The Red Star Line Museum unveils a large, temporary exhibition every year. In 2014 we told the story of Belgians in America during World War I. In 2015 we displayed photos by the Antwerp artist and perpetual traveller Jan Yoors. We are currently working on an exhibition about cruises with the Red Star Line.
Around the world in 133 days
The Red Star Line ships didn't only transport emigrants who were searching for the American dream from 1873 to 1934; they also transported rich tourists and businessmen. In the 1920s and 1930s the Red Star Line even organised cruises and voyages around the world.
We will take you around the world in 2016. That's why we are looking for stories about those luxurious voyages; stories told from the point of view of the passengers as well as the crew.
Do you remember the great-aunt who talked about her exciting adventures as a stewardess on board of a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea? Do you have photos of your grandfather, who saw the whole world as a sailor? Let us know via email@example.com.
To rouse your interest, we gladly tell Eugène Van Hove's story.
My trip around the world
22 December 1927
‘Beautiful sea, warm and good weather. During the day we sail past various Central American states, namely Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Passengers commence a variety of championships for deck tennis, shuffleboard, barrel throwing, table tennis, discus throwing, playing cards, etc. Deck golf, casting golf and trap shooting are also games that are fiercely contested.’
Anita Van Hove sent us a short message in the summer of 2013. She wrote that her father worked on the Belgenland and that they had a few pieces of memorabilia at home. It quickly became apparent that they still had a bound journal that was kept by her father. He sailed as a purser on the Belgenland during its world cruise in 1927/1928 and wrote down his experiences almost every day.
Eugène left Antwerp on 2 December 1927. He was away from home for almost six months and cast a last look at his native city. He wrote about the departure in his journal; that it seemed like the cathedral spire wished him ‘a successful and healthy trip and a happy return’.
As a purser, Eugène was in charge of the personnel and the passenger administration. Sailing from one important port to another, he worked hard but also enjoyed the impressions he gathered of ‘the exotic’. He regularly went on excursions. He found Tokyo to be a beautiful city and the women's small feet attracted his attention.
Sailor overboard on Christmas Eve
Life on board was diverse. A sailor fell overboard on Christmas Eve. A bit later Eugène received an unexpected visit from a good friend that worked as a butler for a rich family. Upon reaching the equator he observed the Crossing the Line initiation rite. Sometimes the passengers irritated him immensely: ‘The passengers, there are 259 of them, constantly bother us with those stupid questions so typical of travellers.’
After six months Eugène arrived in New York once again. He ended the journal with ‘and thus our stay in New York flies by and we long to be back in Antwerp as quickly as possible, back with our loved ones’.