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This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website
The Royal Mail Ship   ARCADIA   1953 - 1979


The much admired Arcadia held the distinction of being the largest P&O liner to be built on the banks of the Clyde.  Her design was in essence a larger and improved version of the early post war Himalaya and Chusan.  The Arcadia & Iberia were the last traditionally designed vessels built by P&O and the largest passenger liners operating east of Suez.  While the Arcadia enjoyed a reliable career, the Iberia was plagued with stability and mechanical problems.

She was named after the 6,000 tons steamer of the same name which entered P&O service in 1888.  The name is derived from a province in the Greek Peloponnese, the region of rural happiness in southern Greece.  Like Himalaya, the second Arcadia was constructed specifically for the London to Australia and New Zealand route, upon which she commenced service in February 1954.  Her early voyages saw her use the same trans-Suez and India route in both directions.  In later years this was extended to include the Pacific and the American West Coast.

Arcadia, like Himalaya and Chusan, had been built with dual purpose line voyages and cruising in mind.  It was the latter role by which Arcadia became one of the most popular ships ever to fly the P&O flag.  During the northern summers Arcadia's line voyages to the Pacific were interrupted by a series of cruises to the Canary Islands, North Africa and the Mediterranean.  During the autumn she was repositioned to Sydney, from where she cruised the South Pacific Islands.


Builder   John Brown & Co., Glasgow, Scotland.

Gross tonnage: 29,871     Net tonnage.  16,077

Length overall: 721 ft 4 in (219.86 m)

Breadth: 90 ft 8 in (27.63 m)

Draft: 31 feet

Cargo capacity: 320,792 cu ft

Boilers: Oil-fired, three Foster Wheeler controlled super-heat boilers 600 psi

Main engines: Twin screw, two sets of Parsons double reduction geared turbines, 42,500 SHP

Service speed: 22 knots.  Maximum speed: 25 knots

Passenger decks: 7

Ship's company: 716

Port of Registry:   Initially London, later Southampton.

Passenger accommodation

With Arcadia P&O introduced three berth cabins in first class and six berth cabins in tourist class.  The latter proved popular with the younger of Australia bound settlers and with holidav makers bound for the United Kingdom.  Arcadia's accommodation catered for 670 first class passengers in one, two and three-berth cabins, including eight two berth deluxe cabins.  In the tourist class she carried 735 passengers in two, four and six berth cabins.

Public Rooms

Arcadia's interior decor was the very model of British understatement.  A Greek theme prompted by her name was incorporated throughout her interior.  Nowhere was this more obvious than in the naming of her public rooms.  The first-class dining room (right) was named 'Olympic' and the tourist class, 'Corinthian'.  Other major public areas for example were named 'Apollo', 'Orpheus' and 'Odyssey'.

She had sixteen public rooms, nine of which were in the first class section.  One of the most popular of these was the 'Lookout Bar' (right) situated on the boat deck, immediately below the bridge.  This room was fitted with long windows on three sides which gave the passengers a panoramic view of the sea around them with decoration maritime in character.  The floor covering featured two map panels showing the eastern and Western hemispheres and figureheads stood on either side of the bar, copied from those of old wooden sailing ships.  The centre piece was in the form of a chart table fitted with a compass and chronometer, and flanked by terrestrial and celestial globes.


The majority of the first class public rooms were on the promenade deck amidships and included the children's nursery (above right), the library and writing room, (above left) the first class lounge (below) and ballroom, the verandah cafe and the swimming pool itself.  The lounge was a large, high room with windows on either side; the central section of the ceiling was circular in shape with a panelled perimeter arranged to carry concealed lighting.  At the after end, between the glazed doors leading to the ballroom, was a wide, deep mural painted on a concave panel.  It was based on an Arcadian scene and designed in rhythmic sequence in low colour tones.

The tourist class rooms were on 'A', 'B' and 'C' decks, with the swimming pool at the after end of the promenade deck.  Dining saloons for both classes were on 'D' deck separated by the galleys, and both were air-conditioned.  All the furnishings and decoration were designed by A. Mclnnes Gardner & Partners, and many renowned artists provided murals to tone in with the colour schemes.

Early postcard depicting the tourist class public rooms.


A White hull and superstructure, yellow funnel and red boot-topping.  Externally Arcadia was a handsome vessel with two masts and a large funnel topped with what has become known as a Clydebank funnel.  A great deal of research was carried out by John Brown & Co and Thermotank Ltd to perfect this design and the desired effect was achieved with the soot and smuts being carried well aft of the long sports deck.

