Montreal’s New Cruise Terminal – Other Cruise News: New Investors In Hurtigruten? – “Shipless” In Seattle

The Cruise Examiner for 1st August 2016

The North Shore sailed weekly from Montreal’s Piers 34-35: Piers 34-35 & 36-37 today

Montreal’s main Iberville cruise terminal at Alexandra Pier is closed this summer while it is being rebuilt, and two temporary terminals have been installed downstream from the iconic Jacques Cartier Bridge at Pier 34-35 and Pier 36-37. About five miles from town, passengers are given free shuttles into town but it will be a welcome day next year when the new terminal opens, as it is within walking distance of downtown Montreal.  For a time in the late 1950s and early 1960s Piers 34 and 35 were the base for weekly sailings by the Clarke Steamship Company’s 76-berth North Shore (above), to the Quebec North Shore, and also her 46-berth fleetmate North Gaspé, to Gaspé and les Iles de la Madelaine. Elsewhere, we examine a rumour that new owners may be in the mix for Hurtigruten in the near future and look briefly at small ship marketing in Seattle.

FOR THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                                                                             (See previous columns)

Advertisements

Canadian Cruise Ship North Star Was Headquarters Landing Ship HMCS Prince Henry At Normandy Beaches – D-Day, June 6, 1944

 

North Star at Bonne BayBefore the war, HMCS Prince Henry had been the Clarke Steamship Company’s 6,893-ton cruise ship t.s.s. North Star (above), cruising from Montreal, New York and Miami. After conversion from an armed merchant cruiser, she recommissioned as a Landing Ship (Infantry) at Vancouver on January 6, 1944, and stopped in Bermuda en route to the Clyde to pick up school children returning to Britain. Her commanding officer wartime, Capt Val Godfrey RCN, had featured in the film “Commandos Strike at Dawn,” released by Columbia Pictures in January 1943.

HMCS Prince HenryOn arrival, the Prince Henry (above) underwent final modifications at John Brown & Company at Clydebank and prepared to take part in the D-Day landings at Normandy. She proceeded to Southampton, where on June 2 at Berth 37 she embarked the 528th Flotilla landing craft, and 227 of the Canadian Scottish Regiment of Victoria, plus 99 other troops before going to anchor in the Solent, off Cowes, to await D-Day.

Prince Henry was headquarters ship for Force J1, twenty-two merchantmen destined for Juno Beach under escort of destroyer HMCS Algonquin. In addition to the Prince Henry, landing ships in Force J1 included the 11,951-ton Union-Castle liner Llangibby Castle, with eighteen landing craft, plus half a dozen British cross-channel packets and two Dutch North Sea ferries, each with its own outfit of six or eight landing craft to take troops to the beaches.

On June 5, HMCS Prince Henry led her formation out from the Solent and across the Channel. Although no longer a cruise ship, the meals she served her troops that voyage before they went into combat in the morning were well above the usual military standard. Prince Henry arrived at Juno Beach at 06:06 on the morning of D-Day, June 6, anchoring about seven miles off the hamlet of Courseulles. There, she waited to launch her landing craft and commence the invasion of occupied France.

Offshore lay rocky shoals so rather than try to find a gap in them the Canadians chose to land ten minutes after the rest, letting the higher tide take them over the shoals. All but one of Prince Henry‘s landing craft managed to return – the unlucky one had been mined. The others were hoisted back on board while fifty-six wounded were taken below to the sick bay. Prince Henry made five more channel runs as the Normandy landings proceeded, three with American and two with British troops, taking 3,704 fighting men to France by mid-July.

On June 19, a fortnight after the initial landings, a very business-like photo of Prince Henry in her new guise as a landing ship appeared in Canadian newspapers. Under the heading “Beauty to Battlewagon,” it commented: –

Once a sleek, swift passenger liner, HMCS Prince Henry is shown here as she was converted to take part in the invasion of France. The long promenade decks where peace-time passengers strolled have been cleared away and in their place are powerful davits supporting assault landing craft. It was from the Prince Henry and her sister ship, the HMCS Prince David, that assault landing craft, manned by Royal Canadian Navy personnel, were launched on D-Day to hurl the first wave of Canadian soldiers against the beaches of Normandy.

Hundreds of ships took part in the landings, among them a fleet of 126 coasters and short-sea ships that loaded mainly in London. Included were nine St Lawrence River canallers. One of these was the Winona, a ship that had worked for Clarke, and one of four Canada Steamship Lines ships that participated in the Normandy landings.

Of 300 large cargo ships that took part, thirty-three were 10,000-ton Canadian-built “Fort” class ships, equivalents of the American “Liberty” ship. Most of the “Forts” loaded in the Thames and many took troops with them. A few left from Hull. Thirty-three “Fort” ships could carry the equivalent of almost 10,000 railcar loads of vital equipment, supplies and ammunition to the Normandy beachhead.

