Canberra 1964 to 1997
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Shipping Industry back in 1960 but is now very much retired and I
hope that the well over 625 articles on classic liners and cruise
ships that I have written will continue to inform and also bring
much joy to ship enthusiasts for many more years to come!
the Cruise Ship
Falklands Experience to her Concluding Days!
With 1963 having been a rather poor year for Canberra
with her massive electrical breakdown followed with her lengthy
repairs, together with a refit that took a good four months,
which was obviously very costly for P&O, considering the ship
was just two years old. Yet her first two years had been beset
with ongoing problems and already there even were some who were
talking about this ship would not have a very long life. But
thankfully they would be very wrong, for Canberra did in due
course settle down rather well and she headed of to Australia
again and because of her interior style and comforts, Canberra
became more and more popular with every departure.
we see the P&O-Orient Lines 1964 60 1966 Sailing Schedule for
their comprehensive fleet
According to a Sailing schedule issued for the
SS Canberra, Oriana, Arcadia, Iberia, Himalaya, Chusan, Cathay,
Chitral, Orsova, Orcades and Oronsay; from July 1964 to January
1966 the Canberra and the fleet would be sailing to and from Australia
visiting the following ports of call:
Southampton, Le Havre, Lisbon, Gibraltar,
Barcelona, Marseilles, Naples, Malta, Piraeus, Port Said, Aden,
Bombay, Colombo, Penang, Port Swettenham, Singapore, Fremantle,
Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Savu Savu,
Suva, Pago Pago, Manila, Hong Kong, Kobe, Yokohama, Honolulu,
Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Acapulco,
Panama, Cartagena, Trinidad, Nassau, Port Everglades, Bermuda,
Southampton. Of course, Canberra would not call on all ports
of the great aerial views of the Canberra whilst she was in Sydney
However as the 60s entered the 70s, she
continued her voyages to Australia and then operated several
short cruises out of Sydney and then return home. She departed Southampton
in August to return late December 1972 and operated as follows:
1972/73 Sailing Schedule for the SS Canberra
Southampton, Cherbourg, Port Everglades,
Nassau, Cristobal, Balboa, Acapulco, Los Angeles, San Francisco,
Vancouver, Honolulu, Auckland, Sydney (cruising from Sydney),
Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle, Durban, Cape Town, Madeira, Lisbon,
January to May 1973 was as follows:
Southampton, Tenerife, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne,
Sydney, Auckland, Nuku'alofa, Honolulu, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, Vancouver, Honolulu, Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki, Hong
Kong, Sydney, Auckland, Suva, Honolulu, Vancouver, San Francisco,
Los Angeles, Acapulco?, Balboa, Cristobal, Montego Bay?, Nassau?,
Port Everglades, Lisbon?, Cherbourg?, Southampton.
But sadly, there was one thing that this great
ship simply could not fight, for the signs of the times were
beset with the ever-increasing Jetliners that were now flying the
skies above. In addition, there was a change in thinking within
the Australian Government who were making new decisions. But I
will come to this subject next in Times Are a
Are a Changing:
As the decade continued, passenger loading
began to lessen, being mostly due to emigrants travelling to Australia
were no longer travelling by sea as much for two reasons. 1. The
Australian Government had become much fussier who came and
entered the country, but also 2. Those who did come, the way they
travel. And considering the original flight of the Boeing 747
across the Atlantic with over 350 passengers on board, this
signalled the writing on the wall the ocean liners in general.
But it was more than that, for P&O was well aware the
combination of falling passenger demand combined with the high
fuel costs and thus P&O had to do something else with the Canberra
fast! Therefore, considering that she had considerable success as
a cruise ship, they sadly made a huge mistake, and sent her to New
York where she was to be marketed by Cunard Line for her to
operate cruises to the Caribbean.
Of course, this was the wrong placement, and
thus this new cruise venture not at all successful, considering
that bookings were very low to say the least, and for a large
ship with space for 2,000 passengers for those sailing, It
was like living in a ghost town! Having operated just two
cruises P&O decided on a dramatic move and decided to Lay
Canberra up at anchorage, at the mouth of Cape Fear River. The
closest town was Wilmington which was around 25 miles (40.2
Kilometres) from her anchorage. Therefore if any of her crew had
a desire to go ashore, it took 30 minutes to get there using Canberras
tenders. Usually a local boat came and provided Canberras
crew with deliveries as ordered, including newspapers and mail
and that is why the vast majority of the crew did not even think
of going ashore, as the ship had everything!
The lay-up continued for three long weeks and
for all of this time, things had not looked very good for the Canberra.
There had been great fears for her and there were countless
rumours that she might be sold. But then suddenly, P&O had
her returned to New York and she was made ready to complete her
nine final cruises of her schedule.
However, Canberra somehow managed to continue
with her problems times for she ran aground on Lloyds Shoal
near St. George in Grenada and remained stuck there for three
days. Before she could be moved, fuel had to be pumped from her
in order to re-float her, and during this sadly an accident
occurred and a laundryman Rozario Gomes died when a towline
snapped and it hit him. With Canberra having been freed, it was
just a month later on August 14, Canberra did it all over again,
this time in the US Virgin Islands, but this time it was not her
fault, but being due to extremely high and powerful winds caused
her to drag anchor near the mouth of the port.
Times as P&O seem to decide to Sell:
Then came the news regarding the Canberra,
being just what so many had feared, for P&O London had made a
sudden announcement regarding the beautiful but troubled white
maiden, for they stated that she was to be sold and broken
up, yes to be scrapped. P&O also stated that she was
not suitable for world-wide cruising. And we all know
that P&O really did not know what they were talking about,
for she would prove to be one of the most popular and quite a
profitable liner come cruise ship, even with her fuel bills!
