85 Years Ago: The Flight To White – Other Cruise News: New Ships And New Port For CMA CGM – The World’s Longest Cruises

by Kevin Griffin

Eighty-five years ago, Canadian Pacific’s newly built Empress of Japan appeared with a white hull, something her running mate the Empress of Canada had adopted the previous year. Within a year, the 42,348-ton Empress of Britain joined them, remaining the largest white-hulled passenger ship for thirty years, until P&O’s 45,270-ton Canberra of 1961. Soon, lines such as P&O, Pacific Steam, Blue Star, Lamport & Holt and Royal Mail would join them. Meanwhile, CMA CGM is introducing three new passenger-carrying cargo ships to its Caribbean and South American route, while the three they replace will open up a new passenger service between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. And finally, we have a look at some of the world’s longest cruises, as brought to us by Prestige Cruise Holdings.


85 Years Ago: The Flight To White

W & J Leigh Company, later known as Leighs Paints Ltd, was founded in Bolton in 1860 and specialised in paints for industry. Around 1924, the company formulated a new product called Leigh’s Marine White, designed for use on ocean-going ships. It was another five years however before Leigh’s Marine White started to make any real impact.

The use of white paint on whole fleets of ships had started with the United Fruit Company of 1898, whose banana boats, as well as those of its precursors and competitors, all adopted white hulls to deflect the heat of the tropics. Many of these carried passengers as well and weekly cruise departures were offered from ports such as New York, Boston and New Orleans.

From the top: 1) Great White Fleet 1926 (Prior to 1930 only banana boats had worn white in large numbers - courtesy Bjoern Larsson) 2) Empress of Japan ( White hull 1930, used Leigh's Marine White at Pier BC Vancouver, now Canada Place 3) Reina del Pacifico (White hull 1931: a first-time customer of Leigh's Marine White. Seen here at Liverpool 4) Strathnaver (White hull 1931: the first P&O ship to appear in white 5)Empress of Britain (White hull 1931. The largest white-hulled ship until P&O's Canberra in 1961

From the top: 1) Great White Fleet 1926 (Prior to 1930 only banana boats had worn white in large numbers – courtesy Bjoern Larsson) 2) Empress of Japan ( White hull 1930, used Leigh’s Marine White at Pier BC Vancouver, now Canada Place 3) Reina del Pacifico (White hull 1931: a first-time customer of Leigh’s Marine White. Seen here at Liverpool 4) Strathnaver (White hull 1931: the first P&O ship to appear in white 5)Empress of Britain (White hull 1931. The largest white-hulled ship until P&O’s Canberra in 1961

The United Fruit ships ultimately became known as the “Great White Fleet.”

Elsewhere, only one other company, Canadian Pacific, had stood out for adopting white hulls. As they traded between Vancouver and the Orient in the days before air conditioning, that company’s first five Empresses all entered service with white hulls.
Three were introduced in 1891, not long after the completion of the transcontinental railway line, and two more in 1913.

But in 1922, Canadian Pacific built the only new Empress ever to enter service with a black hull when it introduced the 21,861-ton Empress of Canada, first of the name. The remaining Empresses had been painted black in 1921 and would stay that way for the next eight years.

In 1929, however, the Empress of Canada returned to Vancouver from a re-engining project at her builders in Scotland with a new white hull. Leigh’s Marine White had finally converted her into a “White Empress,” and it was from this time that the company’s best passenger ships, on both the Atlantic and the Pacific, became known as the “White Empresses.”

The success story that was Leigh’s Marine White really took off in 1930, when British shipping companies recognized that Leigh’s had come up with a durable and reliable white hull coating and a fleet of white ships began to appear. 

After the Empress of Canada was repainted in 1929, Canadian Pacific’s newest and largest ship yet, the 26,032-ton Empress of Japan of 1930 was completed with a white hull for the Transpacific route.

Both ships were painted in Leigh’s Marine White, an event that marked the beginning of a new “flight to white” as more ships were ordered with white hulls.