In addition to HMCS Prince Henry and sister ship Prince David, the Royal Canadian Navy supplied eleven destroyers, eleven frigates and nineteen corvettes, plus numerous minesweepers, motor torpedo boats and landing craft. Of these, seven MTBs were lost on the day of the landings.

HMCS LindsayOne of the Canadian corvettes, HMCS Lindsay (left), escorted a convoy of nine merchant ships from Milford Haven in Wales to the beaches of Normandy, seeing action with German E-Boats in the English Channel on the way. On June 9, she became the eighteenth Canadian corvette to arrive at Normandy, firing countless salvos at the German gun emplacements ashore. Within eighteen months of the landings at Normandy, HMCS Lindsay would find herself playing a new peacetime role with the Clarke Steamship Co as the converted Gulf of St Lawrence express passenger ship North Shore, sailing weekly from Montreal.

After the war HMCS Prince Henry became the Harwich-Hook of Holland troopship HMT Empire Parkeston, lasting until 1962.

 

75 Years Ago – The Clarke Steamship Co’s All Outside Cabin 335-berth TSS North Star Began The First Regular 7-Night Cruises From Miami

North Star at Bonne BayThis photo brings us another reminder of cruising history. On the night of January 14, 1938, Lord Beaverbook, Lord Forbes, the Governor of Florida, the Mayor of Miami and the presidents of the Chambers of Commerce of Miami and Miami Beach and their wives were all invited to an inaugural dinner and dance on board the North Star in the Port of Miami. The host was the Clarke Steamship Co of Quebec and Montreal.

On the following day, Saturday, January 15,  that company began the first 7-night cruises from Miami, with calls scheduled for Port au Prince, Haiti; Kingston, Jamaica, and Havana, Cuba, using the 6,893-ton 335-berth cruise ship North Star. This was the first time since 1927 that weekly cruises had been operated from Miami. The last time it had been by the same company’s 3,445-ton New Northland, sailing on 6-night cruises from Palm Beach and Miami every Wednesday for Nassau and Havana. In 1928, she had entered the more frequent Miami-Nassau trade.

On arrival at Port au Prince, on January 17, the North Star was welcomed by Haitian President Stenio Vincent, who particularly went out of his way to greet his French-speaking brethren from Quebec. Today, 75 years later, that welcome comes from closer to home for Montrealers, as Haitians now drive most of their taxis!

The North Star was just one of a busy parade of ships that arrived at Kingston the next day, Monday, January 18.  Among the others were Holland America’s 15,450-ton Veendam on a cruise from New Orleans, United Fruit’s 2,519-ton Telde from Saint John, New Brunswick, via Havana, Pickford & Black’s 1,571-ton Norwegian charter Lillemor from Halifax, Elders & Fyffe’s 6,878-ton Carare, to load fruit for Avonmouth, and two 5,236-ton sister ships from the Colombian Line, the Colombia, northbound for New York, and the Haiti, southbound to Colombia.

Kingston, Jamaica’s “Daily Gleaner” carried an advertisement for the ship: “TSS North Star. Palatial new British liner, especially designed and built for luxury cruising. Aboard the North Star you will enjoy the gracious living and perfection of service and cuisine for which the Clarke Steamship Company’s ships are famous.”

The North Star arrived at  Havana early, however, and not for festive reasons. In the early morning hours of January 19, after sailing from Kingston, it had been noticed that Frank Bell of the Dade County Publicity Bureau had gone missing. The North Star increased her speed in order to reach Havana two hours early, so that Mrs Bell could catch the departing Miami steamship Florida and reach her six-year-old son a day early.

The North Star had joined the Clarke fleet in the spring of 1937, having been acquired from Canadian National Steamships, who had been operating her as the Prince Henry. Under that name she had made half a dozen cruises from Miami to Havana and Veracruz for National Tours in January and February 1937.

This photo of the TSS North Star was taken not in the Caribbean, however, but in the Gulf of St Lawrence, where she is shown at scenic Bonne Bay, on Newfoundland’s west coast, in July 1937. She called here on her summer cruises from Montreal and Quebec to Gaspé, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. On her upper decks can be seen framing for the shade awnings that she used in Caribbean waters.

