November 16, 2007

Banana Boats

Another thing I found interesting about A Short History of the Banana and a Few Recipes for its Use, which I wrote about on Wednesday, was something tucked away back behind the recipe section.

The consumption of bananas was not the only thing being promoted by the United Fruit Company in this turn of the century recipe booklet. One of the company's sidelines was providing sea transportation for those who might be looking for a little tropical travel. This seems a logical extension of their resources as they already had a fleet of ships at their disposal.

The company operated a passenger cruise service on its freighters which brought fruit (mostly bananas and pineapples) to the United States from Central America and the Caribbean.

The last three pages are filled with information about United Fruit Company's Steamship Lines. The company offered U.S. Mail and Passenger Service to the West Indies and Central and South America. A map of the routes is shown on one of the pages.

From the U.S. cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Mobile one could travel to Cuba, Jamaica, San Domingo, Belize (the British Honduras), and Guatemala. Destinations further on included the Spanish Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.

Upon arrival at the ports of these foreign destinations, connections could be made with railroads to travel on to interior points within the countries.

A description of the passenger accommodations on their ships is also given:

"The "Admiral" steamships operated by this company are American built twin-screw vessels, and are especially adapted to tropical travel. They have commodious promenade decks, cool and airy, well-ventilated staterooms situated on the main and hurricane decks amidships, thus insuring a minimum of sea motion. The dining saloon is located on the main deck well forward of the engine room, and removed from all disagreeable odors incident. Bathrooms are supplied with fresh or sea
water and are at the disposal of passengers at all times.

The table is made an especial feature of these boats, and is supplied with every delicacy the northern and tropical markets afford.

The ships are furnished throughout with a perfect system of electric lighting and steam heating.

The stewards and waiters are unremitting in their duties and everything is done for the comfort and convenience of the passengers."
The last page has a really nice illustration of one of their ships. Notice the white color of the ship. Their fleet was painted white to help keep the fruit cargo cool and to slow down the ripening process. The UFCO vessels were also known as the Great White Fleet. The red, white and blue flag of the fleet is also shown. A circular logo similar to the pennant design and colors are prominent on each page of the recipe booklet. Also shown is a partial list of the first-class steamers that were part of the United Fruit Company's fleet. Twenty-one vessels are mentioned by name with a reference to the fact that there were also fifty-five others.

Seeing the advertisement for the United Fruit Company's Steamship Lines in the recipe book jogged my memory about another book I thought I had around here somewhere. Sure enough, I was able to locate an old copy of The Guide to Traveling Around the World by Passenger-Carrying Freighters. This was the 1969 edition, published many years after the cookbook, but I browsed through it and found three entries for United Fruit ships:

Sailings from New York City

Panama. From New York to Nassau and Panama (with stopovers ashore), returning to Weehawken, New Jersey. Via smart American and foreign flag fruit boats with twin-bedded cabins, lounge, and good meals. Weekly. United Fruit Company.
Cruise ten days $325-$360 plus cost of stopover in Panama at passenger's expense.

Central America. From New York to Tela, Honduras or to Berlize, B.H. and Puerto Cortes, Honduras; returning to New York. Via foreign flag freighters carrying 4-12 passengers in single and double cabins with private facilities. Twice monthly. United Fruit Co.
Cruise 12 days $325-$360.

Sailings from Gulf of Mexico Ports

Caribbean-Central & South America. Yacht-like banana boats of the United Fruit Company operate through the Western Caribbean on puctually scheduled cruises. Via American or chartered freighters with single and double cabins with bath, good food. Weekly on each service. Itineraries usually resemble those below but ports, fares and voyage times may vary.

New Orleans to Puerto Barrios and return. New Orleans to Belize and Puerto Cortes and return. $120 o.w. [one way], $216 r.t. [round trip]. Cruise 8 days $165-$240.

New Orleans to Kingston thence through the Panama Caal to Puerto Armuelles or Golfito, Costa Rica; and vice versa. To Panama only $342-#387 r.t. Cruise 18 days $475-530.

The passengers generally ate the same meals as those prepared for the crew. I wonder if bananas were on the menu?


At 6:43 AM CST, Blogger T.W. Barritt said...

This is a fascinating "side business" that I never would have thought of, but of course, it makes perfect sense.


Post a Comment

<< Home