Jump to content

Prinzessin Victoria Luise

Coordinates: 17°55′40″N 76°51′10″W / 17.92778°N 76.85278°W / 17.92778; -76.85278
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prinzessin Victoria Luise dressed overall
NamePrinzessin Victoria Luise
NamesakePrincess Victoria Louise of Prussia
OwnerHamburg America Line
Port of registryHamburg
BuilderBlohm+Voss, Hamburg
Yard number144
Launched29 June 1900
Completed19 December 1900
Maiden voyage5 January 1901
Fategrounded 16 December 1906
General characteristics
Typecruise ship
Tonnage4,409 GRT, 2,249 NRT, 1,480 DWT
Length407.5 ft (124.2 m)
Beam47.2 ft (14.4 m)
Depth27.0 ft (8.2 m)
Installed power391 NHP
Sail plan2 masts
Speed16 knots (30 km/h)
Capacity200 1st-class passengers

Prinzessin Victoria Luise was the World's first purpose-built cruise ship. She was built in Germany, and launched in 1900 for Hamburg America Line (HAPAG).

Most of her cruises were from Hoboken, New Jersey to the Caribbean. She also cruised to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and in summer 1903 she made a series of cruises from Hamburg to Norway and the Baltic. Between September 1904 and January 1905 she made a pioneering round-the-World cruise from Hamburg to San Francisco.

As a prestigious luxury ship, Prinzessin Victoria Luise also took part in events honoring Kaiser Wilhelm II, his brother Prince Henry of Prussia, and Cipriano Castro, President of Venezuela.

Her career lasted only five years. In 1906 her Master mistook one lighthouse for another, set the wrong course, and accidentally drove her onto a reef off Jamaica. He swiftly took his own life, leaving his officers to manage the safe rescue of the ship's passengers and crew. No other lives were lost.



In 1886 Albert Ballin joined HAPAG as manager of its passenger department. Transatlantic passenger traffic was seasonal, as passengers preferred to avoid the weather of the North Atlantic in winter. This left some transatlantic liners under-employed in winter. In 1889 HAPAG's new flagship, Augusta Victoria, entered service. In January 1891 Ballin, despite criticism from his HAPAG fellow directors and from other steamship companies, sent Augusta Victoria on a 58-day "pleasure voyage" from Cuxhaven, Germany to the Mediterranean and Near East. The cruise included well-planned excursions ashore at ports of call en route. Ballin himself was a passenger. The voyage was a success, so similar ones were planned.[1]

Early cruises, called "excursions", were a success, but ocean liners were not ideal for the task. They had too few amenities aboard to occupy passengers on long voyages. They were multi-class ships, with large steerage accommodation unsuited to cruising. Divisions between first and second class divided and limited access to deck space. What deck space there was was mostly sheltered, designed to protect passengers from North Atlantic weather. And some of the ports that tourists might like to visit could not accommodate liners as big as Augusta Victoria. Ballin saw that a ship designed specifically for cruising would be more suitable, and also that she could spend all year cruising.[1]


Scientific American cover for 9 February 1901 showing interior and exterior photographs of the ship

In 1899 HAPAG made Ballin its Managing Director. He soon ordered a cruise ship from Blohm+Voss in Hamburg. She was built as yard number 144, and launched on 29 June 1900 as Prinzessin Victoria Luise, named after Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, the only daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II. She was completed on 19 December that year.

Prinzessin Victoria Luise was no bigger than an average ocean-going cargo ship of her era. Her registered length was 407.5 ft (124.2 m), her beam was 47.2 ft (14.4 m), and her depth was 27.0 ft (8.2 m). Her tonnages were 4,409 GRT, 2,249 NRT,[2] and 1,480 DWT.[citation needed] But she was styled to look like a luxury private steam yacht, with a white hull and raked clipper bow and bowsprit, instead of the black hull and straight stem that was then fashionable for most steamships. Her lifeboats were varnished mahogany.[3] She had a likeness of her namesake as a figurehead.[4]

Inside one of Prinzessin Victoria Luise's passenger state rooms

Prinzessin Victoria Luise was a one-class ship. All of her 120 cabins were first class state rooms. Her public rooms included a ballroom, social hall, gymnasium, library, and smoking room. A luxurious art gallery surrounded her dining room. She even had a darkroom for amateur photographers. Ballin aimed to match the style and service of Europe's finest hotels.[1]

The ship had twin screws, each driven by a quadruple-expansion engine. The combined power of her twin engines was rated at 391 NHP[2] and gave her a speed of 16 knots (30 km/h). She had two funnels, painted buff.[1] The after one may have been a dummy.

