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Honeymooners loved the Night Boats

Honeymooners loved the Night Boats

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When the last night boat ended its service in April 1962, a travel editor noted that it would be especially missed by one particular group of passengers: honeymooners. Twelve hours is plenty of time to get to know someone.

These “night boats” operated throughout the United States and Canada from the late 1800s into the 1960s. They provided many overnight services. Such as from New York to Boston, Baltimore and Washington DC to Norfolk, Los Angeles to San Francisco, Vancouver to Victoria, Cleveland to Buffalo, New York to Albany, Miami to Havana etc. Eastern Steamship Lines was one of the last American flag coastal passenger services operating night boat service.

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1937 CRUISE – NEW YORK TO NOVA SCOTIA ABOARD EASTERN STEAMSHIP COMPANY

  • Home movies. The vessel at the beginning may be the Yarmouth or the Evangeline.
  • The harbor just after Pier 18, NYC is Yarmouth Harbor showing waterfront buildings and one of Eastern Steamships vessels.
  • The hotel swimming pool is the “Digby Pines” or “The Pines” located just outside of Digby, Nova Scotia.
  • The vessel at the end of the footage is the Eastern Steamship “Acadia” which ran from Boston, sometimes from New York to Yarmouth from 1932 to about 1940.”

Eastern Steamship Lines was one of the last American flag coastal passenger services.

The steamship Calvin Austin pulls away from the Eastern Steamship Company wharf in Lubec. Pope’s Folly Island appears in the immediate background. Austin was President of the Eastern Steamship Company, formed in 1901 by a merger of the Eastern Steam Ship Co. with other lines.

In 1901, Charles Wyman Morse merged the Boston &. Bangor Steamship Company, the Portland Steam Packet Company, the International Steamship Company, and several local lines on the Maine coast to form the Eastern Steamship Company.

1910 Postcard photograph of passengers arriving/departing from the Eastern Steamship Landing where steamships bound for Boston docked. Message on back of the card reads: “This is where we land when we get off the large steamers. Mabelle”

Because of the financial dealings of Mr. Morse. and the competition Eastern gave the Fall River Line which was owned by the New Haven Railroad and backed by JP Morgan, a “bankers war” ensued between the two empire builders. Morse was eventually indicted in 1907 for conspiracy, and the New Haven Railroad temporarily gained a controlling interest in Eastern, increasing its strength Eastern merged in 1911 with the Metropolitan Steamship Company and the Maine Steamship Company but was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1914.

SS Evangeline at Pier 18 New York – This ship was built in Philadelphia in 1927 for the Eastern Steamship Company services along the U.S. East Coast. She could carry 751 passengers at 18 knots speed and was of 5043 grt and 378 feet in length. She ended her days as SS Yarmouth Castle by burning near Florida with the loss of 89 lives in 1965.

SS Evangeline at sea.

Three years later it re-emerged, re- organized as Eastern Steamship Lines, with the Yarmouth Line included. In 1925, Eastern acquired the Old Dominion Line (with services from New York to Norfolk) and the New York and Richmond Steam- ship Company. Between 1925 and 1941 Eastern had services from as far south as Norfolk, Virginia, to its northernmost point, St Johns, New Brunswick, with intermediate stops en route to embark and disembark both freight and passengers.

SS Yarmouth schedule during the late 1930s.  Boston and Yarmouth.

Images from various Eastern Steamship Line brochures.

The Depression and the intense competition from the railroads and the motor car led Eastern to introduce ‘cruises’ to entice passengers to its ships.

(Images: Left) Cover of 1936 Schedule; Map of 1930s services; Two Boy Scouts sailing on an Eastern Steamship Line vessel to 1939 New York World’s Fair.

At the outbreak of the Second World War; Eastern had a fleet of eight sea-going ships, together with dozens of smaller vessels on trips lasting from a few minutes to a couple of hours. The only survivors to be returned to Eastern were Yarmouth and Evangeline, both hurricane equipped vessels.

Both were restored and placed on Eastern’s only surviving route. The Boston-Yarmouth line. This service was maintained during the summer months, with the liners being switched to cruising out of Miami during the winter months.  The Eastern Steamship Line was practically profitless, and eager to withdraw the ships, so the Nova Scotia government stepped in and subsidized Yarmouth and Evangeline for the 1954 season until its own vessel, Bluenose, was ready.