Ship's Log

1952   Ordered from John Brown & Co Ltd, the keel of yard number 675 was laid in their Clydebank yard.  The hull was constructed in the same berth as the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth, and she was the largest P&O passenger ship to be built on the Clyde.

1953   April 16   Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited John Brown's yard to launch the royal yacht Britannia, and while there they visited the Arcadia whose hull was being painted, although on board the cabins on 'E' and 'F' deck were virtually complete.

1953   May 14   Launched by Lady Anderson, the wife of Lord Anderson; the P&O Deputy Chairman.  The same day, South of the border at Barrow, Orient Line's Orsova was also sent down the slips.  While basically the same size and built for the same service as 'friendly rivals', the two ships differed completely in design and appointments.  Both ships bore a resemblance to earlier liners of their respective companies.  In one day the two closely related companies had put into the water 58,000 tons of shipping which had cost some £12 million.

1954   January 7   P&O's Mooltan of 1923 arrived at Tilbury at the end of her last voyage.  Her Asian crew joined the brand new Arcadia three weeks later.

1954   January 20   Departed from John Brown's yard for the Mersey where she was dry docked for the painting of the underwater hull, returning in the following week to the Clyde for her trials.

1954   January 30   Sea Trials completed and she was handed over to P&O after which she sailed for Tilbury with Sir William Currie and over 300 guests on board, including Mr A. T. Lennox-Boyd, the British Minister of Transport.

1954   January 31   On the voyage along the South coast she put into Torbay on the Sunday evening.

1954   February 2   Arrived at Tilbury, where fitting out for her maiden voyage continued.

1954   February 11   Crew using electric deck scrubbers.  (above)

1954   February 22   Departed Tilbury on her maiden voyage to Australia on via Suez.  She was commanded by Captain Geoffrey C. Forrest, he was to command the ship for her first two years of service, before retiring in October 1956.  At Port Said the Governor of the Canal Zone; Mr Mohamed Riad, was entertained on board by Sir William and Lady Currie; and when the ship reached Australia she was given an enthusiastic reception.  She returned to London in early May and took Himalaya's place in the summer cruising programme, the latter ship remaining on the mail run.

1954   March 18   Arrived at Fremantle.

1954   March 22   Arrived at Melbourne.

1954   March 24   Arrived at Sydney.

1954   April 12   At Fremantle.

Arriving at Hamburg.                                 The 233 ton Steam Tug Cervia of 1946.

1954   May   On her return to Tilbury after a series of short cruises from Southampton, she collided with the Cervia (above), which sank with the loss of five lives including the master W. Russell. After Cervia was raised she became a preservation job and is now on display in Ramsgate harbour and open to the public.

1954   June 4   First visit to Southampton.

1954   October   Commenced second voyage to Australia.

1954   December 13   At Fremantle.

1954 to 1959   Line voyages to Australia and cruising from Britain.

1956    April 11    Departed Tilbury

1956    May 8    Arrived Melbourne

1956   June At Naples Harbour.  (above)

1957   December 30   On the final leg of a voyage from Australia, she encountered a severe gale in the Bay of Biscay and several passengers and crew members were injured when the liner was caught in winds of up to 70 mph.  Dinner was being served when there was some violent rolling and the ship heeled over.  About four hundred passengers were thrown from their chairs and hundreds of pieces of crockery were smashed.  Two passengers suffered broken bones and some stewards were scalded by boiling water in the galleys.  At about 10.00 pm all the passengers were ordered to their cabins for safety, and Arcadia hove to during the night to give them a chance to sleep.  The storm abated after 24 hours, and in the event she was only four hours late arriving at Tilbury.  Captain E. R. Bodley, who was completing his first voyage in command, said that it was the worst storm he had encountered in thirty six years.

1958   December   P&O announced that Arcadia was to make her first Pacific cruise in November the following year, but first she was to go to Belfast to be modernised.

1959   Wednesday April 1   She arrived at yard at Queen's Island and was berthed at Thompson Wharf.  The contract, which was worth £500,000, was for the whole ship to be air-conditioned throughout.  The first class cabins were modernised.  Additional sundeck space was provided aft on her Promenade Deck by the removal of her main-mast.  This overhaul was due to P&O's plan to raise her to the same standard as the new Canberra (at that time well under construction at Harland & Wolff's Belfast yards).