For details on the best cruises available today in the Caribbean and the Gulf of St Lawrence please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Some Early Royal Caribbean History: The Beginnings of the Eastern Shipping Corporation and the s.s. Nuevo Dominicano

s.s. Nuevo Dominicano in Miami 1953

The 3,445-ton Nuevo Dominicano, formerly the Clarke Steamship Company’s New Northland, seen here at Miami in 1953. This ship pioneered cruising from Miami during the 1920s and 1930s, and again in the early 1950s

The Beginnings of the Eastern Shipping Corporation

In May 1948, the former Canadian cruise ship New Northland, a vessel that had cruised from Montreal in the summer time and from Miami by winter before the war, was purchased by the Flota Mercante Dominicana, or the Dominican Line, which placed her into service between New York, Puerto Plata and Ciudad Trujillo, as Santo Domingo was known under the rule of Dominican dictator President Trujillo.

She was renamed Nuevo Dominicano and crewed by the Dominican Navy, and for a year and a half ran from New York. But not attracting enough passengers to fill her 177 berths, she was soon replaced by cargo ships.

This is where Frank Leslie Fraser comes onto the scene. Fraser, whose family had started a banana shipping business from Jamaica in the 1930s, was the general administrator of the Flota Mercante Dominicana, president of Fraser Fruit & Shipping of Cuba, president of the Dominican Fruit & Steamship Co and managing director of the Maple Leaf Steamship Co of Montreal, through which he had purchased a number of coasters in Canada when his own banana boats had been requisitioned during the war. These coasters he had used to serve the Dominican Republic.

But most importantly, Fraser was president of the Eastern Shipping Corporation, which would now charter the Nuevo Dominicano to cruise out of Miami.

While visiting Kingston in his native Jamaica, Fraser told the “Gleaner” that the Nuevo Dominicano would make fortnightly trips to Jamaica, with stops at Kingston and Montego Bay as well as Ciudad Trujillo on a 12-night cruise. By arrangement with the Bahamian Government, she would also call at Nassau on Thursdays, leave on Friday morning and be in Miami by Saturday morning.

It was Fraser’s idea to bring the Nuevo Dominicano back to Miami, where she had operated successfully in the past. Under his direction, she was readied for cruising out of Miami once more. Despite her renaming, Eastern still used the old name in brackets, with the new Eastern Shipping Corp brochure exclaiming:-

“An exciting life will be yours aboard the s.s. Nuevo Dominicano (formerly known as the s.s. New Northland) with luxury accommodations for 177 passengers, completely refitted from stem to stern to provide all cruise comforts, modern services and delicious cuisine.

“Attractively and comfortably furnished staterooms make this a giant, floating hotel for your enjoyment. You will delight in the spacious decks for sports or promenading, comfortable lounges, sunbathing and swimming in the ship’s swimming pool.”

The new swimming pool was installed where her forward cargo hatch had been.

The Bahamians were busy behind the scenes however and on April 16, 1950, the “New York Times” reported that the Nuevo Dominicano would offer more Nassau voyages:-

“The Nuevo Dominicano, which made two Miami-Nassau cruises each month during the winter, has inaugurated a spring and summer schedule which includes six stops at Nassau each month. The vessel will visit Nassau twice on her nine-day cruises, one to Ciudad Trujillo, the other to Kingston, Jamaica, stopping at Nassau on both outward and homeward legs. The vessel also will make two Miami-Nassau cruises each month, with a two-day stop in Nassau.”

The ship’s most famous passenger during this period was actor Clark Gable who with his wife travelled to Nassau for a golfing holiday in December 1950.

Although the Eastern Shipping Corporation successfully inaugurated year-round cruises from Miami, at the end of three years it decided to end its charter on the Nuevo Dominicano. For three years, all had gone well for the Nuevo Dominicano, but with a capacity of only 177 passengers, there was not much room for profit. Fraser’s absence would only be temporary, however.

Nuevo Dominicano cruise brochures

The Dominican Republic Steamship Line

To replace Eastern, the Dominicans formed the Dominican Republic Steamship Line in 1953. Unwisely, the naval personnel were withdrawn and a mixed crew took over the deck and engine departments. Standards began to drop. The ship no longer called at Jamaica, but ran 11-day winter cruises on alternate Mondays from Miami to Nassau, Ciudad Trujillo and Port-au-Prince, and 3-night Friday weekend cruises from Miami to Nassau. The 11-day cruises also offered a short one-way passage from Miami to Nassau.

Every Monday and Friday from July through September she ran 3-day cruises from Miami to Nassau. This was the opposite of what had been introduced by the New Northland in 1935 as these were summer cruises and not winter ones.

So9on, however, the new management not only failed in passenger service, but the ship also suffered continual breakdowns. That August, she had to be towed into Miami by the US Coast Guard, and again in September by a salvage tug. At this point, the US Coast Guard suspended her passenger certificate and required a general refit of the safety equipment.

