Cruise Ship Gallery

Returning home on Symphony

Returning home on the Symphony
25-03-97 to 28-03-97.  Cape Town-Durban 
My second voyage on the Symphony happened the day after I had sailed to Cape Town on the Oriana. I had been fortunate enough to be able to book Symphony for my trip back to Durban. When we arrived at the “passenger terminal” where she lay it was midday and as usual, the wind was howling in Cape Town. There was no real wait either and I was able to board almost immediately. The ship quickly started to fill up and  I see that they had managed to speed the embarkation up considerably and within 90 minutes all passengers were on board.

Alongside in Cape Town
Alongside in Cape Town
The ship was looking much better than when I had last seen her, but there were a few structural changes which in my opinion didn’t enhance her looks at all. She was also wearing the funnel colours of MSC instead of StarLauro like she had when I had first seen her when I did a short trip to nowhere on her in March of 1995, and I was curious to see what she looked on the inside again.
MSC Postcard of the Symphony
MSC Postcard of the Symphony
 
Symphony sailing from Durban from Oriana
Symphony sailing from Durban from Oriana
 
I must say I was pleasantly surprised. She was clean, her decks shone and she was looking better than ever. Granted, she was not Oriana, but she is comfortable. I had a 4 berth cabin midships on B deck, almost directly under my old cabin from 1995. There were only 3 of us in the cabin so it was not too crowded.  We sailed at 15H00 amidst much streamers and noise. The sea was force 3 and Symphony proved yet again that she is a great sea boat, rolling gently and effortlessly. Surprisingly we held lifeboat drill two hours later and by the time that was finished, the first entertainment was underway. At night there is always something on the go, whether it is a cabaret, movie, quiz or just music in the lounge, things happened all the time. My one cabin mate turned in just after supper and spent most of the next two days sleeping! The food had improved considerably since we had last been on board and our table steward was really one of the old school. The next day was cold and most passengers congregated  indoors. There was a mixed bunch on board, with a group from a pharmaceutical company making a lot of noise. The usual honeymoon couples were on board and they were really made a fuss of. The ship was full and there were crowds all over, finding a spot at the cabaret was a real problem as well.
 
The time passed quickly on board, the days spent relaxing and enjoying the voyage, unfortunately cruises always leave me in need of a holiday and this one was a recovery trip from the hectic days on Oriana. When I looked it was all over, we were alongside once again. I took my leave of the ship and came back to a wet dismal Johannesburg. It was like leaving an  old friend. Unlike the Achille which was tatty and dated, Symphony is beautiful. She is well maintained, comfortable and good looking too. Unfortunately they spoiled her looks somewhat by removing her kingposts and adding a hance to her foredeck. The spike on the tip of her bow looks odd and the winged funnel is not as nice as the original. Yet she has a loyal following and was booked in South Africa for an extended season, the closest thing to a full time cruise liner since the death of cruising in South Africa all those years ago.
Symphony arriving in Durban
Symphony arriving in Durban
It is now 2004 and many years have passed since my last cruise, the Symphony is but a memory. Her career after her South African sojourn was not a happy one and she was eventually arrested at Dover and taken out of service as  being “unseaworthy” and sold at auction. She arrived at Alang for breaking up in October 2001. Symphony was perfect for what we wanted in our waters, big enough to handle our weather, professionally run with brilliant entertainment, good food and reasonable service, its just a pity she never saw out her days here.
 
DRW. © 1992-2020.  Last updated 03 Aug 2004. Edited 01 June 2012, Moved to blog 08/12/2013

A voyage on the Oriana

 A VOYAGE ON THE ORIANA.
 22-03-97 to 24-03-97. Durban-Cape Town

The announcement that Canberra would be replaced by a new ship was greeted with much dismay by everybody. The concept vessel shown to the media was criticised as being too much like a wedding cake and too little like Canberra. She was built by Joseph Meyer of Papenburg, Germany and entered service in 1995. Soon it was announced that this ship, known as Oriana, would be calling in Durban during her 1997 world cruise. The time had come for us to sail again. I was one of the first South Africans to book the short Durban to Cape Town trip, I phoned as the voyage was made available. Needless to say I took what I could get! The berth that I chose was a shared 4 berth inside cabin. This berth was guaranteed but I would only know my cabin number once the ship arrived, something that would play in my favour once she was in Durban.

Then it was time to wait and watch the exchange rate. The ship was due in Durban on 22 March, arriving in Cape Town on 24 March, a short 1 day and two night hop. By now Rudi had booked as well and we started counting the days.

Postcard image of Oriana
Postcard image of Oriana

As the sailing grew closer I decided that I would return to Durban on Symphony just for fun and went ahead and booked that as well. Now I had two ships to look forward to and an empty bank account.

Early in the morning, on Friday the 21st we departed on the long drive to Durban. Howard was at the helm and for once we made the trip down in daylight! The problem was that the grotty weather was coming too and we hit the usual rain at Van Reenen and all the way to Durban. Duly arriving we headed off for lunch on board the 40000 ton container ship, MSC Samia. before dropping Rudi and his girl friend off at their sleeping place. The rest of us made for the tug Jannie Oelofsen where we would be spending the night. There were not too many movements on the go and yet they were all very interesting.
Maiden arrival in Durban
Maiden arrival in Durban
Our last movement was to a ship which seemed really decrepit, its lines could not reach the quayside and she was having engine problems. On arrival back at the tug jetty we found Ken Malcolm, who joined Neville and Clive Bush on the pilot boat while Howard and I hopped on to the tug. The pilot boat headed out to sea to drop off a pilot at Symphony and one at Oriana. Our tug was allocated to Oriana, and with the weather finally clearing, we awaited our first glimpse of this great ship. Symphony waddled in first, looking as great as ever but she was soon to be overwhelmed by what was astern of her.
Our first sight of Oriana was of a huge white ship which really was not attractive when foreshortened. However, once she was in view and had turned completely then only could we appreciate her. She was huge, dazzling white and perfectly trimmed onto her waterline. Equipped with three bow thrusters, twin screws, twin rudders and a stern thruster, she berthed herself while the tugs stood off in awe.
Symphony from Oriana
Symphony from Oriana
Dropped off by the tug we quickly collected the guys and we headed for the ship. There was no doubt that she was big, she towered over everything in sight and made Symphony look like a toy. We headed down to the gangway where I attempted to get the guys on board as Rudi had not organised a ship visit. There was no luck in that department, however I was taken on board to get my cabin number and booked in as well. I now had a boarding pass and could come and go as I pleased. I got off again and we all went around to Symphony to look at her, alas there was no visit organised either. Time was passing, and the smell of food was rather urgent so I said my farewells to everybody and headed for my newest ship….
 
The 4 images below were all taken in 2013 in Southampton.
   
  
The entrance is on F deck where the reception desk and bottom of the 5 deck atrium is situated. The carpets are a light green colour and a fountain gurgles behind the staircase. One deck up are  the shops with the Peninsular restaurant midships and Oriental restaurant aft. The next deck has a spectacular wrap around promenade as well as the Pacific lounge, Lords Tavern, Harlequins lounge, the casino, Andersons with its club like atmosphere, and the really spectacular Theatre Royal. D deck houses the children’s playrooms, Chaplains Cinema, library, The Crichton complex and passenger cabins.
 
The next three decks are devoted solely to cabins with the Lido deck right on top of all of these. Here is found the conservatory where the buffet is served. The two pools are on this deck as well as the gym. The deck surrounding this area has a jogging track around the ship while the entrance to the Crows Nest is found forward. There are three sets of lifts in the ship and they all work!. The terrace pool is situated on the promenade deck aft and the view from the sun deck down to the stern where this pool is, is really spectacular. The massive buff funnel crowns the whole package and is easily recognisable for miles.
 
Surprisingly enough, the ship, inspite of its size is relatively simple to find your way around. My cabin was on E deck and the number two staircase was just around the corner. Inside, the cabin was small but neat. There were three other guys in the cabin, one of whom was on his sixth world cruise and who had been on since Southampton. There was a fridge, TV, mini-safe and every other amenity imaginable in that cabin. The missing porthole was not really a problem. Once on deck, I watched Symphony sail and as she passed I could almost look down her funnel. By the time we sailed it was late and the light was failing and it looked like rain was brewing again. The wind howled us off the decks and we all headed below. There was very little vibration or motion on board and it was very difficult to think that you were on board a ship.
Being such a big ship, there is never any feeling of crowds of people, in fact I wonder how full she really was? There was quite a bit to do on board, bars to visit, shops to ogle, movies to attend and of course food to scoff. I had eaten lunch at the conservatory and if it was any indication of the standard of service on board then we were really in for a treat. I was not disappointed as we sat down for supper in the Peninsular restaurant.
 
The service was brilliant with two very articulate and polite stewards catering for our every need. There was food galore, in fact too much food for one sitting as far as I am concerned. However it was dispatched with great gusto and we all retired that night feeling somewhat bloated.
 
More food awaited us at breakfast, again in the conservatory. The place was so big that It never really was crowded and the queues were quite small. Our next visit was to reception where we enquired whether it was possible to present our World Ship Society plaque to the master. After some phone calls we were told that we would be informed, so off we scuttled, meeting at the jacuzzi. We spent the morning eating ice cream in the jacuzzi with a howling wind around us. On arrival back at the cabin I discovered that our visit to the master was scheduled for 11H30 and it was 11H20 already. Needless to say I could not find Rudi and I had some quick explaining to do to the captain’s secretary. The visit was rescheduled for later that day and off we went for more food! Lunch over, we were introduced to the master and presented our plaque.
Bridge wing view
 
Once we finished off there it was as if we had accomplished all that had to be done and the rest of the time I spent on a deck chair on that glorious promenade watching the sea go by. After all, isn’t that what sea travel is all about?
 
