers. Here I was, Managing Director with something like three hundred or so people that had to be fed on the fourth largest passenger liner at that time.
From 1953-58 I was in the M.N., Port Line, Burries Markes, and Castle Boats. I had my Ship's Cooks ticket and here I was once again cooking and making bread and not a happy camper. My children were having a grand old time. They thought they were in the movie "The Poseidon Adventure" I thought I was in "The Ship of Fools".
Sailing through the Red Sea and fulfilled my daily baking duties, I'm on deck and the Italian Radio Officer tells me he has been trying for two days to raise Bandar Abbas, he couldn't understand why no response to his messages as they had the most powerful receivers East oif Suez. " Easy" I replied, " Today's Saturday and they are closed for their weekend". Can you imagine a military base closing for the weekend?.
We arrived in Iran. The Shah mentions that he wants no unnecessary wear and tear. The Naval solution was to not let anyone go on board. I'm responsible for a payroll which is not going to be met with an empty Hotel.
What saved the day was the Raffaello arrives in Bushier and knowing great rivalry existed between the two Ports I let it be known to the officers at each Port that other had told the Italians to move out of the way and they brought the ship into dock by themselves, that restaurants were up and running the bars were open and disco night was next Friday and so on, everything was wonderful on the OTHER ship.
We soon had them functioning as Hotels and my company did well out of the deal and so did I at the end of my contract I became Senior V.P. Operations at the home office in New York, then for seven years the President and C.E.O..
The ships were sold to the I.I.N. fully furnished including silver service.
Italia Lines had a crew of twenty to handle the life support systems and the Hotel operations managed by International Boatel Companies Inc. subsidiary Boatel Iran.
The last chapter. Remember the Force Majeure clause?. Two years later and there are small riots happening across Iran, nothing much but a dark cloud on the horizon. I had gone back to New York for a meeting with the company President and got pats on the back for the way the company had grown. I am flying back to Iran on Iran Air, seated next to a young Iranian woman. She asked me if I was an American I said yes and she damned me for the sale of weapons to Iran. When she ran out of breath, I told her I agreed, if I was in charge of foreign policy I wouldn't sell them a bow and arrow let alone jet fighters. Now wouldn't you know it, she wanted them! Suddenly those two words "Oh ....! came into my head. On every flight there were members of Iran's secret police the Sarvak and here is a young student returning to Iran, unafraid to speak her mind and wanting to join the struggle.
I had to inform my boss that it was all over, we have to get out of our contracts collect our receivables and close down. Which I did, passing the ships over to a Dutch company, selling our inventory and out . I left Iran two days before Khomeini arrived in Tehran from Paris.
I could give you story after story of my two years involved with the Michelangelo and the Raffaello. Very frustrating but glad I was there.
Good sailing. Rodney former Baker on the Michelangelo.
P.S. Boatel also operated the Christofor Colombo in Columbia, S.A.
Thank you, Rodney, for that wonderful story. I was a passenger on the Michelangelo in 1975 from New York to Cannes when the ship's paper announced her withdrawal from service. This was of course very sad for her passengers and especially the crew. I wonder if the radio man you mentioned from ITALIA was the same I met on that voyage. He socialized with my group after hours and was a lot of fun.
This ship was beautiful. I remember the bronze relief of her namesake in a corridor off the embarkation lobby. I wish I knew where it was. It would look great in my house!