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Maritime tales – escape to the sun

31 December 2007 by stepheng

Illustration of a cruise liner which reads: Booth Line to Portugal, Madeira and North Brazil. Cruises 1,000 miles of the River Amazon. For train services, see LNER time tables.

Image courtesy Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

The nearest I, Stephen Guy, have got to embarking on a New Year cruise is taking a ride on the Mersey ferry. Taking a sea cruise has added attractions at this time of year with opportunities to swap dull days in Britain with azure seas and exotic places to visit.

Holiday cruises by sea to and from Britain began on a modest scale in the late 19th century. Originally they were beyond the means of most people and were the preserve of the rich. They became more widely available from the 1920s when many passenger liners began cruising because their usual routes were becoming less profitable.

Although enjoying a boom period in the 1950s and early 60s, cruise holidays remained expensive. In recent years lower prices and wider choices of destinations have made them more popular than ever. Cruise liners have grown in size and prestige, becoming floating holiday resorts with many attractions.

Displays in the Lifelines gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum look at cruising on the River Amazon in South America. Visitors can listen to an audio account by Mary Harte of a Christmas and New Year cruise on this mighty river in 1934. Mary made the trip on the Booth Line passenger cargo liner, Hilary, with her mother and sister. Mary’s father, Charles Good, was in charge of the Booth Line’s affairs in the Amazon Basin and was based in Pereira, Brazil. The Hilary berthed at Pereira where Charles met his family and they spent Christmas Day on board before lodging in a company house for two days. Mary later spent two weeks on the Amazon travelling 1,000 miles to Manaos.

In 1866 the Booth Line began regular passenger and cargo services from Liverpool to north Brazil and the Amazon. From the 1920s to 1964 the company ran popular holiday cruises to Manaos. Among the display items is this colourful Booth Line poster showing the Hilary. The ship called first at Portugal, then Madeira and on to north Brazil before sailing up the Amazon.

Souvenirs of a cruise on the Hilary include a Booth Line notebook, playing cards and paper knife. Also displayed is a deck chair from the ship. A hilarious photograph shows passengers in a fancy dress revue with such characters as a devil, French maid, sailor and clown. Also featured in the display is a prize-winning model of the Booth Line’s Hildebrand which operated on the Liverpool – Amazon service between 1911 and 1934. She could carry up to 218 First Class and 406 Third Class passengers.

A new Maritime Tale appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo.

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