1959   April 7   At 11.45 pm a fire was discovered in one of the after holds and within minutes the stern of the ship was enveloped in pungent smoke from burning plastic.  The Belfast fire brigade was called and they were able to confine the blaze to its seat of origin and bring it under control within an hour.  It seems that workmen had been working in the hold earlier that day and the cause was accidental.

1959   June 11   Harland & Wolff completed the refit well ahead of schedule.  To celebrate the occasion Sir William Currie entertained four hundred officials and foremen from Harland & Wolff to dinner on board.  Arcadia sailed for Tilbury the following day and called at Liverpool on the way to pick up four hundred guests for the voyage South.

1959   November   She became the first cruise liner to sail up the Queen Charlotte Sound and land passengers at Picton on the South Island of New Zealand.

1959   November 22   Departed Sydney on her first cruise from an Australian port.


1959   December 11   Departed Sydney on her first voyage across the Pacific to san Francisco.

1959   For the next ten years Arcadia plied the Australia run, cruising from both Australia and Britain.

1960    January 19    Arrived at Sydney.

1960    January 30    Arrived at Fremantle on a voyage to Britain via Suez.

1960    March 11    Departed Southampton for Sydney.  A first class, "Boomerang" return passage ticket (above) for the trip was £145.

1960    April 9    Arrived at Sydney.

1960    June 30    Arrived at Sydney.

1960    Nov 17    Arrived at Sydney.

1961   January   Arcadia ran aground on a coral reef just outside Honolulu while entering harbour.  She had stuck bow first 300 yards off Oahu Island and she took a list of three to four degrees.  Two hours later she was freed by a fleet of tugs and was taken to her berth in the harbour; after a survey it was found that she had suffered only a small dent in the keel plate and was able to sail on schedule for Sydney via Suva and Auckland.  Three months later, after an inquiry into the incident had been held, the pilot who had been on board at the time was suspended for two months.

1962   July 4   The British Comedian Spike Milligan and his wife arrived at Sydney (above).

1963   February   On her way home from Australia with 1,040 passengers on board, she developed engine trouble just outside Bombay (Mumbai).  After a two day delay in the port she was able to resume the voyage, cutting her call at Aden to make up lost time.

1965     "As assisted migrants and for a fare of £10, we sailed from Tilbury to Australia and spent six weeks of absolute luxury aboard the liner, 2nd class at that.  It was an experience I'll never forget.  We called at Gibraltar, Piraeus, Port Said, Aden (above) and Colombo and finally Fremantle for a day, where the Canberra was berthed adjacent to us.  We had to wait for three days to allow a North bound convoy through the Suez Canal, the delay was routine in as much as there was only enough room in the canal to accommodate the breadth of one ship hence they had to sail in two convoys, one in turn, so we were in the South bound convoy and had to wait for the North bound convoy to pass through.  Unfortunately I have no pictures only memories such as the Gong! for dinner and afternoon tea and we had a really nice Goanese waiter who looked after us like kings.  The only bad thing about the Arcadia was the creaking in the cabins; F deck I think we were, or perhaps it was E.  Our final destination was Outer harbour which was the passenger terminal of Port Adelaide, from where we were transported to the Finsbury Migrant Hostel which was quite a contrast to the luxury of the Arcadia."

Gordon Morris, Corby, UK.

1965     December 22     Eleven day cruise from Southampton to the Atlantic Isles with three ports of call. Fares from £79.

1966     May     She was caught up in the British Seaman's strike, which lasted six weeks and was tied up alongside the Canberra at Southampton's 106 berth (above).

1968     December     Arcadia received clearance from the American authorities to make scheduled cruises from the USA to the Caribbean.

1970   April   The mainmast was removed and the foremast was shortened by 18 feet at Thorneycroft's in Southampton, which enabled her to clear low power cables in Alaskan harbours (right).

1970     April 26     Departed Southampton for Sydney and then on to San Francisco.

1970     Transferred to San Francisco, from where she cruise to Mexican ports.  These proved very successful and she remained there for several years.  After Himalaya was withdrawn from Australia, Arcadia was transferred back to Sydney.  She was based there for the next three years, cruising to Asian and Pacific ports.  Arcadia was now almost twenty five years old, and it was decided to find a replacement.