She left Miami on October 9, 1953, for a refit in the Dominican Republic and within twenty-four hours was reported aground off Nuevitas, Cuba. On October 17, she ran aground again, on Punta Guarico, near Baracoa. On November 26, she was refloated and anchored in semi-protected waters but she suddenly went down.

Her end was reported in the “New York Times” on November 26, 1953, under the heading “Jinxed Liner Sinks at Anchor in Cuba”: “After a successful salvage operation, the empty passenger liner Nuevo Dominicano rolled over and ‘died’ in southern waters on Thursday night, it was reported here yesterday. No one was injured.”

This ship had been a true pioneer of cruising from Miami – as the New Northland she had operated the first weekly cruises from that port, in January 1927, the first all-inclusive cruises (as opposed to overnight steamship service) between Miami and the Bahamas, in 1935, and as the Nuevo Dominicano had become Miami’s first year-round cruise ship, in 1950.

The Eastern Story

The loss of the Nuevo Dominicano produced an opportunity for Fraser. His Eastern Shipping Corporation decided to look for a ship to fill the gap left by her loss and in May 1954, he bought Eastern Steamship Lines’ Yarmouth for $500,000. On June 18, 1954, his new ship began a series of 9-day Miami, Jamaica and Haiti cruises that alternated with 4-day Miami, Nassau and Havana cruises.

However, at the request of the Bahamian Government, which no longer had the services of the Nuevo Dominicano, he soon renamed his ship Queen of Nassau and put her into a two-year contract running between Miami and Nassau. Following the same schedule as the Nuevo Dominicano, the Queen of Nassau left Miami for Nassau every Monday and Friday at 6 pm. If Fraser had not been able to make money with the Nuevo Dominicano‘s 177 berths, he could certainly do so with the 500-passenger Queen of Nassau.

At the end of 1954, Fraser reunited the two sister ships by acquiring the Evangeline after she completed her last season on the Boston to Yarmouth run. The Evangeline did longer cruises but she made it to Nassau every second weekend.

Fraser continued to build his business. In 1959, he acquired the Bahama Star at auction for $512,000 and promptly began advertising her as the largest cruise ship sailing from Miami. Late in 1960, he bought the Ariadne. These two ships at first offered longer cruises, then moved to the 3- and 4-day cycle, out of Miami and Port Everglades respectively, serving both Nassau and Freeport.

Fraser Sells Eastern

Meanwhile, on May 27, 1961, an item in the “New York Times” recorded a change in the ownership of the Eastern Shipping Corporation: –

“The Eastern Shipping Corporation, formerly controlled by the McCormick Shipping Corporation of Panama, has been acquired by W R Lovett of Jacksonville, Fla. Mr Lovett reported yesterday that the corporate name had been changed to Eastern Steamship Corporation. The company is general agent for the cruise ships Evangeline, Yarmouth, Bahama Star and Ariadne, which operate between Miami and the West Indies.”

Three days after this announcement, Rafael Trujillo was assassinated in the Dominican Republic, bringing to an end a dictatorship that had lasted for thirty-one years.And by January 1962, Fraser had passed full control to William Lovett, a 71-year-old financier who was experienced in running banana boats himself, as founder of the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain..

When Eastern changed hands the letter “F” for Fraser on the ships’ funnels was replaced by “L” for Lovett. But unfortunately, Fraser died on July 22, 1962, only a few months after the sale, at the age of 57. And by 1965, Lovett would rename the company once more, this time as Eastern Steamship Lines

Meanwhile, in 1963, the Yarmouth had been sold to another Miami company, Yarmouth Cruises Inc, and was soon joined by the Evangeline, which was renamed Yarmouth Castle to fit in with the Yarmouth Cruise Lines theme. These veterans were placed onto a new run that served Freeport as well as Nassau, on a schedule of four sailings a week. The Yarmouth Castle, of course, is best known now for the loss of eighty-seven lives in a fire off the Bahamas on the night of November 13, 1965.

Eastern Steamship Lines had kept the larger Bahama Star and Ariadne, but in 1968 it acquired the even larger New Bahama Star, formerly the Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Co’s Miami. The New Bahama Star in turn became the largest cruise ship to sail from Miami, and its purchase by Eastern effectively meant the end of a competitor, a company that had introduced the first Miami to the Miami-Nassau route seventy years earlier, in 1898.

Gotaas-Larsen Corporation

Passenger numbers leaving Miami reached 188,000 in 1967 and 246,000 in 1968. In 1970, Lovett, now 79, sold out to Gotaas-Larsen Corporation of Norway, one-third owner of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which had been formed in 1968. By then, the number of Miami passengers was 610,000 and growing. Royal Caribbean was introducing three new ships to the Miami market in 1970-71 and others had also come onto the scene.

