Duchess of Richmond’s 1939 Pacific Cruise From Montreal And New York To Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia, California And Mexico

Seventy-five years ago today Canadian Pacific’s 20,022-ton Duchess of Richmond was steaming north from Balboa towards Los Angeles in the course of a 68-day “all in one” 1939 summer cruise that had sailed from Montreal on Dominion Day, July 1, and New York on July 6 for California, Hawaii, Alaska and Mexico. The same itinerary had been offered as a 59-day cruise from New York, from $595 per person, and sold through Thomas Cook with its ads espousing “17 ports, 18,000 miles and 2 World’s Fairs.”

Duchess of Richmond in the West Indies

Canadian Pacific’s Duchess of Richmond tendering passengers in the Caribbean

After departing New York, the Duchess had made calls at Kingston, Cristobal and Balboa and was now bound for Los Angeles, Honolulu, Yakutat Bay, Sitka, Juneau, Vancouver, Victoria, San Francisco, Los Angeles once more, Acapulco, the Panama Canal, Vera Cruz and Havana on her way back to New York and Montreal.

This cruise was unique, and the only one of its kind ever offered by Canadian Pacific. While the Duchess of Richmond had become the largest ship ever to call in Miami on a winter cruise in 1935, she was usually engaged on the North Atlantic in the summer time. The fact that it was 1939 and there were fears of impending war in Europe may have had something to do with it, but at the same time she visited both the World’s Fairs of the year. In New York, she stayed overnight on Wednesday, July 5, and in San Francisco, she spent two nights, from Saturday, August 12 until Monday, August 14.

An ominous-sounding radio news bulletin arrived from London on August 27 and was quoted in the “New York Times” the next day. Under the heading “Admiralty Takes Control,” the “Times” reported,

The Admiralty has taken over control of all British shipping, it was announced tonight. The control came into operation as from midnight last night. It means that all British ships must obey all Admiralty instructions, including changing course and destination while at sea.

On arriving at Vera Cruz on Sunday, August 27, the Duchess of Richmond was instructed to black out and when she arrived that way in New York, she incurred a delay at the pilots’ station because she could not be seen.

Duchess of Richmond on an earlier cruise at Miami

The Duchess of Richmond was the largest cruise ship to call at Miami in the years between 1935 and 1939

On September 1, whilst the Duchess of Richmond was steaming towards New York, Germany invaded Poland and Britain and France each laid down an ultimatum to Germany. The Duchess’s arrival back at New York was scheduled for 8 am on September 3, the day on which both Britain and France declared war on Germany. That very same day, the U-30 torpedoed the Donaldson Line’s 13,465-ton Athenia, while on her way from Liverpool to Montreal, with the loss of 118 lives.

Already in New York when she arrived was the French Line’s flagship, the 83,423-ton Normandie, which had been laid up on her last arrival on August 28 in order to avoid her becoming involved in any possible war in Europe. But the Duchess of Richmond returned to the North Atlantic until November 1940. After the war, she became Canadian Pacific’s second Empress of Canada.

Regatta Vancouver

Oceania’s Regatta, seen here at Vancouver’s Canada Place, underwent an update at Vancouver earlier this year

Cruises like this one rarely come around these days but P&O’s Oriana did a long one from Southampton a couple of years back, and occasionally it is possible to book a Trans-Panama cruise all the way from Montreal to Vancouver or vice versa. This year, for example, Oceania Cruises’ Regatta leaves Vancouver on August 19 for a 40-day cruise that takes her to Ketchikan,  Juneau, Sitka, Victoria, Astoria, San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco, Chiapas, Puntarenas, Cartagena, Norfok, New York, Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Saint John,  Halifax, Sydney, Corner Brook, Quebec and Monrtreal, where she arrives on September 28.

Seven Seas Navigator

Like Regatta, Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator will cruise from Vancouver to Montreal via Alaska and Mexico later this summer

Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator also leaves Vancouver, on August 20 in her case, for a 41-night cruise that takes her to Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Sitka, Victoria, Astoria, San Francisco, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, Chiapas, Puntarenas, Cartagena, Grand Cayman, Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Norfolk and New York, Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax, Sydney, Saguenay, Quebec and Montreal, where she arrives on October 2.

Both the Regatta and the Seven Seas Navigator will be offering similar cruises in 2015, leaving Vancouver on August 23 and 26, respectively, so you can plan well in advance.

For further details of such opportunities please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk or in North America on 1-800-961-5536 or e-mail cruise@thecruisepeople.ca.

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About thecruisepeople
Specialists in sea travel - ultra-luxury cruising, freighter travel, small ships and expedition voyages.

8 Responses to Duchess of Richmond’s 1939 Pacific Cruise From Montreal And New York To Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia, California And Mexico

  1. bonnie says:

    Can you help me find the passenger list for the Dutchess of Richmond arriving in Canada June 24ish, 1939? My grandparents with my new born father were meant to be on that ship coming from either a port in Germany or possibly Poland, then to London and maybe arriving at a port in Quebec.
    I have been searching web sites and found your blog on the ship. I know it’s a long shot, but thought I may be able to use your source to get more. I wish that I had asked more questions when my grandmother was still alive. Thanks, b bonnie

  2. Jane Hills says:

    I have posted some Cine footage on my Youtube account of the Duchess of Richmond 1937

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