In May 1931, the Pacific Steam Navigation Company’s Reina del Pacifico became the first ship of that line to appear in white, thanks again to Leighs Paints.

In the same month, Canadian Pacific’s new flagship, the 42,348-ton Empress of Britain joined her in th e same white and buff livery as she made her maiden voyage from Southampton to Quebec.

In the same year, P&O became part of this trend, with its three-funneled 22,547-ton Strathnaver. The Strathnaver was the first of five “Strath” class ships that P&O built with white hulls in the 1930s.
This was a major change, as previously P&O ships had carried black hulls and dark brown superstructures. From now on, however, all P&O ships would wear white.

Even Cunard Line’s famous 31,938-ton Mauretania adopted white when she went cruising in 1931, and so would the company’s 20,277-ton Carinthia when she went onto the New York-Nassau run in 1935.

Blue Star Line’s 15,501-ton Arandora Star, which first visited Miami in 1932, and Lamport & Holt’s 13,233-ton Vandyck, in 1933, also had newly-painted white hulls. These ships were followed in 1937 by the Royal Mail Line’s 15,620-ton Atlantis.

All wore white hulls and were on extended cruises to the West Indies. At the time, Miami was just beginning to establish itself as a cruise port.

The P&O's 45,270-ton Canberra of 1961

The P&O’s 45,270-ton Canberra of 1961

The Empress of Britain, the largest of the white-hulled ships, also performed a world cruise every winter.
She remained the largest ship ever to appear in white for thirty years, until P&O finally surpassed her with the 45,270-ton Canberra, built in 1961 for the long-distance Australian and Pacific routes.

By the mid-1930s, with American companies such as Matson Line to Hawaii having joined them, the white hull had arrived to stay. Its general acceptance even today is countered only by the odd line such as Azamara Club Cruises, Holland America Line or Pullmantur Cruises, who cleave to blue, probably because it saves them money in upkeep, and of course the more traditional Cunard Line black.

As to the paint company that originally made all this possible, Leighs Paints is still around, and still in Bolton, but after being acquired by Ohio-based Sherwin-Williams in 2011, it now trades as Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine Coatings.


New Ships And Ports For CMA CGM

The CMA CGM Marseille, second vessel of CMA CGM’s three-ship Guyanamax series, has recently been delivered in South Korea. This 2100 TEU capacity vessel (including 530 reefer containers) was built by the Hyundai Mipo Dockyard and will fly the UK flag.

The CMA CGM Marseille (Courtesy of CMA)

The CMA CGM Marseille (Courtesy of CMA)

The three ships will operate in the North Europe French Guyana North Brazil line. This 42-day rotation calls at Tilbury, Rouen, Le Havre, Philipsburg, Port of Spain, Degrad des Cannes, Belem, Fortaleza, Natal and returns via Algeciras and Rotterdam to Tilbury.

The Guyanamax series is composed of the CMA CGM Cayenne, which enters the service at Trinidad next week, the CMA CGM Marseille, which follows in September, and the CMA CGM Saint Laurent, which will join the service in November.

While the CMA CGM Cayenne and Marseille are equipped with cranes, the CMA CGM Saint Laurent is not, leading to speculation that the third ship could eventually be placed in service to Montreal, as her name would seem to indicate.

The new trio will carry passengers and if the accommodation is the same as in the existing ships in this service, it would amount to three double cabins accommodating up to six passengers per ship.

They will replace the CMA CGM Aristote, Herodote and Platon, which will open up a new cargo-passenger service between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, serving Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica and the French West Indies.
Among them, the seven ships will be able to carry about 350 passengers each way across the Atlantic each year.

Meanwhile, the addition this month of Halifax to CMA CGM’s Columbus Loop service to and from Asia via Suez and across the Pacific to Vancouver presents a new cargo-passenger service that will be of interest particularly to Canadians.