After she was fitted out, Wilhelm II inspected the ship. He was said to be displeased that she was slightly longer than his imperial yacht Hohenzollern.[1] HAPAG registered Prinzessin Victoria Luise at Hamburg. Her code letters were RLVT.[2]


Prinzessin Victoria Luise's menu for 1 March 1901

On 5 January 1901 Prinzessin Victoria Luise left Hamburg on her maiden voyage. She called at Boulogne and Plymouth, and reached Hoboken, New Jersey on 17 January. Af first, her cruises were sometimes called "tours".[4] On 26 January she left New York on her first tour, which was to Port-au-Prince; Santo Domingo; San Juan; St Thomas, in what were then the Danish West Indies; Saint-Pierre; Port of Spain; La Guaira: Puerto Cabello; Curaçao; Kingston; Santiago de Cuba; Cienfuegos; and Havana.[5] She arrived back in Hoboken on 2 March.[6] On 9 March she left Hoboken on a her second tour,[7] which was to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.[4] On 18 June she attended a Norddeutscher Regatta Verein regatta on the Elbe at Cuxhaven, where she hosted a dinner at which Wilhelm II gave a speech in which he praised Ballin as "a bold adventurer to make peaceful conquests, whose fruits our grandchildren will reap". The Kaiser also presented a portrait of himself to Ballin, bearing the dedication "to the farseeing and tireless pathbreaker for our German commerce and export".[8]

In February and March 1902 Prince Henry of Prussia visited the USA. On 11 March, as he left Hoboken aboard Deutschland to return home, the Hudson County Choristers sang to him from the deck of Prinzessin Victoria Luise.[9] Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were due to be crowned in Westminster on 26 June 1902. HAPAG arranged for Prinzessin Victoria Luise to leave New York on 10 June to take passengers to England for the coronation, calling at Le Havre and Hamburg as well as London.[10] However, Edward fell ill, and the coronation was postponed until 9 August.

On deck aboard Prinzessin Victoria Luise

In February and March 1903 Prinzessin Victoria Luise made a cruise that visited Bermuda as well as the Caribbean.[11] That summer, HAPAG scheduled her to sail to North Cape and Spitzbergen (now Svalbard) in Norway, and to the Baltic, leaving Hamburg on 6 June, 8 July and 28 July.[12] In September 1903 HAPAG announced that she would make a four-and-a-half month cruise almost the whole way around the World, including a fortnight in Japan. She would start on 13 September 1904, sail eastbound, and end at San Francisco on 26 January 1905.[13] On 12 April 1904 the ship left Hoboken on a cruise to the Mediterranean.[14]

An official HAPAG postcard for passengers

In January 1904, in port in La Guaira, Prinzessin Victoria Luise hosted a reception at which HAPAG company officials entertained President Castro of Venezuela.[15] That May HAPAG revised her round-the-World tour plan. She woud start from Hamburg on 25 September, and passengers from the USA could join her via the company's scheduled transatlantic services from New York. Ports of call were to include Lisbon, Gibraltar, Genoa, Piraeus, Istanbul, Jaffa, and Port Said, whence she would pass through the Suez Canal. She would then continue via Bombay (now Mumbai) and Calcutta. Passengers were offered the option to leave the ship at Bombay, make an 18-day overland tour of India, and rejoin her at Calcutta. She was to continue via Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki, Kobe, and Yokohama. Her intended arrival in San Francisco was brought forward to 17 January 1905. She was to leave San Francisco on 24 January to make her return voyage.[16] The ship would carry a band of musicians to entertain her 200 passengers.[17]

In June 1906 HAPAG announced that it would transfer Prinzessin Victoria Luise to its Atlas Service between Hoboken and the Caribbean, along with the Prinz-class cargo liners Prinz Eitel Friedrich, Prinz Waldemar, Prinz August Wilhelm, and Prinz Joachim. Prinzessin Victoria Luise's route would be between Hoboken and Jamaica. The Prinz-class ships would work the route between Hoboken and Colón via Kingston.[18]


Prinzessin Victoria Luise's wreck on the coast of Jamaica

On 12 December 1906 Prinzessin Victoria Luise left Hoboken for Port Antonio and Kingston. Her Master, Captain H Brunswig, was 38 years old, and had been her commander for more than two years.[19]

On the night of 16 December, Brunswig tried to take the ship into Kingston, but he mistook Plumb Point Lighthouse for Port Royal Lighthouse.[1] A recent volcanic eruption had changed the topography of the seabed, so that in places, actual depths differed from what was marked on the ship's nautical charts. Heading north at 14 knots (26 km/h) the ship grounded at about 21:30 hrs[20] on an uncharted reef at position 17°55′40″N 76°51′10″W / 17.92778°N 76.85278°W / 17.92778; -76.85278. Her engines were run full astern, but failed to free her.[citation needed]

