During the Prohibition era in the United States, between 1920 and 1933, there were lots of opportunities for short or long offshore ocean cruises with well-stocked and unregulated shipboard bars. Access to any booze at all was a cruise enthusiast’s pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. So for some ocean travellers, the highlight of any ocean voyage was inexpensive, untaxed booze in regular and copious quantities. As well as the pleasures of the moment there were later opportunities to boast of your consumption to parched friends back home onshore.
For those that couldn’t afford the cost – or the time – of a longer cruise, Eastern coastal cities like New York featured frequent weekend ‘’booze cruises” on ocean liners that went out just beyond American territorial waters and featured well-stocked bars. The same was true on the West Coast, to a lesser degree because of the smaller population base.
So why not combine the best of both coasts and sail on the Panama Pacific Line from one coast to the other, instead of going by rail across the continent on a train with a dining car – but no bar service. With Martinis and Daiquiris at 25 cents and Courvoisier Cognac for 35 cents a glass, even the most frugal Panama Pacific Line drinker would have been able to imbibe freely on this ship. ‘This ship’ could be any one of the liners that at various times plied the route for the Panama Pacific Line – S.S. Kroonland, S.S. Finland, S.S. Manchuria, S.S. California, S.S. Pennsylvania, and S.S. Virginia.
The cover is a delightful piece of Art Deco design. Unfortunately, the artist has not signed this image. He or she may have wanted anonymity for creating art for a relatively mundane application, or it may have been that the shipping line did not want to provide him or her with publicity. The same is true of the striking artwork on the cover of the 1930s brochure which is pictured. No matter how closely one looks, there is no hint anywhere of an artist’s signature or initials.
However, if you were sitting at the bar on one of the Line’s ships, would you really care who designed the Cocktail Menu cover, when there were so many more important decisions to be made – like, what brand of Champagne to order, or whether the bartender could make you a really good gin martini, with your favourite gin. Ah, the challenges of life at sea!
More information about wining and dining at sea can be found in The Sayers Collection, at The Johnson Collection.