AS I look back upon indefatigable crossings, year after year, to Havre, to Cherbourg, to Liverpool, to Hamburg, all by the North Atlantic steamer lane, I wonder what it could have been that kept me so long from any exploration of that much better way to reach Europe, the South Atlantic and Gibraltar. Cold and dreary and stormy, that was always the North Atlantic to me; monotonous, and always a matter for shivers and steamer rugs, even in June. The Southern Atlantic crossing, only a few hundred miles farther south, could not be much better; and, counted in days, it was still longer. I think that was the imaginary objection that held me from trying it.
We are among those who detest travel in Europe in summer, when it is crowded with tourists, and hot, and one has to secure reservations of all kinds in advance. A winter crossing that would be balmy and stormiest; and pleasant was therefore a boon of a discovery to us. Year after year, following that Patria crossing, we have taken the southern routeand always found it the same. To be specific, the months that we know from actual experience are October, November, January, February, May, and June. They were all alike; a stormy departure from New York or Providence, one cold day at sea, and then the blessed Gulf Stream, with gulfweed in blossom, with flying-fish skimming over the waves, with a sea blue as the Mediterranean and the clouds over-head light and fluffy, banking to flat lower edges as they dipped over the far horizon. One took overcoat and steamer rug for the first few days; after that the coat was superfluous and the rug a casual thing, to be used or not according to the state of the sun. Promenades and deck games were a pleasure in the soft atmosphere. The wind was good in the face. There was al-ways interest in the sea life that passed. And in June it was a matter for awnings, with the sea glassy as the Indian Ocean and fleets of pearly nautilus sailing by like iridescent soap bubbles.
The time of the trip is long, measured in days, which may be sixteen to twenty-one, de-pending on the route; but the actual crossing from the Azores to America is shorter than the North .Atlanticonly seven days. The steamers have a casual and wholly delightful way of touching at islands, a day here, a day there, and one can go ashore and see strange peoples and odd little towns, all of them reveling in tropical flowers all winter, and some of them beautiful as dreams. One forgets the days at sea after that, for the captain has always another island coming. As these southern steamers have large and roomy cabins, and the cuisine is unsurpassed, the ship feels like home and one sighs when the voyage at last comes to an end.
The goal of all these steamers is the Mediterranean, Mare Nostrum, Our Sea, as I call it, for it belongs as much to us in America as to the peoples who now live on its shores. For that sea was once all Greek, save for a few strips held here and there by the Phoenicians. Geologically speaking, it is just a large pond formed by a dip in that huge block of secondary Cretaceous that once covered all south Europe and North Africa and Asia Minor.
But, in practical human significance, that sea is our heritage, the home of that Greek culture which taught Rome most of what she knew that was good; and is to-day our own ideal of perfection in all things of the mind. I might elucidate, in an aside, that astounding remark about Greek tutelage of Rome. Wherein she and Greece differed in the world of thought was only in matters of law and military science.
The latter is evanescent, for a mere invention upsets the best tactics ever planned. As for law, the whole world lives to-day under the Roman code, but without getting any justice from it that can be perceived. The Greek idea that there is no such thing as “law,” that each case is a matter for pure argument regardless of precedentfundamental differencehas not been given a trial yet in our Western world; only in backward races, where men have brown skins, and the headman of the village and his elders still try cases in the ancient Greek waywith a notable success. Thus are our two Roman heritages come to nought; yet still stands the Greek perfection, born and spread all around Our Sea, still our own ideal aim.
I conclude my reflections on the Southern Atlantic route with a resume of the steamers plying it and the Mediterranean beyond. I would begin with the Fabre Line because I know its steamers best. They have three large ships of sixteen and seventeen thousand tons, carrying first- second- and third-class passengers, the Patria, Providence, and Canada. The regular fares to such ports as Palermo, Naples, (Athens), and Marseilles, including stops at the Atlantic Islands, are $212.50 up; to the farther ports of Alexandria, Jaffa, Beirut, and Constantinople, $230 up. Besides which they have a regular schedule of winter cruises, adding the Azores and Madeira, Algiers, Syracuse, and Messina to all those other ports, with all shore expenses for, sight-seeing included, and excursions to such inland places as Cairo, Jerusalem, and Baalbec or Damascus. The fares, including inland excursions, run from $575 for an inside room on a lower deck to $840 for a two-berth outside room on the uppermost deck. Besides there is quite a selection of cabins de luxe for two, with private bath, at about $1200 per passenger.