Captain Brunswig sent a boat ashore to report the accident, and then retired to his cabin and shot himself. The passengers, unaware of his suicide, stayed aboard overnight. The next morning the Third Officer, Bruno Zache, commanded one of the ship's boats and took it to Plum Point. A continuous line of boats was formed from the ship to the shore, along which the crew passed each passenger from boat to boat to disembark them.[20] Various hotels in Kingston then accommodated the passengers.[19]

SMS Bremen

The German cruiser SMS Bremen and French training ship Duguay-Trouin came to assist Prinzessin Victoria Luise.[19] Bremen tried to tow her off the rocks, but without success.[21] On 18 December the Merritt & Chapman salvage tug Rescue left Norfolk, Virginia to try to rescue the ship.[22] However, within days the sea, aided by a storm, had turned the ship broadside to the shore, she was listing sharply to port, and the water inside her hull was 16 feet (5 m) deep on that side. Her engines had been displaced, and her frame and keel plates were damaged.[citation needed] On 19 December she was declared a total loss. Some of her fittings were salvaged, and the HAPAG ship Sarnia took them to Hoboken, along with most of her crew.[20] HAPAG transferred the liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie to replace Prinzessin Victoria Luise on its Hoboken – Jamaica route.[23]

Kronprinzessin Cecilie

Among seafarers there was swift criticism of Brunswig's suicide. In a shipwreck, the Master's duty is to remain in command, ensure the safety of his passengers and crew, and try to save his ship.[22] Afterward his duty is to testify to any inquiry into the shipwreck that his employers or the relevant government may convene. Brunswig did none of these things.[24]

On 24 May 1907 an admiralty court in Hamburg posthumously found Captain Brunswig to have been negligent, not only by mistaking one lighthouse for another, but also for maintaining full speed at the time.[25] Also that year a submarine earthquake sank the wreck of the ship.[26] In 1910 Deutschland was refitted as a cruise ship and renamed Victoria Luise (without the "Prinzessin") to succeed her.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Austin 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Lloyd's Register 1902, PRI.
  3. ^ Haws 1980, p. 65.
  4. ^ a b c "New cruising yacht". The New York Times. 18 January 1901. p. 12. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  5. ^ "Luncheon on a new yacht". The New York Times. 24 January 1901. p. 24. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  6. ^ "Back from yachting cruise". The New York Times. 3 March 1901. p. 12. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  7. ^ "Fog curtain veils the harbor from view". The New York Times. 10 March 1901. p. 14. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  8. ^ "Speech by the Kaiser". The New York Times. 20 June 1901. p. 5. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  9. ^ "Prince Henry bids America farewell". The New York Times. 12 March 1902. p. 1. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  10. ^ "Special Steamer for the Coronation". The New York Times. 20 May 1902. p. 9. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  11. ^ "Hamburg-American Line's Cruise". The New York Times. 28 February 1903. p. 2. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  12. ^ "Cruises in North Seas". The New York Times. 17 May 1903. p. 24. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  13. ^ "Special steamship cruises". The New York Times. 20 September 1903. p. 20. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  14. ^ "W. A. Clark seeling health". The New York Times. 13 April 1904. p. 1. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  15. ^ "Cruise of the Prinzessin Victoria Luise". The New York Times. 24 January 1904. p. 8. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  16. ^ "Two Hamburg-American World Tours". The New York Times. 22 May 1904. p. 5. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  17. ^ "Girdling the Globe". The New York Times. 12 June 1904. p. 33. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  18. ^ "New ships for West Indies". The New York Times. 19 June 1906. p. 6. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  19. ^ a b c "Her Captain a suicide, Victoria Luise ashore". The New York Times. 18 December 1906. p. 1. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  20. ^ a b c "Victoria Juise Wreck Tale". The New York Times. 29 December 1906. p. 3. Retrieved 17 January 2012 – via Times Machine.
  21. ^ The American Marine Engineer January 1907, p. 5.
  22. ^ a b "Norfolk, Va., Dec. 18". The New York Times. 19 December 1906. p. 8. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  23. ^ "New Liner in West Indies Service". The New York Times. 25 December 1906. p. 14. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  24. ^ "Topics of the times". The New York Times. 20 December 1906. p. 8. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  25. ^ "Blames self-slain Captain". The New York Times. 25 May 1907. p. 4. Retrieved 8 February 2024 – via Times Machine.
  26. ^ "S/S Prinzessin Victoria Luise, Hamburg America Line". Norway-Heritage. Retrieved 28 July 2020.