In 1972, Eastern’s new Norwegian owners introduced its largest ship, the 24,458-ton Emerald Seas, acquired from Chandris Lines, partly in exchange for the smaller Ariadne. Although Gotaas-Larsen was involved in both Royal Caribbean and Eastern, any conflict of interest was avoided by Royal Caribbean handling the longer-duration 7- and 14-night cruises while Eastern looked after the 3- and 4-day market, now under its fourth name as Eastern Cruise Lines.

Miami passenger numbers exceeded the million mark in 1977. Ultimately, a merger of Eastern Cruise Lines, its West Coast affiliate Western Cruise Lines and Stardance Cruises led to another new firm, Admiral Cruises, in 1986. By then, Miami was hosting three million passengers a year.

Admiral Cruises was taken over in early 1992 by Royal Caribbean, which decided to sell its older ships and to complete its “Future Seas” newbuilding project as the 48,563-ton Nordic Empress. This was the first ship to be designed and built specifically for the Florida-Nassau short cruise market since Henry Flagler’s Miami of 1898, the trade having been served traditionally by second-hand, seasonal or chartered tonnage.

For further details on how to book a cruise please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Article by the late Capt Carl Netherland Brown and Kevin Griffin

Illustrations courtesy of Michael L Grace’s “Cruising the Past.”

Holland America Line Single-Handedly Extends St Lawrence Season

Holland America Line’s Maasdam, a regular St Lawrence trader, passing under the Quebec Bridge

For many decades, in the days before air conditioning, the St Lawrence cruise season ran all summer long. From 1919 until 1965, Canada Steamship Lines offered weekly Saguenay cruises from Montreal, with a season that ran from June to September, even during the war. From 1921 to 1961, the Clarke Steamship Company offered longer “Round the Gulf” and Labrador cruises in a season that ran from May through October. After these services closed, Cunard Line, the Baltic Shipping Company, Polish Ocean Lines, Moore-McCormack Lines and the Greek Line, among others, began offering week-long cruises from Montreal or 10/11-night cruises between New York and Montreal.

The history of St Lawrence cruising goes back a long way. Under the auspices of Thomas Cook, the Quebec Steamship Company first sent its 1,864-ton Orinoco out from New York in the summer of 1894 to visit Saint John NB, Halifax, Charlottetown, Gaspé, Tadoussac, the Saguenay River and Quebec. Indeed, by 1904, the Plant Line was advertising its Gulf of St Lawrence cruises from Boston as follows:

Six Days’ Cruise 1400 miles for $18. From Union Wharf, Boston, every Tuesday and Saturday, 12 noon for Halifax, Hawkesbury and Charlottetown. Good board. Cheapest rates. Best trout and salmon fishing, and shooting. Beautiful scenery. This doesn’t half tell it. Send stamp for booklet “Looking Eastward,” maps, etc.

A pioneer of St Lawrence cruising from 1908 until the First World War, the s.s. Trinidad cruised the St Lawrence by summer and sailed from New York to Bermuda in the winter.

The Quebec Steamship Company’s 2,162-ton Trinidad followed in 1908, the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Quebec. In 1919, this line was acquired by Britain’s Furness Withy & Co, who cruised first the 5,530-ton Fort Hamilton and and then the 7,785-ton Fort St George from New York to Quebec. Between the wars, the Anchor Line, Canadian Pacific, the Clyde Line, White Star Line and others all offered cruises between New York, the Maritimes, Quebec and Montreal. These cruises were nearly always offered in the high season in July and August, when it was hottest in the cities, as a getaway from the summer heat.

More recently, however, the so-called Canada New England brand has suffered in that even The Sunday Times now tells people who want to cruise the St Lawrence to go in the autum. The question is, is this the propogation of a myth or is it simply because cruises only go there now in the autumn? This has been one of the biggest challenges facing St Lawrence and New England destinations in recent years, but things are slowly starting to change.

In recent years, Holland America has operated one ship, the 1,266-berth Maasdam, into Montreal between May and October. Starting this autumn, however, it brought a second ship to the St Lawrence, in the 1,348-berth Veendam, which it had previously been operating on the New York-Bermuda run. Next year, Holland America will operate the Veendam on a full season of St Lawrence cruises, from May through October, turning at Quebec while the Maasdam continues to turn at Montreal.

The Maasdam departing Montreal on a cruise. On the left is the Sailors’ Memorial clocktower on Victoria Pier. Behind here is where the Canada Steamship Lines and Clarke Steamship Company cruise ships used to sail from

Moving the Veendam to St Lawrence cruising is interesting in two ways. First, Holland America has already let it be known that it thinks it can make more money trading to Canada and New England than in what was once regarded as the lucrative Bermuda cruise market. Secondly, with the imposition of the North American Emission Control Area (ECA) this summer, the Veendam is actually going against the flow.