P&O's Richard Adams stated at a press conference that Canberra
had lost £500,000 between February and September 1972. Well, as
an ex professional Cruise Line Executive, all I can say is, how
wrong, stupid and short-sighted P&O management were, for
P&O-Orient stupidly sent the Canberra into the wrong market,
thus placing the Canberra in New York was there at the wrong
time, for she should have been operated out of the England, as
well out of Australia were she was extremely popular!
Apparently Canberra had a scrap value of around
£600,000, but she would fetch a considerable amount more if she
was sold as to another cruise company to be operated as a cruise
ship, but P&O refused this option. Although the idea of
giving the Canberra a new engine was briefly thought about, but
it was not possible due to her deep draught. However, thankfully
P&O changed their mind about disposing of her and decided to
keep her for as it turned out she was loved by the people of Britain
unlike the Americans at that time! SS Canberra was remember
a very British Ship!
New Era - The Era of Cruising:
Whilst Canberra lay stranded, P&O in London
announced that due to a massive up-surge in cruise bookings they
had decided to retain SS Canberra and instead Canberra would take
over next years SS Orsovas 1974-cruise programme. In the
meantime, with fuel being pumped into a barge and with the aid of
two tugs the Canberra was refloated and she continued her voyage.
Thankfully, she had not sustained any actual damage and went on
to complete her American cruise programme. She returned to Southampton
where she would be turned into a full time Cruise Ship!
The Canberra was converted to One-Class Cruise
Chip and she underwent a 10-week refit that saw a good number of
internal alterations. Obviously being a One-Class ship there was
no need for two children's playrooms, thus the original first
class playroom was refitted into the Card Room. The Letter Bureau
on A Deck became the Kiosk and later the Boutique, however
towards the end of Canberra career this was converted to
additional cabins, and the Writing Room on Promenade Deck became
the William Fawcett Shop, later the Ocean Shop.
A good number of cabins had the number of
berths reduced from four to just twin bedded and twin to single
bed cabins, thus reducing the Canberras passenger capacity
to just 1,737 guests.
Once completed, Canberra certainly seemed to in
her element, being based in Southampton during the summer
operating two or three week cruises, then a Christmas/New Year
Cruise, which was followed by a major annual event, a three month
World Cruise. For the most part, she operated
alongside the SS Oriana, except during the northern Hemisphere
autumn when the Oriana was based in Sydney alongside Arcadia
operating Pacific Cruises. there was no doubt about it, P&O
almost made a grave mistake, but then they changed their minds
and discovered that soon after the changes and redirecting her,
the Canberra had finally found her niche! It was in 1977, when
the chairman of P&O announced that the passenger division of
P&O Lines had made a £4.1 million profit in 1976, as opposed
to a huge loss of £6.9 million one year earlier, and whose fault
was that, all due P&Os management bad decisions. But
now they were looking in the right directions!
Sadly in the mid-seventies saw the loss of many
much-loved names from the Register of Ships, such as the Chusan,
Orcades and Iberia; all were scrapped in Asia, then
the greatly loved and my favourite the Himalaya, also the Orsova
and Oronsay followed the first three to go. No longer
would these wonderful ships need to be employed relocating
passengers from one part of the world to another as Jet
Liners would do that far more efficiently in those days of
the Passenger Liners, but it was not as much fun great food and
excitement of all the great ports visited, just a boring flight
and really bad in-flight food. Shipping had entered a whole new
era, for now it was an era of cruising!
In 1980 P&O introduced the theme
cruises and on board there were professional entertainers,
who were employed on the all-modern cruise ships. This would
involve inviting guest lecturers and various specialty acts and
celebrities on board to conduct additional special-interest
talks, concerts and classes or arrange games. Themes included
golf, bridge, and sequence dancing and later classical music,
newcomers and newlyweds.
As the 1980s was approaching it became well
known that the cost of fuel was increasing steeply and that fares
simply had to be increased. Therefore in 1979 the Canberra was
dry-docked in Southampton and she was given her annual refit
during which time two new re-designed propellers were fitted.
Apparently this in conjunction with new combustion equipment that
would mean that the Canberra would steam a little slower and
therefore she would burn less fuel and thus be more economical to
we see Canberra in Dry-Dock in late 1979 with work to her
propellers and other vital work
Canberra returned to service and her
ever-popular cruise programme out of Southampton. Over the years
I have obtained many brochures and I have boxes full of them and
I am using a few on this feature, but there was also the 1982
cruise brochure, which is of particular interest. As we know the Canberra
did not complete all her cruise duties due to a tragic War
breaking out in the Falklands!
were two versions of this brochure, and Advance
Programme and the official brochure, which I have
On April 2, 1982 the Argentine forces launched
an invasion of the British Falkland Islands or as the
Argentineans preferred to call it Islas Malvinas.
With the said invasion, the Ministry of Defence requisitioned a
task force consisting of a good number of warships, fleet
auxiliaries, as well as ships taken up from trade or
STUFT, and it was decided that the SS Canberra would
also be requisitioned to be part of STUFT and be used
as a troopship.
However, on Friday April 2, 1982 as the
invasion was taking place, the Canberra was heading home to
Southampton from her 1984 World Cruise and she was
sailing in the Mediterranean Sea. The Captain received a message
late in the day from Head Office asking for the ship's ETA at the
Port of Gibraltar. Then, a slightly later another message
instructed the ship to rendezvous with a launch as she passed
through the Strait where she was to take on board a small group
of officials and they would brief the Captain and his officers
about what was would be an interesting assignment
after they had arrived back in Southampton.
