60 Year Old Cruise Documents Complete A Circle
Written by: Kuki
In today’s world of cruising the majority of the cruise lines are beginning to issue cruise tickets and documentation online. One fills out their guest registration online, via the cruise line’s web sites, and once final payment is made, you can print out all the documentation you need. The latest term in cruising; E-docs.
For veteran cruisers this change has led to the demise of what dedicated cruise enthusiasts called the “Doc Dance”. In essence this referred to the excitement we felt when the package containing our documents arrived, signalling our cruise was drawing closer. And our anticipation of the cruise grew exponentially just by holding those documents.
In early November my father passed away at age 91. In his 91 years, he had only ever been on one ship. That ship brought he and my mother to Canada, as immigrants, who spoke no English, after they had barely survived the horrors of World War II in Eastern Europe, and had lost so many family members to the Holocaust.
Though I knew they had arrived in Canada by ship in 1948, and I’d heard how my mother had been sea sick for most of their transatlantic crossing, through the years both spoke very little of their experiences during the war, nor of their “cruise” to Canada.
It was only this week, when taking my mother to the bank, to put some papers in their safety box, I discovered their 60 year old “cruise documents” from that voyage which brought them to Canada. I admit to getting glassy-eyed staring at their boarding passes…. In bold print the header read Cunard RMS Samaria.
The Samaria was originally built in 1922 for Cunard. During the war it was converted and used as a troop transfer. When the war ended it served to bring immigrants to Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
By 1950 it was once again serving as a passenger Ocean Liner, sailing from London England to Quebec, and then later from London to New York or Boston. It also fulfilled it’s RMS (Royal Mail Ship) destination, delivering mail from England to the United States.
The little I could find out about this Cunard ship was she was 19,602 tons, and had berths for 351 First Class passengers, 350 Second class passengers, and 1500 Third Class passengers, and traveled at an average speed of 14.64 knots, and made the crossing in 7 days, 11 hrs.
My parents were not First or even Second Class passengers. Their Third Class passage was nothing near to today’s inside minimum cabin categories, but was a large open holding area, with cots spread about for them to share with other Third Class passengers.
Yet, talking to my mother later that night, she told me…. when they got their “cruise documents” they to do did the “Doc Dance”… they felt the extra excitement and anticipation, but it wasn’t about a vacation. It was about the excitement of an adventurous voyage to a new land, a new life; a voyage to freedom from fear they’d be killed simply because of who they were.
Staring at their documents I was strongly impacted knowing Cunard Lines had participated in my parents trip to freedom, and to my being raised and growing up in a free and democratic country.
I thought of how my life had taken some strange twists and turns that lead me to writing about ships for almost the past decade. Coming face to face with the cruise documents I didn’t even know existed, shortly after my father’s passing, seemed an interesting almost closed full circle.
It seems there’s a single action to take to complete that circle.
Perhaps oddly, after over 50 cruises with 9 different cruise lines, I’ve never sailed on a Cunard ship. I can assure you that won’t remain true for very long much longer. They are now moving to the top of my “to do list”. When I board my first Cunard ship, I’ll do so with a reverence to, and remembrance of, the memories of my father, my mother, and all their family members who perished in the war, and to how they and Cunard contributed to my becoming a cruise travel writer.
Just maybe I wasn’t meant to sail on Cunard until this point — when I’d be able to complete one circle of my family‘s journey, and continue on, living my own journey, knowing I’ve been able to tell the story of my family who came before me, who’s difficult lives made it all possible.
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Posted: December 9th, 2008 under Kuki.