Jamaican-born E Leslie Fraser purchased the name Eastern Steamship Company along with S.S Yarmouth for $500,000 in 1954. Under the Panamanian flag, with operators listed as McCormick Shipping Corporation and then Eastern Shipping Corporation, S.S. Yarmouth was renamed S.S Yarmouth Castle and immediately dispatched out of Miami on 28 June 1954 to the Caribbean. Her owners claimed that she was the ‘ex-Yarmouth fitted like a castle: On which castle they were basing S.S Yarmouth Castle’s interiors was unknown; all that could be said was that little change took place during ‘refitting’!  Fraser next acquired Evangeline in the autumn of 1954 and sent her to the shipyard for interior work. She was fitted with a small swimming pool aft, and air-conditioning was installed in all her public rooms and 50 per cent of her cabins. Limited to 350 guests, Evangeline commenced a series of ten-day cruises out of Miami on 22 December 1954.

S.S. Bahama Star and S.S. Ariadne

In 1957, a cruise to Port Antonio, Kingston, Ciudad Trujillo and St Thomas cost from $190 (£68). During the autumn of 1954, the government of Nassau and Eastern Shipping concluded negotiations which made S.S Yarmouth Castle Nassau’s contract ship, one of the provisions being that she be renamed Queen of Nassau. This was done, and during 1955 and 1956 the Queen sailed from Miami on Three-day and four-day cruises.

Deck Plan of the S.S. Evangeline, S.S. Yarmouth (before WW 2) and S.S. Yarmouth Castle (after refitting).

(Left: Menu Cover from Eastern Steamship) When the contract expired, her name reverted to S.S. Yarmouth Castle, and she reported to the shipyard for some modernization.

A swimming pool was fitted, air-conditioning was installed in her public rooms, and she was refurbished.

She then saw service out of New Orleans and Washington, DC, on cruises to the West Indies.

(Left:  Menus from Eastern Steamship.   Certain menus included prices.  Meals were not included on overnight services between New York and Boston, etc.)

In 1958 Eastern returned to New England with cruises out of Boston to Yarmouth on S.S. Yarmouth Castle, now renamed S.S. Yarmouth.

That year Eastern made S.S.Yarmouth on a par with Evangeline by making her completely air- conditioned and reducing her capacity to 365.

S.S. Bahama Star (S.S. Arosa Star)

In 1959, Eastern acquired Arosa Star (Arosa Line) through the McCormick Shipping Corporation for approximately $510,000.

She was renamed Bahama Star and after a refit was placed on the Miami-Nassau run.

Two years later, the company purchased the tiny Ariadne from Hamburg-America. She was placed on luxury cruises to the Caribbean, and to enhance the ship’s appeal she was completely redecorated, refurbished and air-conditioned in 1963.

Ownership of Eastern changed hands again in 1962 when W.R Lovett of Jacksonville, Florida, purchased the company.  This accounted for the white ‘L’ on the blue diamond which appeared on the funnels during Lovett’s ownership.


S.S. Ariadne in Nassau.

Gone were S.S. Yarmouth and S.S. Evangeline. The S.S. Ariadne was put on three-day, four-day and seven-day cruises, and Bahama Star remained on the Nassau service. A seven-day cruise aboard the Ariadne during the summer of 1965 ranged from $160 (£57) for inside accommodation without facilities to $425 (£152) for the owner’s suite. A four- day cruise in Bahama Star ranged from $95 to $160 (£34 to (37), and a three-day cruise from $80 to $130 (£29 to (46).

For the next seven years the itinerary of the ships did not alter With the acquisition of Zim line’s S.S. Jerusalem, renamed New Bahama Star, in 1969, S.S. Bahama Star was sold to Pacific interests and finally lost in a hurricane.

The SS Yarmouth operated on 10-day cruises between San Francisco and Seattle, with a stop in Victoria B.C., during the 1962 World’s Fair. She was eventually broken up and scrapped in 1979.

The end of American ownership of Eastern Steamship came in 1970 when the Norwegian shipping firm of Gotass-Larsen purchased the line. In 1981 the company was restyled Eastern Cruises, and later in 1983 amalgamated with Western Cruise Lines and Sundance Cruises to form Admiral Cruises.

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About Michael L. Grace