The next morning it was up early to watch the approach to Cape Town. We passed Cape Point around 06H30 but there were clouds around everything and we could not see very much. We entered Cape Town harbour about 08H30, the tugs were spraying water and on the quayside a band played stirring nautical type tunes. This time Oriana had lines on the tugs and she did not berth herself. A mediocre crowd awaited us as we slowly started our disembarkation. Once off the ship I met up with my lift and we went to drop my luggage before heading out to town. The ship dominated everything and we could see that huge funnel for miles.
Alongside in Cape Town
Alongside in Cape Town
That night in cold weather the Oriana took her leave, sailing slowly past us as we stood at the quayside, her lights were all burning and the funnel glowed in the spotlights. As she dropped the pilot I could see the tiered decks that overlooked the terrace pool. I had stood there not too long ago, now it was over and Oriana was on her way home. I had another ship to catch the next day, but would anything ever compare? somehow I doubted it. The Symphony may be a great ship, but she is not in the same league as Oriana was.
Oriana 2013
Night sailing of Oriana from Southampton
Night sailing of Oriana from Southampton
Oriana, a retrospect. (2013)
Oriana in Southampton
Oriana in Southampton
In early 2013 I was living in Southampton and Oriana soon became a familiar face in the port. She has been in service since 9 April 1995, and at the time was considered to be one of the biggest cruise ships afloat. Times have changed, P&O became part of Carnival, and Oriana is now 18 years old. There have been a number of changes on board her, but externally she acquired a new stern addition that has not really improved her looks. She also acquired a new port of registry, and is now registered in Bermuda. If anything she still stands out amongst a crowd of non-descript blocks of flats, and along with Aurora she is a proper ship and looks like one.  When I first saw her berth herself I did not know that years down the line it would become commonplace for a cruise ship to come alongside on her own, and unberth herself. Tugs are becoming almost superfluous.
I worked baggage handling on her in June 2013, and we really worked like crazy, moving over one thousand items of luggage. Between shifts I managed to get on board and look around her, and she is familiar, but not so familiar. She does seem to have lost that gloss she had when we sailed on her, and in parts she is looking tired. But, she is still beautiful. I would travel on her again given the opportunity, because like Canberra before her she has acquired a character unique to her, and when you see her she still has those many features that were integrated into her design to make her a worthy successor to the one and only Canberra. But, make no mistake, she is a unique ship all of her own and well worth seeing and sailing on.
The bad news: 2018.
It was announced that Oriana will be leaving the fleet in August 2019 and has been sold to Chinese interests. It was always on the cards that at some point she would no longer fit the corporate image, and sadly that time has come. It is expected that Aurora would be the next to go. So if you want to sail on Oriana you have less than a month left. 
Oriana Models.
I have two of these, the smaller one is by Mercator and is 1/1250 scale. They were selling them on board at the time for £20.
 
Oriana Internals
These images were taken on board in 2013 with my phone. I make no excuses for the quality.
   
   
   
   
   
 DRW. ©  1992-2020.  Updated 13 Aug 2004,  12 July 2011.  Edited 10/06/2013, internal links fixed and images resized 17/04/2016, new images added 02/05/2016

To sea on the Rhapsody

A cruise on the Rhapsody
26-03-96 to 30-03-96. Durban-Bazaruto

Faced with the seemingly plethora of cruise ships visiting our shores, Rudi and I were faced with two possible affordable vessels. Namely Russ or Rhapsody. Of course there has to be an ulterior motive to everything, so we chose our voyage with care, finally deciding on a Bazaruto cruise on the Rhapsody, sailing from Durban on the 26th of March and returning on the 30th. The reason behind this particular voyage? well, the Island Princess was due in on the 25th while Rotterdam was due to call on the 30th! we could kill three birds with one stone.
Unfortunately by the time we made our booking (Early January), the ship was full and we struggled to get a berth. In an effort to bring the cost down, we opted for a third person to go with, namely Neville himself! As per usual time dragged on and after 3 centuries passed we were on our way to Durban in a rainstorm on Sunday night. Our arrival coincided with the change of shift at the pilot boat. Rudi had been doing some pre-preparation and soon we were on our way out to drop the pilot on the Island Princess. I had always taken a fancy to her, there is something about that design which is really attractive. She was outside awaiting our arrival, spotlessly white with only a dark green portion to her funnel and upper deckhouses. What an incredible sight she was!
Island Princess arrival in Durban
Island Princess arrival in Durban
After being dropped off at the small craft harbour, we hurried across to have a closer look and prepare for our visit which had been ably organised by Rudi. Soon we were on board the “love boat’s” sister and in for quite a surprise. The ship is reasonably plain, obviously comfortable but slightly different to what we are used to over here. There is a strong American influence on board with much of the show type lounge effect in the public rooms. Her upper decks are quite nice except for the astroturf which was about 2 inches under water above the Lido area. Alas for the poor passengers, our tummy rumblings were too much and Rudi persuaded the chief steward that he needed to feed us! The omelettes and waffles went down great! Incidentally, the coffee had to have been the strongest that I had ever tasted! After a thorough look around the ship we had to disembark and we quickly popped into visit the Port Captain and obtain our permit for a visit to the Port Signal Station.
This we achieved with no quibble at all and soon were were climbing up to one of the more well known and inaccessible landmarks in the harbour. The view, needless to say is stupendous and we spent the next few hours admiring it and talking ships with the guy on duty. From our vantage point we even got to see Island Princess sail!
The next day there was no sign of Rhapsody, she was delayed! Our embarkation was due to start at 12h00 but the ship only arrived at the pilot station shortly before.
 
rhapsody175
Naturally chaos reigned at N shed as embarking passengers got in the way of disembarking passengers and vice versa. Of course in that heat things were not very pleasant. Rudi licked his way to the front of the queue, much to the chagrin of those whom we had to shoulder out of the way! We then found out that our cabin had been upgraded again, from three deck to four deck!
 
Things were looking up. Late that afternoon we sailed into nice weather with three days of food, relaxation and entertainment.
 
For those unfamiliar with the ship, she has most of her accommodation on the three lowest decks, with the restaurant midships on 5 deck, showboat lounge forward on 6 deck, 8 bells disco/lounge aft on 6 deck and the outrigger cafe aft on 5 deck. The Topsail lounge sits above the bridge with the pool midships on 7 deck.
The ship is quite easy to find your way around and generally quite pleasant inside. She was not an unattractive ship, but she did not really endear herself to me, even though she was an ex-Cunarder. I think if anything she seemed to be lacking character, or maybe I was not used to more “modern” ships?
Daily program (1500×789)
We even spotted quite a few faces from Symphony and quickly settled into the shipboard routine. The most popular place on board was obviously the 8 bells disco/lounge with hordes visiting the outrigger cafe for lunch and breakfast.
The midships pool and jacuzzi’s were always crowded and the spacious decks were always populated by cancer seeking sun-bathers. Generally the food was adequate, however it tended to get monotonous at the buffet.
Our cabin was reasonably large, with a fold up Pullman berth, double window and very small bathroom. On the first day out we had lifeboat drill and did as little as possible. That night we met the Captain, while Neville tried to burn the cabin down while ironing his shirt. The next day our arrival at Bazaruto was late and once there they found that there was a swell running and the landing was unsafe. We shifted anchorage but it didn’t help so we all dumped our goodies back in the cabin and resigned ourselves to a day at anchor. From the ship Bazaruto looked like a pretty dismal sort of place, a lighthouse, tree, sand, sand and scrub seemed the only features, it was not my idea of paradise.
With much tugging Rudi persuaded Neville and myself to join him in a shady spot by the pool where we did some talent scouting and serious criticising. I was even persuaded into the Jacuzzi and pool (shock! Horror!).
Bridge tour handout
Later that day they started to land passengers, but by then we were no longer interested in going ashore and spent the rest of the time around the ship. Shortly before 15h30 the passengers were recalled as the weather was getting up and by 17h00 we were underway once more. That night the swell increased and the Rhapsody was sending spray over the bridge. It didn’t dampen the spirit at the tropical evening though and by the next day the weather had cleared, much to the relief of one of the women at our table.
On our last day we were booked for a bridge tour, and with a bit of persuasion we had managed to swing an engine room tour as well. The bridge tour was very short, just a quick in and out before we scuttled below to meet up with the chief engineer who would take us on our own personal engine room tour. There is something very special about being in the engine room of a ship while it is at sea.
That night we had our farewell dinner and packed our junk, and said our farewells. The next day we were hoping to see Rotterdam at sea and take some great shots. However the next morning she was nowhere in sight and we sailed into Durban more tired than when we had left! Luck played into our hands once again as Rotterdam had arrived early the previous night to bunker and was awaiting us. We found Howard in the crowd and headed for her. Rudi had organised the visit as well and by 09H30 we were on board this great ship.
rotterdam190
On board she is like a time capsule of 50’s and 60’s life. The furniture is from the past, the wooden panels are real! and the ship is spotlessly clean. We quickly made friends with Hans Hoffman, the 2nd officer who proved to be an amiable ship enthusiast with a love of tugs.
Bridge of the Rotterdam
Bridge of the Rotterdam
An engine room visit was quickly arranged and we descended into the greasy bowels of the vessel. An impressive engine room and a starting platform straight out of history! Then a bridge visit and lunch in the lido cafe was appreciated, and the food was astounding!!! We were very sorry to get off and we headed for North Pier to watch the Rhapsody sail.
"Crossing the bar"
“Crossing the bar”
She was so different to Rotterdam, almost insignificant. And I remember Island Princess and Rotterdam more than I do Rhapsody. She just did not really leave an impression on me, and while she was comfortable she was not special. Most of the other ships I sailed on had something that made them stick out. Rhapsody stuck out as having nothing to remember her by.
Shortly thereafter the Rotterdam sailed from Durban, lit by the setting sun, into an uncertain future. She was sold out of the Holland America Stable and served with Orient Lines before going to Premier Cruise line under the name Rembrandt, aka “The Big Red Boat IV”. Ships will never be built like that again. Sadly, in our plastic world we will be hard pressed to produce such a fine ship. (The Rotterdam was laid up for many years before she was towed to Gibraltar for restoration and then finally back to her home in Rotterdam where she is now restored). Sadly Pacific Princess went to the breakers in 2013, while Rhapsody’s sister Cunard Countess suffered an accommodation fire also in 2013.
Rotterdam sailing from Durban
Rotterdam sailing from Durban
However for us there was no reason to stay and we set off for home.
 
