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With Reuben Goossens

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

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure! 


Orient Line / P&O Lines

S.S. Oronsay

Rick’s 1962 World Voyage

Sailing Westward from San Francisco to London

With Rick Danley


 A stern view of the Oronsay taken from a tender


Page Two

Manila to Port Said & a Tour of Cairo

Friday July 20 – Manila.

Oronsay is not scheduled to dock in Manila until 8 P.M. Today’s Events advises that several points of interest can be seen “… if the visibility is good”. Unfortunately, Oronsay has sailed into the teeth of a typhoon. The ship rolls one way and then the other. The stabilizers provide no relief as they are not used in really rough weather (they could break off). Sea sickness is rampant throughout the ship though I have no problem. Actually, I love it. I even go on deck to get rained on.

As Oronsay docks, rays of the setting sun finally break through illuminating water cascading down Manila’s streets. Two nightclub tours are offered, one of which features jai-alai, of which I was familiar from TV. There is also something about “three free drinks”. Coca-Cola would do fine for me. When I ask about going, my dad tells me I “don’t want to see that”. Wait until I grow up.

Saturday July 21.

Oronsay will sail at 5:30 P.M. The sights from the next three stops at Manila, Singapore and Colombo rather blur together. For one thing, they all reeked with humidity. In Manila, rain threatens all day. We visit the U.S. Military cemetery, my Father was a Navy veteran. I learn from our driver that “jitney” is a word coined in the Philippines for their distinctive little three-wheeled motor cars. There was an old internment barracks where hundreds, if not thousands, of Filipino citizens died during the war. Beyond that, there is little I recall.

A typical local Manila street scene


Entrance to the U.S Military Cemetery


The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tonight there was dancing in the Ballroom to Oronsay’s orchestra and Housie in the Lounge.

Sunday July 22.  

Church services in the morning and “Onward Christian Soldiers” is sung. Bridge in the afternoon and there is a double feature in the evening: “Singapore Stopover” (a documentary - we will be there on Tuesday) and “Posse From Hell” with Audie Murphy. In all it is a day best spent near the pool.  

Monday July 23.

We are not far from the equator though we never do cross it. I was already a trusty Shellback from my trip on Del Sud two years earlier.  However, I regret that I never get to take part in a crossing ceremony from the Shellback side. My tan is staggering. I’ve never had one this good and more sunny days lie ahead. There’s deck competitions, the Interest Talk is about “British Flags”, other events are taped music of Bruch and Schubert in the Starboard Gallery, dancing, and Housie in the lounge (tickets are only one shilling each now, although the prize pot has been reduced to match).

Tuesday July 24 - Singapore.

Around 5 A.M., Oronsay is off Horsburgh Lighthouse which marks the eastern Entrance to the Singapore Strait. The pilot is aboard about 6:30 and we are docked at eight. Sailing time is tomorrow morning around 9:30.

We strike out on our own. I recall lunch or brunch at the Raffles Hotel. I recall this magnificent estate, one of the most impressive dwellings I have ever seen. I recall an unknown soldier memorial. However today, if I saw its picture I would be hard pressed to tell whether it was Singapore or Manila. I recall being very conscious of my feet swimming in my shoes. It was the worst they ever felt.

The Sultan’s Palace at Jahore Malaysia just across the causeway from Singapore

Nights in port ranged from the mundane to the intriguing. These are not the ethereal nights at sea. On board, more lights are turned on. The superstructure (including the funnel) is lit. More crew are about. A staffed checkpoint is at the gangway entrance. By today’s standards, Oronsay’s security would be considered laughable. To tell the truth, in Hong Kong, I thought I could pretty much walk on and off the ship unchallenged.

Singapore was just one of the seven nights Oronsay spent in port during my time aboard. Couple this with several very late night sailings and I came to know ports after dark. At least, I knew the dock areas. I was well aware that piers were often in a rougher area of town. Bars, tattoo parlors, muggers all were down there (at least, so I was told). Was it possible to still be shanghaied? When Oronsay sailed, however, throngs of well-wishers descended, and the docks for the while dropped that foreboding aura.

Of the full night stays in port, Hong Kong is most memorable. After dark, the city is dazzling. Oronsay seemed in the middle of it all. A million lights of civilization cascaded down the hillsides into pools of luminescence framing the harbor. The water was delineated by the lights of all the craft with their reflections shimmering on the surface. Large liners like Arcadia were stunning. Oronsay, herself, remained festive throughout the night. The crew was relaxed. Shore leave was evident. Hong Kong was the friendliest of waters.

Nights in Yokohama and Kobe were a bit chilly, and it had rained in Kobe. Manila was steeped in extra humidity from the typhoon. Singapore was hardly different except the clouds weren’t as thick.

