|The World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society
|A VISIT TO
By William H. Miller
the late 1940's, when Cunard Line's aged AQUITANIA, the last of
the grand old, pre-World War I four-stackers,
ran a regular service between Southampton and Halifax, she established
something of a local lore of her own. The density of the
frequent harbor fogs were determined by the number of funnels the dockers could
see as the 45,600-ton ship approached the 1,500-foot long Ocean Dock. I visited
Halifax in the summer of 1991, arriving aboard the SEABOURN PRIDE.
Again, there was a thick fog. It reminded me of earlier days of Halifax as
an important passenger port.
In the 1930's, and particularly at the height of the Depression, some of the world's largest liners,ships like the BERENGARIA and the MAJESTIC and the OLYMPIC, made 3-day,long weekend cruises out of New York up to the Nova Scotia port. Fares started at $45 and so such voyages were very popular, escapes from the otherwise bitter realities of hard pressed years. But it was during the bleak days of the Second World War that even larger liners came to call, Cloaked in gray, darting Nazi subs and all while serving as a 15,000-capacity trooper, the QUEEN MARY arrived. Her special mission was to deliver, under heavy guard and in top secrecy, Winston Churchill for his conferences with President Roosevelt. Just after the War, the MARY's running-mate, the 83,600-ton QUEEN ELIZABETH, the largest ocean liner ever built, called regularly at Halifax. She was landing returning Canadian servicemen, war brides and their babies, and some of the first postwar civilian passengers.
Halifax was a busy passenger port for transatlantic liners until the late 1960's. Some arrivals were to land Canada-bound immigrants; others were winter alternatives for normally Montreal-bound ships, but which had to be rerouted away from the ice-clogged St. Lawrence River. There were passenger ship representatives from Cunard, Holland America, North German Lloyd, Swedish American and the Home Lines. Two steady callers were the Italian liners SATURNIA and VULCA KENIA, which sailed until 1965. "At Halifax, we landed tens of thousands of immigrants from Italy, Greece and Portugal," recalled Giancarlo Roccatagliata, a waiter who served on both ships. "In 1956, in particular, we brought many Hungarians to Halifax. They were escaping the Communist takeover in their homeland. On many trips, we might have as many as 1,500 passengers onboard, but we might land 1,000 of them at Halifax and then bring the remaining 500 to New York. We would sell the 2-day passages down from Halifax to New York for about $20. I also remember that it was very, very cold at Halifax in the winter. Often, the SATURNIA or the VULCANIA would be completely covered in ice. We used buckets of hot water to melt it."
As the transatlantic liner runs declined and then disappeared completely, Halifax became more of a summertime cruise port, welcoming the likes of the QE2,the CRYSTAL HARMONY and the ROTTERDAM. But at the end of my recent visit, as the SEABOURN PRIDE undocked herself, I momentarily thought back to those earlier times. I could almost see the old AQUITANIA at the dock.
Reprinted from a past issue ofOcean
& Cruise News.
1997 The World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society
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