 DRW.  © 1992-2020.  Last updated 14 July 2011. Moved to blog 17/12/2013

Symphony Maiden Arrival

The Maiden Arrival of the Symphony.
12-03-95 to 14-03-95. Durban-Durban 
The loss of the Achille Lauro in 1994, left a sizable gap in the cruising market in South Africa. Fortunately, local agent Starlight Cruises and StarLauro were quick to fill this gap. The ship chosen was the SYMPHONY, formerly known as the Enrico Costa. Strangely enough, the Amerikanis, which was booked to do cruises in our waters, could have filled this gap but had been withdrawn by Chandris.

The Symphony was originally built for Societe Generale de Transports Maritimes a Vapeur S.A. as the Provence, by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, England. Intended for the South American service, she was completed in March 1951. Her principle dimensions were: length 579ft. beam 73ft. draught 25,43ft. She was powered by Parsons steam turbines, single reduction geared to drive twin screws, developing 15000 s.h.p. giving a cruising speed of 18 Knots.  She undertook her first voyage for Costa Cruises under charter on April 5, 1957. Finally purchased by Costa in 1965 and refitted, her accommodation being altered to provide 218 1st class, and 980 tourist class berths, her name was changed by Costa to Enrico C. In 1972 she was again refitted to cater for 750 single class passengers in 373 cabins, she was based in the Mediterranean and operated under the name Enrico Costa with a revised GRT of 16 495 tons.
 
The Enrico had originally been scheduled to visit South Africa in late 1992 as competition for the Achille, however the holding company, Tollgate Holdings, collapsed following massive fraud by its management. This resulted in the cancellation of the ship and smiles all around for Starlight Cruises.
Publicity image for Enrico Costa 1992 South African season
Publicity image for Enrico Costa 1992 South African season
The ship was then acquired by StarLauro as a replacement for the Achille Lauro and was not totally prepared for the coming season with a scratch crew and portions of the ship unpainted. Obviously her refit was not 100% completed and she was rushed to South Africa. She had been re-engined in 1989/1990 and passed all safety inspections in South Africa and Europe. The inspections in South Africa being particularly stringent as a result of remarks made by irresponsible “shipping historians” in South Africa. Quite a lot of original Costa equipment was still on board when she arrived here, although this was being changed as the season progressed.

 Enrico Costa Deck Plans

Deck Layout
Deck Layout
Sun Deck (1506×529)
Sun Deck (1506×529)
Lounge and Promenade Deck (1506×454)
Lounge and Promenade Deck (1506×454)
Restaurant and Amalfi Decks (1505×489)
Restaurant and Amalfi Decks (1505×489)
Bordighera and Capri Decks (1506×478)
Bordighera and Capri Decks (1506×478)
 
Our visit to the Symphony.
 
Arrival in Durban
Arrival in Durban
Rudi, Eric and myself made the 5 hour, 570 kilo trip to Durban on the evening of 27 December to see the vessel. Due to bad weather she was 3,5 hours late arriving. Eventually making her appearance, listing to starboard and with clouds of black smoke erupting from her funnel.
 
First impressions were of a classic old lady with beautiful lines and promising decks. Once on board however, chaos reigned. Passengers were not yet disembarked due to problems with a stowaway and immigration. Cabins were not yet made up and crew were all over cleaning and making the ship ready for the soon to embark passengers. We had caught them unprepared!
As preferred we had no guided tour, so we commenced from the lower deck, working our way upwards. We were in for a surprise on this ship, her lower deck inside berths were really claustrophobic, with very low deckheads and a plethora of passages. There was a definite shortage of maps below deck and it was very difficult to find your way around. The lowest three passenger decks; Capri, Bordighera and Amalfi are given over to cabins while the upper and promenade deck have the restaurant, and “taverna” respectively. A narrow promenade deck runs around the vessel, giving access to the very busy foredeck. The Lounge deck has the balance of public rooms and two pools aft while the sun deck has another pool and a lido area where a buffet would be served.
There was no denying that the Symphony was an old ship, she had that solid feel about her and there was still a lot of woodwork present in her public rooms. I got the impression that she was left to decline somewhat in her latter years and not enough time has elapsed for her new owners to really make something out of her.
Postcard of the Symphony before she was altered
Sailing was delayed by two hours, causing the light to fail and the passengers to get more impatient, after all they had been waiting for a long time to get on board. Eventually, after 17H30  she singled up and with much fanfare and blowing of horns pulled out into the harbour and sailed out of the channel. The reason for our being there was gone, so we left too! A seed had been planted though, and Rudi and I persuaded ourselves that we needed to try out this oldie while she was still available. The only voyage we could really do was a quick in and out of Durban in March 1995. We also managed to lay our hands on a large VHS video camera and I did not take too many photographs during the trip. In fact I do not even seem to have written a coherent voyage report on the trip, or if I did it has not survived to be a part of my webpage.
Afternoon sailing
Afternoon sailing
Morning arrival
Morning arrival
Between when we had first seen her and the cruise the vessel had settled down into a comfortable routine and was proving to be very popular with passengers. She was definitely an improvement on the Achille, although prices on board were still too steep. She was however only scheduled to do one season in our waters which is why we did the trip in the first place.
 
Alongside at "N" Shed
Alongside at “N” Shed
We had an enjoyable short flip, and as usual we did not get to do or see everything, although I do recall I had somewhat of a bladder problem after overdoing the midnight buffet. We were also very fortunate to go into her engine room while at sea and her chief engineer was extremely proud of the machinery (like most chief engineers are). She also had a beautiful wood paneled bridge that was from a totally different age.
Lots of unfair criticism was leveled at the ship before she had a chance to arrive and settle down. True, she was an old ship, yes she was not the QE2. However the Titanic was a new ship, and the QE2 has some real plumbing problems. Her lovely open decks and cool promenades made her the ideal ship for our warm climate, and her size would help her in rough weather. There were no pretenses about her age and her origins. She was a proper ship, and very comfortable and sea kindly.
Information sheet
When we disembarked I hoped that we would see her again, and I did get a chance for a second voyage on her, but that is another story for later in this blog.
 
DRW. ©  1992-2020.  Last updated 03 Aug 2004. Edited 03 September 2012. Moved to blog 09/12/2013, additional images added 01/03/2019

A voyage to Tristan Da Cunha

A Voyage to Tristan Da Cunha.
23-01-93 – 05-02-93. Cape Town to Tristan Da Cunha.

**Update 01/03/2019**

MNG Maritime sold the St Helena in late 2018 reportedly for conversion into a private yacht. The vessel then returned to the UK and on 31 January 2019 arrived in London as the venue to promote a new and innovative series of off-road races for electric vehicles. The races, to be known as the Extreme-E series are scheduled to commence in 2021. The St Helena was to be converted into a “floating paddock” for the races, and a refit and refurbishment plan will see some internal spaces converted into garages and workshops in Falmouth and Portland. (https://www.bairdmaritime.com/work-boat-world/specialised-fields/4574-feature-new-high-tech-role-for-iconic-colonial-ferry)

**Update 17/04/2018**

It was announced that the RMS had been sold to Tahiti Shipping, a subsidiary of MNG Maritime, bought the ship for an undisclosed amount. Under the name MNG Tahiti she is to be based in the Gulf of Oman, and used as a floating armoury, packed with automatic weapons, bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles, all stored for maritime security operatives who keep vessels secure from piracy attacks.

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach  Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

The Whatthesaintsdidnext blog has a wonderful post dealing with the departure of the ship and the farewell that she was given by the islander of St Helena. 

RMS Sailing from Cape Town on her last voyage (24/01/2018). (Image by Glen Kasner)

On 7 June 2016 I went to London to see the RMS while she was berthed alongside HMS Belfast. It was quite a reunion with two of my favourite ships berthed next to each other. Sadly though, the RMS has very little time left, and this was to have been her 2nd last sailing. However, the new airport has proved to be prone to wind sheer and as such not as safe for passenger aircraft as was hoped, so the RMS has had a short reprieve while they sort out the wind. My blogpost about the ship lives at Musings and I will not flood this post with images from that visit. However, it was great to see the ship once again, and interestingly enough a lot of the people watching her arrive were previous passengers. There is no doubt that she was a very popular ship, and she will be sorely missed.

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Voyage Report. 
I heard about the voyage to Tristan Da Cunha quite by accident, having written to St Helena Line in Cape Town while researching an article. I was informed that a cruise on this last remaining mailship, the RMS St Helena would take place in January 1993 to Tristan Da Cunha and that places were very limited. I wasted no time getting on the list which was supposed to be sold out three times in advance.
Publicity image from my welcome pack
St Helena in Cape Town
St Helena in Cape Town

By October I knew that I had a berth and I duly went ahead preparing for my forthcoming voyage. I had always wanted to sail on the ship since she was launched and seeing her from the Canberra  had only strengthened my resolve, however she is very difficult to get a voyage on and now the chance had come at last. By the end of December payment was made and I started to count off the days on the calendar.
On January 21, I flew out of Johannesburg, and upon arrival discovered that the hotel I was booked into was older than Johannesburg and in a much worse condition. I had to find a new one and fast! 
Tuesday 22nd. Hotel changed I then headed  down to E berth to have my first close up of the ship that would carry me over 1500 miles to the island of Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic. My first impression was of a hybrid cargo ship. The vessel has a large accommodation block on a short hull and actually looks quite strange. However her Oxford blue paintwork was clean and she look very neat and tidy. Embarkation was at 14H00 and so I walked back into town for a bit of sight seeing. By 10h00, the weather had deteriorated and it had started to drizzle. I made my way to the Castle and spent an hour looking it over before winding my way back to collect my luggage and head for the harbour where I would board the St Helena for her 12th voyage and her second call at Tristan.
Welcome on board.

My cabin was an inside “budget” on C deck, these small cabins are used when the ship does the shuttle service between St Helena and Ascension Island. They have no facilities, these being down the passage. The cabin was tiny, having two bunks, a wardrobe, basin and chest of drawers. Naturally all of these “budget” cabins were full and C deck was the most heavily populated.

By 14H00, the passengers had gathered on the quayside next to the St Helena and we slowly started to go on board. The gangway opens into the bureau square which is on B deck. The shop and pursers office was located in this area, as was a beautiful display case with models of ships that had called at St Helena.
 