When sailing to Bermuda she spent most of her time outside the 200-mile ECA limit but by sailing to Canada she will always be within it. This means she will have to burn more expensive distillate fuel in order to reduce sulphur emissions, something that Holland America has already estimated increased their fuel costs by 40% in the Alaska trade, which is also completely within the ECA, for an  extra $200,000 on a 7-night cruise.

The Veendam will handle four embarkations and four disembarkations at Quebec, bringing more than 20,000 extra visitors a year over a three-year period. Under the new marketing agreement, Montreal will also see additional turnarounds from the Maasdam in July and August. This program, announced last month, is backed by $1.15 million in government funds, half from Tourism Quebec and half from Quebec City.

Included in the Veendam’s new program will be four 14-night round trips from Quebec that will call at Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston and the Saguenay. Equally, the Maasdam will offer seven 14-night round trip cruises from Montreal calling at Quebec, Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor and Boston. Both itineraries will also be available as one-way 7-night sectors between Montreal and Boston and Quebec and Boston.

As part of this agreement, the 450-berth Seabourn Sojourn, operated by Holland America affiliate Seabourn, will also operate three St. Lawrence turnaround cruises from Montreal that will visit seven ports in Quebec: Montreal, Quebec City, Trois Rivières, Saguenay, Baie Comeau, Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands.

Holland America has become a bit of a pioneer in the St Lawrence. It was the first cruise line to visit Sept Iles, on the St Lawrence North Shore, when it sent the Maasdam there in May 2009. This in itself was an earlier season start than usual for the St Lawrence, the call having been made during a positioning voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal, something it will offer again in 2013. The new $20 million berth at Sept Iles now accepts cruise ships of up to 985 feet in length.

Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Boréal calls at the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St Lawrence

Fellow North Shore ports Baie Comeau to the west and Havre St Pierre to the east have also added cruise facilities and their proximity to Gaspé on the South Shore, Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island and Corner Brook in Newfoundland, offers a choice of half a dozen cruise ports in the Gulf of St Lawrence below Quebec. The Magdalen Islands, which has its own weekly cruise ferry from Montreal and is now also visited by Compagnie du Ponant and Crystal Cruises, adds a seventh.

Crystal Symphony seen here calling at Quebec, offers a round-trip Gulf of St Lawrence cruise from Montreal each September.

On September 30, Crystal Cruises operated  a 7-night round trip from Montreal with its 960-berth Crystal Symphony. Three of her four ports, Sept Iles, the Magdalen Islands and the French islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, were first time calls for Crystal. The fourth port, Quebec, has been rated as the most popular cruise port in North America. This Montreal round trip itinerary will be repeated on September 26, 2013. But in September 2014, the cruise will be offered by the Crystal Serenity from Quebec. A larger ship than Symphony, the Serenity can’t get under the Quebec Bridge to sail upriver to Montreal.

Royal Caribbean has also started operating turnaround cruises from Quebec with its 2,112-berth Brilliance of the Seas, with a typical 10-night cruise taking in Baie Comeau, Corner Brook, Halifax, Sydney, St Pierre et Miquelon and Charlottetown. Like the Serenity, the Brilliance is too tall to fit under the Quebec Bridge.

Other St Lawrence visitors this season have included the 3,114-berth Emerald Princess, 2,104-berth Eurodam, 264-berth Le Boréal, 2,476-berth Norwegian Dawn, the 2,620-berth Queen Mary 2, the 684-berth Regatta, 490-berth Seven Seas Navigator, 388-berth Silver Whisper and the Veendam, nearly all in September and October. Not to mention the Aida, Fred Olsen and Saga ships that cruise over from Europe.

The addition of the Veendam to the St Lawrence trade is good news for Quebec City, which in 2013 will see five Holland America calls each month from May to August and seven in June. The only other ship coming nearby in the summer months is Oceania’s 1,258-berth Marina, which will make an unusual June 1 call at Quebec while on a 16-night cruise from New York to Southampton. The other ships will all wait until September (21 calls) and October (27 calls), when they come flocking in for “the leaves.”

For more details on Cruising the Gulf of St Lawrence please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Crystal’s 7-Night September 2012 Round Trip From Montreal Revives an Old Format – Plus Canada New England Cruises

The five-star all-inclusive (in 2012) Crystal Symphony in a night shot at Montreal

Crystal Cruises has decided to pick up on a formula that has not been used now for twenty years, a 7-night round trip cruise from Montreal on Crystal Symphony on September 30, 2012. By this time she will be all-inclusive for the first time, with wines, bar drinks and on board beverages, as well as gratuities, included in the fare.