1970   August 14     "After my Mother took a cruise in 1970, she brought this horse racing brochure from the ship home with her.  Some of the names of the "horses" were; Seasick, by Storm out of Season; Black Eye II by Speaking out of Turn; No Headache by Aspirin out of Bottle and No More Presents by Voyagers out of Money.  There were five different races, and on the back page of the brochure is Race 6; The Arcadia Cup.  The stakes on races 1 to 5 were 25 cents, and Race 6 was 50 cents."

1972     April     After a voyage to Sydney via Panama and the west coast of the USA, she returned to Southampton by the same route and made two cruises from the port.  She then sailed once more for Sydney, this time via Cape Town and Durban, returning once again after Pacific cruises via the USA and Panama, arriving in Southampton on December 3 that year.  One unusual call was a four hour stay in Cherbourg while homeward bound.

1973     The first few months were spent on a world cruise, which took her to Lisbon, Bermuda, Port Everglades, Bahamas, Acapulco, the West coast of the USA and Canada, Honolulu, Suva, Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, returning via Panama and back to Southampton.

1973   January 13, Saturday   Departed Los Angeles for Vancouver.

1973     January 17     Departed San Francisco for Hawaii, passing P&O's Spirit of London entering the bay on her maiden voyage.

1973     January 22     Arrived at Honolulu at Noon and departed at Midnight.

1973   January 29   Arrived at Suva.

1973   April 10   Arrived at Southampton, where she was converted to an open class vessel with berths for 1,384 passengers.  So practical did this configuration prove that P&O despatched her to Southampton for a full refit before she commenced her new career in earnest.  Arcadia continued to operate occasional line voyages to and from Australasia but these sailings dwindled in frequency.

1973   June   She made her first cruise as a one class ship from the West coast of North America and continued to be based there, cruising to Alaska, Mexico and across the Pacific until early 1975.

1975   March 21   Returned to Southampton after an absence of nearly two years, and following a refit by Vosper Thorneycroft she made three cruises from that port.  The first two were to the Atlantic Isles and were of a two week duration, the last one was a four night voyage to Amsterdam and back.

1975   May   Commenced a positioning voyage to Sydney via South Africa, where she was to take Himalaya's place on the Australian station.

1976   In the spring of 1976 she made a few spring cruises from Southampton and was then permanently based at Sydney as a Pacific and Orient cruise ship, the last of the 'old-style' P&O liners to serve Australia.  A regular annual cruise ex-Sydney took her to Hong Kong, where she entered dry dock for a full inspection and overhaul.  By this time all her similar-sized consorts had been long gone to the Taiwanese ship breakers, and so it was a lonely Arcadia which plied the P&O Australian service.  Apart from the yearly arrival of Canberra, in the course of her round-world cruise, and the positioning of Oriana to Sydney during the months from December to April, Arcadia was the sole representative of the P&O fleet in the South Pacific.  Her exclusion from the 1977 UK cruise brochure led to rumours that P&O were about to sell her, but this was strongly denied by the company.

1976  May 8   Final departure from Southampton.

1976  June 11   Arrived at Sydney via Capetown.

1977   Over three visits to Vanuatu, the ship took on board 200 tons of oil at a time from the liner President Coolidge (above), which had been sunk in 1942, using it in her furnaces.  P & O purchased the oil for $17,000.

1978   June   Arcadia's suitability for her role of cruise liner was in question; the Australian cruise market was a highly competitive business and it was inevitable that, as she was twenty four years old, some thought would be given to replacing her.

1978   September   Despite her age she was an extremely popular cruise ship, especially among those who appreciated the comparative bygone era of comfort provided.  But, by modern-day standards, she had overstepped her life span, and the Swedish vessel Kungsholm was purchased as a replacement for her in the Pacific cruise trade.  It was initially announced that the newer ship would operate alongside Arcadia, but this was not to be.  The next month Arcadia's final cruise programme was announced.

1979   January 18   Her last Pacific voyage departed from Sydney with 1,250 passengers and visited Noumea, Vila, Suva, and Lautoka.  On her return to Sydney Arcadia embarked her last passengers for the voyage to Hong Kong, where it was planned she would rendezvous with the new Sea Princess (ex-Kungsholm).

1979   January 29   With 650 passengers aboard, she slipped her moorings at Pyrmont at 6 p.m. for the last time and steamed majestically under the Harbour Bridge, accompanied by an escorting flotilla of tugs, ferries, fireboats, yachts and pleasure-craft of all varieties.  Many thousands gathered at vantage points along the harbour's edge to wave her a last goodbye.  She was commanded by Captain Anthony Dallas (above), and her Chief Radio Officer Mr Kenneth Gibson had sailed on her maiden voyage as a junior radio officer.  It was a nostalgic goodbye from a city which had grown to love the ship, and the evening air resounded to a cacophony of whistles and car horns as Arcadia left for the last time and headed north to Brisbane, Rabaul, Manila, Hong Kong and Singapore.