The facts were that a day earlier, some seven
thousand miles away, whilst Canberras passengers were
enjoying the delights of Naples, an Argentine Army stood at the
ready to invade the Falklands that took place early the next
morning April 2, and they soon seized control of the Falkland
Thus, the British Government rapidly assembled
a task force consisting of warships, fleet auxiliaries and
ships taken up from trade or STUFT. The Canberra was
going to be part of STUFT. The men who had boarded the ship were
Commandos as well as Admiralty officials who commenced making
preparations for Canberras transformation into a troopship
and to make her fully capable of operating with at least two
helicopters. Thus, even before she was home in Southampton,
Vosper Thornycroft had been given detailed plans of the
Observation Deck and Crow's Nest, as well, as the Bonito pool and
surrounding area. These locations would have to be speedily
transformed into helicopter pads.
Canberra arrived home to Southampton at 7.30 AM
on April 7, 1982 and she happily but speedily offloaded her
passengers and as soon as they had left the wharf, the hard work
commenced at full speed. Military officials from Naval Party (NP)
1710 boarded and they took up headquarters at Steiners. A good
number of workers from Vosper Thornycroft helicopters
swarmed all over the ship preparing her and parts of the railings
along sections of Games Deck were removed to facilitate the
landing of their helicopters. In addition, hundreds of tons of
stores and military material and equipment was loaded.
At the time, Canberras future role was
still very much unknown or even where she would be able to bunker
or re-supply, for she needed the ability to replenish her stores,
whilst she was at sea, etc!
Members of 40 and 42 Commando Royal Marines and
3 Para embarked the Canberra and P&Os Captain Dennis
Scott-Masson was in charge of the ship and her overall safety.
However, Captain Chris Burne was the Senior Naval Officer (SNO)
and thus he had overall military control onboard.
Amazingly, just three days in Southampton and
the Canberra had been transformed from a luxury Cruise Ship to a
battle-ready trooper. Now being ready, she departed at 8 PM on
Friday April 9, and a group of Vosper Thornycroft
workers came with her, to complete the forward flight deck.
Along the shoreline there were huge crowds that
gathered to wish Canberra and all on board and good luck. History
was made shortly before lunch the following day, when an RAF Sea
King helicopter made the very first of many landings on the
amidships (Bonito pool) flight deck on the SS Canberra.
we see an RAF Helicopter at work over the Canberra at sea near
Canberra sailing days was interrupted by the Falklands
war! However, rather than me tell the story of the great work
that she did, I suggest that you read a great book written by
Andrew Vines as shown below. I have a copy and I found it
absolutely brilliant and it is a must read for everyone who loves
this great ship, the SS Canberra!
Strange Way to go to War was released by Aurum Press on
in, 2012 and is available in a Hardback version for just £20.
Andrew Vine who lives in Leeds and Andrew has
become well known by author over the years. I have also read
another of his books, such as the very popular work, Last
of the Summer Wine. Andrew has been a professional
journalist for some 35 years and is the assistant editor (at the
time of writing) of the Yorkshire Post, being one of Englands
largest regional morning newspapers.
Andrew having a great love of British classic
liners completed this superb book on one of the most loved
British liners of the early sixties, being P&Os 1961
built SS Canberra, but he covers her turbulent days during the Falklands
war and so much more. Andrew as he writes has the gift of
transporting you back in time, especially with so much new
material. It is just like you are on board and being amongst the
crew, experiencing various events. A Very Strange Way to
go to War is the untold story of unlikely combatants
such as waiters, cooks, nurses and cleaners, who never dreamt
they would ever be caught up in a war, and then suddenly they
found themselves on the front line at the very end of the world.
Through this compellingly written account of
one of Britains finest hours, Andrew Vine
weaves together interviews with Canberras crew and troops
who sailed on her, with previously unpublished archives, and
brings to light this remarkable episode of modern war of an epic
tale how a luxury liner went into the heart of battle, and
ordinary men and women found themselves on an adventure both
terrifying and unforgettable!
This book has many revelations and it is thus
informative and an exciting book to read, especially for those
who have sailed on Canberra or those who simply admired and loved
this great ship.
I highly recommend this exciting book as it is
a must read and not just for those who admire the SS Canberra,
but for all ship lovers!
for a £20.00 Hardback 320 pages - Or Click HERE
for £9.99 Paperback.
links above are direct to Aurum Press, and ssmaritime is not
associated and I do not receive a commission
fact they are un-aware that I have this online!
Early on Sunday July 11, 1982 Canberras
company a wake up call by the means of loud Reveille over ship's
circuits for this was the day Canberra was arriving home from her
War duties. She reached the Solent and she headed for her berth,
being 106-berth as aircraft overflew her in a welcoming gesture.
The ship was also briefly joined by the HRH the Prince of Wales
together with other dignitaries who arrived by helicopter to the
amidships flight deck. Whilst on the forward flight deck, the
Royal Marines Band played, as the Canberra was surrounded by more
and more, small boats, fire tugs, passenger craft and all kind of
vessels that had come out to greet Englands maritime Heroes
the Ship and its Gallant Crew!
comes home from a war looking a little worn out
unknown Please see the Photo notes at the bottom of the
Looking at her, the Canberra did look a rather
tired ship, as she was badly rust-streaked, however on board
there was a happy and a festive feel around the ship as all
aboard who were free to do so, clambered along the railings from
bow to stern, top to bottom of the ship, wherever there was a
vantage point. This included, sitting on top of lifeboats to
hanging from gun placements. It was wonderful, for whenever Canberras
great steam whistle boomed out; there would be a long chorus of
ship horns, hooters and whistles heard from the massive flotilla
that surrounded the Canberra and ships along the shoreline.
