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.

Advertisements

The New Crop of Ships – 100th Anniversary of Florida’s First Cruises – Tere Moana Is Christened in St Martin

          THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 7th January 2013

Norwegian Breakaway WaterfrontThis year and next see the introduction of four major new classes of cruise ship. First to arrive, in 2013, will be Norwegian Breakaway (boardwalk shown right), one of a pair from Meyer Werft, and Royal Princess, first of another pair from Fincantieri, both of which debut in Southampton. In 2014, these will be followed by Mein Schiff 3, one of a pair from STX Finland for the German market, and an as yet unnamed ship from Meyer Werft for Royal Caribbean International, known only as “Project Sunshine.” Most will not realize it, but today marks the 100th anniversary of the first cruises offered from Florida, when the original Evangeline sailed from Key West on an 11-night cruise, the first of eight, to Panama, Jamaica and Cuba. Finally, Paul Gauguin Cruises christened its latest addition, the 90-guest Tere Moana, in St Martin at the end of 2012.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)

Today Marks The 100th Anniversary Of The First Cruises From Florida

s-s-evangeline-by-antonio-jacobsen1

The original Evangeline, built on the Clyde in 1912 and owned by the Plant Line, offered the first cruises from Florida in 1913

One hundred years ago today, on January 7, 1913, not long after the completion of Henry Flagler’s Oversea Railway from Miami across the Florida keys to Key West,  the 3,786-ton Evangeline sailed from Key West on her inaugural cruise from Florida. She is shown here in a fine portrait by prolific Danish-American maritime artist Antonio Jacobsen (1850-1921). The Evangeline operated a season of eight 11-night cruises, the first such program to be operated from a Florida port. Priced from $110 per person, they were sold as “Winter Outings on Summer Seas“: – The s.s. Evangeline will leave Key West direct for Colon, Panama, remain at that port two days, and sail direct to Kingston, Jamaica, remain at that port for two days, thence sail for Key West, Fla, via Havana, Cuba. Persons desiring to stop in Havana may do so at will, and return to Key West on any of the P&O ships with no extra charge. These first Florida cruises were offered between January and April 1913 by the Jacksonville-based Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company, a joint venture of the Plant Line and Henry Flagler. They were followed by seven similar 14-night cruises in the winter of 1914, but this time from Jacksonville, much closer to the main population centres, with fares from $125.  All these cruises included a visit to the Panama Canal, then still under construction, as well as calls at Kingston and Havana, but with the First World War, no cruises were offered in 1915. The Evangeline, first of the name, had been completed in October 1912 by the London & Glasgow Shipbuilding Company of Govan for the Canada Atlantic & Plant Steamship Co Ltd of Halifax. She was named for Longfellow’s epic poem of the same name, and like her predecessors cruised both in the north and in the south.  She succeeded a number of other ships owned by the Plant interests, which had routes both between Florida and the West Indies and between Canada and New England.

s.s. Olivette

The Plant Line’s Olivette of 1887 carried the Young Winston to Havana in 1895

One of these, the 1,611-ton Olivette, had carried a 20-year-old Winston Churchill on the event of his first visit to Cuba. On November 19, 1895, Churchill sailed in her from Tampa to Havana, where he developed a particular taste for Cuban cigars. The Olivette had been built in 1887 by the famous William Cramp & Sons shipyard in Philadelphia as the second ship in a new service between Tampa, Key West and Havana. The first had been the 884-ton Mascotte of 1886, which features today on the crest of the City of Tampa. Starting in July 1892 the Olivette joined the 1,738-ton Halifax in summer service between Boston, Halifax and Charlottetown PEI, and then the Halifax started coming south by winter to assist the Olivette.

HalifaxThe Halifax (left) had been built by the London & Glasgow Shipbuilding Company in 1888 for the Boston, Halifax and Charlottetown run. Early in her career, in March 1891, she had taken “an excursion of 185 Americans from Boston” to Jamaica. She also operated a series of experimental cruises from Tampa to Nassau and Jamaica in the winter of 1893. These ships had been joined briefly in 1899 by the 5,018-ton La Grande Duchesse, a white elephant that ended up being sold in 1901 to the Savannah Line, but that’s another story. Miami also had a Peninsular & Occidental ship to its name in the 1,741-ton Cramp-built Miami, introduced in 1898, but she operated essentially as a night boat, crossing to Nassau two or three times a week, depending on the season. Similarly, the 1,414-ton Prince Edward ran between Miami and Havana in 1901-03, as did the 1,619-ton City of Miami in 1921-23. Although new passenger services were started between Miami and Philadelphia in 1923 and  New York and Baltimore in 1924, it would be January 1927 before regular cruises began operating from Miami. Its first foreign cruise ship, Blue Star Line’s 15,501-ton Arandora Star, would arrive in February 1932 and in January 1935, the Miami-Nassau route would offer its first all-inclusive cruises.

Oceania's Riviera

Oceania Cruises’ Riviera offers some of the finest itineraries through the islands of the West Indies

But what could one think of today to reach something close to the original golden era of cruising? One needn’t look far. Oceania Cruises’ 66,084-ton Riviera is now conducting a series of 10-14-night cruises from Miami to “Sun Splashed Isles,” most of which are sold out.  One of the best of these leaves Miami for 14 nights on March 3, for two days at sea, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Grenada, Barbados, St Vincent, Antigua and St Barts before two more days at sea on the way back to Miami. No San Juan, no St Thomas, no Cozumel, no Labadee, what could be better? The Riviera will be back in the Caribbean in 2014 sailing a series of ten similar 10-14-day cruises, so ask now while they are available. Please call Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail us at 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.

On the Bridge On The Event Of The Return Of The Former Canadian Pacific Steamship Keewatin to Canada, June 23, 2012

Here we have Eric Conroy, project manager for s.s. Keewatin, in his role as Capt Rick and Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People Ltd on the day of her return to Port McNicoll. Kevin had been a waiter on sister ship s.s. Assiniboia and had been invalided off at Sault Ste Marie in late August 1965 with appendicitis. Some forty-seven years later, on his arrival at Port McNicoll, he met John Bell, the dishwasher at the time who had been promoted into his position as waiter. Both Eric and Kevin started their careers as 17-year-old waiters for Canadian Pacific Great Lakes Steamships and Kevin transferred out to Canadian Pacific BC Coast Steamships in 1966 to serve as chief night steward on the Alaska cruise ship t.e.v. Princess Patricia, summer work that helped put him through Western University in London, Ontario.

Here are some photos from that voyage:  Photo essay of the Keewatin‘s voyage from Mackinaw City to Port McNicoll.

For further information on cruising in the Great Lakes or to Alaska please feel free to call The Cruise People Ltd in London, England, on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk

Two Views of Canadian Pacific’s s.s. Keewatin Approaching Port McNicoll – Separated by About Ninety Years

The view on the right was taken on June 23, 2012, as the s.s. Keewatin approached Port McNicoll after an absense of forty-five years in Douglas, Michigan. The view on the left is a Notman Archives photo taken from a similar spot about forty-five years before that. Roughly ninety years separate the two photographs yet the deck looks the same, minus the passengers. The grain elevator and freight sheds ashore have meanwhile disappeared.

Here are some photos from this voyage:  Photo essay of the Keewatin‘s voyage from Mackinaw City to Port McNicoll.

To learn more about cruising in the Great Lakes feel free to call The Cruise People Ltd in London, England,  on 0230 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.