That $160 round-trip First Class fare was from New York to Havana in 1928.
Today — you couldn’t cruise to Havana for $160 or a million dollars because the Bush Administration continues to boycott Cuba while aggressively supporting such communist governments as China.
But this is not about politics…
This is about cruise ship history and an American steamship company that served Cuba until 1955.
The first SS Morro Castle…
For 115 years, the American flag Ward Line provided freight and passenger service to Nassau, Havana, and Mexican Gulf Ports. The company was a critical link between these ports and the New York City, and its ships played a major role in the history of the nations they served.
Ward Line advertisement from a 1928 edition of Travel Magazine…
The Morro Castle band in happier times…
Many people know the Ward Line only through the Morro Castle of 1930, the liner whose tragic loss by fire in September 1934 changed Safety of Life at Sea laws forever and was a very important part of cruise line history.
The SS Morro Castle was a the second ship of that name built for the Ward Line in the 1930s for service between New York City and Havana, Cuba. The Morro Castle was named for the Morro Castle fortress that guards the entrance to Havana Bay. In the early morning hours of Saturday, September 8, 1934, en route from Havana to New York, the ship caught fire and burned, killing a total of 137 passengers and crew members. The ship eventually beached herself near Asbury Park, New Jersey and remained there for several months until she was eventually towed away and sold for scrap.
Today, the use of fire retardant materials, automatic fire doors, ship-wide fire alarms, and greater attention to fire drills and procedures resulted directly from the Morro Castle disaster.
The Ward Line website goes beyond the tragic loss of this ship (the single worst loss of life in U.S. history in peacetime) to explore the larger company history through images and memorabilia.
Another advertisement from The Ward Line…
The Ward Line ships were a critical links for U.S. interests in Cuba, Mexico, and the Bahamas, and they served a cross-section of the American public for nearly twelve decades.
This Ward Line weathered the storms of revolution, war, poor rofits, fickle subsidies, tragic losses, and changing technology to serve the U.S. Merchant Marine from 840 until 1955… the oldest U.S. shipping company at the time of its liquidation.
If you or a family member sailed or worked on a Ward Line ship, please email The Ward Line researcher at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your story is a part of this history!