Whilst tied to railings there were large handmade banners as well
as those that were especially held up for the benefit of the TV
cameras. Whilst ashore from every vantage point, it is said that
there were well over 120,000 people awaiting the Canberras
return home, with everyone waving and cheering as they were happy
to see her come safely home!
Then as the Canberra neared her berth, an
amazing 35,000 people had passed through the dock gates and there
were many more to be seen along the quaysides, for obviously
there were many relatives of returning soldiers and other crew
and staff members all waving flags as well as sobbing away, but
in happiness. Soon enough the Band of the Royal Marines began to
play Land of Hope & Glory as Canberra neared to
berth 106, to the accompaniment of 2,500 marines and the many
singing along ashore, it was a dazzling experience!
Canberra had been at sea for a good 94 days and
during this time she had amazingly steamed a good 25,245 miles
without a single mechanical fault worthy of mention, and she
carried thousands of troops into battle, as well as repatriated
over 4,000 prisoners of war, in addition she was able to treat a
good 172 wounded soldiers and sailors. And during all of this, Canberra
that had been given the nickname the Big White Whale
was winning the hearts of Great Britain.
Finally SS Canberra docked and at 11 AM her
gangways were swung into position and by 2 PM everyone had come
ashore and the Canberra lay completely empty and she would soon
be made ready to head for a sixty-three day refit in July/August,
which would be the most extensive refit she ever had since she
was completed in 1961, for it would prepare her for the next
stage of her cruising life!
This extensive refit, which was done by
Vospers in Southampton, involved around 3,000 tasks that
included of course the removal of the two helicopter decks and
other RASA equipment and restoring the original forward deck as
well as the Bonito Pool and surrounding sun decks, etc. It was
decided that there would be a complete overhaul of the main
machinery and the replacement of a great deal of auxiliary items,
as well as updating all passenger accommodations and public
On August 9, the Canberra was entered the
King George V Dry-Dock where she remained for three
weeks. It was here where the moving of the heavy flight decks
were removed and Canberras underwater work with her hull
needing to be cleaned and given new coating of anti-fouling
paint, as well have the ship completely repainted top to bottom!
is seen in the KGV Dry-Dock just before she is repainted
unknown Please see the Photo notes at the bottom of the
Once her extensive two month refit was
completed with the Canberra coming out of it like a brand new
ship, both outside and also inside, as her interiors had an
amazing amount of work done, for it had really been worn in such
a short time, thus a huge refit was required! But the shinning
new looking SS Canberra returned to civilian service, and due to
her role in the Falklands War she had become even more popular
with the British public and also with the Australians. This
clearly showed in advance ticket sales when her new schedules
were released that the SS Canberra was once again a big hit!
to Service with a Gala Departure:
Then the SS Canberra departed on her very first
post-Falklands-war cruise from Southampton on Saturday September
11, 1982 and due to massive media commitments, Canberra had her
sailing time altered to 1 PM, as several TV channels covered her
departure and thus departing during the day was preferred.
Canberras departure was indeed a gala one much like her
recent heroic return, for again thousands of spectators came to
see her off as they lined the shores whilst others took to small
pleasure craft, excursion vessels and even an historic Paddle
Steamer Waverly would escort her. Aboard her passengers joyfully
lined the ships decks and as Canberra slowly departed from her
berth the Royal Marines Commando Forces band played a variety of
suitable items commemorating Canberras time at the Falklands.
seen in the Solent September 11, 1982 on her first cruise after
by the late Jason B. Longman U.K.
Her cruises continued with great success as did
her 1983 World Voyage that was booked out with
British passengers, but as always, also there were usually some
Dutch, German, American, and of course a good number of
Australians and a few New Zealands, who would either sail
from Southampton to New Zealand or Australia, or from their
country to the UK! The Europeans would do the round trip, and the
Americans would do the sector and get off somewhere in the USA.
excellent photo of this fine ship by Tim Webb
In 1994 the Canberra would undertake in a
short, but a very special event, for 1994 just happened to be the
50th.anniversary of the Allied landings at Normandy. In order to
commemorate this event, the Royal British Legion decided to
charter the SS Canberra in order that veterans and their families
would be able to board her and participate in the event. Canberra
departed on Saturday June 4 to take part in the Spithead Review
by the Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II early the next
morning Sunday June 5.
postcard showing the SS Canberra and the HMY Britannia on the
Spithead (Solent) also the QE2 in the background
addition there were many small craft on the occasion of the
50th.Anniversarry of D-Day on June 5, 1994
Following the fleet review the SS Canberra
sailed towards the French coast and Commodore Ian Gibb held a
remembrance service around the Bonito Pool for the veterans and
their families, whilst a Lancaster bomber flew overhead and
dropped a good 850,000 poppies. Many said it was without a doubt
one of the most moving experience of their lives! Of course the
QE2 and the Royal Yacht was also in the flotilla and they were a
wonderful sight to behold!
Voyages and New Ships:
The SS Canberra having proved to be a most
beautiful and a comfortable ship to travel on continued to cruise
out of the Southampton as well undertake her very popular and
usually booked out World Voyages in January. P&O
decided that with the grand old SS Oriana now long gone that they
did need to build a new ship and out of their carefully laid
plans came a new MV Oriana, which commenced sailing in 1995, This
ship proved to have an efficient power plant and thus she would
prove to be more profitable, thus those in the trade and I know
many past passengers, realised that the time would have come that
even the wonderful and much loved Canberra would have to be
replaced, for she was certainly not an inexpensive ship to
operate, to say the least!
