QSS Arkadia

In the summer of 1963 I was 14 years old, travelling with my sister (age 12) and my parents from Montréal, Canada to Le Havre, France aboard the QSS Arkadia. Apart from an Irish priest (he may have been an Archbishop for all I know) he and our family were the only ones in First Class. My mother (who was a devout Roman Catholic) spent time drinking with the priest. My father did not drink. We all dined together.

There were a lot of young students traveling Tourist Class. I recollect they may have been exchange students. I hadn’t much to do with the people in Tourist Class except by accident. The First Class venues were predominantly midship; and, they tended to be at the higher elevations.

Each evening after dinner there were towered plates laden with tiny sandwiches and sweets for consumption on the First Class deck (which I believe was immediately below the bridge). Because my mother considered there was no need for the few of us in First Class to have so much to eat she tried to persuade the staff to avoid the preparation of the goodies. Her opposition went unhindered.  In retrospect I imagine the crew afterwards helped themselves to what was ignored by us – though I confess I too may have tasted one or two of the sweets!

I believe the transit across the North Atlantic Ocean lasted about a week. My sister and I spent much of our hobby time in the First Class swimming pool which was indoors and which had the singular feature of swishing the water so violently at times that one was jettisoned from the pool onto the deck.

My sister did not last long as a playmate.  She and I shared a stateroom.  She spent most of her time there, suffering from nausea and attempting to eat dry turkey slices provided by the staff as an palliative. We had previously proven our indebtedness to the staff when, one evening when preparing for bed, we engaged in a pillow fight.  One or both of the pillows struck the buzzers on the wall to summon the staff.  The staff arrived in sequence, fully attired, ready to perform.  My mother – when she got wind of the abuse – was furious.  I believe the envelope tendered upon our departure contributed to assuage the indiscretion.

There was a masquerade ball one evening.  The Captain invited my mother to join him and others as judges of the best costume. On another occasion – to which oddly my sister and I were invited – the Captain held a cocktail party. According to my sister’s improved memory, both she and I got into the martinis before my mother succeeded to divest us of the toothpicks.

Being without my sister and estranged from the Tourist Class, I spent much of my time alone on the First Class deck overlooking the bow, watching the waves crash upon it and splash upon the window panes. Somehow I managed to escape any upsetting backlash of the repeated up and down motion.

The ship made one stop before France. We found ourselves in a placid harbour off Ireland. I recall looking down from what seemed an atmospheric level on the upper decks upon the smooth waters below, seeing young boys in row boats shouting above to the likes of my mother to throw them packs of cigarettes. My mother accommodated them by throwing many packages of cigarettes in their cellophane wrap onto the water below.  The packages floated upon hitting the water whereupon the sailors furiously rowed to collect them.

QSS Arkadia

The ARKADIA, 20,260 tons, fastest in regular service from Canada to Germany via Ireland, England, France and Holland, emphasizes spacious and comfortable accommodations for 1350 passengers in First Class and Tourist. The ship provides air-conditioned dining in two dining rooms and a wide range of inviting lounges, cocktail bars and card rooms, some of which combine to form one full deck of public rooms

.. one of the largest indoor swimming pools afloat as well as an outdoor pool

.. a continuous round of games and sports tournaments, selected movies and congenial get-togethers

.. fine Continental cuisine and efficient, friendly service by English-speaking German stewards.