The shorter route is westbound from Vancouver to Nadkhodka for bunkers and then to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Yantian, Vung Tau, and Port Kelang and via the Suez Canal to Halifax. The transit time in transit is 55 days, the longest stretch of which is the last 23 days from Port Kelang to Halifax.

The longer eastbound route sails from Halifax via New York, Norfolk and Savannah, originally through Suez and now via the Cape of Good Hope to Port Kelang, Vung Tau, Hong Kong, Yantian, Shanghai, Ningbo and Pusan before crossing the Pacific to Seattle and Vancouver.
This takes 71 days, the longest stretch of which is 37 days from Savannah to Port Kelang.

Vancouver (Courtesy Tourism Vancouver)

Vancouver (Courtesy Tourism Vancouver)

The route also lends itself to a Round-the-World service if VIA Rail and/or Rocky Mountaineer are used between Halifax and Vancouver or vice versa. In recent years, the number of passenger-carrying ships engaged on the Columbus Loop service has been doubled and six of the seventeen ships in this service now carry passengers.
On average, this means there is now a passenger sailing every 21 days or so.

The six French-owned vessels providing the passenger service are the CMA CGM Almaviva, Cendrillon, Dalila, Figaro, La Scala and CMA CGM Titus, each carrying seven (7) passengers in en suite accommodation with private lounge and separate bedroom.
While Vancouver has been a call for this service for several years, the passenger calls at Halifax are new.

The CMA CGM Cendrillon made the first passenger call in Halifax last week and six more passenger departures are planned between now and Christmas.

Fares including port charges (and complimentary table wine with lunch and dinner) are €100 per person per day and passengers may also use the service to travel between the Far East and either coast of North America. While the ships travel through the Mediterranean westbound they do not make any calls in Europe, meaning long transits for those who like to be at sea.

The World’s Longest Cruises

It is interesting that since taking the Insignia back from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises last spring she has been largely employed on world cruises, sometimes offering two 180-day cruises in a year. This may have something to do with the success or Regent Seven Seas Cruises re-entering the world cruise market after an absence of six years.

Last month, Regent revealed details of an epic round the world sailing. Despite lead-in fares of almost $110,000 per couple, the new 128-day world cruise by the 490-berth all-suite Seven Seas Navigator was so popular that 70% of the voyage was booked on the first day.
And at that, for the full voyage with no sectors offered separately.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Navigator

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Navigator

Leaving Miami on January 5, 2017, the Seven Seas Navigator will not only be offering Regent’s first around-the-world cruise in six years but also one of its most ambitious, including calls in more than sixty ports across six continents.
In this regard, Regent has had the advantage of relying on itinerary designers who also look after Oceania Cruises, who ever since talking redelivery of the Insignia from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises last year, have been busy designing these 180-day world cruises for her.

Oceania Cruises has been very successful at selling its world cruises. Both Oceania and Regent are part of Prestige Cruise Holdings, which earlier this year became part of Norwegian Cruise Holdings.

The first Insignia world cruise was scheduled to leave Miami on January 10 this year but a fire in St Lucia in December meant several weeks out for repairs and a much modified itinerary that resulted in a shorter cruise.

The next Insignia world cruise is scheduled for January 1 to July 4, 2016, both leaving and arriving on a public holiday in Miami and visiting ninety ports in forty-four countries.

Another cruise has been scheduled for next year as well, leaving Miami on January 6, 2017, the day after the Seven Seas Navigator. That departure will sail to ninety-eight ports in thirty-six countries, and will be the fourth of Oceania’s around-the-world journeys since they took the Insignia back last spring.

Fares for the Seven Seas Navigator cruise start at $55,000 per person, based on double occupancy, or $110,000 per couple for a suite measuring 301 sq ft suite. Fares include a pre-cruise hotel stay, First Class airfare to and from Miami, exclusive shore-side events and unlimited Internet on board, among other benefits.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of specialist cruise agency The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

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