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With Reuben Goossens

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


Photograph of RMS Saxonia sold to become a Russian cruise ship

 From the author’s collection


This feature entitled “The Saxonia Class Liners” is the result of a lecture I gave aboard TSS Fair Princess, on Tuesday February 8, 2000, cruising between Wellington and Auckland, whilst the Fair Princess was on her final New Zealand cruise from Sydney. However, at the time we did not know that she would never return to Auckland, for she was due to return to New Zealand and be based there later in 2000, but I will return to that subject at the appropriate time in this multipage feature.

However, I trust that you, like the thousands who have already visited this feature will thoroughly enjoy reminiscing the days of these four fine passenger liners that were indeed real ships, and what is more, they felt like ships!

With the passing of ships like these, we will never see the like again, for the truth is that the modern cruise ships of today are designed more to be luxury floating resorts that look like condominiums (apartment blocks) and so many of this vessels, I hardly even wish to call them ships anymore, inside many look and feel more like shopping centres. In addition, in the days of the liner and the classic cruise ship everything was included, meaning all your food, morning bouillon or tea as well as afternoon tea or coffee, as well as late night snacks or a buffet, plus you three main meals per day. The only extras were your drinks, hair dresser, items at the shop, photographer and optional tours. But today you go on a cruise and there are all sorts of optional restaurants and cafes, some ships even have lounges that demand a fee in order to go in to buy a drink. Then there is the private, so called “child free” sun deck which they may call “The Oasis”, which comes at a cost of course. The biggest problem is that Cruise companies are run by accountants and not shipping people. Bring back the days of genuine shipboard life!

However, I do have some good news, for there is one cruise company that I know about which continues all the classic traditions as well as using classic ships, which have been fully modified and kept up to date with the very latest SOLAS 2010 fire and safety regulations, the most modern navigational equipments and so on! This company offers all inclusive fares just like it used to, and they have a fleet of superb classic ships! If you want to know who this company is, visit my Classic Ocean Voyages feature - after you have read this feature.

You will find that this feature “The Saxonia Class Liners” is spread over a number of pages and each page will offer a variety of photographs relevant to the time and the ship in question.

One of a series of Cunard postcards RMS Sylvania

From the author’s collection


In history, great dramas have unfolded on both land and sea. Vessels of all shapes and sizes have been built over the ages as men desired to reach the far corners of the earth. This developed into the building of many great ocean liners producing a proud maritime history, which continues to this day as we witness the launching of vessels that are well over 200,000 GRT (tons) and these are the modern so-called super cruise ships. Although these vessels may offer amenities far superior to those that were offered on the liners of yesteryear, these ships in many ways do not measure up when it comes to the most important issue - their sea going capabilities. This has been proven by a number of these new ships such as the Cunard MV Queen Victoria as per example as well as her almost identical twin P&O’s Arcadia (which originally was supposed to have been built as the Queen Victoria, but Carnival changed their mind). Both of these ships behave atrociously in bad seas and the question I have been asked by their passengers is “Why?” The answer is quite simple really, for it is mostly due to them having been designed by the Carnival appointed maritime engineers and designers and they have come up with what is known as the “Vista Class Hulls.” I can tell you that these hulls have an extremely bad reputation and this is due to their poor design, yet they have found their way under most of the Carnival Group of Companies ships, be it Carnival, Princess, P&O, Holland America and Costa Cruises, etc. These ships are clearly distinguishable for their overall design, hull and superstructure are much the same and thus includes the Queen Mary 2, which is just a larger version of the same ship, but she, unlike the others has a dummy stern tacked onto her totally flat stern, just for show, as well as the black painted pretend decks on her forward superstructure, so very American, again, all show, but it is just imitation!