Canada New England cruises date to 1894, when the Quebec Steamship Company, with Thomas Cook as its agent, offered the first such cruise in its Orinoco. Typically, these have started in either New York or Boston and ended in Montreal or Quebec, or vice versa. But another type of cruise that was also offered for many decades was the round trip cruise from Montreal, something that was first offered by the Quebec Steamship Company even before Canada New England cruises, and is now being revived by Crystal Cruises.

Quebec’s magnificent Fairmont Chateau Frontenac

Indicative of the gradual progress being made by new cruise ports in the Gulf of St Lawrence, three of the four ports of call, Sept Iles, the Magdalen Islands and the French Atlantic islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, will be first time calls for Crystal. The fourth, Quebec, has recently been voted the most popular cruise port in North America.

Sept Îles is a new and upcoming port, having only opened a cruise terminal in 2010 after Holland America’s Maasdam became the first modern age cruise ship to call there on May 19, 2009. Cruises had once before been operated to Sept Iles, but not since the North Shore highway was extended from Baie Comeau and the last coastal passenger ship cleared for Montreal at the end of 1961.

The new wharf extension at Sept Iles allows cruise passengers to take a new train to visit a native Innu summer camp on the Moisie River. This river is famed for its salmon and has been fished by prime ministers. The Innu themselves are descended from the Montagnais tribes that used to spend their winters in the bush trapping and come down the rivers in their canoes to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company and others on the St Lawrence in the summer.

Cruising to the North Shore and Labrador was most popular with the Clarke Steamship Co, founded in 1921 by what up until then had been a family involved in publishing and pulp and paper. Below is a typical scene from 1935, with Clarke’s North Voyageur, the first of three ships to carry that name, berthed at Clarke City wharf at Pointe Noire, now part of the Port of Sept Iles.

Meeting the ship is the Gulf Pulp & Paper Company’s locomotive number 20, a unit that had been built for the Intercolonial Railway in 1900 and acquired by Gulf Pulp & Paper in 1924. Behind her are a combination passenger and freight car and a number of flat cars. The bell-mouthed smokestack was to prevent sparks from starting forest fires along the nine-mile railway line that linked the wharf with the pulp mill  town of Clarke City.

Cruises on the North Voyageur, which had berths for 62 overnight passengers, ran 12 nights round trip  from Montreal and started at $100. Ports of call included Quebec, Godbout, Clarke City, Havre St Pierre, Natashquan and Corner Brook, Newfoundland, returning via Natashquan, Sept Iles and Franquelin. Today, ships as large as the Queen Mary 2 call at Corner Brook, which has also seen a revival in cruising.

In 2013, Crystal Symphony will repeat her 7-night Montreal round trip itinerary on September 26 and will add yet another new port, Havre St Pierre, where she will make calls on two other cruises.

Slowly, it seems, cruising the Gulf of St Lawrence is making some progress. Some people have even tried to describe these Gulf and Labrador cruises as a new Alaska.

Here is a summary of all five of Crystal Symphony’s autumn 2012 cruises to and from Montreal.

New York to Montréal, September 19 – 30, 2012 (13 nights). Calls: New York, Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax, Québec City, and Montreal. From £3,439. (*)

Round-trip Montréal, September 30 – October 7, 2012 (9 nights). Calls: Montreal, Sept-Iles, Magdalen Islands, St-Pierre et Miquelon, Québec City. From £2,623. (*)

Montréal to Boston, October 7 – 14, 2012 (9 nights). Calls: Montreal, Québec City, Halifax, Bar Harbor and Boston. From £2,478 (*).

Boston to Montréal, October 14 – 21, 2012 (9 nights). Calls : Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Québec City and Montreal. From £2,307. (*)

Montréal to New York, October 21 – 31, 2012 (12 nights). Calls: Montreal, Québec City, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston, Newport and New York. From £2,807. (*)

(*) All fares are per person in double occupancy and include return economy flights and port taxes. Hotels & transfers are additional. Number of nights given for each cruise applies to fly/cruise package from the UK..

For further details on any Crystal cruise, please call Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

85 Years Ago: The First Cruise Ship To Come To Miami

Have you thought about cruising the West Indies, in a ship that offers space, service and no crowds, to out of the way islands, like it used to be? It’s eighty-five years since the first cruises were offered from Miami, but it’s still possible, if you look around, to find ships that carry just a few hundred passengers and are not overwhelmed by children and attractions. When you get a chance, give us a call on 020 7723 2450 and ask, but, meanwhile, we thought you might find this little story of interest.

Eighty-five years ago, in the winter of 1926-27, the Clarke Steamship Co Ltd of Quebec became the first company to operate weekly cruises from Florida, in its s.s. New Northland. Here is a little background on an important part of history that is now long forgotten.

