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Whatever happened to Bon Voyage parties?

Whatever happened to Bon Voyage parties?

Until about 30 years ago, bon voyage blasts were a standard part of sea travel. They provided a great sales tool for the Steamship and Cruise lines. Visitors could get a first-hand glimpse of the ship and imagine themselves sailing away.

  • The concept was simple: invite as many friends as possible to visit you in your stateroom/cabin in the hours before the ship set sail for wherever.
  • Your pals would bring along fruit baskets, flowers and, of course, copious amounts of bottled spirits.
  • Parties would spill out of the staterooms and cabins into the corridors.
bon voyage, ships

CW: Passengers sailing from New York; Grace family sailing from Los Angeles to Hawaii; Couple celebrating on the Lurline; Party in a stateroom on the RMS Queen Mary.

The great thing about bon voyage parties is that they were free-form affairs, with participants from individual parties gradually intermingling with each other until, on many ships, the entire vessel was rocking well before it hit the open sea.

  • The good times continued until the call “all ashore who’s going ashore” was sounded.
  • Then all the guests departed (often involuntarily) to the pier where they hooted and hollered as passengers on the departing vessel threw colorful streamers to their well-lubricated friends on shore.

Bon voyage parties ended for good when the shipping lines stopped allowing non-passengers to board their vessels.

  • The nerve of them?
  • Blame the lawyers and their silly liability and security worries.

Remembering Bon Voyage parties:

  • Members of my family often sailed from New York to Italy on Italian Line and American Export Line ships. All our relatives in New York and New Jersey, more than two dozen, would party on board hours before sailing time. It was like a wedding, or family reunion, seeing folks we had not seen in a while. Then came several announcements for non-passengers to disembark, a band on deck would play “Anchors Away”, we’d hug, kiss, wave goodbye. It was wonderful and a chance to do something exciting in the City long after the ship headed South down the Hudson River. Great memories. John R. New York

  • To this day I miss them terribly…..the present departures are pro-forma….and I’ll be happy never to do so again to the tunes of ” Hot, Hot, Hot.” Matson Lines probably were among the best for bon voyage and gala departures in a sea of serpentine to the strains of Aloha Oe.
    Jane M. San Francisco
  • I remember vividly tossing the multi-colored streamers over the deck railing when I departed from New York with my parents on the SS America in March 1964. There were boxes of the rolled up streamers positioned along the deck, and we continued to throw them as the tugs guided us away from the pier. I was 12 and didn’t get to imbibe anything stronger than Coca-Cola during the six-day voyage. It was a rough crossing the whole way, but I soon found my sea legs and had a grand time. Six months later we made the return voyage from Le Havre. It was a marvelous experience of a bygone era!
    Elaine S. Philadelphia
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