Author Frances Drabick features probably the finest research collection of the Grace Line photos aboard their ships during the heyday of American passenger services following World War II on her excellent website.
- From the 1890s until the late 1960s, The Grace Line provided passenger services from New York to the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, and the West Coast of the USA. Their ships were one of the last American flag liners or cruise-ships operating.
THE GRACE LINE PHOTOS AND IMAGES
The hundreds of images are from the collection of Jean Schugart-Schild featuring her father’s, Gilbert S. Schugart’s photo archive of his sailing years as Chief Officer on many of Grace Lines’ Santa ships.
- Slideshows featured on the website provide glimpses into mid-Century life at sea for officers, crew, and passengers aboard the American flag Grace Line ships.
- The collection includes photos of the ships being loaded with cargo, included bananas, showing the shipping trade served by the “Santa” combo ships.
- Many were taken by ship’s photographers, they show life aboard the Grace Line liners and cargo-passenger ships during the 1940s and 1950s.
- Since the ships were American flagships were subsidized by the US Government, besides tourists and commercial travelers, passengers included American military, government, and diplomatic personnel traveling to the Caribbean and South American ports.
GRACE LINE FLEET
Grace Line’s post-World War 2 fleet in the 1940s and 1950s consisted of the passenger liners Santa Rosa and Santa Paula. The only two Grace Line ships to survive the war. Both were refitted and refurbished sailing every other week from New York to the Caribbean and South America. Providing first-class service for 235 passengers. Nine new “Santa named” cargo-passenger ships also joined the fleet, called the “combos” accommodating 52 passengers and were very popular.
- Gilbert S. Schugart’s served on a number of these ships which are featured on the Frances Drabick website.
NEW SHIPS FOR THE GRACE LINE
In 1956 Grace decided to replace the Santa Rosa and Santa Paula with two new vessels. The new modern vessels a Gibbs & Cox design were to be called Santa Rosa and Santa Paula.
In the early 1960s, a quartet of very modern combination cargo-passenger ships, replaced the aging “combos,” to serve the route from New York to Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru.
- The beautiful 100 plus passenger Santa Magdalena, Santa Mariana, Santa Maria, and Santa Mercedes offered weekly sailings on a 26-day round trip cruise which could also be booked on a port-to-port basis.
GRACE LINE SERVED PAPA DOC’S HAITI
In 1968, I sailed on the new Santa Rosa from New York to the Caribbean and the north coast of South America. Grace Line’s service was first class, excellent cuisine and spacious accommodations; superior to many of today’s cruise lines.
- The ships had the first “balcony” staterooms which were really very large suites with a terrace, Elizabeth Taylor had been a passenger on a previous sailing.
- My destination was Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
- This was during Dr. François Duvalier or ‘Papa Doc’ era and Grace Line offered the only passenger service to Haiti.
- It was like stepping into Graham Greene’s novel The Comedians.
THE GRACE LINE ENDS PASSENGER SERVICE
The Grace Line continued passenger service until 1969 when the parent company W.R. Grace decided to go out of the steamship business and concentrate on chemical and other company ventures.
PRUDENTIAL GRACE LINES
The Grace Line was sold to Prudential Line, a small line owned by Skouras of 20th Century Fox. At first, the line was called Prudential Grace Lines and later the Grace was dropped and it became just Prudential Line.
- The ships were operated as before with most of the same personnel aboard but in 1970 Prudential decided to suspend the Caribbean service and the Santa Rosa and Santa Paula were laid up, never to sail under the American Flag again
- The Santa Magdalena, Santa Mariana, Santa Maria, and Santa Mercedes were placed on a new 64-day round trip itinerary from Vancouver and the U.S. west coast through the Panama Canal and completely around South America.
In 1978, the quartet was bought by the Delta Lines of New Orleans and continued on the same circuit voyages. In 1983 there was a sharp drop in cargo bookings to South America and operations began to wind down and in 1984 they ended passenger service. The Grace Line “Santa” passenger ships were no more and represented the end of 208 years of American flagged passenger service.