Cruise History: Looking back at passenger lists – “the bible” of travelers aboard the great liners and cruise ships.
Passenger lists were given to all those booked aboard liners and cruise ships up until the 1970s.
From Cunard to the French Line, the Lurline to the Queen Mary – these were an important source of information regarding who would be aboard for your liner voyage or cruise.
Every time I traveled with my parents, the list would include my name – Master Michael L. Grace. The following is a great article by Theodore W. Scull – probably one of the great historians in maritime passenger history.
From CRUISE TRAVEL by Theodore W. Scull
ONCE, WAY BACK WHEN, UPON ENTERING ONE’S CABIN, the first order of business was a quick look at the Passenger List laid out on the table alongside the dining reservation card, telegrams, and the first batch of invitations.
On a two- or three-class ship, the names usually included only those in one’s own class, minus some celebrities or a recluse that explicitly asked not to be listed.
On a one-class cruise, of course, there was but one list.
Why the rash to know who was aboard? Well, for those who traveled by sea on a regular basis, there were bound to be others one knew or knew of, and it was good to know the good or bad news in advance before you bumped into them on the promenade deck at sailing time.
My mother would immediately take out a pencil and bracket familiar names. Annotations would appear when she made new acquaintances such as they are “friends of so and so,” or he is a member of the “Metropolitan Opera,” or she is a “recent widow” who would undoubtedly like “to be included in our group.” The initial passenger list would often be supplemented within 24 hours by those who booked late or got missed for some reason.
Our family would be listed as Mr. Theodore Scull, with Mrs. Scull on a separate line, and then my brother and I appeared as Master Sandy Scull and Master Teddy Scull. Sometimes, though not often, the city and state or country were included–an extra recognition clue.
Aboard P&O’s Cathay, from London via Marseilles for Australia in May 1926, titles were used, such as: Gainsborough, Mary Dowager Countess of; Somers, H.E. The Lord, D.S.O., M.C., and two valets; and on the next line Somers, Lady, child, and nurse. It is interesting to see for whom the lord and lady were responsible.
On the United States Lines’ ships, government and military personnel were aboard in great numbers, and they had ranks listed such as: Adm., Capt., Cmdr., Maj-Gen., and 1st. Lt.–often with USN, USNR (Rtd.), or USAF tacked at the end. Then there were Rt. Rev. Msgr., Dr., Repres., and Hon. or The Hon. On the U.S. Lines, the name would be written Adm. Thomas G. W. Settle USN, while P&O would write Massy-Lloyd, Brig-Gen. S.E. The Italian Line used Italian appellations–Sig., Sigra, bimba, and bimbo–there were 10 little bimbos on my Cristoforo Colombo westbound crossing from Trieste to New York in August 1969!
On my eastbound crossing of the Queen Elizabeth 2 in June 1969, all 1,844 passengers were listed together regardless of class, and one of two Cruise Hostesses is listed as Miss Maureen Ryan. On an April 2002 westbound crossing, the Cruise Hostess was the same and ever-wonderful Maureen Ryan.
On a trans-Atlantic crossing from New York to Cobh, Havre, Southampton, and Bremerhaven on the SS America in October 1957, passengers were listed without regard to their port of debarkation, while aboard an eastbound crossing of the SS Rotterdam in September 1966, those debarking in Southampton had an asterisk next to their name, while those leaving in Le Havre had a squiggle S, and those bound for Rotterdam, the ship’s home port, had nothing. Hamburg Atlantic’s SS Hanseatic divided the list into the ports of debarkation; on an eastbound sailing I made in September 1963, in tourist class there were 67 passengers bound for Cherbourg, 59 for Southampton, and 780 for Cuxhaven. Yes, the ship was overwhelmingly German and German-American, and during bingo sessions I learned to count in German.
Passenger lists were keepsakes, and they often included attractive cover designs and copies of paintings, posters, and drawings. Within, there were infinite variations, but invariably, the ship’s name, dating of sailing, where from and where bound to, the roster of the ship’s officers (and perhaps a guide for recognizing their rank and department), advance sailings, upcoming cruises (sometimes in the form of an advertisement), and general information about the ship and voyage. Some steamship lines included a fleet list with tonnages.
A Cunard passenger list for the RMS Berengaria from August 1925 from New York to Cherbourg and Southampton outlined “Where To Go–What To See” in eight European countries, listed “Cunard Record Passages,” and the addresses of the 116 Cunard offices and agencies worldwide. The Italian Line had a map showing its worldwide routes, and U.S. Lines had a page about using New York City taxicabs, noting that they offer “the best taxicab service in the world.”
If a passenger version of the ship’s log was not presented near the end of the voyage, some booklets included one to fill in each day with the noontime position by latitude and longitude, air temperature, sea temperature, wind speed, state of the sea, number of miles traveled since noon the day before, and the average speed over that period. Then, usually there were a few pages left blank for making notes, often for commenting on the weather and whom one met and what occurred after that.
