On April 28, 1891, Canadian Pacific’s Royal Mail Ship Empress of India completed its maiden voyage. It had sailed from Liverpool, across the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, across the Indian and Pacific oceans, and arrived in Vancouver.
It had set a speed record for a Pacific crossing from Japan (11 days), and incidentally kicked off Vancouver’s cruise industry.
Empress of India, Empress of China and Empress of Japan were all purpose-built to serve a transpacific route connecting Asia to Canada by sea, and not coincidentally, to the rest of North America by rail, since Vancouver had CP rail passenger service since 1887.
In 1889, the British government signed a 10-year contract with CP for subsidized mail service between Britain and Hong Kong. Mail moved from Britain by ship...