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60 Year Old Cruise Documents Complete A Circle

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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.




78651 60 Year Old Cruise Documents Complete A Circle

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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Comment from MTL
Time December 10, 2008 at 7:51 am

You made me cry because as a young girl
with my parents we went to the pier in Quebec City to watch people disembark like they have been trapped for long. MTL

Comment from MTL
Time December 10, 2008 at 7:55 am

Thanks for this historic report.When any Cunard ship comes to Quebec,there is always someone to talk about those days
of a relative or friend coming in the port.

Comment from Jessica (cutiecat)
Time December 10, 2008 at 10:45 am

this is wonderful

Comment from Ainsley
Time December 10, 2008 at 11:19 am

That is amazing! I love reading things like this, the holocaust is something I enjoy learning about. I think that for those to have gone so many years without being glanced at by anyone other than your parents is truely amazing. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. =)

Comment from Todd De Haven
Time December 10, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Your article is especially interesting to me Kuki as I have been heavily “into” the Ocean liners of the past for some years now.

There was a site whereat one could download literature (mostly borchures from ships just previous to that era going back to the turn of the last century, come companies of which no longer exist.
Sadly, one can no longer download them and I guess you have to purchase them these days. I’m so thankful I have them.

Inasmuch as I’ve been a World History buff for the period 1939-1945 for almost fifty years now, I am well schooled in the horrendous treatment of those of the Jewish faith during that period (which includes some abominably neglectful and embarrassing behavior on the part of the United States.

You have a wonderful heritage Kuki, one of which undoubtedly you are most proud.

Comment from RayB
Time December 10, 2008 at 2:15 pm

I suppose we have been blessed with the fact that Helen and I have sailed on Cunard on 4 cruises. Those are QE2 2 times and Vistafjord 2 times. Totaling 49 days at sea. Both ships are long gone now to other ventures.

Your parents coming to North America 1948 (60 Years ago) makes me start to wondering. When and where were you born Kuki?

Comment from Michael
Time December 10, 2008 at 2:32 pm

A social history of liners, ships and travel can be found on this site. Loved this posting and hope to use some of it in a tribute to this great Cunard Line ship.

Comment from Michael Hawkins
Time December 10, 2008 at 3:31 pm

What a special message and story Kuki. I understand why Cunard is the cruiseline of choice for you now. Good luck to you.

Comment from Kuki
Time December 11, 2008 at 10:54 am

Thank all for the kind comments. We certainly all have our histories that affect us. Might have to do a blog about everyone’s history, as it relates to how and why everyone started cruising.

Ray.. I was born in Canada (Calgary) in 1950. Next month will my last before my 60th 🙂

Micheal… enjoyed the web site. All sorts of interesting ship history there.

Comment from Linda Potter
Time December 11, 2008 at 3:30 pm

I enjoyed your story. My Mother came to Canada in 1940 with my three sisters as war guests to escape the bombings in Liverpool. They came in a convoy aboard the Duchess of Atholl. I found the Landing Card in my Mother’s papers.

Comment from Edwin Esson
Time January 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

My father was an officer aboard the Samaria during the 1926 Round the World cruise. He wrote a journal during the cruise that describes people and places as seen by a ships officer. I would like to see this published in a responsible journal without crass commericial considerations.
Suggestions please.

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