MV Oriana made her first World
Voyage in 1996, although I did not sail on her until a good
nine years later in 2005 when I boarded her from my home port of
Brisbane in February 2005 and sailed to Southampton via Asia and
the Suez, and I sailed on her again in 2008 from Brisbane but
this time south around the south of Australia then north via Asia
and continued down via the Indian Ocean Islands to South Africa,
and up the Atlantic to Southampton England. I do have to say that
I did enjoy the Oriana as a ship very much considering she is a
ship with many fine and traditional internal touches!
Oriana seen at anchor at the Great barrier Reef Australia during
my Voyage Brisbane to Southampton in 2008 and same again in 2008
by and © Reuben Goossens
With the MV Oriana sailing on her maiden
World Voyage westward, and the Canberra sailing
eastward in 1996, I decided that I would join the Canberras
World Voyage that departed Southampton January 8 and
headed to Sydney arriving February 26, sailing via South Africa,
then to Asia, down to Fremantle and to Sydney. From there she
headed across to New Zealand, after which she headed via the
Pacific, USA the Panama Canal to the UK. The truth is that I had
the feeling at the time that this could have been her last world
voyage, but as it turned out, she had just one more left in her!
a brief review and photographs of my 1996 cruise on the SS
Canberra see the Link at the bottom of the Page!
Then on June 25, 1996 the dreaded announcement
came from P&O that the SS Canberra would be retired from
service on September 30, 1997, and that Canberra would be
replaced by the MV Star Princess, having been fully refurbished
as a genuine P&O ship and renamed Arcadia. But,
this was certainly not the kind of news that anybody who ever
sailed on this great white ship wanted to hear, but we just had
to face up with the facts!
Australian 1997 World Voyages Brochure Cover
In the evening of Monday January 6, 1997 the
much loved SS Canberra departed Southampton and she headed for
Sydney sailing via; Palma Majorca, Piraeus Greece, Haifa Israel,
Port Said Egypt, Transit the Suez Canal, Aqaba Jordan, Bombay
India, Port Klang Malaysia, Singapore, Kota Kinabalu Malaysia,
Hong Kong, Bali Indonesia, Darwin Australia, then heading for the
Great Barrier Reef (in transit) bound for Brisbane and arriving
in Sydney on Saturday February 22.
Her arrival was on a beautiful warm and sunny
morning with people lining the shores of Sydney harbour awaiting
the Canberra as she made her final triumphant entry into one of
the most beautiful harbours in the world. Fire tugs awaited her
as well as small craft and she was honoured with huge water
sprays on both sides as she came close to the Sydney Opera House
and it was a grandiose sight indeed!
Note: All photographs below of SS Canberra final arrival and
departure to Sydney on February 22 & 23, 1997
and © Reuben Goossens
Canberras triumphant arrival to Sydney on February 22, 1997
by and © Reuben Goossens
On her port side there were only four banners
or flags, whilst on her starboard, being her berthing side, there
were dozens of hand made banners and professional flags hanging
from her Promenade and Games Decks! As can be seen on the two
photographs I took when I wend shipside.
Canberra having just berthed at the International Passenger
Terminal, Circular Quay Sydney
by and © Reuben Goossens
wonderful photo of the Great White Dame berthed at Circular Quay
on February 22, 1997
by and © Reuben Goossens
& below: It is obvious that passengers have been
busy in the arts and crafts class making banners for their
arrival in Sydney
by and © Reuben Goossens
Whilst Canberra was in Sydney, I had been
invited on board by P&Os Promotional Department and I
given one of the by then extremely rare Canberra Farewell
World Cruise 1997 Caps. I was told that they had
already been sold out on board and that sadly no further supplies
would be available. In addition, later P&O sent me a framed
print of their special commemorative painting of the great SS
is my Canberra Farewell World Cruise 1997 Cap and it is seen with
the commemorative painting of the Canberra
by and © Reuben Goossens
SS Canberra remained in Sydney overnight, but
then at 6.30 PM on Sunday the 23rd.she departed Sydney for the
final time and she was about to continue her return leg of her
very last World Voyage. There was no doubt that Sydney
put on a massive show of support, as there were around a half a
million people or more that had come out to say goodbye to the
great white ship. Enthusiasts were simply located everywhere,
from the large viewing platform on the Passenger Terminal, or
along the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but also at the very top of the
Bridge, as people had paid for a special Bridge Climb
for Canberras departure. People also covered every space
around and on the terraces of the Sydney Opera House. Then there
were countless thousands of people lined along the shores of Sydney
Harbour for the many long kilometres in fact as far as Sydney
Heads, and even the many parks and islands that Canberra had to
pass on the way to the Heads were completely crammed with
In addition, there were hundreds of pleasure
craft and many chartered vessels that would follow her, but also
Sydney Ferries had added special Farewell
Canberra Voyages that came complete with food and drinks
laid on. This is something very new for Sydney Ferries as it was
something they had normally never done! Thus, I decided to take
one of the traditional Ferries, and it would follow the Canberra
as far as it was allowed for Sydney Heads it self is always out
of bounds for it can be too rough!
final departure day and many come to see the beautiful ship
by and © Reuben Goossens
photographs were taken by me from the Ferry!
fine view of the Canberra with the Sydney Harbour Bridge
partially behind her stern and the city centre
merged two images together to make one making I believe a good
view of staff
released the hundreds of balloons from her top and aft decks!