Of course besides “The Saxonia Class Liners” there were many other notable ships and you will find many of these, over 300 of them on my main index. But this feature highlights a special quartet and they are the subject of this work, and I hope that as we venture into the history of these four superb ships that many happy memories will fill the hearts of all those who have spent some time onboard them, or have seen them and possibly visited them whilst they were in port and beheld their sheer beauty and photographed these ships, just like I did when I saw a liner visiting my home port, they were the great days, when you could still board any liner without a problem, for there was little to no security, or it was easy to get a pass from the shipping company or agent. For me, it was easy, I always worked in passenger shipping, and thus it was extremely simple!

Reuben Goossens.

Four New Cunard Ships for the Canadian Service

Cunard Line announced at the end of 1951 that they had made a decision not only to build a series of new ships for the service between Liverpool and Montreal, but that they would be a class to themselves. The announcement was that there to be two ships built, however, soon after an additional two ships were added. These ships would become known and named after the first ships of the series, “The Saxonia Class Liners.” There were a number of things that made them special. They were the largest Cunard liners to built to operate especially on the Liverpool to Canada service. All four ships were built by John Brown & Co. Ltd, Clydebank, Glasgow, Scotland, and they had to meet the requirements of Canada’s rapidly growing population and increasing volume of overseas trade.

For their time at 21,600 GRT they were relatively large ships for Canadian service and each ship would have a considerable passenger capacity offering two classes, First and Tourist that offered traditional British style and comfort. In addition these ships had six holds with massive cargo spaces. However, the all important thing was to retain these ships in the dimensions that would permit them sail safely from Quebec along the St Lawrence River up to the Port of Montreal and return.

Cunard officially announced their third ship had been ordered in October 1953, this would be the Carinthia, but soon after named their first two ships on November 25, 1953, the first ship would be named Saxonia, followed by the Ivernia and then the Carinthia, which was followed by the Sylvania.

Whilst the Carinthia’s construction was underway an announcement was made by Cunard in June 1955, stating that HRH Princess Margaret had officially agreed to preside over the official naming ceremony. This special occasion made RMS Carinthia the 4th.ever Cunarder to be launched by Royalty, the previous ships had been, RMS Queen Mary, launched by HM Queen Mary, RMS Queen Elizabeth, launched by HM Queen Elizabeth and RMS Caronia, launched by HRH Princess Elizabeth.

Another of the Cunard postcards - RMS Saxonia

From the author’s collection


Ships Original Name        Gross Tons           Launched           Renamed

1. Saxonia                       21,637 GT             17 Feb’54            Carmania/Leonid Sobinov (scrapped at Alang India 1999).

2. Ivernia                        21,717 GT             14 Dec’54            Franconia/Fedor Shalyapin/Salona (scrapped at Alang 2004).

3. Carinthia                     21,947 GT             14 Dec’55            Fairland/Fairsea/Fair Princess/China Sea Discovery/

Sea Discovery (scrapped at Alang 2006).

4. Sylvania                      21,989 GT             22 Nov’56            Fairwind/Dawn Princess/Albatros/Genoa (scrapped at Alang 2004).

The RED NAME was the name used for the voyage to the breakers.

The fourth of the Saxonia Class ships, the Sylvania, became the very last Cunard Liner to be designed exclusively for North the Atlantic trade. As indicated earlier, these ships were typical of the many new passenger liners built in their day they had excellent passenger facilities, as well as having extensive cargo capacities. Each ship had three holds forward and three holds aft.

These liners closely followed the Dutch Holland America Line liners, the SS Ryndam (1951) and Maasdam (1952) were built to have Tourist Class occupy the vast majority of the ship, with Tourist Class offering greatly improved comforts and new facilities. Whilst First Class was a more intimate style and a rather exclusive style of travel! Thus, we would assume that Cunard took the idea from Holland America, as it proved to be a huge success for that company!

Regarding the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Carinthia accommodated 154 to 174 First Class (pending on the use of interchangeable cabins), and 682 to 714 Tourist Class passengers. Thus, this made the Saxonia Class Liners, like the Dutch, were revolutionary ships for their day!