1979   February 10   Arrived at Hong Kong.  She was given a brief reprieve when she was rescheduled to continue her voyage to Singapore to rendezvous with the Sea Princess, which had been delayed by bad weather affecting her completion.

1979   February 17   Transferred her passengers at Keppel Harbour, Singapore to the Sea Princess.  After which she departed for Kaohsiung, Taiwan trailing a 75 foot long 'paying off' pennant from her fore-mast.

1979   February 28   Sold to the Nisshoi-Iwai Company of Tokyo.

1979   February 28   Arrived Little Harbour, Kaohsiung and was berthed alongside a Greek tanker; the Andros Apollan.  During her twenty five year career she had steamed, 2,650,000 miles and carried 430,000 passengers.  She was the last of the post World War II P&O liners to be scrapped.

1979   March 6   James Shaw, a noted American shipping journalist, went aboard the ship. He later wrote, 'At the time of my visit, the 29,700-ton Arcadia was positioned alongside the 99,400-ton Greek tanker Andros Apallon, as the P&O ship's final berth was not yet available.  At that time, stripping operations were in progress.  Furniture and bedding were being lowered over the side and being taken ashore in two lifeboats.  Two other lifeboats were being used as 'tankers" to take off excess fuel oil.  The same fuel oil would be used to heat the ship's plate in furnaces ashore so that it could be formed into steel re-enforcement bars.

'Onboard the liner, Taiwanese work crews were already engaged in taking-up the hardwood desks aft. Carpeting in most public rooms had been cut and rolled up.  The officers' cabins on the bridge and the chart room had already been stripped of most equipment.  The radio room and all radio instruments had been sealed by local government inspectors.

'Most "nautical antiques" - such as the large P&O world route-map from the aft bar and the B Deck wood-engraving of the Arcadia had been removed by the Rainbow Enterprise Company.  This firm, based at Kaohsiung, buys the interior decorations of most liners that come to Taiwan for breaking.  These items are then exported to nautical shops around the world. As for the ship itself, I was told that she was purchased at the market rate of $100 per light displacement ton (she was 23,060 light displacement tons) and that it would take approximately eight to ten weeks for complete dismantling.

1979   April   Mr Roger Chapman, one of her ex-radio officers, visited her at Kaohsiung and found only the foremast and about 200 feet of hull left.  Mr. Chapman must have been the last of her ex-crew members to set eyes on her.  By the end of April all that remained of this once beautiful ship was her lower hull and a portion of her bow.  That too disappeared into the Taiwanese rolling mills during May.

Cardboard models


With twenty three sizable scrap yards, Kaohsiung is the world's largest breaker of old ships; each year about two hundred ships are scrapped.  Visitors, who are lucky enough to be in this area when ships are being scrapped, can sometimes acquire maritime memorabilia and nautical artifact bargains.  By the mid 1970s more than seven hundred ocean going vessels were being scrapped at Little Harbour each year; a vessel the size of the Arcadia could end up in the Taiwanese rolling mills in less than 60 days.

Excerpt from the reminisces of an Australia bound passenger in 1973

By the time our ship pulled away from the pier at Los Angeles, most of the people who had been waving from shore and shouting farewells had gone.  With a last look over my shoulder, I turned my thoughts to the adventure before me.  Twenty eight days aboard the Arcadia was going to be wonderful.

"Come on," I said to Ivan and Michael, "let's look around this ship."  We took the stairs down to our cabin, checking out each deck as we went.  There were wide stairways inside and steeper, narrow ones on the outside decks.  We started on the Promenade Deck at the top where passengers strolled in the evenings and jogged in the mornings.  Below that, on 'A' Deck," we found the Cinema on the starboard side.  It took me a long time to learn the Port from the Starboard, but I knew that Port is on the left and Starboard on the right.

The cinema was furnished with large, comfortable chairs and couches and tables to hold refreshments.  Some excellent films were shown during our trip.  One memorable one was The Poseidon Adventure; about the sinking of a large cruise ship.  "What a strange film to present when we are on a month long ocean voyage", I remarked to Ivan, "I don't think I want to see it until we are on solid ground again."

