The SS United States Books an important passenger
The Windsors and pug aboard the SS United States. June 24, 1969. (AP) photo
They were regulars on the Cunard Line, traveling with staff of four, three dogs, 126 pieces of luggage and an occasional new car. When Cunard hinted that the couple’s luggage might be a touch excessive, the duchess contacted United States Lines for a better arrangement. She got it. In return for a few public appearance and publicity photos, United States Lines charged the couple minimum first class fare (Cunard charged full fare).
The Duke was the only passenger with an open invitation to the bridge. Captain Tucker remembered those visits. “We would get a call asking if it was all right for the Duke to visit. Of course, the answer was always “yes.” He would show up on the bridge in his plaid sport coat, plaid socks, and wild slacks, and later in my quarters, we would sit down and have a scotch and water and talk. He was a great raconteur, told great golf stories.” The more interesting anecdotes would begin with “Now when I was King.”
As the ex king he still received salutes from passing Royal Navy ships. British Destroyers were known to flashed by light code ” Give our regards to the Duke”.
Occasionally there was a breakdown in royal etiquette. Passengers were not permitted in the engine room due to its national defense feature, but in the case of the Duke of Windsor, Chief Engineer Kaiser made an exception. Unable to personally escort the Duke, Kaiser delegated the job to the shift engineer in charge, Bruno.
“Who is it, Chief?” asked Bruno.
“The Duke of Windsor.”
“Oh, Duke? OK, Chief.”
Not realizing who the Duke of Windsor was and under the impression that the visitor’s name was “Duke” Windsor, he started the tour. “Come on, Duke, I’ll show you the boilers. Over here we have the fuel pumps, and over there, Duke, the generators.” etc… The “Duke” enjoyed the tour and never complained about a lack of decorum
My family and I traveled on the SS United States and the SS America. My father, an Army officer was stationed in Potsdam, East Germany 1960-62 and in Moscow from 1964-67. On our trip to Moscow (I believe on the SS United States) I entered the elevator and there was the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I recall her vividly hoisting me up into her arms and planting a big kiss on the cheek. When the elevator stopped and we exited a couple of photographers took our photo together. When we got to our destination my father was running pillar to post trying to find newspapers that carried a picture. I loved traveling on that ship. Years later my wife and I traveled on Crystal Cruise. That was the best of all the ships, but nothing could touch the SS Lines…