The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: The Lurline, when exotic luxury sailed the Hawaiian seas

Written By: herbrunbridge - Feb• 08•15

LurlineCoverNot many of us could have afforded to steam from the west coast of the United States to Hawaii aboard the S.S. Lurline, Matson Lines’ luxurious floating palace. Nor on her sister ships the Matsonia, Mariposa, Malolo, or Monterey, either. By 1970, it was all a moot point anyway, as comparatively inexpensive air travel killed Matson’s Hawaiian passenger business. And in similar fashion to the outcome of Pan American’s amphibious Boeing B314 Clipper airplanes, those richly appointed Matson steamers have all been destroyed. No one even bothered to turn one into a stationary seaside hotel.

All of that adds a degree of wistfulness and historical cachet to authors Lynn Blocker and Nick Krantz, and Mary Thiele Fobian’s To Honolulu in Five Days: Cruising Aboard Matson’s S.S. Lurline (2001, ISBN 1-58008-232-7). The book captures the fantasy that represented the dream of exoticism that lay in Hawaii, land of leis, hula girls in grass skirts, surfing, beach-combing, luaus, and steel guitars playing under the balmy, moonlit skies. From 1932 to 1970, the Lurline embodied that fantasy. This book tells the ship’s story embellished with numerous photographs and ephemera, such as menu covers, advertisements, and postcards. It also covers Matson’s Honolulu hotels, the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana. The Lurline was first class passage only, and included in the book are a host of photographs of some of her well-known passengers. Exotic musician Martin Denny is there, too.

MoonAdNGEO_12481cWe what here at WoWasis would have liked to have seen is a tad more information on the sister ships. The authors mention that at one point, the Matsonia was renamed the Lurline, but don’t mention that there was a publicity gaffe involved when the “third Lurline” was put out of commission. The Matsonia was renamed to dull the outcry from people who preferred that the name Lurline remain on the seas. And what of the Monterey and Mariposa? As late as 1978, eight years after the Lurline last sailed, those ships were steaming under the Pacific Far East Line banner.

The book is a valuable one for people desiring to know about Pacific passenger shipping and the marketing of Hawaii as a destination. The Lurline was famous for her murals and menu covers designed by Eugene Savage, which are reproduced in the book. John Kelly and Frank McIntosh provided wonderful artwork for Matson as well, but are not mentioned, nor are their works reproduced and included. This is particularly egregious in terms of McIntosh, whose Art Deco-inspired artwork graced Matson’s menus until the beginning of the Pacific war.

AsiaPromoBannerThe book is worth reading and keeping, however, especially for those who have a whimsical fancy for long-lost romantic, exotic, and luxurious sea travel, and seeking a historical perspective on Hawaii as a travel destination.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.