"B" deck housed the Neptune Bar and a large ballroom with a stage where the entertainers presented the musical revues each night.  After dinner we all gathered there to applaud the dancers, singers, and comedians.  During the day a variety of activities were held in the ballroom such as exercise class, games, and the passenger talent shows.  We found another tavern, the Apollo on "C" deck.  There was no shortage of bars on this ship.  Incidentally, there was a charge for alcoholic beverages on the ship but not for soft drinks.  All the abundant food was also included in the fare.  The Orpheus Room, with tables and couches, located opposite the tavern, was a good place to play cards or just sit and read.  This is where Ivan played cribbage with a lady who smoked cigars.  She was great fun.  More about her later in the story.

Descending the ornate, inside stairway to "D" deck we came upon the large Corinthian Restaurant where we would be taking our meals.  Stopping there to sign up for second sitting for dinner, we made our way down yet another flight of stairs to "E" deck.  Ah, this was where our cabin, E322, was located.  We had been here earlier with friends who came to see us off.  We had walked down all the stairs and we could have taken one of the elevators which we did many times during our trip, especially going up...

Our cabin, containing two double bunk beds, was one of 6 or 7 cabins off a common hallway.  One cabin steward took care of all of these; he made up the berths in the morning, turned them down at night, and tidied up in between.  I think our cabin was close to the engine room, because we could hear or feel the huge engines pumping.  After a couple of nights it was like a lullaby.  The bathroom and showers were down the hall.  The stewards had brought our luggage and put it outside our cabin door.  The first copy of the ship's daily newsletter was already on the dresser.

In that newsletter of Saturday, January 13, 1973, we read: "From the Navigator: At 6:00 PM we will depart the San Pedro berth, drop our Los Angeles pilot an hour later and commence steering various North Westerly courses towards and through the Santa Barbara Channel.  At approximately 1:00 am tomorrow morning we will round Conception Point on our starboard side and commence steering more N'ly courses along the California Coast".

We were heading for our first port, Vancouver, British Columbia.  From there we would be following a Southwesterly route to our second stop, Honolulu, Hawaii.  We went out on deck to watch the Los Angeles pilot depart.  It was the first of many times we leaned on the rail to watch a harbour pilot either boarding or disembarking our ship via his little pilot boat.  The pilot gave a snappy salute to our captain from his boat, then it chugged back to the harbour to be ready to guide the next ship.

We quickly settled into the routine of the ship.  Our days began with our Goanese cabin steward tapping lightly on our door each morning about 7 o'clock.  Bearing a tray of juice, coffee and biscuits, (little cookies, not too sweet) he softly called to Michael, "It's time for breakfast." Mike got up and dressed faster than I've ever known him to, either before or after the trip.

Children's breakfast was served at 7:30 and the nannies were there to help the children.  They cut their meat and wiped their faces and kept peace between their charges while the mothers leisurely dressed for breakfast at a later time.  Michael, who was 9 at the time, went with the steward cheerfully.  He ate all his meals with the nannies except on Ivan's birthday, January 29, when he joined us for dinner.

The food and service were fantastic.  Breakfast was served at 8:30, tea at 10, lunch at 12:30.  Then at 4 it was teatime with little cakes and pastries.  Dinner was served at 7 and, at 10 a buffet was laid out with little sandwiches and sweets.  When we weren't eating, we spent time sitting and talking, reading, card playing, etc.  I often accompanied Michael to his activities.  Like all the other kids aboard, he seemed to know when to eat.

The playroom that had been so wonderfully described was highly over-rated.  When I looked in, there were lots of little kids, many of them crying, and only one nanny to watch over them.  Michael did not want to go there again after the first time.  He still joined with other kids to play games.  Every once in a while I saw Michael, with a line of other little children following a nanny on a field trip, such as a visit to the captain on the bridge.  Michael would wave and call out, "Hi Mom," as they passed by.  In the evenings the steward tended the children of his section while the parents attended the shows.  After Michael was asleep for the night we could leave our cabin door open and the steward, sitting in the hall, would listen for him.

The social director had planned various activities to fill the hours and days between ports.  I tried to attend most of them.  The daily newsletter listed each with the time and place.  There were various team games and classes and the usual shuffleboard and clay pigeon shooting.

By the second or third day we were beginning to get the feel of life at sea and finding our way around the ship pretty well.  We met many nice people.  Some were families immigrating like us.  Many were older folks just cruising.  The two people we dined with for the next month were delightful.  One was an Australian woman in her late sixties and the other an English gentleman, about the same age.

