M.S. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, became the T.S.M.S. Lakonia in 1963

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and related maritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned, thus ssmaritime is NOT associated with any shipping company or any other organisation! Although the author has worked and been involved in the passenger shipping industry for well over 60 years, but due to his old age and poor health, he was forced to retire. Yet, he has completed well over 1,365 Classic Liners, Passenger-Cargo Liners as well as humble converted C3 converted Migrant Liners, which has transported countless thousands of folk to the new world, as well on vacations’. I trust the features online will continue to provide Classic Liner and Ship enthusiasts both the information they are seeking, but more so provide a great deal of pleasure and relive many happy memories!

 “Memories of the JVO

MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt


Chapter Six


Goodbye JVO


The final voyage of the JVO from Wellington New Zealand - 30 January 1963

Almost Time to Say Goodbye:

Sadly, by mid 1962, due to the fall of passenger numbers and the companies ever increasing cargo interests, it was decided that her services would be terminated. She sailed her final round the world voyage departing Amsterdam Saturday 30 June 1962. Then, on Saturday 29 September, she departed her homeport of Amsterdam for the last time. She arrived in Wellington New Zealand on Friday November 9, 1962. The next day, JVO's master, Captain Klingen presented the ships bell to a local school, the Upper Hutt College signalling the upcoming end of the JVO, before she headed back to Europe to become a Greek Cruise ship. One of the schools pupils sang a song composed for this special occasion entitled "The JVO Bell." A group of pupils were invited to visit the ship and before leaving, they sang "The JVO Bell" song once more in honour of this fine vessel. Sadly, on the author’s last investigation, the ships bell was removed and has since been lost. Someone in New Zealand must have it. If you its whereabouts, please email the author via the email link at the bottom of the page.

 Here we see the JVO Bell being handed over, but over time it seems to have tragically been lost! Obviously the New Zealander’s did not care for this great piece of history! --Shame on them!

Many have asked, “Why was the bell given to Wellington and not any other port?” Over the years the JVO had become a Wellington icon and the crew felt very much at home in this beautiful harbour city. Well-known ships band, the Mimmo Bruno Orchestra, even recorded their album here. Wellington had become the ships 2nd homeport.

Whilst in Wellington, she was contracted to serve as a as means of transport and floating hotel for New Zealanders attending the 7th Commonwealth Games to be held in Perth. She departed Wellington on the 10th and sailed via Sydney and Melbourne, arriving in Fremanthe Perth on November 21. Astern of the JVO was another Dutch ship, the "Groote Beer."

Above: The JVO is seen arriving in Fremantle













Above: JVO seen in Fremantle during the 1962 Commonwealth Games

She departed Fremantle and sailed via Melbourne to Sydney, arriving on December 9. On that day she commenced her final series of four Trans Tasman cruises.

Her final Visit to Wellington:

Then on Wednesday, January 30, 1963 the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt returned to Wellington, where obviously I was living at the time, and the JVO docked for the very last time ever. Then on Wednesday, January 30, 1963 the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt returned to Wellington, where obviously I was living at the time, and the JVO docked for the very last time ever.

The Johan van Oldenbarnevelt in Wellington whilst on her very last visit on January 30, 1963

Photograph by & Reuben Goossens

I had already decided to take the day off in order to have the opportunity to take photographs of herm and also to spend as much time onboard my beloved ship as possible, for the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt had very much become like a second home for me, having sailed on her to and from Europe several times and having enjoyed a wonderful Christmas - New Year cruise on her in December/January 1961/62.

Even when she was in port, I always had a wonderful time on board chatting with all the staff as many of whom I knew me so well and thus this also made this rather very sad day, so much better for me! Yet, I knew that when she would depart, sadly I would never see my beloved JVO ever again! But, I certainly never expected that massive shock in December of that same year, with me having moved to Australia, learning from the newspaper that she had been destroyed by fire, and then soon after that she had sunk to the bottom to the sea, all thanks to a very negligent Greek Line!

But, my day onboard the JVO during her final visit to Wellington New Zealand will live with me forever, as it was a wonderful day, the crew were just wonderful, and the ship was in pristine condition as can be seen in the photographs I took that day!

Below is my photographic journey of my time onboard the JVO during her final visit to Wellington New Zealand


The author is about to embark his beloved ship for the last time ever!

Photograph by & Reuben Goossens


Her Blue Pieter is flying for final departure and she is fully dressed with flags

Photograph by & Reuben Goossens

Having had a wonderful day onboard, spending time with various crewmembers and walking around every part of the ship, the time had come that I had to leave the ship that I had come to love so much, and I headed for a special viewing point in order to photograph her departure, as she sailed out of beautiful Wellington Harbour for the very last time. The JVO had been a regular visitor for many years, and the ships very popular Italian band the “Mimmo Bruno Orchestra” recorded their Album in a Wellington recording Studio and it was a hit, both on board and ashore! The Captain chose this Wellington, over Auckland or even Melbourne or Sydney to give the Ship’s Bell to a local College, which was a massive honour to the Capital of New Zealand!

MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt departs Wellington for the very last time:

Then on Wednesday January 30, 1963 at around 4 pm JVO lines were let go and she slowly began to move away from the wharf as she backed out and turned and slowly headed into the right direction in order to depart Wellington for the final time. It was bright warm, although slightly overcast afternoon, but there were thousands of people that lined the shore to watch this delightfully elegant 33 year old classic lady the sea depart. Obviously, myself, the author was among the multitudes taking photographs of this poignant event.

There was a deep sense of emotion and it swept over the crowd as a the ship, which had become like a dear friend of mine, the greatly beloved Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, or the JVO, sailed gracefully out of sight. There were even people crying, and amazingly most were not of Dutch origin’s, but Kiwi’s who had sailed on her, sadly many do not understand that in these modern days that these beautiful classic ships had what you can call character and something of an atmosphere that was so endearing that somehow you were befriended with not just the ship, but also with the amazing crew she had, and all this combined created something that is just not found on those giant modern boxlike ships, which are just resorts, come theme parks on water!

But the JVO certainly had endeared herself to countless thousands in New Zealand and Australia over the years, for on this her final voyage to Sydney she crossed the Tasman completely booked out with past passengers, all of whom having booked well in advance. They booked cruise very early to ensure that they would get a berth in order to have the privilege of being able to sail on the “Grand old Dame” as one of my friends put it, and she, Mrs. Eileen Miller who was also on my cruise earlier, had sailed on her 47 times, but this was the final official passenger voyage of her as the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt!

She is slowly backing out of her berth before turning to sail out

Photograph by & Reuben Goossens


There is no doubt she made a wonderful, but a sad sight as the “Grand old Dame” departed Wellington!

Photograph by & Reuben Goossens


She now picks up speed as she heads out towards the turn out of the harbour, a fine view that that amazing stern

Photograph by & Reuben Goossens


This is the author's very last photograph of the Royal Dutch Mails - MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt – she was gone forever

Yet sadly her story was not as yet over!

Photograph by & Reuben Goossens

As I was told by my dear (now late) elderly friend, Mrs. Eileen Miller, that on her final voyage from Wellington sailing direct to Sydney, passengers spent a great deal of time sharing their past experiences in regard their past voyages on JVO with each other. In addition, there were many joyful events on board as she crossed the Tasman. However, there were many who felt a deep sadness inside, but she said that the crew certainly worked very hard to ensure that the voyage would be more than memorable and according to all accounts, it certainly was!

The MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt arrived in Sydney on Sunday February 3, 1963 and in Sydney she officially ended her thirty three-year career. As she docked the people of Sydney had come to witness her arrival. But later that day she was officially decommissioned by the Netherland Line and she departed quite suddenly late in the afternoon with a crew, but without any passengers. Just as it was in Wellington countless past passengers and thousands upon thousands of people who had admired this Dutch liner and also a cruise ship for past few years, they stood had waited throughout the day knowing that she would sail at some time, and they then quietly watched her final departure, with many crying. There were many who had sought out the best vantage points along the shores of Sydney Harbour, including atop Sydney Heads, where the JVO gracefully sailed by, and she still looked so beautiful, she then headed north and at the time she was bound for what was described as a “secret destination.”

Of course we know today that she sailed via Singapore, Aden, Suez, Port Said and was bound for Genoa, Italy where she arrived on March 7, 1963 there she was officially handed over on the next day to “Ormos Shipping Company" on behalf of the "Greek Line" and soon she received a short comprehensive refit. The Greek Line renamed her “Lakonia” and when completed, she had been painted all white, in addition her forward section of A Deck (above Promenade Deck) was stretched forward and was now level with the deck below. Most lounges remained as is, with a few minor changes, but the far aftr area on promenade Deck became a spacious modern style shopping gallery. Her funnels were painted yellow, blue with black tops, complete with the Greek Line logo. The TSMS Lakonia was now a fulltime cruise ship based in the United Kingdom.

TSMS Lakonia pre refit promo image shown with a white livery & Greek Line Funnels, she looked good

In Conclusion:                                                                              

The motor ship Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, our beloved JVO, had touched all those who had sailed on her, as well as those that had come to know her by sight as she visited our shores in New Zealand and Australia for a good twelve and a half years. And in those days, visitors were still permitted to come on board whilst she was in port with great ease, thus so many were able to enjoy the sheer beauty of her magnificent lounges, and view her traditional carved timber venues as well as the more modern venues that were later added during a more recent refit!

But sadly, now she would become the ill-fated Greek cruise ship that had been heavily insured by Lloyds of London for a good one million British pounds, which was a great deal for those days and would cover any eventuality! Do I see one of those well known “Greek Stock Takes” coming on? I am not saying it was or not, but there are many questions to be asked?

Chapter 7 - Cruise Ship TSMS Lakonia


Or the - JVO Index



 “Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”


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