There are two sets of companionways that lead to the various decks, however only the for’ard connected to the dining room on C deck and also led to the officers accommodation and bridge higher in the ship. I then headed up to the deck to look around, the aft companionway goes through B deck (bureau, shop and gangway), A deck (forward lounge) and finally comes out behind the sun lounge. This lounge faces out onto the sun deck where the pool is situated.
A children’s playroom is also situated by the lounge entrance. Outside, there are two small promenade decks under the lifeboats and a large open area behind the funnel for deck games. By now all the passengers were on board and our luggage had finally been delivered. The ship was getting ready to sail. The voyage had a few purposes, one being the delivery of cement for the completion of the breakwater that was being erected to protect the harbour of Tristan.
Sailing from Cape Town
Sailing from Cape Town
At 16H00 we singled up and under a now sunny sky slowly started our voyage out from E berth, leaving Table Mountain behind, heading down the coast almost to Cape Point before turning our bows west towards Tristan. I had been allocated a seat in the first sitting dinner at 18H45 and after changing went for another look around the ship. Everywhere I turned was a new surprise, I found the famous 5 ship Union-Castle poster, prints of Union Castle liners, Falklands plaques, more models and lots of pride wherever I looked. On my voyage the vessel had British officers (a fair amount being ex Union-Castle) while the rest of the crew came from St Helena.
The dinner gong sounded and I entered the dining saloon, it was reasonably large and very nicely laid out, on all the walls were enlarged reproductions of famous shipping postcards, It really was a beautiful room. I was very surprised however to find out that there were only about 30 people at the first sitting and it made this lovely room look very empty. After dinner I went to the forward lounge which stretches the width of the ship and has a very good view of the number 2 hatch and the forecastle with our bows plunging into the waves. Second sitting takes place at 20H00 and the first event or happening at night usually takes place at 21H15.
Looking towards the bridge
The ship does not have a cinema, however there is a TV and video machine in each lounge and a pull down screen in the sun lounge for showing movies on. A continental breakfast and buffet lunch are served in the sun lounge and there is coffee and tea available most of the time. By now I had discovered that there were only 81 passengers on board and I was very upset because all along we were under the impression that the voyage had been overbooked and that the ship was full. One man had even left his wife behind because he didn’t think he would be able to get a berth for her! (a likely story!) The passengers were a mixed batch, there were the Governor and his wife, a Tristan administrator, two priests, Americans, Irish, British, South Africans, Canadians, Tristanians, and people from St Helena on board. Most were elderly and at least 50% had sailed on the ship or the previous St Helena and most wanted to see Tristan. It was all too much for me and I had an early night!
Sun deck (aft)
The next day was bright and breezy, with breakfast at 08H00 with a taste of black pudding (not recommended) and the rest of the day to park off and catch up on my reading.
Daily program for 22 January
There was a very well stocked library aboard, two bars, 3 slot machines and lots of tournaments to enter as we were only due to arrive at Tristan on the 25th, a Monday.
Daily program for 27 January, anchored off Tristan
In the days before we arrived we were treated to a series of talks and video’s about the island. From the start it was stressed that we could have problems at the island. The landing could be very tricky and the weather was very unpredictable.
The settlement at Tristan Da Cunha
Unpredictable weather
However it did not scare us off altogether as we were all on deck at 05H00 to see Tristan emerge out of the gloom. We anchored off Calshot harbour at about 07H00 and watched as the islanders came walking down to the harbour. It was evident that the landing was going to be a problem as we were going to go ashore in “barges” along with the cargo. However the passengers were more interested in watching a bull (whom was dubbed Ferdinand) being landed. He had made the whole trip in the livestock pen in the forecastle from Cardiff and was very placid. Once he was off we all grabbed our packed lunches and waited by the gangway for the first boat.

Ashore at last.
Ashore at last.
The boat came bouncing alongside, rising about 6 feet in the swell before dropping away and astern. Fortunately the ship was not rolling too much and with much patience and scrambling we got on board. A quick 300 metre sail, and we surfed into the harbour, being drenched by a passing wave as we did so. Then it was up a very precarious ladder onto shore. A short walk took us to a sign that read “Welcome to the Loneliest Island” with lots of arrows pointing in different directions giving distances. Behind us the ship lay discharging her long awaited cargo. There was mail for the islanders, office supplies, beer, cement, re-reinforcing rods, beer, parcels, beer and lots of basic essentials (like beer) as Tristan can only be supplied by sea. They had a lot of unloading to do in the next few days, or until the weather deteriorated, whichever came first.
The harbour
The main island is roughly circular in shape and a mere 8 miles in diameter with a coastline of approximately 24 miles. There are steep basalt cliffs rising up to a plateau upon which the volcano sits, mostly shrouded in cloud. It was first discovered by the Portuguese navigator Tristao Da Cunha in 1506 but the first inhabitant only arrived in 1910, He was Captain Jonathan Lambert of Salem Massachusetts. In 1816 the island was annexed by the British who set up a garrison there. One of the garrison, Corporal William Glass settled on the island and he is regarded as the founder of the present community. There are only 7 surnames on the island: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello, Repetto, Rogers and Swain, and these are as a result of 7 families of British, American and Italian settlers. The main language is English with a decidedly Georgian dialect and Biblical flavour. Nearly 300 people make up the population, most of whom exist oblivious to the outside world and its problems. The settlement of Edinburgh lies in a hollow formed by huge cliffs that rise up to the plateau and boasts a post office, a small museum, supermarket, running water, sewers, electricity and a school.
Main Street
The hills are green and tranquil, sort of like a small village. Quaint names abound like “Down Where The Minister Landed His Things” and “The Place Where The Goat Fell Off The Cliff,” there are even “gulches” ala cowboy movie style. The weather on Tristan can be extreme as it lies on the edge of the “Roaring Forties.” Summer sunshine only averages 2,5 hours a day and about 60 inches of rain fall a year.
The central peak of Tristan rises 6760 feet and in winter is covered in snow. In the 4 days that our vessel lay at anchor we only saw the sun on 2 of these and the rest of the time it rained or was misty. In 1961 the island was evacuated when the volcano erupted forcing the evacuation of the people to Cape Town and later to the UK, it was the first time many had left the island and most would return to it, forsaking the comforts of our modern world for the solitude and crime free existence of the island. The other 4 islands in the group, Inaccessible, Nightingale. Stoltenhoff and Middle island are an Ornothologists dream, providing home to a variety of sea birds and penguins.
Anchored off Tristan Da Cunha
I chose to make a trip to the penguin rookery and set out across an incredible moonscape of hardened lava before returning later for a quick bite to eat at the cafe. (The crawfish pie is recommended!). The prices there were cheaper than on the ship and the beer came from South Africa. I then popped up to the post office before making my way back to the harbour and the tranquillity of the ship.
Looking ashore
Going ashore
Getting back on board was equally hairy and I was glad to be “home”. That afternoon I watched some of my fellow South Africans catching fish off the stern of the ship – it was evident from the pile of snoek on the deck that they were having much success. Little did I know that I would end up joining them over the next few days.
Our second day was cold and I went ashore again for a trip to the “potato patches” which is a longish walk. Unfortunately the Tristan weather started to play up and I had to turn back before I got totally soaked in the rain. After a quick trip to the cafe I returned to the ship to change and join our intrepid fishermen. By now the swell was getting worse and when the one boat returned they were unable to land the passengers from it, cargo unloading was getting increasingly more difficult and would have to be abandoned. The captain decided to recall everybody to the ship in case we had to up our hook and move out to sea. On the other hand I was too busy trying to land my first snoek to really notice the coming and goings! Our last passengers on board we waited and watched the island disappear in the gloom. That night the wind rose to a force 9 and a very close watch was kept by the officers on watch.
Calendar image of the RMS at Tristan, signed by senior crew members
Something fishy

The third day was still dangerous and there was no unloading or going ashore. The conditions were too dangerous. Time to catch up on my fishing! The fishing had become so popular that at any given time there were 8 lines over the side, people having even bought fishing tackle ashore! It helped pass the time. 

On our last day the Captain decided that in view of the weather we would make a trip out to the islands of Inaccessible and Nightingale which are about 20 miles away. It was a rough passage with the St Helena shipping it green over the bows. When we reached Inaccessible we turned around and headed back to pick up the Governor and embark passengers before heading for home again.
This was duly done and at 16H00 we sailed for home, the sun was shining and for a few moments the peak of the volcano was visible before it was shrouded in clouds again. We were a day behind in schedule and were taking most of our cargo back home to Cape Town.
at sea
By this time most of us had visited the bridge which featured all the latest electronic gadgetry, including a “servo-watch” which monitored over 600 transponders in the vessel, setting off alarms whenever they found anything wrong.
The bridge of the RMS
The bridge of the RMS
We also got a chance to visit the galley and the storerooms which were situated on C deck. An engine room visit was promised and we reminded the chief engineer every time we saw him. The 4 days home were spent in typical Indian Ocean weather. We entered more tournaments, ate ourselves into a frenzy, watched the albatross following the ship and generally lounged about like typical passengers. Our engine room visit came through eventually, with us going from funnel to shaft and rudder.
Daily program 01/02 (1500×746)
With that concluded it was soon our last day and we spent this packing and doing those 1000 things which should have been done long ago. By 04H30 on Tuesday 2nd of February we were in sight of the Cape Coast and by 07H00 we were alongside. It was over. The Yugoslavian passenger liner, Adriana was sitting in the corner of the harbour while the German research vessel, Meteor was in the process of swapping scientific staff around, it made a nice change from the empty harbour that we had left behind so long ago.
Alongside in Cape Town
RMS alongside in Cape Town
I spent the rest of the day visiting the book shops in Cape Town and the V&A waterfront where the very immaculate schooner Aquarius was moored. The Maritime Museum had also added a General Botha exhibition to its collection and that is really worth seeing. After all that, it was time to come home. 
The new RMS and the stern of the old RMS
The new RMS and the stern of the old RMS
I know many people were sad to get off, many were already inquiring about the next Tristan cruise. Personally I would like to do the voyage again, It is a nice length with an interesting destination in the middle. The ship is lovely, the crew exceptional and the experience is one not to be forgotten. A word of warning though, the weather in that part of the world is very changeable, take raingear and warm clothing, the conditions for landing are hazardous and should not be attempted unless you are reasonably sure footed and fit.
 
