SS Augusta Victoria (1888)

Augusta Victoria, later Auguste Victoria, placed in service in 1889 and named for Empress Augusta Victoria, wife of German Emperor Wilhelm II, was the name ship of the Augusta Victoria series and the first of a new generation of luxury Hamburg America Line ocean liners. She was the first European liner with twin propellers and when first placed in service, the fastest liner in the Atlantic trade. In 1897, the ship was rebuilt and lengthened and in 1904 she was sold to the Imperial Russian Navy, which renamed her Kuban.

Augusta Victoria as first launched, about 1890
Name: Augusta Victoria, Auguste Victoria
Namesake: Empress Augusta Victoria
Operator: Hamburg America Line
Builder: Stettiner Maschinenbau AG Vulcan
Launched: 1 December 1888
Maiden voyage: 10 May 1889
Name: Kuban
Namesake: Kuban in southern Russia
Owner: Imperial Russian Navy
Acquired: 1904
Fate: Broken up in Stettin, 1907
General characteristics
Type: Ocean liner, later auxiliary cruiser
  • 7,661 GRT
  • 1879: 8,479 GRT
  • 144.80 m (475.1 ft) oa
  • 140.5 m (461.0 ft) B.P.
  • 1897: 163.10 m (535.1 ft) oa
Beam: 16.90 m (55.4 ft)
  • maximum 18.5 kn (34.3 km/h)
  • 1879: 19 kn (35.2 km/h)
Capacity: 400 1st class, 120 2nd class, 580 steerage
Crew: 245


Hamburg America LineEdit

Albert Ballin commissioned Augusta Victoria and her sister ship Columbia in 1887, soon after joining the Hamburg America Line as head of passenger service.[1][2] Augusta Victoria, the first to be put in service, was originally to have been called Normannia but was renamed for the Empress after Wilhelm II became Emperor.[3][4] In the 1890s the line added the larger Normannia and SS Fürst Bismarck to the series.[5] Augusta Victoria was the first continental European liner with twin screws,[n 1] which made her both faster and more reliable.[1][6] (The two previous twin-screw liners were the British-built City of New York and City of Paris of the Inman Line.[7]) In May 1889, her maiden voyage to New York broke a record, taking only seven days.[5][8][9][n 2] In November 1889, Nellie Bly sailed to Southampton on the Augusta Victoria on the first leg of her 72-day race around the world.[10]

She was also the first luxury liner at Hamburg America, introducing the concept of the "floating hotel";[1] she had "a rococo stairhall, illuminated by a milky way of pear-shaped prisms and naked light bulbs clutched by gilded cherubs, a reception court choked by palm trees and a dark and gothic smoking room."[11][12] Ballin had her interior design work done by Johann Poppe, the designer at Hamburg America's rival line, North German Lloyd, whose ships already had a reputation for elegance.[13] She was immediately successful, but she and her sister ship were an economic drain on the line because they required more coal than slower ships and could not carry much freight or many steerage passengers and were therefore profitable only in the summer season, and it was risky to operate them at all from Hamburg in very bad weather, when the Elbe was packed with ice.[14]

Off-season pleasure cruises were therefore started in 1891,[3] and Augusta Victoria's cruise in the Mediterranean and the Near East from 22 January to 22 March 1891, with 241 passengers including the Ballins themselves,[15] is often stated to have been the first ever cruise.[n 3] Christian Wilhelm Allers published an illustrated account of it as Backschisch (Baksheesh). However, the British Orient Line had offered cruises in the late 1880s.[16][17]

In 1897, the ship underwent a comprehensive rebuilding at Harland & Wolff in Belfast. She was lengthened, her tonnage increased, and her speed increased by half a knot, and the middle of her three masts was removed.[3] Her name was also changed to Auguste Victoria to correct an original inaccuracy; the Empress spelt her name with an e.[4][18]

Imperial Russian NavyEdit

While Augusta Victoria was under construction, the Emperor persuaded both Hamburg America and its rival Norddeutscher Lloyd to make their future liners convertible to auxiliary cruisers in time of war. Like all German fast liners built from then until 1914, she therefore had reinforced decks which could support gun platforms.[19] In 1904 she and the other three ships in the series were sold to the Russian Navy; she was renamed Kuban and became a cruiser,[4][5] but was assigned to be a scout ship. She sailed in the Far East with Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky's fleet in the Russo-Japanese War, but did not see action.[20] She was broken up at Stettin in 1907.[4][5]

