|Uncle Ziggy and Aunt Bertha aboard ship|
By the time I arrived on the scene, the jet age was in full swing and airlines had already won over most of the passenger traffic between the United States and Europe. Ironically since the majority of leisure travelers were American, the United States Lines was one of the first to go. The S/S United States, not yet 20 years in service, was laid up in 1969 and -- though still around -- has yet to carry another passenger. One by one, the state-run steamship companies of Germany, Holland, Italy, Greece and France would give up the fight, and - in fact - the mighty France was abruptly withdrawn from service during my aunt and uncle's vacation. But they were old-school, and -- rather than spend seven hours in an airplane seat -- they returned to the States aboard the last holdout, Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2. That ship continued to offer regular transatlantic crossings (interspersed with cruises to other places) until 2004, when she was replaced on the route by the much larger Queen Mary 2. My dad and I were aboard when that fantastic vessel finished a stormy crossing and arrived in New York for the first time, to a hero's welcome. But that's another blog entry.
|CGT poster advertising the France|
I actually remember very few details of the ship itself. Oddly enough, one thing that stuck in my head was the placement of the bathtub faucets, on the middle of the long wall vs. at one end.
One story which I can't recall personally but is is stuck in the family lore relates to this or another such bon voyage party. My uncle had several brothers, and -- like him -- each of them was "a real character" as my paternal grandmother would say. Apparently one of these uncles had earned quite a reputation aboard ship. A cabin steward saw him with our entourage and brusquely inquired, "Are you on this trip?" Upon learning he was headed back down the gangway shortly, the steward rolled his eyes and sighed, "Thank god! I still remember you from the last time!"
|Carnival Victory berthed in San Juan|