The Fabre Line has also a one-cabin service quite the equal of anything on the North Atlantic. This comprises five boats of from ten to twelve thousand tons, the Sinaia, Asia, Braga, Roma, and Brittania. I have sailed on all of them, and once made a trip clear around the Mediterranean and up into the Black Sea to Constanza on the Asia. There are a number of big, roomy cabins with two portholes and two doors (one opening out on deck) to be had if you secure them sufficiently in advance. These are on the top deck; those on the next are of various sizes, two- and three-berth, and several large ones of four, for families, all generous and comfortable in their proportions, and cramped neither in berth nor floor room, as is too often the case in North Atlantic steamers.
The cuisine on all of them is excellent, quite the same as on the Patria class. Curtaining and bedding in embroidered linen, direct from the laundry. In a word, as clean and comfortable ships as anyone could demand. Some of them have glass-enclosed upper deck under the bridge; all have good promenade space, and all a smoker and a ladies’ saloon. In a word, a good home for a long cruise, one of these ships. The fares are: to Azores $105; to Madeira or Lisbon, $I25; Algiers or Marseilles, $140; MMus, $I45; Alexandria, Beirut, Jaffa, $165 ; Constantinople and Smyrna, $165 or $170, de-pending on the direction the steamer is going; all around the Mediterranean, via Constantinople and back to Marseilles, $225.
This last makes a very good Mediterranean winter cruise in itself. You will have to allow from $150 to $200 for your shore expenses, but they have a booklet covering what to do and see ashore, that gives all directions as to what not to miss and how to cover the principal sights in the time the steamer stops, usually from seven hours to two days. They make no long stops, such as one would need to see Cairo; but Jerusalem, Baalbec, Constantinople, and Athens are all easily managed.
Turning to other lines, we have the Cosulich Line, New York, Boston, Azores, Madeira, Lisbon, Naples, Patras, Dubrovnik, and Trieste, two ships, $230 and $217.50 up, first class. The Transatlantica Italiana, three ships, 5225 first class and one of them one-cabin at $140. Their route is New York, Azores, Lisbon, Palermo, Naples, Genoa. Then there is the Navigazione Generale ltaliana, three ships, the Duilio, Giulo Cesare and Colombo, first two $275, first class, Colombo $250 and calling at Philadelphia the day after New York. She is one-cabin eastbound, at $140. Another Italian is the Lloyd Sabudo, three ships, New York to Naples and Genoa, $250 up, first class. And we have the Royal Spanish Mail Line, two steamers, New York to Cadiz and Barcelona $207.50, first class.
Added to these we have a number of winter-cruise ships chartered each year for the Mediterranean. I have already spoken of the three large Fabre liners which have, at present writing, four cruises touching at sixteen ports for the winter of 1926. Thos. Cook & Sons offer us the Homeric at $1000 up, sixty-eight days, visiting Madeira, Cadiz, Seville, Gibraltar, Algiers, Tunis, Naples, Athens, Constantinople, Haifa for Jerusalem and the Holy Land, Alexandria and Cairo, Palermo, Naples, Monte Carlo and Nice, thence to Lon-don and New York. The White Star Line has their Adriatic and Lapland, covering about the same itinerary; and the Canadian Pacific the Empress of France, adding Venice to the usual list of ports. The Holland America offers their Rotterdam, same general route. Frank Tourist Company, S. S. Scythia; Clark’s, Transylvania. Cunard Line, S. S. Mauretania, Villefranche, Naples, Athens, Haifa, Alexandria, sailing from Liverpool. They have about four ships making this cruise every winter. The Raymond Whitcomb Company has also chartered steamers making this Mediterrean Cruise with varied itinerary. Numerous other travel companies advertise cruises in the popular Mediterranean. Heaven knows, there is choice enough, for him who would visit Our Sea!