The original RMS St Helena.
The original St Helena (postcard image)
As for the previous RMS St Helena. Once the new RMS entered service, she was “surplus to requirements” and an attempt was made to take her cruising under the name Avalon. This was a disaster and the vessel probably only completed one cruise before entering a long period or layup. 
The Avalon in Durban
The Avalon in Durban
We were fortunate to a short trip across the harbour on  her in March 1992, and at that point we already knew she was in trouble. She was eventually sold for service in Mauritius under the name Indianoceanique, and was broken up a few years after that.
Indianoceanique alongside in Durban, Achille Lauro in the background
 
DRW. ©  1992-2020.  Updated pics 09 September 2010. Moved to blog 16/12/2013, updated 12/06/2013, 15/02/2018. More images added 30/03/2019 and 11/03/2019. Some items were courtesy of Curnow Shipping

A voyage on the Canberra

19-03-92 to 21-03-92 Durban-Cape Town

The Canberra has always held a fascination for me, almost an obsession, and this magnificent white ship would always be in the back of my mind. I missed seeing her in 1986 when she called in Durban and decided then and there that I would remedy this at the first opportunity. Unfortunately the political situation in the country robbed us of the chance to see her or any other major passenger ships until  the outbreak of the Gulf War. This was a bonus to us shipping starved South Africans as first the QE2 and then Canberra were diverted from the Suez route and were scheduled to call in our waters instead. We all went down to see QE2 and were somewhat disappointed in not being able to swing a visit to her. We were even more miffed when certain members of our party got on board, but that is another story.

Canberra and Hapag Lloyd’s Europa were due to call the next week and so a week later we made the 570 kilo trip down to see them. We arrived very early in the morning to find the Europa already alongside, she lay quietly at the Ocean Terminal, lights blazing and all peaceful, it was a breathtaking sight.

We then left for the North Pier to await the arrival of the “Great White Whale”. By now the weather had come up and it was drizzling,  we were cold, wet, tired and hungry and she was nowhere in sight. About two hours later she emerged like a ghost from the mist, a big phantom which looked so different from anything I had ever seen before.

We followed her in and made our way to the gangway, trying desperately to get a visit but to no avail and we had to be satisfied with a boat ride around the harbour, enviously watching the Canberra and Europa berthed bow to bow.

I was also fortunate to get a proper view of that distinctive tiered stern from the harbour cruise vessel, but I really wanted to be on board instead.

Later that evening we watched her sail, and we had vowed to sail on her as soon as we were able and the next year we were successful.

Cruising the Canberra. A voyage on the Great White Whale.
Wednesday 18 March 1992.
 
Following our sojourn to see the Canberra; Rudi, and I had decided that come rain or shine we were going to try get on her next time she came around. We decided to put in the advance hints at our travel agents for brochures and started to count the days. While Rudi was overseas the brochures were released, the Canberra was calling in Durban on the 19th of March and again in Cape Town on the 21st of March on her way to Southampton. Our chance had come at last, unfortunately the most affordable price was still R7000 too much for poor people like us. We would have to resort to “plan B”!
“Plan B” took the form of one of those endless sob story letters that cruise companies get from the public so very often. Last time a few berths were open between Durban and Cape Town at a very reasonable rate. However due to bad publicity we only heard about it too late. This time we wanted in very early in the game. Rudi, being the optimistic type of chap that he is, decided that a carefully worded letter to P & O was in order and promptly drafted and posted one. The big wait began. By the middle of January, it had arrived, a nice letter saying that we could have a voyage from Durban to Cape Town! Planning time again: we quickly grabbed all the interested parties, stressing that we had to climb in quickly, time was not on our side, we soon discovered that the prices were affordable, provided we never ate again! only R800 per person sharing in a four berth outside cabin. Rudi begged his bank manager, I blackmailed an autobank, Neville cashed in his insurance and the three of us booked. Unfortunately Howard could not sell his car so he had to give it a miss. They had split our party up, I was in B223, a four berth on B Deck, Neville was on C deck, while Rudi and his wife were in a two berth on C deck.
P&O Publicity postcard for the Canberra
P&O Publicity postcard for the Canberra
Neville arrived a few minutes after I wrote the last paragraph and we set off for Vanderbijl Park, where we gathered our goodies and split for Durban just after midnight. The trip down was punctuated by cold pizza and Radio Orion. That is where I had my first inkling of a possible hitch in our plans. The radio mentioned a cruise ship in Durban Harbour. We thought it was a joke until we reached Durban, as we navigated down West Street I looked towards the harbour and saw the distinctive twin funnels. My scream awoke about 68% of Durban and we put the helm about and headed for the ocean terminal. Lo and behold, the Canberra was alongside, having arrived the previous evening at 17H00. We bailed out for some quick photography before heading for a closer look. She was so beautiful!
Having made some arrangements, we headed for the local junk food tavern to have a quick scoff and do some quick shopping before heading back to the harbour. We spent the next 5 hours irritating Neville and occupying the only chair under the fan in the quayside restaurant. At 15H00 we started to board the ship. I was the first of us on board and was met by a line of stewards and officers on the Promenade deck. I was propelled to my cabin which was on B deck, the deck above the promenade. The cabin was small and had four bunks, two wardrobes, a dressing table and a wash basin. The toilet and shower was just down the corridor. I took a quick turn around deck before going to find the rest of the gang.
Canberra pocket guide. (1500×647)
We met for lifeboat drill in the Meridian lounge (Prom deck forward) at 16H00 and from there collected our cameras to watch our sailing from the observation deck. We bumped into Cecil Clemo from Port Natal Branch on deck and the five of us could only smile when the Canberra started the slow tow astern towards the harbour entrance at 17H00 sharp.
I was propelled to my cabin which was on B deck, the deck above the promenade. The cabin was small and had four bunks, two wardrobes, a dressing table and a wash basin. The toilet and shower was just down the corridor.  I took a quick turn around deck before going to find the rest of the gang. We met for lifeboat drill in the Meridian lounge (Prom deck forward) at 16H00 and from there collected our cameras to watch our sailing from the observation deck. For some odd reason we were towed astern out of our berth right up to the harbour entrance.  We sailed into calm seas with the outlook for weather looking very overcast. We had been allocated table 17 in the Atlantic Restaurant on E deck and as we were second sitting we decided to go look around. The promenade deck is the best place to be, it runs all the way around the ship and is the deck under the lifeboats.
Cricketers Tavern

from aft we have Neptune’s bar, the Cricketers Tavern, Library, Shop, and the Ocean Room; a large lounge that used to be the William Fawcett Room. All the corridors on this deck are lined with plaques given to the ship by various ports and organisations. Forward on this deck is the old first class territory and subsequently it is all wood panelled. The Meridian Lounge and the Century Bar are the last public rooms on this deck with a spiral staircase leading  up to the Crows Nest Bar on Games deck.  Canberra has lots of smaller, more intimate rooms scattered all over the decks and I doubt whether we even saw some of them. She has three shops: a kiosk; where postcards, chocolates, sweets etc are available, a gift shop, where we spent all our money on goodies, and a boutique where they sell things like cameras, radios, perfume etc. The Lido buffet is situated on Games deck and provides round the clock tea and coffee as well as serving an informal breakfast. 

The Canberra quickly picked up speed for Cape Town and it was hard to believe that you were at sea! The time passed quickly exploring the ship until dinner which was served at 20H15. Our table was ably served by Laurence, a Goanese steward who proved to be the best table steward I had ever had on any ship! What a pleasure to have someone who understood English.
Dinner menus (1500×758)
The food was excellent and there was a good variety of it. After supper we all trooped around the ship again, taking photo’s and oohing and aaahing all over the place. Our last stop for the day was in the Island room for a quick cup of coffee and toasted cheese sandwiches before heading our different ways to bed. 
The next morning was grey and overcast, we were between East London and PE by now and Cecil had told us that the PE branch of the WSS had contacted the Master to get the ship to slow down and come closer inshore, as they had hired a launch and were coming out to see her. The Canberra duly complied and we saw the tiny little ski boat bashing her way past the ship, attempting to retrieve a life belt thrown off the ship. There was no sign of the sun.  Milk Wilkinson sent me the image below of the ship powering through the waves while they watched.
Meridian Lounge
Crow’s Nest bar

Later that day we all popped in at the information desk, brandishing books and membership cards with the aim of a bridge visit. Unfortunately they were unable to give us an answer until the watch changed at 12H00. Needless to say we were back at 12H01 to inquire yet again. Still no joy until next change of watch at 16H00. Rudi had bumped into an electrical officer who had promised to try get us on the bridge at 16H30, unfortunately I got talking to some people from England and got to the officers accommodation at 16H31, late again!

Daily program (1500×731)
Canberra's Bridge
Canberra’s Bridge
 
However a cox’n asked me whether I was due to go to the bridge, I explained that there were actually 3 of us, he confirmed that he just had to come fetch whoever there was and knew nothing further. I could not resist letting this chance go to waste and up to the bridge I went. I was welcomed by the third officer who was quite happy to answer any questions I had. The bridge was very small and functional, in fact, even the helm was small! It was a good climax to end our cruise off. I left half an hour later, hoping that Rudi and Neville would also get on the bridge, which happily they did.
 