Judging Singapore by its docks at night is probably unfair. Still, it is part of the experience. Unfortunately, there is something about hot and humid that renders most impressions rather listless. It just wears you down after a while. Added to that is the docks (at the time) were somewhat west of the city and out of the way, non vibrant.

I know I was on deck in Singapore. I’d found it difficult to sleep when Oronsay wasn’t making her customary creaking. Perhaps I thought I might be missing something by not being there. While no formal shipboard events took place in port, the public rooms remained open and staffed. Tired from the sightseeing, most passengers, including my parents go off to their cabins. There was a Malayan night club tour offered. I really am curious to find out what a “floor show” is, though I know my parents have no interest in me learning.

Wednesday July 25.

Oronsay sails at 9:30 A.M. Another Gurkha fife-and-drum band serenades our departure. I am hit with a dose of reality when I realize that in just three weeks, the voyage will end. A conclusion which had once seemed so distant is now on the horizon. I recall a slight uneasiness creeping into each reading of Today’s Events.

This morning, we are three days out of Colombo. Land remains in sight for much of the day as Oronsay sails through the 430 mile long, 30 mile0 wide Malacca Strait.

The Interest Talk is “Ocean Currents”. The Interest Talks have done little to fire my imagination. They are on tape and played in the Starboard Gallery (there was also a Port Gallery), a public room of which I have little memory. As I recall, not everyone was there to listen.  Conversations, card games, disinterested readers and the like competed with the detached voice droning over the speakers. These talks would soon be moved to the Ballroom.

3 Travelogue films on Tasmania, Australia, and British Inns are screened in the afternoon and a Carnival Dance for after dinner.

Today’s Events also solicits volunteers for a “Passenger’s Concert” on Friday night.

Thursday July 26.  

Deck competitions continue and the “Freak Ships” Interest Talk is rerun. Additionally, there is bridge, cricket practice, and cha-cha lessons.  Tonight’s film is “Rear Window” again. It is shown not as per usual in the Ballroom, but in an open-air setting on A Deck adjacent to the pool.

At 6 A.M. Oronsay entered the Indian Ocean. Around Mid-day, Pulo Weh a mountainous island off Sumatra is visible.

Friday July 27.

Besides the lecture today entitled “The Sea.” There are Deck Completions, Light Music, and two other big events are on Oronsay’s schedule.

The first is Frog Racing at 5 P.M. in the Ballroom. This is another of Oronsay’s unique events. Flat wooden frogs are jerked along a string set close to the floor. The string is anchored to chairs set at one end of the Ballroom, a ‘jockey’ tugging on the string is at the other. The anchor chairs, however, are not heavy enough to remain motionless when the jockey pulls. Consequently, to my horror and dismay, I and two friends are among those enlisted to sit on the chairs for additional weight. The reason for the dismay is that my two friends were from Tourist Class.  

Those who have seen Leonardo di Caprio in “Titanic” will well remember the locked gates separating the classes on the doomed ship. On P&O Orient Line it wasn’t so diabolical. Public thresholds between First and Tourist were merely marked by signs though I do perhaps recall doors which could be shut. That, however, does not mean Oronsay’s stewards were casual about the intermingling of classes, especially among the kids. Adults who strayed between classes without the proper authorization might be civilly reminded and asked not to do it again. Kids, though, they pursued, in a dignified sort of manner, with loud voices to alert any brethren of the danger headed their way.

While crossing the Pacific, I had been well aware that there were kids my age in Tourist Class. Early on, taunts were hurled between First Class kids on the Sun Deck and Tourist Class kids on their side of A-Deck (the open deck at the stern). But, the competitiveness soon dissipated. Back then, all my friends were from First Class. However, my two best friends left Oronsay in the Orient. Now, I had made two more, Frank and Joey, who both travelled in Tourist. As I recall, I got to know them in Hong Kong when, in port, Oronsay was more open with a single gangway in First Class serving both classes.

With Frank and Joey, I attended some Tourist Class events, Frog Races also (a much more raucous affair); and movies, the same ones as First Class, but on different days and times. For someone wanting to go between First and Tourist Classes, it was not all that difficult. It was generally a matter of opportunity and timing. One wanted to avoid inquiring stewards en route. Aft of C-Deck was always a good entry point.  The Clinic, which served both classes, kept its threshold open. Tension decreased the further one moved away. For one thing, Tourist Class stewards paid less attention than their First Class colleagues, and, of course, there were not as many. And, perhaps they simply assumed that no one from First Class would want to bother visiting the common Tourist Class.

