Raymond Whitcomb

(A collaboration between the author and Kevin Griffin, Managing Director, The Cruise People London)

Please note, this is an amended version of the original post. P&O Heritage www.poheritage.com kindly provided a day-by-day log of the 1921 Raymond Whitcomb cruise of Kaisar-i-Hind to the North Cape that differs materially from the account of the voyage by Dr. Riley used in the original post.

In writing Penguins and Polar Bears, I referenced Tourist Third Cabin: Steamship Travel in the Interwar Years. However, I quickly found that the book was really about steamship company labour practices, and only had minimal value, with some information early on in the book, to US immigration acts. I recently made another effort at reading it, and found that it was largely based on material from the Cunard archive, with some input from French sources. I still did not finish the book, and really cannot recommend it. Buried on pp117, in a discussion regarding women at sea, was a very brief reference to a US travel company, Raymond & Whitcomb (R&W) and a North Cape cruise in 1937 with the Franconia.

Penguins does in fact reference 45day North Cape Cunard cruises on the Franconia and Carmania during the interwar years, see pp43. It would seem that at least the Franconia was operated under charter, or in cooperation with R&W. It is possible that the Carmania, like the Carinthia, was used in some years.

R&W had not come up in any other sources, which I realized in retrospect focused on European lines. I had assumed from this that Americans were generally not interested in polar travel[1], although some did take cruises to the North Cape. In researching the company, I found that Walter Raymond and Irvine Whitcomb established it in 1879 in Boston, and that they organized North Cape cruises from 1921 through 1939. Kevin Griffin, who provided information from his archives for Penguins, found many original references to the company and the ships it used. He also sent me this note from his book about Clarke Steamship:

Raymond-Whitcomb, whose New York office was a block from Clarke’s on Fifth Avenue, no longer had access to the European liners it had been using. In 1939, it had run the Normandie, now laid up in New York, down to Rio de Janeiro for Mardi Gras and other ships to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the North Cape. It had also chartered the 32,583-ton Roma from the Italian Line for a couple of summer cruises from New York to Boston, Bar Harbor, Gaspé, Quebec, the Saguenay and Bermuda. But for 1940, it had to turn to Clarke to put together a summer program of ten cruises with the New Northland to accommodate 1,750 travellers, or about 75 per cent more than the Roma had carried in 1939. These cruises were a first for the New Northland. With the exception of weekend Saguenay excursions, her St Lawrence cruises had always been longer. She would now leave Montreal every Saturday until August 31, finishing her last cruise in Montreal on September 7.

It is not entirely clear from the material retrieved on line whether R&W chartered the ships used, or booked space on an existing cruise. However, as Kevin notes above, they certainly chartered ships when opportunities arose. There does not appear to be any history of the company, although Kevin did advise me that the company chartered the Regina Renaissance[2], ex-Renaissance 7 and that she had replaced the 1929-built Argonaut, which they had been using since 1967. Regina Renaissance now sails for Noble Caledonia as the Hebridean Sky, although the Regina Renaissance charter ended in 1998.

It would appear that in later years, possibly from 1967 onwards, the company offered cruises exclusively to members of the Smithsonian Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art, although a 1986 advertisement[3] indicates that they also worked with the American Geographical Society. It was how the company promoted these cruises between 1992 and 1996 that appears to have led to its downfall. On 19 June 1999 there was a summary judgment, in favour of the US Postal Service, against the company for U$398,960.05 for using a special non-profit mailing rate rather than third class mail for 6.1million pieces of mail[4].

Ephemera is scattered among several US institutions and there does not appear to be a central repository of information about the company. If any readers can provide additional information this would be welcome.

A few pieces about R&W North Cape cruises retrieved from the internet are reproduced on the following pages; the first illustration gives an idea of the extent of their activities. Available information on R&W cruise ships and itineraries to the North Cape, by year, is given below.

