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Royal Mail Ocean Cruising Steamer 'Atlantis' (Triple Screw 16.000 Tons Gross. 23.000 Tons Displacement)

This occasion marks the birth of our nation’s cruise industry.

Tara Bush, Assistant Postmaster General for Marketing

Published 20th February 2007, 11:23am

This Thursday (22 February) marks the 70th anniversary of the first cruise ship visit to these islands. On 22 February 1937, 340 well-heeled passengers aboard the RMS Atlantis came ashore in George Town, giving birth to the local cruise industry.

The Cayman Islands Postal Service, with the assistance of the Department of Tourism, is honouring the occasion by issuing a very limited edition Commemorative Cover and cachet.

Historic occasion:

The Atlantis anchored in the George Town roadstead at 8:30 a.m., according to the Jamaica Gleaner. It arrived from Montego Bay with 400 tourists on board. “At 9:30 a.m. they [passengers] came ashore taking sightseeing trips and indulging in sea bathing and fishing. People from every district came down to the waterfront to view the big liner which sailed at 6:30 p.m. for Havana,” the report said.

The Gleaner’s report provided details of the ship origins and final destination: “The ship started its voyage on 17 February from Southampton via Casa Blanca, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, La Guayara and Cristobal with mail and cruise passengers. On the 18th it stopped in Jamaica. A day later it sailed for Santiago de Cuba, returning to Montego Bay on Sunday morning and sailing in the afternoon for Cayman Islands, Havana, Miami, Nassau, San Juan, St. Lucia, Antigua, Madeira and Southampton. The Atlantis left Montego Bay at 7 p.m. for George Town, Grand Cayman.

Founded upon the Seas also makes reference to the occasion, quoting from Commissioner Cardinall’s report: “Landing at a wharf such as we possessed was deemed … the highest of adventures.” The book continues: “Once safely on shore, they could view the islands’ sights ... bathe in the sea, sit in deck chairs on the beach under sunshades. They were regaled with rum cocktails, beer, and ice cream. Souvenirs of various kinds were on sale: tortoiseshell, sharkskin, and thatch-work, specially made picture postcards. and Spanish gold and silver coins said to have been recently unearthed in Cayman Brac.”

A year earlier Commissioner Cardinall had arranged for the 16,000-ton vessel, which carried between 400 and 450 passengers, to stop in the Cayman Islands to promote tourism.

Minister of Tourism the Honourable Charles E. Clifford said, “Who would have thought that when the RMS Atlantis arrived on our shores in 1937, 70 years later the Cayman Islands would be one of the leading Caribbean cruise destinations? While it is fair to say that today’s cruise ship and cruise port are vastly different than 70 years ago, it is clear that positive news of this port of call has traveled and people from around the globe continue to be drawn to our shores.”

Assistant Postmaster General for Marketing Tara Bush said, “This occasion marks the birth of our nation’s cruise industry. Despite the stark contrast between George Town of yesteryear and what it is today, the first cruise visitors enjoyed the same hospitality and souvenirs,” said.

“I would like to thank the Department of Tourism for sponsoring the First Day Covers,” she added.

First Day Cover

People interested in purchasing a First Day Cover can do so at the North Terminal on Thursday, 22 February between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. or at the Philatelic Bureau at the Seven Mile Beach Post Office during regular business hours.

Philatelic Manager Karen McField said, “While events such as the first cruise ship visit might be hard to demonstrate on a stamp issue, we want the public to remember them. A First Day Cover is a perfect way, and we want to encourage the public to bring historic occasions to our attention so that we can celebrate them.

“I would like to thank one of our stamp committee members, Ivan Burges, for bringing this to our attention,” she added.

For more information on how to turn a historic occasion or event into a First Day Cover, please contact Karen McField at the Philatelic Bureau.