Cruising the Past aboard Canadian cruise ships during the 1920s and 1930s… The Clarke Steamship Company.
1938 Cruises to Labrador on the Clarke Deluxe Cruise Line
Desmond Clarke originally formed the Clarke Steamship Company in 1921 with headquarters at Quebec to initially run two services from Quebec to Bradore Bay on the North Shore and from Quebec to Gaspé on the South Shore.
1939 – The “last season” before Canada entered World War 2
Both these services called at a long series of way ports, trading posts, Indian villages and settlements.
De Luxe Cruises on the Clarke Line
Clarke Line, based out of Montreal, was known for excellent French cuisine second to none on the Atlantic. This contrasted with the Canadian and American ships offering cruises in this area such as Canadian Pacific, Canadian National or Eastern Steamship. Clarke Line ships were “French-Canadian” when it came to food and this was big draw. Also, the ships had a lot of traffic because of prohibition. Recall the early part of the 20th century was under the influence of religious zealots in America who outlawed drinking. You could drink on the Clarke Line and Americans headed to these ships for good wine and food.
Advertisement as seen in Travel Magazine – 1930s
In 1922 the South Shore service was extended to the Magdalen Islands and later to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Pictou, Nova Scotia (NS). The base port became Montreal in 1925 and the service was extended Eastward to Corner Brook, Newfoundland (NF).
From the Labrador cruise folder…
By 1926 the company was running regular services from Montreal and Quebec to Murray Bay, Mont Louis and Gaspé on the St.Lawrence, Corner Brook and Loch Lomond on Newfoundland’s West Coast, Forteau Bay and Battle Harbour in Labrador and St.Anthony’s on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. Later schedules included calls at Summerside and Charlottetown, PEI and Pictou, NS en route from Gaspé to Corner Brook.
In 1927 the company entered the winter cruise market from Florida to the West Indies with the NEW NORTHLAND and by 1929 had extended the North Shore sailings to include Blanc Sablon. With the onset of the depression in 1930, and the drop in cruise bookings from Florida, the NEW NORTHLAND was used by the Canadian Government in 1931-2 for trade exhibitions to the West Indies.
Cruises from Miami were resumed in 1937 with the NORTH STAR and NEW NORTHLAND. Later cruises alternated between Montreal and New York with calls at Halifax, Boston, etc.
In WWII many of the company’s ships were requisitioned and a skeleton service continued with three ships and chartered tonnage as available. After the war, regular services resumed, but the increasing use of air services caused a cutback in the passenger fleet in 1961 and by 1967 the company sold their last passenger ship and, except for a couple of ferry operations, concentrated on cargo work.