1921   Emperor of India[5] North Cape, Scandinavia and Continental Ports and Scotland

1922   Osterley[6]

1923   Araguaya[7]

1924    Franconia

1925   Franconia[8]      Iceland, North Cape, Norwegian Fjords, Sweden, Denmark, Holland

1929   Franconia[9]      Reykjavik, Hammerfest & North Cape, Lyngen, Trondheim, Fjords, Bergen

1930   Carinthia         Iceland, Midnight Sun the Norwegian Fjords, and Cities, Leningrad, Moscow, Sweden, Denmark.

1931   Carinthia         Includes two days in Leningrad and two in Moscow.

1937    Franconia

No information is available for other years, but it appears that Russia was added from 1930 onwards. All North Cape Cruises commenced in New York at the end of June, and it is only in a single advertisement for the Franconia 1925 cruise that reference is made to “return home at any time”, implying passage on a transatlantic vessel from the UK to New York

There is some confusion over the name of the ship that the company used in 1921. An advertisement (see later) states that it was the P&O liner Emperor of India, or Kaiser-i-Hind. However, the Hindi name translates as Empress of India, not Emperor, see the picture below of Kaiser-i-Hind from www.ssmaritime.com. This web site also states that Cunard[10] chartered the Kaiser-i-Hind from P&O in June 1921 and renamed her Emperor of India. This name change may have been necessary as Canadian Pacific already had their liner Empress of India operating on the North Atlantic and she was, coincidentally, taken on charter by Cunard from August 1921 to March 1922, to replace the Mauritania, which suffered a fire on E Deck in late July 1921, and was sent to Liverpool for repairs and conversion to oil firing. The Empress of India returned to CP on the Liverpool to Quebec City route as Montlaurier after the charter.


Sleuthing by Kevin Griffin, and some rationalization by the author suggests the following scenario[11]:

  • R&W approached Cunard to charter the Mauretania, but Cunard declined and offered the Kaisar-i-Hind as an alternative with the option of passengers returning on the Mauritania after the cruise terminated in England. We do not know why the ship was available[12], but its appointments made it quite attractive for cruising. See the smoking room photograph below.
  • The North Cape cruise was successfully completed and terminated in Tilbury.
  • The ship then undertook four to five voyages for Cunard, which is consistent with ssmaritime.com stating that ship returned to P&O at the end of December 1921.



The interior appointments of the ship, even though built in 1914, were very similar to P&O’s Viceroy of India (built1929), and would make her eminently suitable for cruising. Compare the photograph above from www.ssmaritime.com with the photograph in Penguins and Polar Bears of the Viceroy of India Smoking Room on page 42.

P&O records for the ship state that in 1921 Cunard chartered the ship for at least one round North Atlantic trip, and for a charter to The American Tourist Company. No such company can be found, and it may be the original record noted (as with the Osterley) that there was a charter to an American tourist company, without naming R&W.

In writing the first post we drew on the following account of the voyage by a Dr. Riley, which suggests that the cruise did not suffer any problems, but it differs markedly from one written by Mr. Arthur Crudge, the leader of the British Imperial Orchestra (seems to be a quartet from another report), who sailed on the cruise to provide the music.


Summarizing Mr. Crudge’s handwritten notes: There was fog and it was very cold from after they left St John’s to their arrival at the North Cape, when the weather cleared and it became much warmer. There was a boiler room explosion after they left St. John’s, with dead and injured, but no further details[13]. There was also a “touch and go” grounding on the Norwegian coast. Interestingly, the ship acquired a stowaway in St John’s, a young lady who went by the name of Noonan. Mr. Crudge reports that she could sing and play the piano well, but had thought the ship would take her to New York; she was well looked after by the lady passengers.

The cruise terminated at Tilbury, and Mr. Crudge notes that most of the guests were due to take the Mauritania[14] back to New York (see the comment on pp3 above regarding the 1925 Franconia cruise). Dr and Mrs. Riley flew to Paris, and returned to New York later on the Berengaria. A North Cape cruise from New York terminating in Southampton, with passage home on one of the Queens in the cruise fare, was the modus operandi for the Caronia cruises that commenced in 1951, See pp51 in Penguins.