I did take further photographs, but this is a wonderful stern
her - Thus I will use this image as my Farewell my
beloved Canberra Photograph
Once she passed through Sydney Heads into the
Ocean, she turned north and sailed directly for Suva - Fiji &
Yasawa-I-Rara, Honolulu & Lahaina - Hawaii, Vancouver - Canada.
San Francisco - USA, Acapulco - Mexico, then once she had
transited the Panama Canal she headed for Bonaire - the Dutch
Antilles, Grenada, Barbados, Madeira and she completed her very
last ever World Voyage in Southampton arriving on Monday April 7,
With Canberras final 1997 World
Voyage having passed, I decided to follow up on her
replacement and the replacement ship had been named as being the
MV Arcadia (3) and thus I decided to book a southbound sector on
her maiden 1998 World Voyage.
The truth is that I already had an attachment
to this ship, considering that she was built as the very last of
the super luxurious 5 Star Sitmar Cruise Ships and she was to be
the luxurious MV Sitmar FairMajesty in 1987.
is what the beautiful grand MV Sitmar FairMajesty would have
looked like had she sailed as a Sitmar Cruises ship!
However, prior to completion in 1988 Sitmar was
taken over by P&O and she was transferred to Princess Cruises
and was renamed Star Princess. However in 1996 with
the upcoming demise of the Canberra, she was transferred to
P&O UK who gave her a comprehensive P&O style
refurbishment. She now featured a great deal of elegant timber
veneers, grand pillars and even the beautiful Canoe originally
located in Canberras Pacific Dining Room was relocated in
Arcadias Dining room, In addition Arcadia also had a
Canberra Room packed with SS Canberra items and some fine pieces
of memorabilia, including a fine large model of the Canberra!
Canoe from Canberras Pacific restaurant is seen in the Arcadias
by and © Reuben Goossens
But sadly no matter how magnificent her
interiors were, and they were indeed by far superior to Canberra,
yet the MV Arcadia only made several World Voyages
for the problem was that she was simply not popular. The question
begs why? The truth is that passengers felt that the ship was
just not suitable for the long voyages, although she
was very popular indeed whenever operating on shorter cruises!
Obviously, passengers had become used to the
abundance of public venues on board the SS Oriana, SS Canberra
for these were both two-class ships and once they became One
Class Cruise Ships, they offered additional venues. However, the
new MV Oriana also was generous in her public rooms and
facilities as P&O soon learned their lesson with the MV
Arcadia which was indeed sadly short of several lounges. She
served P&O UK well, but in 2010 she was transferred to
P&O Cruises Australia and renamed MV Pacific Pearl.
Arcadia on her maiden World Voyage is seen in Sydney
on February 24, 1998
by and © Reuben Goossens
interior photographs & further details of my Arcadia voyage
Canberras Final Cruise:
Having returned to Southampton she commenced a
series of cruises and each one was a huge success, but then came
the time for her last cruise, which was suitably themed as the
Farewell Cruise and understandably it was booked out
long in advance with the majority of passengers being
Canberras past passengers!
There was no doubt that the Farewell
Cruise was something that not a single soul who sailed will
ever forget, as the 20-day cruise was a sort of a Voyage of
Commemoration and of Celebration with everyone
on board reliving Canberras long and successful life,
therefore the voyage, unlike some other ships previously was
certainly not just a mournful goodbye cruise. All passengers made
the very best of this final screwdriver cruise as
some called it!
Once on board in your cabin there was a copy of
your Farewell Cruise Log!
the Index at the bottom of the page you can enter and read this
4 page Final Cruise Log
Part of the ssmaritime Collection
The Mayflower Cruise Terminal was packed with
spectators, all taking as many photographs as possible and waving
their banners or flags. Whilst there were many homemade banners
and flags hanging from the ships railings and awaiting her
there was a flotilla of small boats and passenger ferries filled
the upper reaches of Southampton Water ready to follow her.
On September 10, 1997 SS Canberra slowly moved
from her berth to the musical accompaniment of a marching band,
whilst thousands of coloured balloons were released from her
upper decks, whilst daytime-fireworks were launched from the roof
of the 106-berth shed. In addition, Fire tugs and a flotilla of
craft escorted Canberra down river as she set sail on her final
commercial voyage. On board the passengers all seemed to be in
good sprits and ship was ready for quite a party, and I am sure
that the Century Bar at night and the Cricketers Club were very
popular spots on board.
The cruise took the last passengers to the
Mediterranean as far as Haifa in Israel. When she departed
Gibraltar for the last time on September 13, many small yachts
joined the Canberra as she sailed out of the harbour with then
blowing their whistles and hooters, in addition a Royal Navy
warship gave Canberra a water salute from her deck hoses and a
moving exchange of whistles ensued. Everywhere Canberra
went, she was given the kind of send-off that a great ship like
postcard purchased on board Canberra during her Farewell
Cruise - September 10 to 30, 1997
by the P&O Cruises
On September 25, at Cannes both the Canberra
and the newer MV Oriana were placed at anchor and passengers were
given permission to take Canberras tenders and go and visit
the new P&O flagship the Oriana.
Later that day, the famed the Golden
Cockerel that was transferred from the old SS Oriana to the
Canberra was again due to be moved. This is a large metal
silhouette of a cockerel that sits on a pole and it has always
been traditionally located on the fastest ship of the P&O
fleet, therefore, with the end being near, it was due to be
handed over to the MV Oriana (with a top speed of 30 knots, with
a cruising speed of 27 knots) in a ceremony that was eagerly
observed by passengers of both ships, and the accompaniment was
by Gerard Kenny who sang the song he had written especially for
the SS Canberra!
