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Cruise Ship History: SS EMPRESS OF JAPAN – Canadian Pacific Steamship – 1930s – 10 Days from Vancouver to Japan



Canadian Pacific’s EMPRESS OF JAPAN- 193os postcards…

In 1930 the Canadian Pacific’s trans-pacific service reached its zenith with the introduction of the magnificent S/S Empress of Japan. She was a very handsome ship and had magnificent interiors that now are associated with the Empress liners of Canadian Pacific. This mighty ship was delivered to Canadian Pacific in Liverpool and sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec on the 14th July 1930. From Quebec she sailed to Southampton. On the 12th July 1930 she sailed from Southampton bound for Hong Kong via the Suez Canal to begin her trans pacific services. On the 7th August 1930 she set off on her first trans-pacific crossing from Hong Kong to Vancouver via Yokohama and Honolulu. Some of the notable guests on board included HM The King of Siam. During her maiden trans-pacific voyage, she set a new speed record for the route from Yokohama to Vancouver. Over the next nine years the Empress of Japan made 58 round trips from Vancouver to Yokohama and Shanghai (via Honolulu) during which time the American and Japanese competition could never match her speed. During this heyday she was the undisputed champion of the trans-pacific service. She was the flagship of the trans-pacific service, like the famous RMS Empress of Britain was for their transatlantic service. Sadly this came to an end when the Second World War started in September 1939. At the time the Empress of Japan was in Shanghai. Due to suspicions about Japanese intentions Canadian Pacific ordered her to sail straight back to Victoria in British Colombia via Honolulu. There like many other ocean liners she was converted for use as a troopship during the Second World War and gave sterling service. In October 1942 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Winston Churchill (the British Prime Minister) personally ordered that the Empress of Japan should be renamed as Empress of Scotland. She carried this name for the rest of her Canadian Pacific career. (Courtesy: The Ocean Liner Virtual Museum – UK)

After the war she was transferred to the Atlantic service from Liverpool, replacing the Empress of Britain, which had been lost. Following the delivery of the post-war Empresses, she was sold to Hamburg Atlantic Line in 1957.


SS Hanseatic (former Empress of Japan)

After substantial rebuilding into the more modern looking two-funneled liner Hanseatic, services began between Cuxhaven, Havre, Southampton and New York in July 1958. The Hanseatic was badly damaged by fire in New York on 7th September 1966. She was towed to Hamburg, but considered unsuitable for repair and scrapped.


EMPRESS OF JAPAN – the elegant first class dining room…


EMPRESS OF JAPAN – the first class lounge and ballroom…


Empress of Japan leaving Vancouver – 1933



Within three weeks of arrival of the first transcontinental train from Montreal to Port Moody in 1886, the 800-ton sailing ship W. B. Flint, arrived from Yokohama with more than one million pounds of tea aboard. This was immediately transferred from ship to train for destinations in Eastern Canada, the United States, and Europe.

So began a large and profitable ocean trade for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

By 1891, the first of the sleek, white, Empress Class of ocean liners were delivering mail, silk, tea, and passengers from Asia. Soon Canadian Pacific liners would cross both the Atlantic and Pacific, dominating first-class trans-Pacific travel with three of the most opulent ocean liners in the world: the Empress of India, the Empress of China, and the Empress of Japan.

The Empress of Asia and her sister ship the Empress of Russia followed in 1913. Then came the Empress of Canada in 1922. She was 650 feet long and even more opulent with her paneling of Honduras mahogany, 30-foot swimming pool, and café verandah at the stern.

The magnificent second Empress of Britain, launched in 1929 by the Prince of Wales, marked the zenith of the Canadian Pacific fleet with more space and speed than any other ocean liner on the Atlantic.

In 1930, the second Empress of Japan joined the Pacific fleet. Now the CPR offered a trans-Pacific service every two weeks. Sadly, this all came to an end when the battles of World War II erupted in the Pacific.

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