But what happened to the wonderful passenger list? The modem world of privacy and the bottom line intruded. When people were given the option of not having their name listed, many demurred, and the list became incomplete and not very useful. Some lines just dropped it to save money and the labor required in the purser’s department that might be better used elsewhere.
Some traditional lines hung on longer than others, but by the mid 1970s the passenger list was becoming a dinosaur–along with the trans-Atlantic liner. Some upscale cruise lines continued the tradition for a while, and a few–for example Crystal, Seabourn, and Cunard (on the QE2 World Cruise)–still keep it up today. However, about the only other times one sees a list now are on expedition ships near the end of a voyage where passengers are asked, on a voluntary basis, to rill out a sheet with their names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. In this intimate situation where everyone is already acquainted, most passengers usually oblige.
I have kept every passenger list from my early voyages, and once in a while it is fun to have a glance back at whom I remember or have long forgotten. One passenger I sailed with in July 1958 eastbound on the French Line and who trounced me in the table tennis finals was–horror horrors–listed on that summer’s westbound trip. But I never saw him, because he was seasick during the first round of play and for most of the voyage–a moot point as it turned out because the finals were canceled by Hurricane Daisy. Another passenger from that westbound voyage remains a good friend today, 45 years later. Mother had bracketed his name early on.
The “PASSENGER LIST” for the RMS Queen Mary is from a five-day cruise from New York to Nassau, which departed on November 17, 1965. General Information For Passengers included a paragraph about hiring deck chairs, rugs, and cushions for $3; using the ship’s Radio Telephony & Telegraphy services; that passengers should request their bedroom steward to open and close portholes; and advice against using saltwater for bathing while the ship is in port.
The image at far left, the back cover of the Roma’s “PASSENGER LIST” from a September 1928 trans-Atlantic crossing, shows a portion of the Manhattan skyline as viewed through a porthole; when the cover is open (near left), the portrait is complete. On the front cover, the image is Naples, and the wording Lista dei Passeggeri di Cabina, Navigazione Generale Italiana (N.G.I.) Genova. The booklet is unusually thick with maps; ship (interior and exterior), port, and company office photos; N.G.I. agency addresses; general information when onboard; mileage between ports; future sailings; and pages for making notes. N.G.I. and Lloyd Sabudo would merge under Mussolini into Italia or the Italian Line.
A “LIST OF PASSENGERS” (First and Second Classes) for Royal Mail Lines’ RMS Alcantara–leaving Southampton and Cherbourg on October 14, 1955 (same day), bound for Vigo, Lisbon, Madeira, Las Palmas, Recife (Pernambuco), Salvador (Bahia), Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires–has a newer ship depicted on the front cover, the RMS Andes.
The cover of this Canadian Pacific passenger list depicts travelers aboard the 42,500-gross-register-ton Empress of Britain enjoying a passage along the St. Lawrence River. CP’s largest liner had departed from Southampton on September, 16, 1931, via Cherbourg bound for Quebec City (the vessel was too tall to get under the bridges to reach Montreal). As Canadian Pacific was the world’s largest transportation company (the fleet included 24 ships), within this passenger list is information about onward CP Trans-Continental railway service via The Dominion and The Imperial to stations west to Vancouver, CP hotels CP Express Company Travellers Cheques, CP cruises, and CP Trans-Pacific services.
The “Lista Passeggeri” (First Class) for Italia’s Augustus is from a trans-Atlantic voyage departing March 3, 1960, from Genoa; calling at Cannes, Naples, Gibraltar, and Lisbon; and arriving in New York on March 14. Within is a color map showing the Italian Line’s routes from the Mediterranean to the east and west coasts of the United States, and to ports on the north, east, and west coasts of South America; and a fleet list that numbered 13 passenger vessels and seven passenger-cargo ships, with the Leonardo da Vinci shown as under construction.
“PASSENGER LIST” for Swedish American Line notes members on the Lions’ Cruise to the Havana Convention aboard the motorliner Kungsholm, departing New York on July 20, 1940. The passage to Cuba took three nights, with three days next spent anchored off Havana, then three nights more back to New York. The schedule shows the last tender as being at 3 a.m., with a warning that passengers will be responsible for any expense occurred by failing to re-embark before the set time for departure.
There is a sense of speed on this passenger list cover of the Conte Grande sailing on April 19, 1930, from New York to Gibraltar, Naples, Villefranche, and Genoa. Within the “LIST OF FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS,” there are two collections of photos of recent Lloyd Sabudo passengers such as Mr. E.H.H. Simmons, head of the New York Stock Exchange; Marquis and Marchesa Giuseppi Barbi, newlyweds; and H.E. Archbishop E.P. Roche of St. Johns, Newfoundland. A color drawing of a late 1920s aircraft operated by S.A. Navigazione Aerea graces the back cover, advertising connecting flights elsewhere to Europe and North Africa.