Tuesday Post: Ship Postmarks


Postcard sent from my father home to his parents from the SS Mauretania in 1950 – note the postmark “Paquebot” meaning it was sent via a mail boat.

I ran into a fellow postcard collector at the stamp show last month.  As we both dug through the $1 box (literally dug as everything was thrown into boxes unsorted – not postcards neatly standing in shoe boxes, but envelopes and postcards thrown into banker’s boxes), we struck up the customary small talk conversation.  Once I revealed that I only collected postcards, he inquired what kinds.  Well… as I thought how I can summarize the myriad of categories that I currently collect… “Mostly Eiffel Tower and Seattle,” I said (which of course is a gross over-simplification of the thousands of in my albums and boxes).  “What do you collect?” I asked in return.  “Ship postmarks on postcards.”   talk about a niche – and not an easy one to find.  Sure, if the postcard has a picture of a ship on the front there is a chance that the postmark will be from the ship on the back – if it was even mailed.  But maybe not.  And what if the postcard doesn’t picture a ship – what if it is of the island that was visited?  Not many people would think to look at the postmark while sorting it.  Anyway, he didn’t find anything in the $1 boxes, but he did inspire to find out if ships actually do postmark their mail.


Our “obstructed” view from our room aboard the Crown Princess cruise ship.

The next weekend, my mom, daughter and I took a re-positioning cruise from Seattle to Vancouver B.C.  Cruise ships need to stop in at least one foreign port during each cruise.  It’s some old law that I’m sure my husband would be happy to explain to you if you are interested.  In this case, Los Angeles was the home port for the the Crown Princess’ winter cruises.  in order to get the boat from Seattle to L.A., it had to stop in a foreign port – and fortunately to get from Seattle to the Pacific Ocean (through Puget Sound) it passes by Vancouver.  So, Princess cruise-lines offered up this cheap little overnight cruise from Seattle to Vancouver (starting at $49 – crazy, right).  The three of us boarded the ship at 2pm Sat. afternoon.  Dropped our bags in our room with an “obstructed view” (not really) and headed out to have coffee and cake (most food was included in the ticket price).  I also stopped at the customer service desk to purchase Canadian stamps (I brought some postcards to be mailed from Vancouver once I disembarked the ship).   They did not sell Canadian stamps on the ship – only US International Forever stamps – which created much confusion with the customer service representative that was helping me (she did not grasp that you cannot send mail from Canada to the US with US stamps).  What I did learn during this process was that the ship mail is sent from the next port of call – i.e.  if I had Canadian stamps, my postcards would have been sent from Vancouver.  Since I only had US stamps (I did bring US Forever postcard stamps with me), they would be sent from the next US port-of-call.  Ok, now that I know what is going on (hopefully) with the mail, I asked if there were postcards of the ship I could purchase.  The customer service rep., perhaps feeling sorry for me at this point, handed me a stack of 10 and told me if I needed more to feel free to ask.

After our little coffee break, we walked the decks for a while, then went back to the room.  I wrote out 5 of the 10 postcards, attached my US stamps, went back to the Customer Service desk and handed them over.  Honestly I was guessing that it would be about 2 weeks before they arrived – which is about average for when I’ve mailed postcards from resorts and hotels.  Imagine my surprise when the postcards started arriving 3 days later!  Yay!  But the postmark was the generic postmark from Seattle (not sure why, but the cruise came back through Seattle before heading down the California coast).  Boo!  I guess the romance of ship postmarks is dead.  Have you gotten any ship postmarks?


The postcard I sent home from the Seattle to Vancouver BC cruise. Note the Seattle postmark (the ship docked in Seattle after we disembarked in Vancouver).

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