Our fellow passengers, seemed very curious as to why we were doing this short trip, but how do you explain to someone who has been on the ship since Southampton how you feel about the Canberra? Personally, I love her, she is a real lady and a total classic ship. She is comfortable and well run and it is obvious from everybody that has sailed on her before, very well loved. Besides who knows if I would ever have this chance again. (Sadly I never did).
By lunch time the weather had started to clear and people were making their appearance at the pools (Canberra has 3) and along the decks. I had a beer for Howard in the Cricketers Tavern, which is one of the most popular public rooms on the ship, judging by the amount of people who frequented it.
canberranewscans46
By now I was tired from all the walking and stairs and starting to slow down a bit. It was a relief to just park off for a while on the promenade deck and relax, like you are supposed to do on a cruise. We also had to start packing our gear for disembarkation the next day. My cabin mates, two South Africans and a Welshman sat talking till first sitting dinner, before we all split up yet again, our suitcases in the corridor, our cupboards empty.
canberra072
It was a formal dinner that evening, we had been allowed optional informal dress because we were leaving and sadly our meal was over all to quick. We spent the time before bed walking around and sitting in the Island Room, where Neville had a few problems with a chicken drumstick.
Arrival in Cape Town
Arrival in Cape Town
We were awake early in my cabin, up on deck at 06H00 to see Cape Town in the darkness. We slowly sailed up to the Tavern of the Seas. The approach to Cape Town was windy, punctuated by comments on the PA from someone on the bridge, This was my third arrival in Cape Town by sea, and the best to date. Sadly we approached our berth, a slow breakfast, and soon it was time to leave. Cape Town had laid a band on for our arrival but there were only a few people to see us in. We delayed our disembarkation until 10H00 before we walked down the gangway for the last time. Our journey was over. All that was left was goodbye.
Canberra alongside in Cape Town
Alongside in Cape Town
Alongside in Cape Town
We clambered over the dolos’s at the breakwater to see her sail, the sun was going down as the Canberra steamed past us, glowing in the fading light.
We watched her till she was a speck on the horizon before we turned away to go back to the apartment. 
Our journey was at an end and all that was left was the long trip home to Johannesburg.  Her journey would continue for a number of years to come. The trip is now a distant memory which is viewed on slides and amongst menu’s, programs and postcards. Our arrival in Cape Town came too quickly and at the quayside lay the RMS St Helena, a ship which I would sail on the next year.
 
Inevitably it was announced that a replacement for Canberra was to be built, her name would be Oriana and she is a fine ship too, yet Canberra had something real special about her, there was a spirit which comes from those who have sailed in her and those who built, manned and loved her.
 
There was even a rumour that she would end her days as a hotel ship in Durban…. Yet these were only rumours and now Canberra has ended her days at the cutting torches. She may be gone, yet her memory will always remain. In the book of fine ships, there is an entry especially reserved for her.
 
Postscript 2019
It has been a long time since Canberra and I am still in love with that glorious old lady. Her successor, Oriana is a stunning ship too, but sadly in 2018 it was announced that she too would be withdrawn from service in August 2019 and has reportedly been sold for trade in China. It was strange to stand in Southampton and see the berth where Canberra was moored when in the city. There is an anchor there that may come from her but I could never confirm it. 
 
DRW. ©  1992-2020. Last updated 05/08/2004. Images updated 13/07/2011. Moved to blog 09/12/2013, images tweaked 14/03/2016, images added 02/03/2019, image added and some replaced 28/03/202

To sea on the Dolphin

A Voyage on the Aegean Dolphin.
20-01-92 to 24-01-92. Durban-Bazaruto-Durban 

Our trip on the Aegean Dolphin started originally when I decided to sail on the Odysseus in the middle of the year. Unfortunately the ship was withdrawn by Epirotiki Lines and the Aegean Dolphin was substituted instead. She is owned by the Dolphin Hellas Shipping Line of Greece and was originally due to make her debut in our waters in October 1988, doing a voyage to Australia,  I had tried to get on her then but had had no joy. Unfortunately the whole charter fell through and the ship never made her appearance. And even then I was not even sure what this ship had been before, she was somewhat of a mystery.
TFC Issue postcard of the Aegean Dolphin
TFC Issue postcard of the Aegean Dolphin
Finally in late November I started pestering my travel agent to get a booking, however I was forced to cancel it when the SADF decided to ruin my December holiday instead. Fortunately I got exemption and started to rethink my plans yet again, Howard in the meantime had gone to Cape Town and had managed to get on board the ship, he was impressed and that clinched it!
Image purchased on board
Image purchased on board
That night Rudi Van Dijk phoned me and I mentioned in passing if he would like to go cruising, He had no second thoughts! A man of decisions is our friend Rudi! I saw TFC on the 24th of December, booking our passage on a cruise sailing from Durban on the 20th of January, calling at Bazaruto on the 23rd, and arriving back on the 25th. We could only afford an inside cabin and this was allocated  on A Deck, cabin 359.
As usual, time dragged on until the morning of the 20th, when we arrived in Durban at about 05.30am. We went straight to the point, hoping to see her, however she was conspicuously absent, a quick visit to Port Control revealed that they had not heard from her either! We decided to go to the pilot’s wardroom to see if they had any info and maybe hitch a ride out with the pilot. Alas their information was even less , however a promise by the pilot clinched us that trip out to sea on the pilot boat. Eventually the pilot was called out to a ship and we all headed to the R.P. Jackson. The sea was reasonably rough, and we pitched steadily out to Lloyd Triestino’s Europa, the sea was cascading over the decks and very soon we were very wet, it was worth it though because the trip was exhilarating. In between troughs we searched for the Dolphin, no joy!
We started to head into harbour again, and then the master told us the good news, the Dolphin was only a few kilometres away! He had been ordered to pick up three pilots and return to the bay, dropping them off, one being destined for the Dolphin. We picked up a pilot from the jetty as well as from MSC’s Valeria and Regina D, before going out again into the bay,   the weather was still rough but as we cleared the harbour entrance, I spotted her in the distance. We first had to drop our pilots, the first ship was easy, however the next one was a problem,  the pilot boat came in too fast and we whacked the side of the ship badly, sending the contents of the wardroom flying all over.
Then we headed for the Dolphin, we had been watching her all the time and we agreed that she was not a pretty ship, her stern was a square, ungainly shape and her funnel looked hideously out of place, with a bit of imagination, she looked like a mini Europa. We moved alongside the ship, she was rolling badly in a beam sea and as the hull lifted, so the water smashed out from underneath. To complicate the situation further, the pilot ladder was very far aft and it was clear that getting the pilot on board was not going to be easy. The Dolphin was forced to pick up speed and alter her heading before we could even get close enough to her, fortunately the pilot got safely on board and we headed back to the harbour and our cruise.
Aegean_dolphin_33
A quick thank you and we charged up to the Ocean Terminal to take some photo’s. We had received a letter from Portnet to the affect that due to alterations in the Ocean Terminal, we would be boarding from the citrus sheds and it was there that the ship was going to berth. From close up she looked even worse, however we decided that once you were on board, you couldn’t see her outside anyway! We bumped into Cecil from Port Natal branch and after a quick gossip, headed for the Wimpy and a quick scoff.
Available cruises. Deck Plan and luggage label
After a quick visit to the Estrella Do Mar we both popped off to the citrus terminal for boarding, a sign informed us that we were to begin boarding at 14H30 as opposed to 13H45 as per our ticket. Luckily Clive Bush and his wife helped us pass the time because it was soon evident that we were not going to get on board at 14H30! We stood around as the rumours flew, our luggage had still not been loaded and the gangway had been raised. It was a very ominous sign. The immigration officials appeared at about 15H30 and after much stamping of papers and looking up in lists, we finally climbed the gangway.
Our first impressions of the ship were favourable, the gangway is on A deck, the deck where our cabin was. The cabin was small and plain but very nice. We quickly had a much needed shower and change of clothes and went for a quick looksee.
 
Aegean_dolphin_59The public rooms are mostly situated on Allegro deck, with the main lounge for`ard, the gift shop and Rendezvous lounge midships, and the Lido lounge and bar right aft. On either side of Allegro deck are the lifeboats, 5 per side. Access to the bridge decks is through the companionways under the lifeboats. The bridge is very low down on the ship and there is deck space under, in front of and on top of the bridge. The aft decks connect all decks via companionways and they finally end up on the pool deck. The ship has a huge space behind the funnel with the pool between the funnel and the suites.
 
The bridge is under the suites and the piano bar above them . The piano bar is one of the best public rooms on the ship, however it is used as a creche during the day and only at night does it come alive. Right at the bottom of the ship in the bows, on D deck is the cinema, it is almost under water and actually showed some very good movies.
We finally sailed an hour late, not before being told that we were no longer calling at Bazaruto because certain South Africans had ruined everything by raiding shipwrecks. Whether this was true, we do not know. By now we had discovered that some of the crew members were anything but willing to do their jobs, the bar service was indifferent and as we saw when we went to dinner, the service could be very bad.
 
The dining room is situated on C deck and is beautiful, there are lots of engraved mirrors and glass which made the room look much bigger than it really was. We had decided to go to the 2nd sitting dinner (more menu’s to collect) and ended up at table 4, with George as our steward. George decided to do things his way, he dumped our starters down, decided on our soup course and even thought that we all wanted salad. However we soon showed him that it did not work like that and as the voyage commenced, so our service at the table improved. The food was not spectacular, obviously the chef was an Italian as the food seemed very Achille Lauro like. The wine was reasonably expensive and we were content to drink water, which tasted very much like chemicals.
 
After dinner it was off to the “Welcome Spectacular”, the entertainers on board were Anne Power, Terry Fortune, The Carlo Spetto Dancers, Keith Cooper and Carol, Andre Schwartz, and Martin Clifford and the Pantopuppets. Our compere was the hero of the Oceanos, Robin Boltman, who soon proved again that he was a total mister cool when he was faced with a drunken heckler. Needless to say the show was great and we finally got to bed, having not slept for 40 hours.
Breakfast was only served in the dining room in an open sitting, the juice was some very unidentifiable yellow stuff which tasted like dead Eno’s! and when you ordered toast, they brought you toast! each slice was the size of a big paperback book! it was huge, we found hundreds of uses for it, and had we written a book on it, they could have sold it on board! It became the standard joke of the trip.
Lunch menu
Dinner menu
Lifeboat drill, was held at 10H30 on our first day out, oddly enough it was taken very seriously on the ship and was very thorough. The boats and all of the life saving gear are almost new and it was very comforting too.
 
We reached Bazaruto the next morning and turned around, heading back to Durban. That afternoon saw the “Fiesta Tropicale” held on the pool deck, the ship was decorated and lunch was held on deck with an abundance of food and some red stuff that could have been sangria, but was definitely not sangria!!! This show was well received by the passengers who were obviously very upset at not getting ashore. That night was the Greek night, which was a flop, the crew being badly let down by the steward who was doing all the singing.
 