We had just begun to relax a little when, suddenly, the ship began to roll from side to side.  We were running through ninety foot waves that crashed, with a deafening noise, against the large windows of the ballroom.  We reeled drunkenly along the corridors, gripping the railings that lined each side.  The crew was scurrying around setting out supplies of bags in strategic places for the benefit of the many passengers and staff who were throwing up.

We made our way to one of the upper decks.  Ivan said we would not be as seasick there as we would be in our window-less cabin below.  Miraculously, Ivan did not get sick.  Michael and I did.  We were miserable.

Holding our bags, we, and many others, sat in the ballroom and watched the heavy grand piano slide across the room as though it were a toy.  Tables and chairs careening from side to side as the ship rocked followed it.  Crew members were busy trying to corral the escaping furniture while others lashed the piano to a post.

The waves continued to crash relentlessly against the windows.  Suddenly there was a deafening noise and the sound of breaking glass as one of the huge windows gave way.  Water poured into the room, soaking the carpet.

We staggered to the dining room thinking some broth might soothe our churning stomachs.  The dining tables had two inch edges that were usually folded under but were now turned up to keep the dishes from sliding off the tables.  And slide they did! The sound of breaking china was predominant in the dining room.  Our young busboy valiantly tried to be cheerful and serve us lunch but the sea sickness overcame him and he, too, had to run out of the room.  Mike and I could not eat for a day and a half while the storm raged but Ivan had no problem eating.

"Oh my, I don't think I'll be able to stand this for the next twenty five days," I quipped.  "Don't worry, it can't last much longer," Ivan assured me.  He was right; the destructive forces lasted a day and a half.  Things returned to normal in most of the rooms but the ballroom carpet never did get completely dry and it smelled like wet wool.

Picture yourself, with me, twenty three years ago, aboard the SS Arcadia.  I am 47 years old and have never been on an ocean vessel.  This is a big ship.  The Arcadia's gross weight is 30,000 tons; her overall length is 721 feet.  She is fully air-conditioned.  We are traveling tourist class, which is located at the rear of the ship.  A few of the young boys from first class climbed over the barrier and joined in the activities in tourist class.  They said there were no young people up front.

It is Sunday morning, January 21, the eighth day of our voyage.  Ivan and I are waiting for choir practice before going to church services at 10:30 a.m.  The weather is cloudy but warm.  The ship's chaplain conducts a non-denominational church service.

The latest word is that we will arrive in Honolulu tomorrow, January 22, about noon instead of 7: 00 a.m.  as scheduled.  Since we leave there at midnight, we have decided not to take a tour but to just walk around and ride city buses and be just tourists.

We have brought all of our baggage up to the cabin except one trunk and a large suitcase that remains in the baggage room.  We have unpacked our clothes and put them in drawers or on hangers.  It's really quite handy.

While watching the ship slip into the berth at Honolulu, we spot a laundry right at the dock.  We decide to take our week's worth of dirty laundry to be washed while we are sightseeing.  "Good idea!" I exclaim.  "I surely don't want to spend time at the ship's Laundromat where there are so many waiting to wash, and it's too expensive to have it done by the staff".  We are smiling and feeling good about our decision as Michael and I walk down the gangway, followed by Ivan, carrying our laundry bag.  Walking across the pier to the laundry we find a "Closed" sign on the door.

"Oh well," I said, "let's take it to a Laundromat.  We've brought it this far." We hop onto a city bus.  There is standing room only.  Clutching an overhead strap and bending low, we try to look out the windows.  We are watching for a Laundromat as well as looking at the sights.  Finally, we get off the bus and head for a laundry that is only about a block or two from the beach.  We put the clothes into the only empty washer and sit down to wait.

"Why don't you take Michael to the beach, Ivan, and I will wait for the wash?" What sounded like a great idea this morning did not seem very smart now.  All our clothes are wet and I am waiting for a dryer.  Finally I have finished all the washing and we head back to the ship to drop our heavy load.  We will go ashore later this evening with Zig and Lia, our new friends from Adelaide, Australia and leave Michael in the care of our room steward.

Honolulu, at night, has a carnival air about it.  We walk along the strip with its neon lights and loud music.  We see the same souvenir shells and seed necklaces in many of the little shops.  With the sound of barkers hawking their wares, mixed with laughter, we could have been at the fair back home.

