After a major refit at Vulkan, Imperator sailed for New York on 11th March 1914 on her first sailing of the new season, under a new captain, Theo Kier. However, in mid-Atlantic she encountered a ferocious storm, and the captain was forced to reduce speed to below three knots for some time, just to maintain headway.
In the evening a huge wave hit the bow: Imperator‘s eagle figurehead was badly damaged and four lifeboats were ripped off the fo’castle. On her arrival in New York on 19th March, an inspection of the storm damage found that one wing of the eagle had disappeared totally and the other wing was lodged under the anchor chain.
Imperator left New York on schedule, and returned to Cuxhaven on 27th March. Two days later the remains of the massive gilt figurehead were removed, and gilt scrollwork, similar to that on the stern, was substituted. However, her official length in the various registers was never adjusted! The stability problems were never completely corrected, but overall the improvements had worked. How much the loss of the eagle helped was not recorded.
The refit had been called for following a serious fire in New York on 28th August 1913. This had taken over five hours to get under control. The directors decided to return Imperator to the Vulcan shipyard, not only to effect permanent repairs to the fire damage but to try to correct her well-known stability problems – her nickname in shipping circles was “Limperator”, as she seemed to always have a list to one side or the other.
After her final scheduled crossing of the season, in November 1913 Imperator was sent back to the yard for the work to be put in hand. The Grill Room and its heavy fittings were ripped out and replaced by a Verandah Café with lightweight furniture. Much of the heavy panelling in staterooms was replaced by lighter materials, marble baths, etc., were removed. Over 2,000 tons of cement were poured into the double bottom to lower the centre of gravity, and many other measures were effected. Total cost of the refit and other improvements amounted to over £200,000, a not-insignificant sum in 1914, all of which had to be met by the shipyard under the terms of a five-year guarantee.