When I emigrated to the USA in 1962, I flew from London to
New York, then onward to my final destination, Washington, D.C.
It was October. It was my first time ever on a plane. Jet travel was
becoming popular and taking over from steam ships as a faster
way to 'cross the pond.'
I was almost 19. I'd never been away from home before.
At the time I didn't even think of myself as an immigrant.
Although I had all my legal paperwork, I just planned to be a working
visitor for a year, seeing America, making some money, living an
adventure before settling down etc.
I was excited, but scared to death.
For my first visit home to England for Christmas I went by ship - this ship,
Cunard White Star ocean liner RMS Queen Mary. I wanted the experience
of a transatlantic crossing by sea.
Called luxury liners, they were splendid, glittering steamships connecting the old
and new worlds on each side of the North Atlantic,
That bygone maritime era of the early 1900's accommodated royalty and financial
barons on upper decks, and hordes of immigrants deep within their holds.
That way of life has gone forever, made obsolete by jet travel.
For me that crossing was a memorable journey.
In the small blurry pic above, after I had traveled to NY by train from
Washington, D.C., I had boarded the ship - note we dressed up a bit
more for travel in those days - and was waiting to sail out of New York.
Being December, the crossing was rough however I wasn't bothered by
seasickness thankfully. By then 'Mary' was aging and her stabilizers were
nothing like those on modern day ships. It was my first of several journeys on
Cunard's "Queens". I've yet to sail on Queen Mary 2 which replaced this first
'Mary', but I have sailed on the current Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria,
both of which were smooth sailing. I'm certain Queen Mary 2 sails effortlessly
across the wide Atlantic. I still hope to sail home aboard her some day
in the future. . . . . . so much more elegant than the hassle and discomfort
of air travel these days.
The first 'Mary' first sailed 80 years ago on May 27, 1936. She left Southampton
to the sounds of bands and cheering crowds for New York on her Maiden Voyage.
She would become one of the most beloved ships ever to sail during the 1930's,
the heyday of society cruises.
Over the years she carried 2,114,000 passengers, plus 810,730 military
personnel whilst serving as a troop carrier/hospital ship during World War II,
19,000 GI brides, and 4,000 child evacuees, and she sailed a total of
3,794,017 nautical miles.
RMS Queen Mary left on her last voyage from Southampton on October 31, 1967,
just three years after I sailed on her, bound for her present home in Long Beach,
California, arriving to an ecstatic American welcome.
Dry-docked, she continues to be well-preserved and much enjoyed. She is now
officially classified as a building (hotel/attraction/event center) rather than one of the
greatest ships ever built.
Here's a book I'm adding to my wish list - the story of the
Golden Age of sea travel across the Atlantic. The cover
illustration is of the original Mauritania, another great
Cunard ship, sailing the seas from 1906-1934.
Have you crossed the Atlantic by sea?
Which ship did you sail on, and did you enjoy that mode of travel?
Oh yes, I should add in closing, that one year visit turns into
fifty five years come October of this year.
Few regrets ~ no longer scared!