Kevin Griffin further advised that Cunard’s 1939 built Mauretania was to undertake a North Cape and Fjords cruise from Britain 01-22 June 1965[15]. Ports of call were Oslo, Bergen, Reykjavik. It was described as Cunard’s first sailing from Britain to the Fjords since 1939[16]. This suggests that Cunard undertook such sailings from Britain in the pre-war years. We have no information on what Cunard did with the Kaisar-i-Hind for the balance of its charter from P&O, but according to Bonsor[17], the ship only undertook one North Atlantic crossing, which commenced 08 June 1921, and put the ship into position for its R&W charter commencing 25 June.

We do not have any indication of Cunard cruises during the 1920’s, but the list of cruises from Britain between 01 May and mid-July for 1936 in Ian Collard’s British Cruise Ship has three Cunard White Star sailings, all with the Lancastria ex Liverpool to southern destinations. This suggests that if Cunard used Kaisar-i-Hind in 1921 for cruises, it might have been to the Mediterranean, Spain and North Africa, which they were offering in 1936.

Ships used by Raymond and Whitcomb during the interwar period

Name Built GRT 1st Class 2nd Class Primary Service
Kaisar-i-Hind 1914 11,430 315 233 UK/Bombay
Osterley 1909 12,129 282 130 UK/Australia
Franconia 1923 20,175 221 356 Liverpool/ New York
Carinthia 1925 20,277 240 460 Liverpool/ New York
Araguaya 1906 10,537 285 100 UK/South America

Kludas notes that both Franconia and Carinthia were used extensively for cruising. Araguaya refitted 1920, but not converted to cruising until 1926. 3rd Class and Tourist numbers omitted from all ships.

Note from the following advertisements that R&W usually limited the passenger complement to 400.







[1] Other companies involved in US cruise travel were Thomas Cook, FC Clark, Frank Tourist Company. Not known whether they offered North Cape cruise; research is ongoing.

[2] Internet sources indicate that the ship was under charter to Raymond Whitcomb (incorrectly Raymond & White in Wikipedia) from 1992 to 1998.

[3] A 28 day Viking exploration cruise in an un named Royal Viking Ship.

[4] U.S. vs. Raymond Whitcomb Southern District of New York, New York City. https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/53/436/2290181/

[5] Kaisar-I-Hind, see later.

[6] An Orient Line ship built 1909, scrapped 1930. P&O had a major shareholding in Orient Lines from 1919 and their ship fact sheet notes that an American tourist agency chartered her for three North Cape cruises in 1922

[7] A Royal Mail Lines ship

[8] Fifty-nine page booklet available in HathiTrust Digital Library, Ann Arbor MI

[9] Diary of July 8-19 portion of the cruise by Camille Cross in NY Public Libraries.

[10] I contacted the Cunard Archives at University of Liverpool, but they were not able to provide any information. .

[11] P&O Heritage very kindly provided a copy of a log of the voyage, which offers a materially different account to that of Dr. Riley referenced later.

[12] British families in India tended to sail home in the late spring to avoid the heat of the Indian summer, returning in the autumn. Thus there could have been a lull in passage demand during the northern summer. Also, the P&O Fact Sheet notes that the ship operated seasonally on the UK/Bombay route. Based on the tenure of Lord Reading, who sailed on the ship from Tilbury to take up his position as the new Viceroy of India on 03 April 1921, she would have been back in the UK late May, thus available for charter in June.

[13] P&O records for the ship indicate 3 Indian stokers killed, and four engineers severely scalded by steam.

[14] She had been damaged by fire days earlier, and Raymond & Whitcomb (and no doubt Cunard) were trying to find suitable alternatives

[15] Fairplay Vol 213 1964

[16] She was painted a pale green, similar to the Caronia in 1962, and cruised exclusively from then until sold for scrap in October 1965, so the Fjords cruise was one of the last ones made by the 1939-built ship. The last one was a Mediterranean cruise.

[17] Bonsor, North Atlantic Seaways