By William H. Miller
"There were few ships better than the Queen of Bermuda. She was a true favorite," said Everett Viez, a well-known maritime historian who has made over 100 trips on different passenger vessels. "She had more luxury about her than many transatlantic liners. The service was impeccable and the food top-notch. She was also an immaculate ship. She was first class in every way. She was very, very popular on the 6-day cruise run between New York and Bermuda. In fact, the Bermuda run was a 'gold mine' for her British owners."
The 22,500-ton Queen of Bermuda was one of the great liners of the 1930's. She was completed in 1933 at the Vickers-Armstrong Yard at Barrow-in-Furness and, together with her near-sister, Monarch of Bermuda of 1931, added great luxury to the
Bermuda cruise trade. Along with splendid public rooms, a large main restaurant, an indoor pool and spa-cious sports and sunning decks, she boasted a great novelty for that era: every cabin had a private bathroom. The fares in the 1930's began at $50, the ideal honeymoon cruise or, as their owners, Furness Bermuda Line dubbed them, the "honeymoon ships."
They sailed in regular tandem up to that fateful summer of 1939 when war started in Europe and they were called to more urgent, far less glamorous duties.
"It was the end of August in 1939 when we came back from Bermuda blacked out," recalled Viez. "
We were rerouted a few hundred miles during the normal 600-mile passage but actually arrived at New York's Pier 95 two hours early. She had already been requisitioned by the British government and so every precaution was being taken. At night, the full moon would shine on her white upper-decks and her silver/gray hull, making it more difficult. There were no lights or even cigarettes allowed on deck. Stewards jumped out of nowhere when a passenger forgot and lit up on deck. The lights were dimmed in the outside cabins and the thick drapes in the public rooms kept closed. There was a tense mood on board."
The 580-foot long Queen of Bermuda put into her West 55th Street pier along Manhattan's west side early on Saturday morning, September 1st. Other liners like Queen Mary and Normandie were already laid up for safety. But the Queen of Bermuda would go into immediate war service. The disembarkation of her 700 passengers was especially hurried. "A fuel barge arrived almost immediately," added Viez. "and the Queen of Bermuda was gone to war by 11:00 a.m. There would be no sailing at three that afternoon or until well after the war, in the late 1940's. There were reports that U-boats were everywhere. Another British liner, the Athenia, was sunk two days later."
The 19-knot Queen of Bermuda survived the war, returned to the Bermuda run in February 1949 and sailed on it until, when deep into maritime old age, she was sold to scrappers up in Scotland in late 1966.