By Jane Feehan
Port Everglades officially opened Feb. 22, 1928. The first cargo vessel to dock there was a German ship, the SS Vogtland, in 1929. The first passenger ship to enter the port was the SS Calamares Jan. 12, 1932.
United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita Brands International) owned the Calamares, one of its Great White Fleet of fast, white-painted ships that sailed throughout Central America carrying fruit for trade. The Miami News reported (Jan. 10, 1932) that “its arrival fulfilled the dream of those who conceived the harbor and began construction in 1926.” It also said that United Fruit adopted Port Everglades as their only port of entry [at that time] to Florida.
The schedule for passenger service would bring the SS Calamares into Port Everglades once a week during January, February and March (home port was New York during summer months). It would cruise on varying schedules to Jamaica, Cuba, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal Zone. Another of United Fruit’s passenger ships, the SS Pastores, would sail into Port Everglades on alternating weeks.
|As a military vessel, 1943|
At the time, Port Everglades was 35 feet deep. Today it reaches 42 to 45 feet in depth. Current plans included dredging to 50 feet by year 2022. Today, Port Everglades is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world.
Of note, the Miami News reported in the same article that Gen. George Goethals, builder of the Panama Canal, and namesake of the Goethals Bridge in NY and NJ, spent several months in Fort Lauderdale arranging to dredge what was known as Lake Mabel, later Port Everglades. He was succeeded in the project by Col. J.G. Johnson.
The 470-foot SS Calamares was built in Ireland in 1913. It was purchased by the US Army from United Fruit in 1918 for military use and transferred to the Navy. Decommissioned in 1919, the Calamares reverted to United Fruit ownership. The ship was reacquired and refitted by the U.S Navy in 1941 as an AF-Y8 class vessel and assigned to the Asia-Pacific Theater. The SS Calamares was scrapped in 1946.
Miami News, Jan. 10, 1932.
Gillis, Susan. Fort Lauderdale: The Venice of America. Charleston: Arcadia (2004).
Tags: Cruise ship history, Port Everglades history, Fort Lauderdale history, first cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, United Fruit Company, film researcher, historical researcher