The World Ocean & Cruise Liner Society
presents
A VISIT TO HALIFAX
By William H. Miller
 In  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.

The End

Reprinted from a past issue ofOcean & Cruise News.
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