Shawn J. Dake
The MV PRINCESS OF ACADIA taken 2008 near Saint John, NB. Photo in public domain.
The last passenger ship with ties to the famous Canadian Pacific Railway and Steamship Company has made its final voyage. The PRINCESS OF ACADIA was built in Canada for Canadian Pacific at a cost of $8 million by the Saint John Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Limited, entering service on May 27, 1971. With a gross tonnage of 10,109 and an overall length stretching 480 feet, she was by far the largest unit of the Princess Line of Canadian Coastal ships which once operated on both the East and West Coasts. Most recently operated by Bay Ferries on a government subsidized service between Saint John, New Brunswick and Digby, Nova Scotia, the old ship made her final roundtrip voyage on Monday, July 27, 2015. After much fanfare and gala sendoffs on both sides of her run, the PRINCESS OF ACADIA was laid up at Saint John and is being offered up for sale by the Minister Of Transport with the seller listed as one “Elizabeth R, in right of Canada.”
The PRINCESS OF ACADIA in her original Canadian Pacific colors shown in Digby Gap, Nova Scotia early in her career. Postcard from the collection of Shawn J. Dake.
Few ships manage to spend their long careers under the same name. This one did, although it was originally laid down and launched as the PRINCESS NOVA. Before entering service, it was renamed PRINCESS OF ACADIA, when the previous ship of that name relinquished the moniker. (The predecessor regained its original name PRINCESS OF NANAIMO and was later rechristened HENRY OSBORNE before grounding and subsequently being scrapped in 1974). Canadian Pacific actually sold the new PRINCESS OF ACADIA to the Canadian Government in 1974 but it continued to be managed by the C.P.R. As originally built, the ship presented a sleek and beautiful profile. The white hull and superstructure was topped by a large funnel wearing the red, white and black colors of the railway. On the interior, attractive lounges could accommodate 650 day passengers. In many ways, the ship was a greatly enlarged version of the earlier 5,554 ton PRINCESS OF VANCOUVER built in 1955 for West Coast service. A huge single-level car deck with six roadways could accommodate 159 automobiles or 40 large trailer trucks. Vehicles could roll on and roll off through bow and stern loading doors. Below decks, four diesel engines generating 11,500 b.h.p. drove the ship at 19 knots allowing for two roundtrips every 24 hours between St. John and Digby.
Under management of CN Marine the ship looked very smart in a blue color scheme. Postcard from the collection of Shawn J. Dake.
In 1976, a new Crown Corporation, CN Marine was created which became Marine Atlantic in 1986. From that time they managed operations of the ship until the Canadian government decided to get out of that side of the shipping business and privatize the services in 1997. The winning bidder for the route was Bay Ferries which itself is a subsidiary of Northumberland Ferries Limited. The Canadian government retained ownership of the PRINCESS OF ACADIA and the ferry terminals.
The former BLUE STAR ITHAKI has been renamed FUNDY ROSE for her new Canadian service. (photo by Olaf Tausch – Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
With rising costs and concerns about the viability of the service, in 2006 the Government once again extended operating subsidies to the ship. Beginning in 2013 they began looking into a replacement for the over 40 year old vessel. On October 27, 2014 it was announced that a newer ship, built in 2000, had been purchased for €31 million from Blue Star Ferries of Greece. The 10,193 gross ton FUNDY ROSE (ex BLUE STAR ITHAKI, CANADA2014) has now been placed into service as a replacement for the veteran PRINCESS OF ACADIA. If a trading buyer can not be found, the classic PRINCESS OF ACADIA will most likely be sold for scrap.
Thanks to Christopher Kyte and Kevin Griffin.
Dake, Shawn J. The “Princess” Line Steamboat Bill #223, Fall 1997.
Hacking, Norman R. and W. Kaye Lamb The Princess Story Mitchell Press Limited, Canada 1974.
Shipbuilding And Shipping Record July 18, 1971.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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