February 2, 1961: Departure New York

February 2, 1961: Cunard liner RMS Saxonia heads to London with IES Spring 1961 participants bound for Vienna

Departure New York

Postcard rendition of the ship that took IES Vienna Spring 1961 participants to Europe in February 1961: Cunard's RMS Saxonia

By George Trask, IES Spring 1961 participant from Davidson College, hometown Beaufort SC, written November 2, 2010.

If the weather had been as glorious as this postcard depicts with sunshine on our ship, Cunard’s liner RMS Saxonia, our departure would have perhaps not been so memorable. As it was, the weather our departure day was awful–temperature 2 degrees below zero with alligatored ice covering the water; wind roaring down the canyoned streets of Manhattan; and clouds that brought a 7-inch snowfall crippling the metropolis the next day. But our outcome was wonderful.

608-feet long with a capacity of 110 First Class, 819 Tourist Class (we went Tourist Class) and a crew of 461, Saxonia was among the last built for the trans-Atlantic passenger trade. Turbine-powered twin propellers pushed her at 20 knots, taking eight days to drive us to London.

Winston Churchill’s wife launched her in 1954, just in time for decimation of trans-ocean passenger ships by jet airplanes. Though we did not know it at the time, we were among the last of Saxonia’s regular trans-Atlantic passengers, before Cunard rebuilt and restyled her for cruising and renamed her Carmania. The year after our departure Cunard repainted her cruising green like the famous RMS Caronia, the Green Goddess, but that did not help.

During our time Saxonia sailed summers from Canada to Great Britain along with three near-identical sister ships. Winters when the St. Lawrence Seaway iced up her intended departure ports of Quebec City and Montreal, she departed New York via Halifax and Le Havre to London, which was the route we took.

RMS Queen Mary at pier next to ours as our ship departed; note ice covering the water

When we boarded Saxonia at Cunard’s Hudson River Pier on Manhattan’s west side that day, Thursday, February 2, 1961, I took the photo above with my trusty Leica M2 of the last remaining three-funnel liner from pre-World War II days, Queen Mary, as she lay in ice at the berth next to us.

Goodbye USA: Statue of Liberty as seen from deck of Saxonia as we sailed out of New York harbor, Thursday, February 2, 1961

After we passed the Statue of Liberty in open water, we were off to Vienna!

Click here to see RMS Saxonia Tourist Class passenger list.


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