CHAPTER 46. The Empress of Britain

I could fill pages about this boat, but as it has already paid a visit to Australia and New Zealand and I have no doubt it has been described in the papers I will now say very little.

World Tour 1938
The Empress of Britain at Southampton

What I wrote about the Orcades can now be multiplied by 2, 3 and even 4 to get the right record of the Empress of Britain. She has a gross tonnage of 42,350 and is 760 feet in length. She was built as a luxury liner and still claims to have more cabin space for first-class passengers than any other ship afloat. I measured our room and it was 30 feet long and 14 feet wide. From this must be taken the space for wardrobes and also the bathroom.

We had twin beds arranged quite differently from the Orcades where my bed was on one side of the cabin and Rozie’s was on the other, so far apart that we had to shout to one another when we were in bed. Here our beds were foot to foot across the room on the inside so that even if the boat had rolled neither bed would be right on the outside, as was the case with the Orcades.

The whole of our floor was covered with carpet. There were two very large wardrobes and also a dressing table. There was a most comfortable lounge upon which three could be seated or one could lie down. There were two easy chairs and a writing table with a special writing lamp. There were two oval shaped windows which we left open for the whole trip. There were lights to suit every whim and requirement. The switches over the bed were fitted with buttons which were luminous so that even in the dark they could be found without difficulty. Fruit of several kinds was always in the room as well as a liberal supply of iced water in a large thermos which was most acceptable.

I have never had such meals. The menu was such a lengthy one that it was hard to decide what to eat. In addition to this, the head waiter came along one night and asked us if there was anything we would like which was not on the menu as he believed he could supply it for us. When we told him we were already having such difficulty in making up our minds he told us he would give us a special menu for the next dinner. He did. It was the most gorgeous dinner we have ever had in our lives, but although we tried very hard our capacity was not equal to the task and some of the courses were scarcely more than scratched. Yes, the meals were the best I have yet had on a boat.

World Tour 1938
The Empress of Britain at Southampton

There were plenty of games and amusements for the passengers. I have played golf in a full sized break net. This is the first time I have seen proper golf played on a boat. There was also a full sized tennis court, as well as the several deck tennis courts. The Olympian pool was not so popular as the weather was mostly cold and no one felt inclined to bathe. They have an excellent gymnasium with every kind of machine for exercise. I rode on a bike, went rowing, rode on a horse, rode on a bullock, sat on a chair which vibrated so rapidly that in about two minutes every part of your body was throbbing, used three kinds of vibrators, tried swinging clubs and even punch ball. Of course, the next day I was so stiff that I had to get the special vibrators to massage those muscles which were causing trouble.

Every night there were pictures and also dancing. There was a well stocked library and writing tables all over the boat. Wireless news was given direct from the London station. The several lounges were most luxurious in their fittings and decorations.

Another thing which was appreciated after the trip on the Orcades was hot and cold fresh water, as well as hot for the bath. Of course, this is easier to provide when the trip is only of five days duration, but it is greatly appreciated.

The trip itself was splendid except for one day.  We left on the Saturday afternoon and crossed the channel to call at Cherbourg in France.

World Tour 1938
The tender bringing passengers, mails etc. to join Empress of Britain at Cherbourg France

We brought on board a number of passengers from a tender which came out to meet us and also about 12 motor cars and many bags of mail. It was Saturday night before we got settled on the boat. On Sunday we were all so weary that we stayed in bed for most of the day to sleep off the tired feeling and also the effect of the ocean atmosphere. Monday was rough and one by one they went down until by dinner time I was the only one at our dining table. Tuesday was still bad and I had most of my meals by myself, but Elizabeth joined me at dinner time. Wednesday Rozie appeared at breakfast, and at lunch time the party was complete when Lo also arrived. Thursday we arrived at Quebec at about noon and the trip was over before it had properly started. On Wednesday night we had a carnival night and the diningroom was decorated. We were all supplied with fancy caps, balloons and other playthings which unfortunately we had to leave behind as we did not have room to pack them.

There was just one part of the trip which I did not want repeated, and that was the passing of the customs and getting our clearance to enter America. The girls had spent several hours in packing the trunk for New Zealand which carried all the souvenirs we had collected, as well as those things which were not required again before we got home. I told the customs official I wanted to send it direct to the boat on which I was to sail for home, as I understood that could be done. Would you believe it, that man pulled practically everything out of the trunk in order to search it, although I had previously told him what it contained in dutiable and other goods. I was furious. Of course, he found nothing but what I had told him. Then he went through the two cabin trunks in the same manner and it took me over an hour to get all the things repacked. Of course, I could not pack them as well as they were before they were opened and I doubt whether they will carry without being broken before they reach New Zealand.

That was the United States officer and when I remonstrated with him that it was quite unnecessary, seeing that it was going straight on to the boat he said, “Oh well, they would have searched it at the boat if I had not done it now”. I believe I was unfortunate in meeting someone who was over officious, as later in the morning when we arrived at Quebec and there were ten suit cases of ours which had to be examined, a Canadian officer simply asked if we had anything dutiable and passed every one without being opened. I am now wondering whether we will be subjected to the same trouble when we cross the border into the States.

 

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