Winter cruises had been offered from Key West in 1913 and then from Jacksonville in 1914 by the Plant Line’s 3,786-ton Evangeline, the first ship of that name, that operated between Boston, Halifax and Charlottetown in the summer months. These longer 11-night cruises, which took guests down to see the Panama Canal, then under construction, and also called at Kingston, Jamaica, and Havana, Cuba, ended with the First World War. Twenty years earlier, in 1893, another Plant Line ship, the 1,738-ton Halifax, had offered an experimental series of three 10-day cruises between Tampa and Jamaica.

The New Northland arriving at Palm Beach in January 1927

Completed in April 1926 by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the same shipyard that had built Cunard’s famous 31,938-ton Mauretania twenty years earlier, the Clarke ship had actually entered service as the Northland. Before she arrived in Florida, however, she was renamed New Northland, chiefly in order to prevent confusion with the twenty-seven-year-old 3,282-ton North Land that ran between Key West and Havana in the winter (and Boston and Yarmouth NS by summer). With both the Northland and the North Land planning to be in Havana at the same time, there was no point in confusing passengers, let alone port authorities, ship chandlers and others as to which ship they should be going to! Besides, the change of name emphasized the age of the older ship, with which the New Northland also competed for one-way passengers between Florida and Cuba.

While the New Northland had been built to cruise the Gulf of St Lawrence from Montreal to Newfoundland, in the winter time, when the St Lawrence was blocked by ice, she needed to find alternative employment. Thus, for the winter of 1926-27  Clarke chose to place their new flagship into a new weekly cruise service from Palm Beach and Miami to Nassau and Havana. As a cruise ship, she could cater for about 140 first-class passengers.  In order to promote these cruises, a $5,000 model of the New Northland was put on display in the main window of Burdine’s department store (now Macy’s) in downtown Miami.

Downtown Miami, as it appeared in 1927

.
The New Northland left Montreal at the end of her first Gulf of St Lawrence cruise season on November 26, 1926, and took a cargo south to Havana before presenting for her new duties in Florida.  She arrived in Miami on Sunday, January 9, 1927, and Palm Beach the following day. Several thousand Miamians came out to inspect the new cruise ship on her maiden call and a similar event was held the next day in Palm Beach, where the new Breakers Hotel had opened twelve days earlier. Unlike today, when ships generally sail on the weekend, the New Northland‘s weekly cruises left Palm Beach and Miami every Wednesday during the winter months. Typical of advertisements that appeared in the Miami Daily News was this one for her third cruise:-

Cruise Havana – Nassau from Miami and Palm Beach. Sailing Wednesday, January 26. s.s. NEW NORTHLAND (British Registry). This palatial ship is your hotel for six days, Full day in Nassau – three in Havana. No baggage transfers. All outside cabins, many with twin beds, private baths. $90 and up.

While she would later be registered at Quebec, for the first few years the New Northland indeed remained registered at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where she had been built, hence the British flag.

The first season went well, but things had been going on in the background. In January 1926, the Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company, which had been operating the Miami-Nassau overnight service for thirty years, had been replaced by Munson Steamship Lines of New York, who also owned the British Colonial Hotel (now the British Colonial Hilton) in Nassau. In 1926-27, while the New Northland was cruising, Munson had contented themselves with the Red Cross Line’s 2,568-ton Rosalind, a fifteen-year-old second-hand ship that usually ran between New York, Halifax and St John’s NF. But by the time the 1927-28 winter season rolled around, Munson had arranged to charter the much more luxurious New Northland with her two sumptuous lounges, all-outside staterooms, verandah cafe and plentiful outdoor deck areas, to operate its three sailings a week between Miami and Nassau.

Today, there is a wide choice of Caribbean cruises, but the absolute best are from the likes of Azamara Club Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant, Crystal Cruises, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and SeaDream Yacht Club, to name just a few that will take you off the beaten path. Not to San Juan, St Thomas and St Maarten but to places like Marigot and Soufrière, Jost van Dyke and Spanish Town, Havana and Santiago, St Barthelemy and Saba. Despite what some may try to tell you, the ship is not the destination at all, it is the means of getting there in great comfort and with good company and a means of enjoying the sea, with excellent cuisine and the type of understated service that really marks out luxury

The Tere Moana, for example, a 3,504-ton ship owned by Paul Gauguin Cruises, has almost exactly the same tonnage and dimensions as the New Northland, although her appearance is totally different. She carries just 90 passengers in great comfort, and no cargo, and visits many smaller ports where the big ships cannot enter. Formerly Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Levant, she sails from St Martin on her inaugural cruise on December 29, 2012.

For further details on any of these ships call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.