The last night saw our farewell dinner and “A Touch Of Blue”, a naughty comedy by Robin Boltman, this went down very well, however it was not for the prudish but it was enjoyed by all. At this point in time we heard that we were just outside Durban and were travelling in a very slow circle. We were due to arrive at 06H15 off the pilot station, and sadly our cruise was almost at an end. Our arrival in Durban harbour was a non event, it was almost as if the ship was just another caller, we disembarked at about 09H00 and arrived back in Johannesburg just after 15H00.
 
Effectively we had had a three day cruise to nowhere, not a cruise to Bazaruto as we had booked. There was not sufficient time to really build up a spirit among the passengers, however in spite of all the problems that we had experienced most people enjoyed themselves.
 
The ship itself is magnificent inside, she is easy to find your way around and is well maintained, tidy and potentially a winner. Her public rooms are smartly done up and light and airy. Unfortunately the bar service was bad, the drinks were expensive, a coke costing $1-25 for a glass with more ice than coke. Dining room service improves with time and the cabin stewards are very discreet. The food is not brilliant and is cold lots of the time. Entertainment on board is excellent as are the TFC staff. unfortunately they ruined things by not announcing what was the hold up in the beginning and by trying to keep us in the dark. There were lots of rumours around and frankly it did make for lots of speculation. There were passengers who had gotten their cabins very cheap and there were those who had booked superior accommodation on the Odysseus and had ended up being short changed on the Dolphin.
Daily Program for 21/01 (1500×937)
I know that there were some very cheesed off passengers on that ship. Personally I enjoyed the cruise, it was too short and I am sorry about Bazaruto, I finally did get to sail on the ship that I had missed in 1988, and having sailed on her in 1992, I would gladly sail on her again.
Aegean Dolphin as built
Aegean Dolphin as built
Interestingly enough I found a drawing of what she looked like before her conversion. I believe she was one of five sisters built at Santierul Navali in Romania for Zim Israel Lines. Supposedly with a length of 111.5m and a beam of 20.5m. They were designed as ro/ro cargo ferries capable of carrying 150 vehicles.
 
Update 18/09/2016
To my surprise she is still afloat and operating under the name Aegean Odyssey, and was extensively refurbished in 2009/2010 which saw the addition of balcony cabins and a new funnel casing that has improved her looks a bit. She operates now doing “historical and cultural” cruises in the Mediterranean http://www.voyagestoantiquity.com with a smaller passenger load. 
She had four sisters (Palintis, Iris, Pascani and Peris) and there are very few images of her as built. However, there is a good source of information on her and her sisters at http://www.faktaomfartyg.se/narcis_1973.htm (text is not in English)
 
DRW. ©  1992-2020.  Last updated 14 April 2007. Moved to blog 14/12/2013, updated 18/09/2016. New Images added 01/03/2019

Around the coast on the Berg

Durban-Walvis Bay-Durban 08-11-90 to 22-11-90.

Cruise time had arrived again, but this time I could not afford the local cruise liner prices, so I decided that it was time to go to sea on a “real ship”. There were not too may options available for cargo ship travel, I could have taken Unicorn’s Border or Barrier to Cape Town or Swakops or Kuiseb to Walvis Bay. however I decided to do either Berg or Breede to Walvis Bay and back as it was a nice long voyage and would be calling at East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Walvis Bay. Besides, it was not all that  expensive even with single supplement. My choice was governed by whichever ship was available at the time I decided to travel; and in my case it was the MCV Berg.
Publicity photo of MCV Berg
Publicity photo of MCV Berg
Unicorn Lines schedule
After much confusion with my booking, I left for my trip, arriving in Durban the day before I was due to sail. I finally found my ship at pier 108 deep in the container terminal. Fortunately I had been taken to the ship by Kathy of King Travel who was forced to stay on board until the gangway could be fixed! Finally at 14H00 we sailed, straight into a howling wind and quite a rough sea, was it a portent of things to come?
Sailing from Durban
Sailing from Durban
Sailing from Durban
Sailing from Durban
 
My cabin as can be seen from the brochure pic, was large with a double bed, and it’s own bathroom. It was very comfortable but tending to squeak when we rolled, which being a cargo ship we did all the time.
A letter in my cabin from the master had explained that I was free to look around the ship and go to the bridge as often as I liked. This I did, only to find that the only person on watch was the Chief Navigating officer, no lookouts. It was a great feeling to be at sea again.
 
I stayed on the bridge until supper arrived, passengers ate in the officers mess at the captain’s table. The food was edible, not on par with the QE2 but varied and well prepared. Usually there was a soup, cold meat and salads, a main course, and desert.
Breakfast Menus
Right next to the officers mess was the Berg Kelder which was the officers pub, it was nicely decorated and you signed for your drinks and any snacks or chocolates which you ate. There was a TV in the mess for watching video’s and a smallish bookcase full of books. However the bridge beckoned and once there I discovered that we were due to make an unscheduled 4 hour stop in East London the next morning. I went to bed feeling very happy, the feel of ship at sea is enough to put a smile on my face any day.
East London harbour
East London harbour
East London was a disappointment, devoid of shipping, the only two things of interest was the Energos (ex Mobil Refiner) and the salvage tug John Ross, I was very impressed by the Ross, she is much bigger than I had imagined. After leaving East London it was off to Cape Town, the weather was moderate if not windy and we puttered along at about 12 knots.
The bridge
The bridge
On the bridge  was given a laymans course on Decca Navigation and I figured out how the Radar worked, I also got on good terms with the cadet and third officer, these two would work the 8-12 watch and we would sit and talk ships and all manner of nauticalia. We also encountered a school of dolphins, I had hoped to see them from a ship and this was they chance I had waited for. There they were, swimming and playing a metre from the bulbous bow.  I spent an hour watching them and sniffing around the forecastle. I had been told that if I wanted to go to the bow I had to make sure somebody knew about it or I had to take someone with me for safety, a reasonable request.
berg_32
Cape Town was a let down, it was drizzling, Table Mountain was covered in mist and generally the harbour was empty except for the Actinia which was an accommodation rig for Mossgas. I spent the day with friends and being Sunday everything was closed so there was not much to see either.
We sailed into a moderate swell which made us roll equally hard for the two day voyage to Walvis. The afternoon before we arrived we had man overboard drill, this entailed a throwing a 44 gallon drum with a hole in it overboard. We spotted the drum but it was lost in the swell and eventually sank, not very promising if you have fallen overboard I am sure.
We duly arrived early in the morning in Walvis Bay, there we met up with the Stella Lykes and the Swakops, unfortunately photography was difficult because of the glare. I walked into town, walked 6 another blocks and ended up in the desert, needless to say Walvis is not too big. I also visited the Walvis Bay Missions to Seaman who were very friendly and I spent a pleasant hour talking ships with the Padre, Chris Stratton and his wife. Back to the ship and a quick but fruitless attempt at getting on board the Stella Lykes- no luck 
We sailed at 20H00 for Cape Town into another rough sea and at reduced speed. The Berg is a single screw vessel with a variable pitch propeller, there are two engines clutched together to drive this arrangement, so in theory it is possible to obtain the same speed with one engine clutched in and with full pitch as it is to use both engines at half pitch. You can also shut down an engine for maintenance purposes without affecting performance. Unfortunately the sea was running and we had reduced speed so the voyage to Cape Town would take a few hours longer and we would get in after 14H00 on the Saturday. Being late meant that all my arrangements for Cape Town had gone down the heads and we would be spending less time in port. By the time we arrived everything was closed again and I was only able to see a small part of town and the V&A waterfront area. I did get to see Table Mountain and was suitably impressed.
We sailed late that night in foggy conditions, groping our way with radar. The next day I visited the bilge, holds and other dark and smelly compartments (the Berg can also carry fish oil) with the cadet. By this time it was evident that we were going to be spending an extra day in Port Elizabeth which meant that there was no way I would be able to get to Durban in time for my bus back to JHB.
approaching Port Elizabeth
approaching Port Elizabeth
PE was quiet, we were virtually the only ship in port which is very depressing if you are a ship fanatic, however the NYK Container ship Osaka Maru turned up and the products tanker Eland was hiding in the corner so I went to give them a look see. I also went to town to change my travel arrangements and look around. The next day the cargo ship Elso arrived and we were still stuck in port, I hoofed it to the Dolphinarium to have a look and came across the local museum which had some very nice models. I would have preferred to have had the two days in Cape Town but then cargo ships depend on cargo and not passengers.
The next morning saw us beating Unicorn’s ro-ro Border into East London, the break bulk ship Tamarind was loading and I went to town again, by the time I got back Tamarind had sailed and I had not even photographed her. East London is the only active river port left in South Africa and is not very busy. We sailed late that evening for Durban, My bus had been cancelled and by the looks of it I would miss it again if we did not speed up.
On Thursday afternoon we reached Durban, however we were forced to lay out in the bay for an hour, the ultimate frustration! finally we  went in, berthing at 104 in the container berth. While I waited for the the gangplank I saw the Gasikara sailing past and quickly took two slides of her, little did I know it would be  the last time that I would see her as she would be lost in a cyclone with all hands 2 months later.
 
I was lucky to get a lift to my hotel with a bus from Pentow Marine and the next day I spent an agonising 9 hours on the bus back to Johannesburg. I had just completed a 14 day voyage, covering 3860 miles and visiting 5 ports, it was worth every cent. I had also had an interesting glimpse into the lives of seamen and those who keep our commerce flowing, it was a rare vision of the life I would have chosen had the option been available to me when I was young.
 
When last I heard, the Berg and her sister Breede were up for sale, I saw Berg just before she sailed from South Africa, her hull was painted black and she looked very smart. I am glad I sailed on them before they went.
 