Getting Frank and Joey to come the other direction, was difficult at first. They were nervous. Could you actually be confined to your cabin, if caught? Would pool privileges be revoked? Nonetheless, they got up their courage and found a way. Fortunately, if they needed to get out of sight, they could duck into my cabin. They wore shoes to aid in anonymity. It made them look like “good” kids, as opposed to sneaky types who might be trying to get away with something. They didn’t use the pool. We never played deck games in the Arena. We tried to be inconspicuous and yet, do things. Which, of course, was when we sweated the most since there was First Class personnel at every event.  For Frank and Joey the extra space after being hemmed in Tourist Class for so long was refreshing. So much more deck space open to the sun; big, uncluttered public rooms; sweeping views of the sea. (I also got them into see The Flat, a real educational experience for Tourist Class kids). The Sun Deck, Oronsay’s uppermost, was a favorite spot. It was very compact and located aft, just above The Grill - Oronsay’s classiest restaurant. The view of the pools and lower decks were framed by the sea and ever-changing shades of blue churning up in Oronsay’s wake. Up there, besides Oronsay’s Tennis courts, Deck Tennis is very strenuous, was sheltered from the sun and wind. Most adults preferred The Arena, with its exciting forward views, nice wicker furniture, windowed walls to deflect the wind, and numerous courts for Quoit Toss, a rather docile game. The Sun Deck was younger, more adventurous, more out of the way, and less frequented by stewards, always a good selling point.

Compared to First Class, Tourist seemed turmoil of humanity. Over half of Oronsay’s 1100-1200 passengers were allotted the aft quarter of the ship and the lowest decks. It’s my understanding that passengers in Tourist paid dirt cheap fares as the operation of the ship was largely underwritten by those in First. This was a reminder that Oronsay was a passenger ship. . Even in the early 1960s, people still used ships as a mode of transportation. P&O Orient Lines tapped very deeply into this market.

Nonetheless, Tourist Class was cramped. The airiness of First evaporated. There were no long promenade decks. The vantage points to watch the goings-on at sea and in port weren’t as numerous and the views much less favorable. The hallways weren’t as wide. The lighting seemed harsher. Two (or more!) people were placed in cabins smaller than my single.

And thus, when asked by the Frog master at the First Class Frog Races to provide the necessary mass to the chairs, we gulped and dutifully took our positions. Since the frogs started at our end, we were sitting there for all to see. But, we looked respectable, so I was hopeful. As the races progressed, we became more relaxed as for today, it seemed we would escape harassment. Nonetheless, there was always an edge to being with friends, especially when they came to visit me.

I am seen in the middle at the frog races in the checked shirt looking at my friend

That night was also the Passengers’ Concert. I don’t recall any memorable performances. Of the scheduled eight “items”, two were singers, two were pianists, there was a gentleman “and partner in ‘THE TANGO’” (I do vaguely remember two people swirling around), an ensemble called “SEXY - SICKS” (of which there were seven). Item #1 and Item #8 were community singing.

The concert programme

My concert program, however, included a special handwritten item: “Item #4 1/2 - 2 Performing Carpet Beetles”. Carpet beetles had become a running joke, courtesy of our favorite English couple, the Hills from Hampshire. When shortly out of Long Beach, Oronsay’s carpets were steam cleaned, Mr. Hill brazenly started a rumor that it was because of carpet beetles and forever after, any problem aboard Oronsay was blamed on carpet beetles. The lifts weren’t working? The carpet beetles. The postponement of an event? They had discovered carpet beetles at the last moment. Indeed, after leaving Japan, Mr. Hill solemnly rewarded me with a JTB (Japan Travel Bureau) pin telling me that the initials actually stood for Junior Tracking Beetler, and please do keep up my vigilance. Mr. and Mrs. Hill often joined us for Housie and completed our syndicate for the Syndicate Quizzes. Mrs. Hill dazzled me with her ability to write not just with both hands, but also with her gift of writing with her right hand and simultaneously writing a mirror image with her left.

Saturday July 28 - Colombo.

Despite complaining about the sweltering heat, my Father nixes my plea to wear flip-flops ashore. The request had been something of a ploy as I had hoped that might make him look favorably upon my sneakers, but they don’t win approval either. Neither does he much like me wearing deck pants as they are “too casual”.

A view of the bay as we arrive in Colombo

Thus at 10 A.M., when Oronsay anchors off shore, I am fully attired as a launch takes us to the city.  I have a bad feeling today will be tedious. Our passports are checked upon docking. The last launch back to Oronsay departs at 5:15 for the 6 P.M. sailing.

Oronsay seen from the tender as we go ashore

We again shun Oronsay’s tour and this time to our near regret. As previously mentioned, l remember little of this portion of the trip. I know we bought a few carved items, we visited a zoo as well as Mt. Lavinia, I had my picture taken with a monk somewhere along the way and I saw my first snake-charmer.

Rick is seen here with a Buddhist monk at a Temple in Colombo

I forget the details of why my parents and I happened to be walking along this wide, but lightly trafficked Colombo street. I imagine we had just been to our last souvenir shop or had seen our last sight. Maybe we had stopped at a hotel for some refreshments and realized we were only three or four blocks from the launch and decided to walk the distance.