Regardless the positive attitude during the
cruise, but towards the conclusion of the voyage some sadness
certainly did hit most on board and I do mean passengers and
crew! People could be seen visiting the various lounges, bars and
popular spots on board the ship that would have been a favourite
venue, or a place out on deck. It came to a point that on the
evening before returning to Southampton, tears could be seen in a
good number of eyes out on deck, as well at the Century Bar and
other venues, as people were reminiscing their many joyful
experiences on board the wonderful Canberra that would sadly come
to a permanent end tomorrow morning!
30, 1997 - The End had Arrived:
Sadly, the end of the cruise had finally
arrived, as SS Canberra arrived for her final return to
Southampton and as it turned out it was to be even more
spectacular than the one experienced during her great send off
almost three weeks ago and even her return from the Falklands. As
it turned out the early morning was very cold and rather foggy.
However, Canberras usual early morning arrival had been
purposely delayed in order for her to dock at a suitable time for
the countless spectators but more importantly the mass of media
coverage. It had been decided by P&O directors that this had
to be as a happy memory for everyone for it would be the last
memory all those who had sailed on her as well as just adored her
from afar would now have of SS Canberra as she still moved
herself into her berth using her thrusters.
On the way to the Cruise Terminal she
encountered ships and boats of all sizes, from tiny dinghies to
the Shieldhall and Waverley. She was escorted by HMS Cornwall who
took up position astern. Together, everyone made their way up
Southampton Water, all the time the fog going and visibility
improving. Fire tugs joined the foray, in addition there was a
wonderful flypast by a single Canberra bomber and Gazelle
helicopters in a V formation. The Red Devils, the display team of
the Parachute Regiment dropped into Mayflower Park, whist the
ship was given a gun salute as she passed.
Canberra is entering Southampton Water as she concludes her very
last ever Cruise
by the P&O Cruises
is seen in Southampton Water with a fire tug entertaining with
spray, welcoming SS Canberra back home for the very last time
a feature in a UK Magazine
final triumphant return to Southampton, as she berths at the
Mayflower Cruise Terminal for the final time!
by the P&O Cruises
As she was berthing, hundreds of coloured
balloons were released from Canberras top decks and it was
a wonderful sight. She finally came alongside and made fast her
lines to the music of a marching band. Then it was all finished,
as there were many listening to VHF radios all around and
they were all awaiting Captain Rory Smith command with the words,
Finish with engines and upon hearing this there was
the sounds of hundreds of boats blowing their whistles and horns,
thus an amazing spectacle!
Late in the next day the Canberra was forced to
move as she had to make room for the Oriana which was due, and
thus she was moved to berths 38/39 being the home of the QE2, and
these berths would not be in use for a few weeks, thus Canberra
could await her fate there. Once safely alongside and a telephone
landline was installed, the next thing was to get everyone to the
hard work, for the ship had to be completely be de-stored. The
process of de-storing had all been carefully pre-planned and a
considerable time in advance and the de-store schedule estimated
completion by October 10, with the passenger gangways and fire
detection equipment being the very last items to go ashore!
The carefully pre-planned de-storing was
completed according schedule precisely on the predetermined day,
October 10, and on that very same day, in what was considered to
be a cold and certainly a most callous manner that P&O
announced in a Press Statement, that the Canberra would be
sailing that very same evening to a Pakistan, where she would be
broken up. The most loved English ship ever, was suddenly treated
like a piece of rubbish! They could have done it in a more caring
way, they used her to the very last, milking her for the media,
but once out of the limelight P&O did not care less, but her
past passengers did note it!
very lonely Canberra seen at berths 38-39 on October 9, 1997
unknown Please see the Photo notes at the bottom of the
Obviously, the reactions to the announcement
were mixed to say the least. There were a the modernists who
thought it was a fitting end and that it would be better than
what had happened to the SS Oriana, that became a failed tourist
attraction. But the vast majority felt that the Canberra still
had life in her. In Australia there was a genuine attempt to have
her as an Hotel in Sydney, considering she was named after the
countrys Capital and launched by the wife of the then Prime
Minister, Dame Pattie Menzies. But there was no support by the
authorities, who are the usual naysayers, unlike the Dutch
authorities, who now have the great ss Rotterdam operating as a
fine Hotel, and dining venue, etc!
Then came the thought of a world where the Canberra
just no longer existed. P&O themselves were obviously in
turmoil over the decision to scrap what was probably the most
popular ship in history. They had already agreed a price and
trading restrictions with the American Premier Cruise
Line, but suddenly P&O pulled out of the deal at the
11th hour, for they claimed that they never allowed one of their
ships to sail for another company, which was not entirely true.
But no, she would be broken up no matter what, for that is
P&O Policy and we are true to that, we are British and we
will never sell ourselves out! Excuse me, you did that in
April 2003 when P&O sold the whole company out to the Yanks,
and I cannot think of anything worse and suddenly you became
Carnivalised for the budget Carnival Cruises took
P&O & Princess Cruises over, now is that Genuine P&O
Voyage of Doom!
Her departure was unlike her previous sailing,
no massive cheering crowds. It all occurred under the cover of
darkness at 9 PM on Friday October 10, Canberra was under the
command of my dear friend Captain Mike Carr, on board there was
just a skeleton crew of 72 and she was to quietly slip away from
the QE2 berth and quickly go out of sight. But that would not
happen, for the Canberra just would not move on her own, like she
was holding on to the wharf and thus she two tugs were required
to assist her from the berth by some force.
