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The origin of Princess Cruises and their naming the “Princess” ships.

Cruise Line History: Exploring the origin of Princess Cruises and their naming the “Princess” ships.  Where did the name of each of their “Love Boat” cruise ships originate?

A painting Cruising The Past commissioned of the first “Love Boat” and original cruise ship of Princess Cruises – the PRINCESS PATRICIA.  Ready to sail from Los Angeles, seen docked at the foot of the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, for her first (Princess) cruise to Mexico.

The Princess Patricia under steam.  How she would have appeared when making her first Princess Line Cruises.

History of the S.S. Princess Patricia and the legacy of naming the “Love Boat” ships of Princess Cruises.

The Canadian Princess Railway formed the British Columbia Coast Steamship Service (BCCSS), which would provide passenger service to various coastal communities for the next 80 years. Many of its special breeds of coastal ships bore the name “Princess”.   The CPR celebrated 100 years of service in 1981, the same year in which its last remaining cruise ship, the SS Princess Patricia (the original Princess Cruise Line’s Love Boat) was tied up, ending that phase of transportation service in the Pacific Northwest.

The early CPNC ship Islander set the precedent for the Princess ships that would become the backbone of the eventual CPR fleet servicing the BC coast and Alaska. When built, she was the most luxurious vessel on the west coast.

She began cruising to Alaska in 1889, when the arrival of a steamer as elegant as Islander was a big event. Her career ended suddenly when carrying gold and passengers south from Skagway on July 13, 1892. The ship sank after hitting a submerged rock or drifting iceberg; 42 perished.

The “Princess” title came to be used for CPR ships because of the aging CPNC vessel Princess Louise. The popular “Empress” ships were already established in the Pacific, so the decision was made to carry out a royal theme, with smaller coastal ships bearing the prefix “Princess”.

Princess Victoria was the first purpose-built ship for the BCCSS, and immediately set the standards for luxury liners on the coast. Both the appearance of her hull and superstructure as well as interior arrangement would be copied for many subsequent Princess ships.

The smaller Princess Beatrice was the first CPR Princess built in British Columbia. By 1907, Princess May and the new Princess Royal began regular 6-day sailings to Skagway. A year later, the CPR inaugurated its famous Triangle Route, with service between Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria. Princess Charlotte joined the fleet, handling the Triangle Route as well as occasional excursions to Alaska. From 1910-1911, four more Princesses (Princess Mary, Princess Adelaide, Princess Alice and Princess Sophia) were built and a newly purchased ship was renamed Princess Patricia. In 1913, Princess Maquinna joined the fleet.

World War I expropriated two new Princess ships for the war effort; neither ship ever joined the CPR fleet. After the war, shipyard space in Europe was fully booked so the CPR had Princess Louise built in British Columbia. She was very well appointed, and could boast that all 133 first class staterooms had both hot and cold running water. In 1922, she began a 40-year career running to Alaska, earning her nickname “Queen of the Northern Seas”. As the years passed, the CRP continued to add to its fleet and its routes, replacing old ships with new.

Princess Patricia in Acapulco, Mexico on her first Princess Cruise.

Princess Patricia docked in Ensenada, Mexico.  During the first year of Princess Cruises – the company  operated short cruises to Ensenada.

Ariel view of the Princess Patricia. On her way to Alaska.

During the 1920s, cruising to Alaska was very profitable, with three Princess ships making the voyage in the summer months.

Occupancy was regularly 97 percent and during one season the three ships handled 10,000 passengers on 22 voyages. Revenues dwindled during the Great Depression, and the BCCSS disposed of old or redundant vessels. World War II saw several Princess ships requisitioned for use as troop transports and supply ships.

After the war, Princess Kathleen was rebuilt for the Alaska Service.

Two new sister ships were built for the Triangle Run, Princess Marguerite and Princess Patricia, named for earlier CPR ships. In 1952, Princess Kathleen ran onto rocks in Lynn Canal.

Fortunately, there was no loss of life but the ship sank. For the next 10 years, Princess Louise handled CPR’s Alaska cruises alone. The arrival of car ferries spelled the end of coastal service and the CPR ended its regular Triangle Run.

Princess Marguerite stayed on a daily summer route to Seattle, while a refurbished Princess Patricia took over the Vancouver-Skagway-Juneau run in 1963.

For two seasons Princess Patricia was chartered to Stan McDonald, a Canadian-born businessman now in Seattle, for cruising between Los Angeles and Acapulco during the winter. McDonald became excited about cruising during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. He eventually branched out to other vessels but chose to name his new company Princess Cruises after the venerable Princess Patricia.

Princess Patricia on her first Princess Cruise – docked in San Francisco – heading south to Los Angeles.  These were the original colors during the period Stanley McDonald charted the night boat from CPR.  The two stacks were later changed to the red colors seen in the photos above.

The Princess Patricia became the last remaining passenger ship in the CPR fleet, continuing to sail to Alaska each summer until that era ended on October 12, 1981.  Her legacy lived on with the many ships of Princess Cruise Lines.

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