Though the street seemed major, it was four, if not six, lanes, yet I recall little traffic. The late afternoon the Ceylonese sun seemed little different than high noon, perhaps more yellow in nature. We walked directly into its glare. I and my Mom were a bit ahead of my dad. As I passed a doorway to my left, out sprung an elderly man with no hands and no feet.  Just stumps.  I mean, he hobbled on all fours.  In retrospect, however, his sudden entrance was a well practiced. I was, as the British say, ‘gob smacked’. I had been to New York enough to know about muggers, but this was completely unimaginable. I was too stunned to recoil. Outwardly oblivious, I continued on with my Mom and tried to comprehend what I had seen. I wondered if I even had seen it. I returned to reality when I heard my dad start to swear up a storm (he had been in the Navy). The crippled man had moved further out into the sidewalk and had been joined by a female who had come up from behind. This maneuver forced my Father closer to the buildings where the woman went to work. He said later that he could feel his wallet sliding ever so steadily from his back pocket.

I haven’t yet mentioned that my dad was a photographer, and a very good one. For our vacations, his preferred medium was movies, 16mm movies. And thus, when forced to defend for his wallet, he found out just how solid his oversized Bolex camera was. A couple of energetic swings from his camera-cum-weapon caused the assailants to back off and give up, presumably to try again on some other unsuspecting tourist.

And, we continued on. I remained stunned as my parents chattered about the incident. From their point of view, we returned to the ship with an exciting story. But, I wasn’t as enthusiastic. I remained ‘agitated’, for lack of a better word. Ultimately, it became great sport for my dad to tell the tale, but I never wanted to talk about it. To this day I still remember that man’s face.

A wonderful lady, Dr. Indu Dave, who now lives in the USA I believe

Kandyan dancers appeared in the ballroom before sailing, and that night there was Housie, the first five games were one schilling each and the final game two shillings. Uninterested, I recall saving my money and passing the time on the Sun Deck with my Tourist Class pals. Besides, tonight, I was defiantly barefoot and even the middling formality of the lounge during Housie held little appeal.

Sunday July 29.

One day out of Bombay. The Rosary and Divine services were in the morning. And then at noon, the infamous Interest Talk on “Stabilizers” - this time spelled with an ‘s’ - is given. A new Bridge tournament “to be completed before arrival Naples” begins. Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto are today’s recorded selections. There is also a “Passengers versus Ship’s Officers” cricket match. The ‘ground’ is on the port side of the Stadium Deck beneath the funnel. Long wide cage netting defines the playing area. I watch just a bit and have little idea of what is going on. Something tells me that much of the integrity of the game is being sacrificed here. A few days earlier inside the net, I had terrified an English friend by throwing him a baseball pitch instead of a cricket bowl. How was I to know you were supposed to bounce it? “Good God, man!” he had yelled.

That night we celebrate Frank’s impending farewell in Bombay by watching “Come September” with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida in the First Class ballroom. I save some seats in the front row and Frank and Joey slip into place just as the lights go down.

This was a reality about long-haul passenger ships. I had experienced it before. You know people for a few weeks or even just a few days and they become great friends, as good as any you ever know. And then they vanish. The ship docks and they go their own way. They go their own way forever. Paths are unlikely ever to cross again, certainly as kids. Thus, there’s a poignancy to these friendships which doesn’t manifest itself until much later.

Monday July 30 - Bombay.

Oronsay won’t dock until 2 PM. The day becomes greyer with each passing hour. There is so much smog, and the humidity is debilitating. Even if the pool were open, it would be an unpleasant swim. As it is, every time I go on deck, I return dripping wet. I dread the prospect of putting shoes on to go ashore. I’m not sure they have completely dried out from Colombo, but I know it is useless to ask for anything else. The approach to Bombay by sea is billed as one of the most “delightful” a traveller can experience. Perhaps, on some days, it is.

Arriving in Bombay

My memory of Bombay, however, is energized by Sam the Worst, dealer in “Curios, Carpets, Sarees, Stoles, Silk Jewelry, Post Cards, Stamps, All Kinds of Precious & Semi Precious Birth Stones”. Sam came highly recommended to us by friends. We had his number and planned to call as soon as we got in.

“Sam the Worst”

Of course, he is waiting for us at the gangway. We have eight hours in port, and Sam gives us a full eight hours. There is the obligatory snake charmer dressed in rags. There is the Gateway to India. There is the communal laundry, this, in itself, seemed a major contributor to the cloud hanging over the city. There are the “women behind bars”. I was uncertain as to what this meant.

Memories were jogged slightly by the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. I know I was at the Taj Hotel. My picture of the Gateway to India Arch places me there. It’s probable I went inside; it’s even possible I ate a meal. I may have a memory of the facade. A half century later, I could have been at grave risk at that spot.

