The only four-stacker owned by Hamburg America Line
(Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt Aktien Gesellschaft or Hapag),
Deutschland was built by Vulkan of Stettin. Hapag's third steamer of
this name, she was launched in January 1900, and made her maiden voyage
from Hamburg to New York less than seven months later, on 4 July.
Intended as Hapag's answer to NDL's record-setting Kaiser Wilhelm der
Grosse, Deutschland proved every bit a worthy challenger, taking both
the westbound and eastbound Blue Ribands on her maiden voyage roundtrip.
(In all, Deutschland set four westbound and four eastbound records.)
In the long-term, however, the ship's performance proved to be less than
satisfactory, as she was plagued by vibrations, mechanical problems and
accidents, all of which required frequent repair and refitting. "[F]ew
major liners," wrote Shaum and Flayhart, "ever had as many problems as
that ship with her machinery."
This experience led HAPAG to concentrate on size and comfort, rather
than speed, and also led to Deutschland's withdrawal from North
Atlantic service in 1910 for conversion into a cruise ship. She
emerged in late 1911 as Victoria Luise, and was placed in service on
cruises to the Mediterranean and Caribbean, as well as occasional North
Although she was converted into an armed merchant cruiser and minelayer
at the beginning of World War I, the naval commander who took her on her
trials felt she was too slow. Consequently, she was laid up at Hamburg
throughout the War. By 1919 Victoria Luise was in such poor
shape that she was the only ocean-going German ship that the Allies did
not claim as a war reparation. As a consequence, she was the sole
survivor not only of Hapag's 1914 fleet of 175 liners, but also of the
entire pre-war German merchant fleet.
Victoria Luise then became Hapag's initial contribution to a joint service
with United American Line, designed to serve Hapag's prior routes. Renamed
Hansa II, and reduced to two stacks, she returned to service in October
1921, with a Hamburg-New York sailing. By 1924, Hapag had built enough
new tonnage that Hansa was unneeded and she was laid up. She was
scrapped in 1925.
Sources: Shaum and Flayhart's Majesty at Sea; Haws' Merchant Fleets in
Profile; Bonsor's North Atlantic Seaway.