All four ships were placed on the Liverpool, Canada service as well as operating to the USA, for they would sail to Quebec City and Montreal. But it would be during the icy winter months that they were rerouted on the Liverpool, Cobh, Halifax to New York service.

Cunard postcard – RMS Ivernia

From the author’s collection

RMS Carinthia

The Carinthia was launched by HRH Princess Margaret on December 14, 1955 with pomp and great ceremony. She made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Montreal on June 27, 1956.

Although the Carinthia had to be built within the maximum dimensions that would allow her to reach Montreal, which is nearly a thousand miles up the St Lawrence waterway, she like her sisters she offered all the traditional Cunard standards of luxury and elegance. This was particularly noticeable in her public rooms, in which all the traditional delightful period styles of décor were recreated. The large Tourist Class Restaurant was bright with Pompeian decorative colourings of black, terra cotta, and green. The First Class Smoking Room, had elegant oak-panelled walls, and her windows were mullioned in blue hide that recalled the stout comfort of Tudor England! The First Class Lounge reflected the elegance of 18th.century France, whilst the Main Lounge was decorated in Regency style.

See RMS Carinthia’s Inaugural Brochure.

Like her three sisters, the Carinthia featured a magnificent balconied Cinema, as well as a Tourist Class Soda Fountain for the younger travellers onboard. With the ship being fully air-conditioned and stabilised, this ensured a comfortable Atlantic crossing making the Saxonia sisters a popular mode of travel between the UK, Canada and North America!

During the fifties and early sixties, they plied the Atlantic, carrying significant numbers of passengers. One of these being Mr. Phillip Wood, who was aged 25 when he boarded the RMS Saxonia on May 2, 1956, for a voyage from Liverpool to Montreal via Greenock and Quebec. When he wrote me in 2006 he was a young 71 years of age, and residing in the UK. He kindly sent me several images from the pages taken from the “Passenger List” of his sailing as well as a drawing. These can be seen on a separate page, see the Index at the bottom: “Passenger list images.”

Changes for Saxonia & Ivernia

These four fine liners continued to ply the Atlantic until 1962, when it was felt they needed to be substantially upgraded. Three ships where given substantial refits between 1962 and 1965 providing them with additional features, including the installation of private facilities to 60% of the accommodations.

After their refits the Saxonia was renamed TSS Carmania, whilst the Ivernia was renamed TSS Franconia. The were big changes made externally to these two these ships with a new colour scheme being the same as the famed super luxury Cunard cruise ship SS Caronia being that well known and much loved (by some) two tone green cruise livery. In addition, the aft decks had been extended further aft as well as the removal of the four aft kingposts and derricks and a pool installed. The Tourist Class Main Lounge also being the Grand Ballroom was heightened up a full deck with a grand staircase aft leading to the upper level surrounding balcony.

Accommodations were now as follows:

TSS Carmania: 117 First Class and 764 Tourist Class and she was registered as being 22,592 GRT.

TSS Franconia: 119 First Class and 728 Tourist Class, and registered at 22,637 GRT.

A postcard of the TSS Carmania & Franconia in their cruise ship livery, showing their stylish new aft extensions

From the author’s collection

However, the green livery certainly did not prove to be popular and in 1967 both ships were painted the more popular cruising all white, which was a vast improvement! Considering the both ships had already received brand new lido decks, with an attractive kidney shaped swimming pool, with a wading pool, and floor to ceiling window enclosures on both sides made these ships look very smart in their new white livery.

The Carmania seen in her bright new white livery and looking rather smart!

This photo was taken at Famagusta in Cyprus around 1970

Photograph by © Peter Dixon

However, overall the new venture just did not work for Cunard and these ships were losing them far too much money. With sadness in 1971, the Carmania and Franconia were laid up and they were both sold to the Russian buyers in 1973:

TSS Carmania (ex Saxonia) became TSS Leonid Sobinov for the Black Sea Shipping Company flying the Russian flag until 1990 when she was reregistered in Malta. She was laid up in 1995 in Iliychevsk Ukraine, in order for her to have mechanical repairs and a refit, however, as many expected, who knew better, she remained there for eight long years idle, until December 1998 when she sailed for Alang India where she was broken up in 1999.