The Gate of India opposite the Taj Hotel

After the sights, Sam took us to his flat and displayed his wares. I still have an interesting knife from his fine stock. On the way back to the ship, we stop at a tea/bar establishment (for lack of a better description) for late refreshments. Just a local watering hole really - some additional color. Yet, a memory remains. The place seemed rooted in the 30s. Tall ceilings set with twirling fans. A well-worn white tile floor reflects light and sounds. I remember the atmosphere as much as the place itself. The muggy weather outside adds to the ambiance.  Unlike the Japanese, Indians paid no attention to westerners in their midst.

Prior to sailing, some local performers come aboard to entertain in the Ballroom and my dad picks out a familiar face. It’s the snake charmer from earlier in the day. But, now, instead of rags, he is dressed in glorious flowing silks. He and my dad seem to share a good laugh about his miraculous rags-to-riches transformation.  My dad reports that when asked about the dangers of working with a cobra, the charmer told him that the snake had been defanged.  “Are you crazy?” he is alleged to have said.

Barefoot. As ten o’clock comes and goes, I patiently wait on A-deck for Oronsay to sail. After squishing around Bombay all day, I am finally free. My parents socialize in the lounge. There is hardly anyone on deck or on the pier. I well remember our midnight departures from Long Beach and Honolulu being lively affairs.  This, however, was deadly.  The pier is only lit by a few streetlamps.  The humidity stifles their already dim light. I don’t want to miss the sailing, yet no one else seems to care. I presumed there must be some dockworkers below waiting in the shadows to cast off lines, but activity is sparse. The longer I wait, the fewer on deck. People are tired; the air-conditioning too comfortable. But, my bare feet have perked me up.

After a bit, I spot a lone figure, constantly looking up, searching the railings for someone aboard ship. For some moments, I watch as he wanders aimlessly. However, after piercing the dimness, I realize it to be Frank. I shout some greetings and then race a circuitous route down staircases and hallways to Tourist Class. I literally drag Joey from his bunk and we hoof it up to the Tourist Class section of B-Deck at the stern. It’s lower and we don’t have to yell to be heard. We have only a few minutes for some final memories (with, of course, solemn promises to write) before Oronsay starts drifting away. Nonetheless, it was a unique experience to be on a departing ocean liner and have the only person to see the ship off be there to wave goodbye to you and a friend.

Tuesday July 31.   

We will be largely at sea for several days which suits me fine. This is also my morning to tour the engine room. It might be prudent for me to wear shoes down there, I suppose. But since my Father has already had his tour and won’t be along, I decide wear my sneakers.

The official invite for me to visit the engine room

I would hardly call it a room either. It resembles a factory. It’s immense. I try to imagine how such a gigantic space can fit into Oronsay and still leave room for everything else. Metal catwalks vie with pipes of all shapes and sizes.  Valves and meters dot the landscape. I stand within two meters of a propeller shaft whirling much faster than I had imagined. It also hit me then that I was 30 feet under the water. I imagine conditions are a far cry better from the days when guys were stoking coal into the boilers.  Still, all this is going on while I have fun in the pool.

The rest of day is routine but, two weeks from tomorrow, it’s all over. I try to think of nothing but the pool. It would be nice if it was open at night. All the regular events are on today’s schedule. Housie, progressive housie, cha-cha, deck competitions, light music, and “Winds and How They Are Caused” for the Interest Talk.

As long as the pool is open, whatever events occur are fine by me. Routine events don’t get me down. But, for the food! Seemingly, overnight a malaise set in as it’s become beyond mundane. Everything tastes dreary. The smell of the dining room, itself, numbs my appetite. I linger over the menu hopeful of finding an entrée to liven up the meal; something to make me feel it has been worth my while to have donned a jacket, tie and shoes. It’s the same food I liked at the start of the voyage, and still prepared to same high standard. But, dinner has become drudgery. The Verandah buffet is a welcome relief, though on days when there is none, lunch and dinner blur together.

There will be a brief stop for fuel in Aden on Friday, but nothing major until Monday when Oronsay transits the Suez Canal.

Wednesday August 1.

There is plenty to do today. There are 4 travelogue films on Australia, also some Grieg and Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos, and the Interest Talk is on “Charts”. Tonight, the Syndicate Quiz makes its return.

At the Syndicate Quiz, thanks to some sharp answers from my dad and Mr. Hall, we finish third. Unfortunately, our prize is a bottle of champagne which does me no good. But, Mr. Hall does lead a hearty toast to me while I sip on ginger ale.

Thursday August 2.  

Today’s Interest Talk is “Dhows” and the movie tonight is “A Taste of Honey”. “Parents are advised that this is an ‘X’ film - adults only.” It gives me an excuse to run off to Tourist Class after dinner.