We have a letter from Mama waiting for us in Honolulu.  She was so good about writing to us.  She wanted us to have a letter in every port.  I did not write as often but I wrote long letters describing the trip.  Here is a quotation from one of my letters to Mama:

Dear Mama,

I am glad we made this trip by ship to see what it is like, but I don't think I would want to take this long a trip by sea again.  Even though I enter into all the activities it is still a bit boring at times.  There are a lot of people just cruising.  They seem to have been everywhere.  They ask, "Where have you been, my dear?" I can only answer, "Pasadena".

I have found the fun people, the young, and the old.  I seem to be a girl of all ages.  Last night was the Captain's cocktail party.  Everyone was getting all dressed up and I couldn't find my long dress so I wore that knitted dress with the pink stripes all around.  After dinner we went to a dance and I had a ball.  That dress makes me feel I can do anything from a Charleston to the Waltz.  I danced with two men, since Ivan doesn't dance.  One of them was such a nut we made up the dance as we went along.

Well, today is Thursday and tomorrow is Saturday.  We have been retarding our clocks, as the English say, a half-hour each day for the past 5 days.

From the Navigator: At approximately 8:00 p.m. tonight passengers will most likely feel the bump as we cross the Equator and enter the Southern Hemisphere.  Word has been received that His Majesty, King Neptune, will, as is his want when ships enter his natural realms, board Arcadia at 2:30 this day He has commanded that all children be present at the aft end of "A" deck where he will hold court.


First class swimming pool

Michael was excited to be a part of the King Neptune festivities.  It took place around the swimming pool.  The kids were in swimsuits but the crew and nannies wore their uniforms.  King Neptune would call out one of the kid's names and he would be brought to kneel before the King while his so called crimes were announced.  Michael was told to walk the plank; the diving board.  The nannies and crew sprayed him with whipped cream and he jumped into the pool.

Some of the kids were placed on sheet covered tables to be operated on.  Holding up the sheet, they would throw out all kinds of bloody looking stuff that was supposed to be the kid's insides.  The ship's captain and most of the nannies eventually got thrown into the pool, to the delight of all the children.  Michael received a Crossing the Equator certificate.  It was a jolly afternoon.  The entire crew had fun.

The ship made her way steadily toward the Fiji Islands, covering about 525 nautical miles at an average speed of 21·47 knots.  We arrived in Suva (above right) on Ivan's birthday; January 29th.  There was a birthday cake at dinner and Ivan's chair had balloons tied to it.  Michael joined us for dinner that night.  He looked so cute in his suit.

It was so cold for the first week of the cruise, and then we had that terrible storm, so it was surprising to see everyone suddenly wearing summer clothes.  The weather was very balmy.  I finally went swimming.  The pool is filled with sea water and it was very hot, not at all refreshing.

Here is another excerpt from a letter I wrote to Mama at that time:

Mama, I am so spoiled, eating marvelous food; not doing a lick of work except to rinse out my underwear.  Being awakened with a tray of juice and coffee.  Oh, it's divine.  The sea is very calm now and it is everything I dreamed it would be.

One of the fun things aboard ship was the talent show.  I dressed up like the Carol Burnett charwoman and came in as my partner was singing.  It was a fun experience.  We passed the time in various ways, stopping at some interesting ports.  We spent part of a day in New Zealand.

Finally, we were in the Sydney harbour; it was beautiful.  The Opera House, with its unusual architecture looked so pretty.  One of the interesting things to do on a cruise is to sit on deck and watch as the ship comes into port; there is so much to see.  In Sydney harbour there were small boats all around us.  The fireboats were spraying streams of water into the air.  Everyone was waving to us.  It was very hot and humid, with temperatures of 100 degrees.

The customs officials came on board about ten in the morning and interviewed all of us.  We had to state whether we had any items on their list of restricted items, such as more than 200 cigarettes, or 1 gallon of spirits, or drugs.  The baggage was off loaded before any passengers could disembark.  We were assigned to the last group and were to go to the customs shed, find our baggage, get it cleared through customs, and go our merry way.


In 1970 Arcadia became one of the first big liners to cruise what were then unusual waters: Alaska's Inside Passage.  She is shown here amid the majesty of Glacier Bay National Park.  To such customary ports as Aden, Bombay, Melbourne and Sydney, she now added Juneau, Skagway and Sitka.


Thanks to Gordon Morris, Ken Williams, Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers) for many of the images and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together.



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NZ National Maritime Museum

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