However, she did enjoy many years of cruising and spent considerable time in he author’s country cruising for the 100% Russian owned cruise Company that had its HQ in England, CIC Cruises.

Her sister, TSS Franconia (ex Ivernia) became TSS Fedor Shalyapin for the Far Eastern Shipping Company. This ship became very special to the author because of my close involvement with her having operated her in Australia. Her story can be found in a separated feature and a link is placed in the Index at the bottom of this page – “Fedor Shalyapin.”

Carinthia & Sylvania

Out of the three ships that did receive a refit, the Carinthia missed out on both a refit as well as a name change and she continued on her regular Trans Atlantic service with the occasional cruise. However, the baby of the fleet, the Sylvania did received a refit, but sadly hers had not been quite as substantial as the first two ships and she did not have her aft decks extended nor the Main Lounge and Ball Room raised up a deck. But she did receive the additional private facilities to 60% of her accommodations. In addition she also retained her original name. From this time she operated both Trans Atlantic crossings more regular cruises.

A superb illustration depicting the RMS Carinthia on the St Lawrence River, Canada

The same image as is used on the traditional Cunard Carinthia postcard

From the author’s collection

Carinthia and Sylvania like their sisters the Carmania ex Saxonia and Franconia ex Ivernia’s careers were soon overtaken by air travel, thus both ships were encountering severe financial losses and Cunard decided to withdraw Carinthia and Sylvania from service in December 1967. They were laid up in Southampton and placed on the market. In 1968 they were purchased by the Italian Shipping Company Sitmar Lines, and it will become obvious that their ocean going days were far from over as this feature will reveal!

Sitmar Cruises newly rebuilt 5 Star luxury cruise ship the, TSS Fairwind as seen in her first year of 1972

From the author’s collection


The ex RMS Carinthia was re-launched as Sitmar Cruises superb, TSS Fairsea in 1971, but P&O purchased Sitmar in 1988

and she became the Princess Cruises’ Fair Princess and was a luxurious and a beautiful ship indeed!

From the author’s collection

Please Note: This feature is currently being updated and this is the first page being worked on, thus all pages following are yet to be done. Thus go and view them by all means, but return in the future for there will be many new images and details!

Also note the NEW page: RMS Carinthia’s Inaugural Brochure and that is really a superb page, so full of pictorial history!



Please Note - Each page has a link to the next chapter

Page 1 – Foreword – Construction – NEW - RMS Carinthia’s Inaugural Brochure

Page 2 – Sitmar buys Carinthia and Ivernia – Sisters go Russian

Page 3 - Fairwind / Fairsea – Sitmar sold to P&O Princess Cruises

Page 4 – The Fairstar the Australian connection

Page 5 – Fair Princess becomes an Aussie

Page 6Passenger list images

Page 7Albatros ex Dawn Princess / Fairwind / Sylvania / Ivernia

Saxonia – Passenger list images

Fair Princess Photo Album – Exteriors - PLEASE NOTE: this page is being Updated:

Fair Princess Photo Album - Interiors

Fedor Shalyapin - ex Franconia / Ivernia

China Sea Discovery – ex Fair Princess / Fairsea / Fairland / Carinthia

China Sea Discovery Photo Album

China Sea Discovery Saga

Photographic Sources on these pages

All photographs are by the author, or from the author's private collection, unless mentioned otherwise ~ Fairsea in Juneau Alaska - Luca Ferrerio ~ Fair Princess (Princess Cruises) - Marvin Jensen ~ Pacific Sky – Marion Carter ~ China Sea Discovery - Kiwi Marine Consultants Ltd, Hong Kong ~ Photographer of Fedor Shalyapin laid up, and other ‘*unknown’ photographers - please see the photo notes at bottom of page.


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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on only), in order that due credit may be given.

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!


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