Today’s Events also has one other announcement of interest to my dad, quite possibly even caused by him: “Attention has been drawn to a number of errors and omissions in the printed passenger lists issued on board. These lists are printed on shore some while before the ship sails, but the inaccuracies are much regretted and will be brought to the attention of those responsible for production.”  

I can understand my Father’s unhappiness. You go on that once-in-a-lifetime round-the-world voyage and not only is your name never in the Passenger List, the quality of “the inaccuracies” is humiliating.

Passenger List booklets were issued on three occasions during the voyage: after sailings from Long Beach, Hong Kong, and Bombay. The one from Long Beach lists only my mother “& 2 children”. My dad had a rueful laugh and notified the Purser’s Office. I, myself, am used to being the “& child”. Therefore, though disappointed to still be saddled with this lowly status, I don’t feel quite so bad. The Hong Kong Passenger List updated our family to my Mom “& child” on one line and then an entire line devoted to myself. My dad again notifies the Purser. Now, his rueful laugh is hardly a laugh, though I must admit I quite enjoy seeing my name in print (preceded by ‘Mtr.’). The final Passenger List, after Bombay, outdoes itself. Our last name is misspelled – an ‘i’ instead of an ‘l’ – but again lists my Mom “& child”, and again gives me my own entry (similarly misspelled). But there’s more. The entry below my name is for my Mom “& 2 children”. But, at least, the name is now spelled correctly.

I am not sure what my Father said to the Purser, but before the voyage was over, we specially received six new Passenger Lists, two of each edition, with corrections pasted over the errors. And though my Father was now properly listed, I was still accorded a line just to myself, proving there were no children in our party.

Friday August 3 – Aden.

I don’t feel real well. The fuel here is like everything else in Aden, cheap. Perhaps, the bleak scenery adds to my stomach upset. My parents go ashore on the launch and I remain aboard watching the fuelling. Little green and yellow ‘BP’ signs dot the fuel lines. At least, I have no reason to bother with shoes. Unfortunately, there is no verandah buffet today, which means lunch in the dining room. There’s the smell of boiled potatoes and buttered cabbage in the air. I use my ill health as a reason to eat little.

Refueling in Aden

My parents have brought me a souvenir of Aden. It’s a rug about four by six feet. On it is a whimsical winter scene from Mother Russia: a large horse drawn sleigh is pursued through a forest by a pack of wolves as one of the passengers shoots them with a rifle. If walked upon, the rug surely would fall apart in a matter of weeks. However, later that year it becomes a most entertaining wall-hanging in my freshman dorm room.

A few hours out of Aden, Oronsay enters the Red Sea.

Saturday August 4.

A perfect day for Aquatic Competitions. Though the sun is fierce, I haven’t worried about burning since Hawaii.

A busy day and full of fun!

I do the diving-for-spoons. I don’t win, but I do pretty well.  I’m used to the pool and opening my eyes in the salt water.  I can stay under a long time.  As I recall, in order to win, I would have needed bigger hands. This time for the pajama race, “BUTTON UPpajamas are specifically stipulated, capital letters and underlining courtesy of Today’s Events. Had I missed something at the previous pajama race?

Tonight is also the Fancy Dress Parade & Dance, a truly festive occasion. However, I have no imagination. I want to take part, but my heart isn’t into the making of a clever costume. Finally, I go as ‘The Beach Bum’. In other words, my “costume” is to dress pretty much as I usually did when away from the dining room.

Yes Mom also partook in Fancy Dress


 Did I stand a chance of winning? No way!


Win or lose, it was great fun!

I felt fatalistic. Once Oronsay passed through the Suez Canal, London and the homeward-bound trip on Queen Mary would seem very close at hand. I know I didn’t stay around afterwards for the dance. As the voyage wound down and my friends dwindled in number, I found the deck at night more alluring than ever before. Not just at night, but late at night. Late, after the evening’s events had ended. Late, when few, if any, were around. Early in the morning, if you will. Compared to the Pacific run, night roamers on Oronsay were scarce. I liked it better that way. I was drawn to this time. It becomes the essence of my trip.

I’d catch up on sleep during the day by dozing on the Sun Deck, or by the pool; maybe a nap before dinner.  Somewhere around Singapore, I began skipping the uninteresting movies, or I would see them in Tourist Class with Frank and Joey.  I wouldn’t stay for all the Housie games (if I even went at all).  I’d go to my cabin relatively early. This pleased my parents no end as they had thought I needed more sleep.  It made them feel all was well when they, themselves, retired.

Eventually, something in my sleeping brain, triggered by extreme quiet, would wake me.  Always barefoot, I’d climb silently upwards. I wanted no one to know when I came or went. The stairs just outside my B-deck cabin took me directly to the Stadium Deck. On many ships, this would be called the Boat Deck. I’d wander aft and find a secluded length of railing hidden among lifeboats and davits.

