The P&O (Peninsular & Occidental) Steamship Company owned this long-serving liner and operated her from SS Florida throughout her 37-year career, except for 4 years in World War II. Originally the SS Florida connected Tampa, Key West and Havana. In 1934 service was transferred to a Miami-Havana route; in 1954 a weekly Miami-Nassau roundtrip was tried briefly to compete with Eastern Steamship Line, but the Florida reverted to three weekly Miami-Havana round-trip sailings.
Sailing to Cuba aboard the S.S. Florida
In the 1950s, you could cruise from Miami to Havana, Cuba for $42.00 per person aboard the S.S. Florida. This fare included all transportation, two nights aboard ship, a day in Havana and all meals.
This fare included all transportation, two nights aboard ship, a day in Havana and all meals.was transferred from American to Liberian registry in 1955 in response to costly American labor problems. Finally in 1959, with growing unrest in Cuba, the Florida was permanently assigned to twice weekly Miami-Nassau cruise service until her final layup in 1966.
Various views showing guests aboard the SS Florida of P. & O. Line traveling between Miami and Havana in the late 1940s. Photos are by Joseph Janney Steinmetz. He was a world-renowned commercial photographer whose images appeared in such publications as the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, Time, Holiday, Collier’s, and Town & Country. His work has been referred to as “an American social history,” which documented diverse scenes of American life from affluent north easterners to middle-class Floridians. Steinmetz moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Sarasota, Florida in 1941.
Passenger ships calling at Miami as late as the 1960s generally were leftover from a much earlier era. Though at the end of the decade Miami would become by far the world’s busiest cruise port, in the early 1960s cruising from Miami was yet to catch on with the public. With some irony it would take a deadly fire at sea on one of the old ships to start the momentum that would soon build entire fleets of new cruise ships like never before.
The SS FLORIDA steamship schedule until 1959…
Visit Havana… “Paris of the Americas”
Lv. Miami Mon., Wed. & Fri. 6:00 PM
Ar. Havana Tue., Thurs. & Sat. 8:00 AM
Lv. Havana Tue., Thurs. & Sun. 6:00 PM
Ar. Miami Wed., Fri. & Mon. 8:30 AM
Most of the 196 staterooms had an upper and lower berth and wash basin.
Some triples also had a sofa bed, and a few were quads with an additional upper berth, with only about 42 cabins having some kind of private bathroom. Public rooms included a dining room, cocktail lounge and small ballroom.
SS Florida was easily the most spartan of the cruise ships sailing out of Miami. Nevertheless, there were loyal fans who wouldn’t think of sailing on a different line.
YouTube video of cruise ship arriving in Havana – this was recent – but it would have been the same view in 1958 aboard the S. S. Florida. Nothing much has changed including the cars which are mainly American – vintage 1950s.
The Peninsular and Occidental Steamship Company was a pioneer in today’s billion-dollar Florida cruise business.
Until Castro’s regime closed Cuba to cruise ships in 1960, the SS FLORIDA was sailing three times a week from Miami.
The SS FLORIDA had first sailed from Key West to Cuba until the 1934 devastating hurricane destroyed the terminal and rail connections to Miami.
Built in New Port News, Virginia, in 1931, the SS FLORIDA accommodated 612 passengers in first class and 130 in second class.
After World War 2 the overnight ship was turned into a one class liner.
The S. S. Florida approaching Havana and picking up the pilot.
Today, Americans can travel to China but not Cuba. Seems one kind of Communist regime is okay for the current administration but not another.
Aboard the S.S. Florida.
Maybe that will change should President Obama lift the ban for travel to Cuba and Americans will be able to sail again to Havana!
Painting of the SS FLORIDA.
The S. S. Florida, P&O Steamship Company’s Flagship during the 1950’s. The ship was a favorite sailing between Havana and Miami. It also carried cars, so Cubans could bring their cars along when they came up to Miami to shop and visit.
SS FLORIDA and the SS IROQUOIS.