In concluding this brief survey of steamers a few. words on clothing, stewards, and pass-ports will be in order. The mark of a good traveler is the modesty of his baggage. Never load up with quantities of junk the equivalents of which can be bought everywhere in Europe. This refers to linen, toilet articles, camera films, ties, socks, and the like. You will need one “business” suit, a dinner jacket, a sport suit, a top coat, just enough linen to carry you across, and quantities of shoes. The haberdashery of France and England is smarter and newer than our own and you will want to stock up on it soon after landing.
The same general remarks apply to women two or three day suits, an evening gown or two, a sport outfit, and a warm deck cape. The wise lady will bring only enough to manage upon, knowing well that Parisian clothes are to be had in Algiers or the Riviera at prices far be-low America’s and much more chic and up-to-date. Our women are identifiable at sight in Europe by their pretty clothes, which at the same time are about a year behind the dernier cri. The first thing milady does upon landing at any civilized place is to stock up!
Don’t bring steamer rugs unless you happen to have them. They can be hired on board, not, smart and pretty, of course, but warm and useful. And always bring a few changes of warm woolen underclothing. The sea is variable, and you will often want to change from light “undies,” thoroughly and completely. The route temperatures also change within wide limits, balmy and warm in the Atlantic Islands, North Africa, Greece, and Asia Minor; cold and penetrating near Italy, the Riviera, Saloniki, and often in Constantinople and Pales-tine. One good argument for a steamier rug is the motor trip ashore. That from Jaffa to Jerusalem in winter, for instance, will be a raw and windy business; and if it is raining in Beirut it will be snowing in Baalbec. Algiers too, has her rainy and cold days, and the Riviera is notorious for her changeable moods. Italy is nearly always cold and windy in winter, and the district around Naples is one of the rainiest spots in Europe. Look at any annual rain map and you will find it marked with a dark blot.
Steward fees require a word of caution. One man who overtips makes all the other stewards envious and disappointed. On first-class ships the standard tip for the transatlantic trip is five dollars to room and table boy, two to bath and boots, one to deck boy; on the one-class ships these rates are cut in half and it is customary to give about two dollars to the maitre d’hotel or chief steward. For long ‘cruises it is well to diyide the time into periods of ten days and give the transatlantic tip to all at each period.
Of passports and visas: I find that, for touring steamers, there are practically no visas required for those merely going ashore for the day. In Portuguese territory there are no port formalities at all for those visiting ashore. In Spain you are usually met with a flat refusal, but the commissaire arranges matters and presently the passports are examined and a permit to go ashore for the day is written on them. In French ports like Algiers, Tunis, Beirut, Villefranche, or Monaco, nothing happens for those visiting ashore, but a visa is required if landing at the duane with trunks for a stay. In English ports they take away your passport at the custom house upon landing and it is returned when you call for it upon rejoining the ship. In Greece the passport is taken away and a white button with a Greek letter on it issued. You present the button and get back your pass-port on rejoining the ship. In Constantinople they are very strict. A visa is positively required. The Turkish control examines all pass-ports rigorously at Chanak, Constantinople, and upon entering the Bosphorus after a trip into the Black Sea.
For me, the policy of seeing things on my own ! I speak French and Arabic, and prefer just to ramble ashore, taking one of those little one-class ships to get about in, stopping off for a month at a good place for the insignificant tax of two dollars that makes my ticket good on the next steamer coming along. Just now I am anchored in a villa on the Mustapha Superior of Algiers. I can see the harbor below, and all those big Mediterranean ships coming in and departing as the days go by. And I write that you who take this cruise may go ashore posted on the things you should see, and above all on the significance of the things seen in the march of the world’s history. For it is all very well to be shown the Greek theater in Taormina, but what we would like to know is, who built it and why? and into what epoch in the general scheme of things does it fit? This little book is an attempt at an answer to that.