Below, torrents of white, and sometimes phosphorescent, froth meet the blackness of the sea. The horizon between ocean and sky vanishes.  The Milky Way shines so brightly that its reflection can be seen upon the water. I’d hear Oronsay’s reassuring hum. I’d feel her vibrations against my feet. Because the rest of the world sleeps, every one of those sensations, as well as a myriad of others, is ever more acutely realized. At these times, only Oronsay and myself sail the great oceans.

Sunday August 5.

A short notice regarding the Gulf of Suez and Mount Sinai

It is a magnificent day. The sun is hot and I can’t get enough of it. I am now so aware that this life on board hasn’t long to go. There’s divine services in the morning, cricket in the afternoon, and Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” in the evening. However, the real excitement is the land visible most of the day, especially in the afternoon as Oronsay sails past the Sinai Peninsula and into the Gulf of Suez. The distant Mt. Sinai quivers in the heat.

I awake after midnight to a different type of quiet. The engines have stopped for it turned out that the Oronsay is at anchor. The sound is eerie. Not at all like being in port. On the Stadium Deck, from my favorite section of railing, I can tell there are many other ships nearby, all awaiting dawn to enter the Suez Canal.

I don’t linger. Oronsay’s funnel is lit, overpowering the Milky Way. There is crew up and about readying the ship for the transit. Tonight, no sea wind blows through my hair, no vibrations pulsate, no seclusion exists.

Besides, I need to sleep. We are leaving for Cairo and the Pyramids at first light.

Monday August 6 - Port Suez to Cairo to Port Said.

Today has been keenly anticipated. The Pyramids were always a focal point. No other individual sight compared. We have chosen BlueBird Travel’s “Quick Trip to Cairo”. The fare is $16.50 each for their Pullman coach excursion. We will rejoin Oronsay at Port Said after she has completed her 14 hour Suez Canal transit.

The Blue Bird tour brochure


 The sticker I had to wear o the tour

The 5:30 A.M. breakfast is a hurried affair. I already feel ragged. Women are directed to bring scarves to cover their heads; men, to wear long pants and bring jackets and ties. Hotels and restaurants would not serve us otherwise. Staying aboard Oronsay for the transit might not have been such a bad option. As we are ferried ashore, I note that the shield on Oronsay’s bow is open, revealing a spotlight. I’d no idea the shield was anything except decoration. I imagined that it was put to use in finding an anchorage during the night.

Of the two and a half hour Pullman Coach (bus) drive to Cairo, I remember nothing. Chances are there was little to remember anyway. Once in Cairo we are allotted the services of individual guides. I am not sure if we did the selecting or vice-versa. Nonetheless, we ended up in the clutches of an older guide wearing a Fez. After Mr. Fez loudly proclaims his name to us, he spells it, and boasts of his lofty status among guides. We are bidden to tell our friends at home to ask specifically for him by name when they come to Egypt. After spelling his name one more time, he beckons us to his motor car.

We are soon on our way to the Pyramids. I suppose that while my perception of them was certainly lofty, I really considered them no different from seeing, for example, the Eiffel Tower. But, as they come into view, I realize how wrong I am. They silhouette starkly against the blue sky.  I wish I had known about polarizer’s, then. The Sphinx, however, seems more a foreground object. The Pyramids are up the hill. Their shape and size, not hindered by any background other than sky, dominate the horizon.

It is like the days of “Lawrence of Arabia” out here, sand everywhere

We spend a fair amount of time though not enough for me to go clamber around the bases or to take more than a cursory glance at The Sphinx. These omissions, I still regret.

Nonetheless, it is possible that the supreme highlight of my entire voyage was riding the camel. Actually, I didn’t ride him. He just stood up with me on his hump. But, when he did, the not-too-distant city of Cairo unfolded before me. Surely, this was how the pharaohs felt. I thought it all pretty neat, but at 13, I was still such a tourist. After dismounting, and seeing I am in such a happy mood, Mr. Fez pulls me aside. He tells me very confidentially that I must let my parents know about the good time I am having so they will give him a “big tip”. This became only the first of his many appeals.

What a great experience and in from of the Pyramids and the Sphinx

For the rest of Cairo, outwardly, I am somewhat subdued. I hoped not to give Mr. Fez another excuse to prod me for the “big tip,” though, ultimately, it did little good.

After donning the jacket and tie, we lunch atop the Nile Hilton. The hotel is very modern and the view, absolutely stellar. I wouldn’t  mind staying here a few days if for no other reason than to watch the river Nile below.  Besides, I am already tired. It’s hot. I’m hating my shoes.  The air conditioning is very nice, and I know we have a long, long day still ahead of us.