I was told the following by my dear friend;
Canberra during those miserable days being berthed at 38/39
had become a huge embarrassment and obviously a most awkward
Public Relations problem for P&O and it seemed that the ship
had felt the pain, and thus she would just not move, and that is
why we seemed to have this problem. It was almost ghost like!
Ashore there were some sixty people who had
been there most of the day, but then suddenly just before
departure a good number of past crew members headed towards the
ship, all cheering, whistling and calling out to their friends
still on board.
Mike Carr and Radio Officer Freddie Lloyd had
arranged for a cassette of bagpipe music to be played on the deck
circuits as the ship sailed, in order that it could be heard,
songs were the strains of Flowers of the Forest, Dark Isle and
Flower of Scotland. Her departure was a heart wrenching moment
for those few who witnessed it, on board as well as those ashore!
As soon as the Canberra was mid channel, Captain Carr gave three
long blasts on her whistle and then made headway down Southampton
Water for the final time. Passing Fawley she was given a grand
water salute and received messages and whistles from many other
ships, whilst cars along the riverbank flashed their headlights
on and off for a very long time.
With Canberra underway and heading for Pakistan
one of the first things Captain Mike Carr did was move every
crewmember into the best passenger cabins with telephones, whilst
the officers remained in their own accommodations. In addition,
the Bonito Club became the official wardroom for the all the
ship's company and the pool was kept full and a water slide was
installed, it had been built out of the main laundry trough. As Canberra
headed toward the Suez Canal at a steady 15 knots, the crew work
was mostly securing the passenger accommodations in order to
reduce the possibility of any fires.
SS Canberra passed the Oriana that was bound
for Vigo around 2 AM on October 13. Then on October 19, she
anchored off Port Said where she would be awaiting orders, for
although Pakistan had been originally announced, it still was not
decided whether the ship would end her days in India or Pakistan.
In the evening the Suez Canal Pilot came on board and Canberra
commenced her very last transit of the Canal she had sailed
through so many times before, but in those days she had been
packed with happy passengers. The following day Canberra anchored
in Suez Bay where she bunkered and Captain Carr awaited news
regarding her sale.
The official Bill of Sale was signed on October
21 between P&O and the buyers of the ship a Germany Company
Eckhardt Marine GMBH of Hamburg and they would then resell her to
the highest bidder, bet it the Indianans or
Pakistanis. The Pakistanis offered the best price and
was willing to stand by P&O agreement!
With the Bill of Sale completed Canberra
weighed anchor and she heading to the port of choice being Karachi
for she had been sold to the Pakistani breakers for $5,640,818.
Captain Carr, officers and crew made the best
of their final days on board the ship for they all were rather
attached this amazing and wonderful ship! But all too soon Pakistan
came into sight!
At 7.30 AM on October 28, Canberra dropped
anchor off Karachi. The next day, representatives of her new
owners boarded for meetings as well to inspect the ship. The next
day, this stop-start voyage continued when the beaching party
came aboard, and Canberra headed for Gadani Beach where she
arrived at 11 PM before anchoring for the night.
On October 31, 1997 the ships draught was
trimmed in order for the angle of her bow to be ready for the
beaching at Gadani. Then steaming at almost at top speed,
accompanied throughout the ship by those bagpipes played at full
volume over the open deck speakers the Canberra was partially
beached at 9.40 AM. Early in the afternoon all of the P&O the
crew disembarked the ship for the very last time.
However, it seemed that Canberras very
deep draft was going to prove to be a real problem for her new
owners, although she had been beached, but she was much too far
out for her to be broken up successfully. A number of attempts
were made to winch the Canberra closer inshore, but she proved to
be a stubborn ship and remained fast were she was!
sad image of what was a great ship seen at Gadani beach Pakistan
unknown Please see the Photo notes at the bottom of the
The dismantling of the Canberra had been
expected to take around three months, however it took over twelve
months, and it has been said that the breakers actually lost
money scrapping this great white dame of the sea and that is what
I call a fitting end as far as I am concerned, for she did not
deserve to have those who destroyed her to profit from it, and
that pleased me!
Today, the beautiful sleek SS Canberra is gone
and I believe that there certainly will not be another ship that
will ever be quite like her. But how wonderful it is to have all
those wonderful memories of this great Liner and later she became
a wonderful happy Cruise Ship!
SS Canberra, the Great Liner seen at Sea
Canberra, you have given me and so many who have sailed on her a
life full of joy and happiness!
Please Note: The SS Canberra INDEX
below is still incomplete as there are many further pages to
come, such as Canberras early interiors and her first 1961
First and Tourist Class Deck Plans. Then there are her One Class
1973 Deck Plans. In addition I have a review of my cruise on the Canberra
in 1996 which is combined with an extensive photo album of the Canberra
at the time, which is combined with her 1996 Deck Plan. For
interest, each deck plan can be clicked and a full size plane
will be revealed for better details to be seen! I expect there be
at least 6 or seven pages when completed!
Canberra in building and history 1961 to 1963.
One A: Canberras Illustrations and Photo Page of
Page One B:
Canberra 1961 Provisional Deck Plans - First & Tourist Class.
Canberra the Cruise ship & her Falklands days,
to her end in 1997.
Page Two B:
Canberra 1973 & 1996 Deck Plans - One Class.
Four Page interiors of Canberras Final Cruise Log.
The Bill of Sale of the Canberra to Pakistani breakers.
MovieTone Newsreal of the launching
of the SS Canberra
Visit our Features on the following Orient Lines/P&O Ships
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Oronsay - SS
Oriana - RMS
RMS Strathaird - SS
Iberia - SS Canberra
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on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from
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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
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is owned & © Copyright by Reuben Goossens - All Rights