Cruise History: Michael L. Grace’s story on the RMS EMPRESS OF JAPAN – Canadian Pacific’s “Blue Ribbon Holder” – The fastest ship on the Pacific and a liner with four life’s. From Empress of Japan to World War 2 vessel to Empress of Scotland to the Hanseatic.

More wonderful moments in cruise line and cruise ship history.  The RMS Empress of Japan had four life’s.  First as the trans-Pacific record holder liner, then serving during World War 2, followed by being renamed the Empress of Scotland on the trans-Atlantic run and then finally sailing under the German flag.  It was ironic, the allied ship used during WW 2 to fight the Nazis, was sold to Hamburg America Line and rebuilt as the Hanseatic for cruise and trans-Atlantic service.


Canadian Pacific 1938 Travel Magazine advertisement.


1930—1942: RMS Empress of Japan
The Empress of Japan carried out her sea trial successfully in May 1930, achieving a top speed of 23 knots; and on June 8, 1930, she was delivered to Vancouver for service on the trans-Pacific route. In this period, she was the fastest ocean liner on the Pacific.  Due to being a part of Canadian Pacific’s service carrying Royal Mail, the Empress of Japan carried the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) prefix in front of her name while in commercial service with Canadian Pacific. She would continue sailing the Vancouver-Yokohama-Kobe-Shanghai-Hong Kong route for the rest of the decade. Amongst her celebrity passengers were a number of American baseball all-stars, including Babe Ruth, who sailed aboard the Empress of Japan in October 1934 en route to Japan. The outbreak of war in Europe caused the Empress of Japan to be re-fitted for wartime service. Following the Japanese attacks on the Empire outposts in the Far East in December 1941, the name of the ship needed to be named. In 1942, she was renamed the Empress of Scotland.


Piper and passengers aboard the RMS Empress of Scotland as the ship approaches a UK port. 


1942—1958: Empress of Scotland

Following the end of World War II, the Empress of Scotland was needed to meet the newly developing demands for trans-Atlantic passenger service. In the period between 1948 and 1950, she was rebuilt at Fairfield in Glasgow. These modifications were necessary to better meet weather conditions on the colder Atlantic route. This extensive re-fitting included a radical reconfiguration of her cabins from the original four classes to just two — first and tourist.


Hanseatic approaching New York City.

1958—1966: Hanseatic
Following her sale to Hamburg Atlantic Line in 1958, the ship was radically rebuilt to meet the expanding market for trans-Atlantic passenger service. The ship’s superstructure and funnels were rebuilt and her passenger accommodations were re-configured. The vessel emerged as the 30,030 GRT SS Hanseatic. The re-named and re-flagged ship was designed to carry as many 1350 passengers in comfortable luxury on the Hamburg-New York route.   In 1955 the ship was destroyed by fire in New York City harbor and subsequently scrapped.

Hanseatic youTUBE video of a 1960 NASSAU CRUISE.


About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…

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