Augusta Victoria docked at Piraeus on her first cruise, from C.W. Allers' Backschisch
Auguste Victoria around 1900 after her rebuild


  1. ^ According to Huldermann, 1922, p. 196, she was to have been built at a British yard, like Columbia, but the then Crown Prince Wilhelm insisted the job be given to a German yard. According to Straub, p. 45, it was a "not even publicly expressed wish".
  2. ^ According to Huldermann and to Cecil, pp. 22–23, she captured the Blue Riband; according to Gerhardt, p. 33, SS Deutschland won this distinction for Hamburg America for the first and only time in 1900.
  3. ^ For example by Kludas and Bischoff; Gerhardt p. 36; Haller, giving 174 as the number of passengers.


  1. ^ a b c Ramsay 2002, p. 7
  2. ^ Gerhardt 2009, p. 31.
  3. ^ a b c Gibbs 1957, p. 159
  4. ^ a b c d Kludas & Bischoff 1979, p. 50
  5. ^ a b c d Gibbs 1957, p. 160
  6. ^ Straub 2001, p. 44.
  7. ^ Gibbs 1957, p. 122
  8. ^ Gerhardt 2009, pp. 33–34.
  9. ^ Haller 2000, pp. 320–328.
  10. ^ "Around the World in 72 Days", American Experience, PBS, 1997, retrieved August 7, 2014.
  11. ^ Cecil 1967, p. 23.
  12. ^ Gerhardt 2009, pp. 32–33.
  13. ^ Straub 2001, p. 45.
  14. ^ Cecil 1967, pp. 23–24.
  15. ^ Gerhardt 2009, pp. 35–36.
  16. ^ Ramsay 2002, p. 8.
  17. ^ Ramsay 2002, p. 293, note 9.
  18. ^ Gerhardt 2009, p. 33.
  19. ^ Ramsay 2002, pp. 7–8.
  20. ^ Gibbs 1957, p. 182


  • Allers, Christian (1891). Backschisch: Erinnerungen an die Reise der "Auguste Victoria" in den Orient (in German). Hamburg: Griese. OCLC 245856783. (Reissued as Backschisch: Skizzen zu einer Orient-Kreuzfahrt im Jahre 1891 (in German). Hamburg: Eckardt & Messtorff. 1973. ISBN 978-3-7702-2700-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Cecil, Lamar (1967). Albert Ballin: Business and Politics in Imperial Germany, 1888–1918. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. OCLC 900428.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gerhardt, Johannes (2009). Albert Ballin (pdf). Mäzene für Wissenschaft (in German). Hamburg: Hamburg University. ISBN 978-3-937816-67-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gibbs, C.R. Vernon (1957). Passenger Liners of the Western Ocean: A Record of the North Atlantic Steam and Motor Passenger Vessels from 1838 to the Present Day (2nd ed.). London: Staples. OCLC 225962096.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Haller, Bernt (June 2000). "Gipfelsturm auf hoher See" (PDF). Manager Magazin (in German).CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Huldermann, Bernhard (1922). Albert Ballin. translated by Wilhelm Johann Eggers. London: Cassell. OCLC 305940.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Kludas, Arnold; Bischoff, Herbert (1979). Die Schiffe der Hamburg-Amerika Linie (in German). 1, 1847–1906. Herford: Koehler. ISBN 978-3-7822-0221-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Ramsay, David (2002) [2001]. Lusitania: Saga and Myth. New York: Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-05099-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Straub, Eberhard (2001). Albert Ballin: Der Reeder des Kaisers (in German). Berlin: Siedler. ISBN 978-3-88680-677-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Weth, H (1891). Die Orient-Reise der "Augusta Victoria" vom Januar bis März 1891. Nach den Berichten in den Feuilletons des "Hamburger Fremdenblatt" und des "Berliner Börsen-Courier" (in German). Hamburg: Diedrich. OCLC 21556024.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

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