DRW. ©  1992-2020. Last updated 03 Aug 2004. Some images replaced and added 24 October 2011. Moved to blog 09/12/2013, images resized 17/04/2016 

Oceanos from the Seychelles

Seychelles to Durban.  01/12/1989 – 08/12/1989

Following the Betsy Ross debacle I did not expect that we would be seeing any more ships doing cruises from South Africa again, but I was very wrong as it was announced in 1989 that Epirotiki’s Oceanos would be doing a season in our waters along with the Achille Lauro in December. This was good news as we never expected to see any ships at all that year. The Oceanos was considered to be one of the better ships in the Med and her reputation was based on many satisfied passengers.
Once again I hummed and hawed, toying with doing a possible voyage. Most were not within my price range although a Radio 702 fly cruise from Seychelles to Durban seemed very promising. It  included the flight to Seychelles, 2 nights in the Sheraton Hotel in Seychelles, the cruise to Durban and a call in Comores. This time I dallied till there were 4 months left before I made my booking. Once again I chose a 4 berth cabin, only this time it was an outside cabin and somewhat of an improvement on my previous submarine suite on the Achille.
 
Time once again dragged along until I finally stood at the airport waiting for my flight. In between booking and the flight, things had gone awry at Comores, as a coup d’etat had taken place in this enclave and the situation was very volatile. However, this did not deter me as I waited at Jan Smuts Airport for a flight that was delayed by 2 hours for “technical reasons.”
Eventually our aircraft was ready and I stepped onto the Luxair 747SP for the trip to Seychelles. The flight, already delayed by 2 hours arrived at roughly 3pm. on Mahe Island. The heat which struck as we stepped out of the plane was horrific, like Durban at its worst.
 
The airport was a landing strip next to the sea and customs was very slow dealing with us. Our luggage was slower and when I got to have my room allocated by the tour guides they could not find my name on the list! However I was told to climb on board one of the mini busses and we drove up the road which trailed up the mountain. The road was narrow and winding and there was just jungle on one side and a breathtaking view on the other when we could see it. The islands and pristine beaches were stunning and the ride was worth the agony.
 
oceanos264Upon arrival at the Sheraton Hotel I was finally allocated a room to myself and I thankfully plonked my luggage down before having a quick shower and heading downstairs for the briefing about  the ongoing Comores situation. It turned out that we would only know if we would be going ashore once we actually got there.
 
Then it was time to hit the pool before supper. The hotel had its own private beach and was very impressive with a huge pool and lush gardens. The supper was memorable, consisting of a huge buffet which had so much variety I did not know where to begin. Sadly though sleep was impossible because of the thumping noise from the disco which was below my room.
 
oceanosImage44The next morning I went on a tour to the reefs and a private island. The reef tour was in a small semi-submersible boat and was amazing. When we were going back on board our boat we saw the Oceanos arrive, at least our ship was in! We then moved over to the island where snorkelling was available after refreshments. Amazingly we anchored about 500 metres from the island and waded through knee deep sea to get to it. The water was luke warm and not unpleasant at all. A quick drink and we headed offshore to another island where we snorkelled for a while before going for a Seychellois lunch which was very tasty but which would wreak its revenge on me later that night.
We puttered past the Oceanos when we arrived back from out tour and she looked quite impressive from close by. 
 
Then it was back to the hotel in time for a dip in the sea before supper and that night I spent with my head in the toilet, disposing of my lunch and supper.
Famous Bow Shot 
The next morning I was feeling very miserable, and fortunately was able to get medication from the nurse at the hotel. I believe I was not the only one feeling under the weather. Then we boarded our bus and headed for the harbour where the Oceanos lay.
Oceanos alongside at Seychelles
Oceanos alongside at Seychelles
The harbour at Seychelles was amazing, it is small and compact but was surprisingly full of ships and boats. The 3 tugs we saw were like little toy boats and some very interesting oldies lurked in the roadstead just waiting to be photographed.
I even spotted a small sailing vessel and warships tucked away in an odd corner. The Oceanos, with her corn coloured hull and white upperworks was very attractive.
As built.
As built.
Much smaller than the Achille Lauro but very sleek and somewhat top heavy she presented a picture of efficiency. Being a 50’s style motorship she had a squat funnel and midships engine room with lots of shiplike features which are sadly lacking on modern vessels. Originally a cargo/passenger ship she had undergone extensive rebuilding and was barely recognisable from her original profile and those of her sisters.
Daily program (1500×758)
This was my second Greek ship and the hospitality on board was typical of the reputation that the Greeks have. The hull was a bit rusty but painting was being done, and there was lots of evidence of the various conversions she had undergone through the years.
 

The foyer was on Venus deck which was the same deck as my cabin. Decks are named from top to bottom; Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, Dionysos, Poseidon, and Nereus deck. The Odyssey Lounge is located forward on Jupiter Deck while the Four Seasons Lounge is found below it on Apollo deck. The lounges are furnished in soft colours with Port side being the smokers side and Starboard the non-smokers.  Each lounge had a bar and drinks were signed for, the bill being settled at the end of the voyage.

A veranda style promenade connects the aft deck with the interior of the of the ship, this is furnished with cane chairs and tables but it does tend to get very hot during the day. The Casino, disco, pool, boutique and photo shop are also found on this deck. A central companionway gives access between lounges and the dining room on Dionysos deck. Lifeboat drill took place on the first day out and all passengers were mustered in the veranda promenade, and extremely goldfish bowl-like effect occurred very rapidly, it was announced that the drill took only 18 minutes, however they neglected to mention that very rarely do passengers have time to take to the boats in an emergency.
My cabin, V69, was on the port side aft and had a single bed with three Pullman style bunks, the bathroom was to prove to be very small and cramped. A very efficient air conditioner/blower kept the cabin cool and the bunks were comfortable if somewhat low. Roughly 18 towel changes per day were made and the cabin steward kept everything shipshape. Plugs are a problem but most women circumvented this by plugging their hairdryers into the 220V plugs in the passages.
The cabin. (excuse the mess)
The cabin. (excuse the mess)
Forward and below the bridge is the sports deck, this is a large open deck with a helipad on it, but unfortunately the railing does not go all the way around it and a considerably large chunk of deck is unused. Wooden deck chairs gave you a great view of the extremely strenuous aerobics. There is no access to the foredeck for passengers unless you sneak over the railing. The sports deck is also closed off at night.
Late that afternoon we sailed into calm weather and soon discovered that the Oceanos rolls in calm seas, but it was a comfortable shiplike roll and was soon forgotten. I watched Seychelles disappear into the distance and considered that it was one place I would love to visit again.
 
The dinner that evening was informal and there were 2 sittings (7pm. and 9pm.), all other meals are open sitting. The dining room was beautiful, small and tastefully decorated, the tables tended to be a bit cramped but were neatly laid. It is also a non smoking area which was a great idea. Our steward soon proceeded to feed us, the food is good, wine was available in small bottles and there was plenty to choose from. Most nights had a theme for the meal, for example we had a 1001 nights evening, a tropical evening and a Greek evening.
Menus (1500×594)
The photographer did the rounds and I was unable to duck and dive away from this shot.  And yes, I did have hair back then. The lady in dark blue was very sweet and she had been misinformed about what currency to use on board, but she was so nice to talk to, and was game for almost anything. The onboard currency was $US and because of our horrible exchange rate it was not a cheap experience. I was fortunate that I won $25 on Bingo just when I needed it most. 
Entertainment took place in the main lounge and was provided by Alain D. Woolf, Gary and Leslie Spencer, a conjurer, the Ray Cornell dancers, Yorgos Dikeos, Danny Garcie (who is amazing) and others.
The resident band was good and the shows were well worth watching. The Greek evening was excellent with Greek dancing and much cavorting around the lounge. There is also a cinema on board but it is very small and cramped and the sound was terrible
The situation in The Comoros was still questionable when we arrived 2 days later, anchoring in Moroni. The “harbour authorities” came on board, a group of AK wielding people with menacing looks. The list of rules for going ashore was long and many people decided to give it a miss. We were the second of two ships in the harbour, the first being a small breakbulk cargo ship which was offloading bags of rice into a lighter alongside. The wind started blowing hard, causing us to drift down on this small vessel and at one point we were almost on top of her. 3 boatloads of passengers had now been sent ashore but the situation on the island was tense and it was decided to recall them and head off for Durban.
Comores in the distance
We upped our hook and sailed off into the afternoon, the party getting bigger and the booze was flowing. The spirit on board was very good and as was expected we had much to do, cabarets, movies, games,  quizzes and just relaxing. The food was great and the cabin and table service was excellent.
A visit to the engine room was made where I was able to see the diesels which would fail the ship when she needed them most. We were idling along on only one engine and very lax watchkeeping prevailed. But that seemed to be  OK because it was a holiday spirit which was enhanced by the Radio 702 team on board as well as the very competent TFC staff.
On Wednesday the 6th the weather turned bumpy with a following sea and largish swells and then we saw how the Oceanos really rolled, but I enjoyed the rolling and it made for a very erratic party that night. The stabilisers were unshipped and we soon had a much smoother ride. We arrived off Durban to see 12 ships in the bay and that was a pleasant surprise as we waddled into Durban harbour, listing to starboard and with many sore heads present at the rails. I disembarked very unhappy to be leaving, I would have continued onwards to Cape Town had I thought about it at the time.
The Achille Lauro was in port too, her funnels sporting the new StarLauro logo.
Many who had experienced the Betsy Ross the previous year had preferred that trouble plagued ship and so did I,  but then again I had had a great voyage on the Oceanos.  
 One of my friends was doing the Durban to Cape Town leg and we stayed behind to wave him goodbye before heading back to Johannesburg.
oceanos276
Two years later the Oceanos was back, this time to do a longer season. Sadly, events overtook her and she sank in circumstances which left a sour taste in the mouth. Fortunately no lives were lost in the disaster, but stories of incompetence, mismanagement, cowardice and inefficiency were rife and suddenly TFC was in trouble.  
Crockery from the Oceanos.(given to me by a steward)
The Odysseus was supposed to replace her but with Epirotiki in the spotlight she was also pulled out and we were left with another vacuum in our fledgling cruising industry.  Epirotiki Lines bumbled forward for a few years but the Oceanos made a huge dent in their reputation and eventually they too folded. 
The sinking of the Oceanos
The sinking of the Oceanos
DRW ©  1992-2020 Moved to blog 08/12/2013, some new images added 19/02/2018