Next, Mr. Fez takes us across the way to the Egyptian Museum. The treasures of Tutankhamen are beyond belief. To be able to say this, just hours after standing in the shadow of the Sphinx is incredible. Here is magnificence on a different scale. So much gold laid out in so small an area, and so few people around. I can approach each item and view it closely. Only low barriers separate me from some of the larger artifacts. Perhaps I didn’t fully appreciate all I saw at the time, but I well remember all I saw. Mr. Fez, though, seeing me gaping at the gold burial vault, didn’t miss the opportunity to buttonhole me again for his damn “big tip”.

We see the mummies after Mr. Fez requested an admission fee from us just for the mummy room. We enter through a common doorway, and there they are, numerous pharaohs and queens, each displayed in their own austere wood and glass cabinet. Unlike Tutankhamen’s treasures, the mummies are lit by bland overhead lighting. Little printed cards stuck in a corner of the glass indentifies each mummy. I had not yet read the poem about Ozymandias, but when I did, I thought of me in the Mummy Room. Here was Rameses 2. There was the one with the clubfoot. I remember the detail of their eyelashes and fingernails; of their toes splayed out at cartoonish angles. I doubt many of these royal souls would be pleased to know I had gazed upon their faces. But, if it would help Mr. Fez to his “big tip”, I suppose they would have to bear the ignominity.

Ultimately, Mr. Fez didn’t get “it”. My Father became rather contemptuous of him. Indeed, Mr. Fez had been regularly hitting my dad for extra fees for one reason or another. When my dad meets others from the ship and asks if they had to pay additional beyond stated admission prices, they answer no. Mr. Fez’s “big tip” is doomed.

I was only 13, and it was rather cheesy of Mr. Fez to be after me like that, always waiting until I was out of earshot of my parents (and, at 13, I was always trying to be out of earshot of my parents). Of course, in our country, no reputable guide could get away with such audacity.  But, then again, it was not our country.

In retrospect, I think we should have played along a bit. I think we should have given him a modest tip and laughed about it. We could have let Mr. Fez know we didn’t appreciate his deceit. We could have assured him we would NOT be recommending him to our legions of well-to-do friends about to visit the Pyramids in the coming weeks. But, there was nothing wrong with his tour per se. True, his frequent bouts of self-promotion grew tiresome. Still, my dad needn’t have stiffed the guy like he did. I can’t say I remember Mr. Fez with any great fondness, but I do well remember him; and, ultimately, he deserved more for the memory.

After a dinner on the outskirts of Cairo Ismailia, perhaps, we board the buses for the return to Oronsay. Port Said is another two and a half hours north. It will be well after dark when we arrive. The daylight part of this long drive, however, remains memorable. Our route initially parallels a branch of the Nile. I sit by a window and take charge of my Mom’s slide camera. I snap numerous shots of life along the way. It was the first time I felt truly interested in a foreign culture. I sensed how the river created this great community of all who lived along it. I could see this mosaic of life come together around every bend. I really wanted to get out and experience it firsthand. I pictured myself throwing away my shoes and taking part; of taking rolls and rolls of film. That would be the perfect end to the day. Unfortunately, daydreams like this fall victim to schedules.

At sunset, our caravan of buses stops at the desert’s edge. Everyone gets out for one final stretch before the long haul to Port Said. As we admire long shadows streaking across the desert, a herd of goats conveniently passes by. I race to a strategic spot for a couple of shots.  Had I not been so naive, I would have known the goat herder expected a tip. Nothing in Egypt seems to happen without a tip being involved.

Except for the power lines in the distance, it was like going back to Biblical times!

At very last light, I look down that long ribbon of highway to Port Said. It stretches forever into the sand.

Night falls soon after we are underway. The burden of the long day takes its toll. I sit all the way in back with no one near to me. My parents are several rows in front. In the darkness, I ditch my sand filled shoes and socks. Perhaps, I made sure they would get that way, so I would have the excuse. It is pointless to look out the window. There is only black. I have no way of knowing if we are along the Nile, along the Suez Canal or just in the middle of an ocean of desert. I don’t think I ever fall completely asleep. I may even have tried curling up across the seats. But, for sure, I emerge from the blackness of that final 90 minutes to Port Said, in a zombie-like state.

In Part Three: Returning to the Oronsay and the voyage to Tilbury!


Part One:

SS Oronsay:        This Page covers RMS Oronsay’s complete history.

SS Oronsay:        Page Two contains this fine ships complete Deck Plan!

Part Two:            Rick Danley sails on SS Oronsay’s World Voyage in 1962.

Page One:           Across America / San Francisco to Hong Kong.

Page Two:           Manila to Port Said.

Page Three:        Port Said to London & Epilogue – RMS Queen Mary Trans Atlantic crossing

Page Four:          Voyage memorabilia, menus and other items – further items to come online soon!

Watch the following Pathe films:

This film shows RMS ORONSAY during her very early days!

 This is the continuation of the above film


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