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.