The New Zealand Maritime Record - sponsored by the NZ National Maritime Museum


Maintained by the NZ National Maritime Museum
as a service to Shipping Enthusiasts and Maritime Historians

Go To the NZNMM Website

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 Orient liner ss Oriana of 1959


In 1957 the Orient Line commissioned their largest and last passenger ship. Although built primarily for Australasian line voyages, she was also designed with a view to seasonal cruising.

Equipped with full air conditioning, bow and stern thrusters and a welded aluminum superstructure, she had a radio in every cabin; a luxurious feature at the time.

Steaming 3,430,902 nautical miles and visiting 108 ports during her working career, Oriana was the fastest ship ever to sail to Sydney, making the passage from Southampton via Suez in only twenty-one days.

It would be all to easy to bemoan her subsequent fate, however, unlike her much admired running mate Canberra, she has survived in spite of the odds. Luridly lit with neon and variously touted as the "Titanic of Huangpu River", the sister ship of the Queen Elizabeth, a "British imperial cruiser " and "one of the four most famous luxury boats of the contemporary world," the old gal now graces an otherwise undistinguished waterfront at Shanghai.



Displacement     41,915 Gross Tons.

Length     245.1 metres or 804 feet.

Beam     30.5m wide or 97 feet.

Maximum draft     9.7 metres or 31 feet 6 inches.

Overall height     51.27 metres (16 floors).

Builders     Vickers-Armstrongs (Shipbuilders) Ltd. at Barrow-in-Furness, for £12,500,000.

Propulsion     Six Parsons geared turbines, total 80,000 ship's horsepower, single reduction geared to twin screws.

Maximum speed     30.64 knots (57 k.m.h.)

Cruising speed     Speed 27.5 knots, her record day's run was 701 nautical miles at 29.21 knots.

Accomodation     730 cabins for 638 First & 1,496 Tourist Passengers (later 1677 in one class).

Facilities     17 public rooms and 11 passenger decks; Tennis Deck, Bathing Deck, Stadium Deck, Verandah Deck and the "A" thru "E" Decks.

Crew     903

Port of registry     London

Tourist class ballroom

First class swimming pool

Ship's Log

1957     September 18     The keel was laid of what was to be the largest passenger ship built at Barrow and (at that time) the largest built in England. Planning the new liner took two years, for when the Orient Line decided to build a further ship for their Australian and trans-Pacific service, they were faced with the problem of whether to order another 28,000-tonner, like the Orsova, with 22.5 knots speed, or a bigger vessel capable of greater speed. Vickers-Armstrong was asked to calculate the dimensions, fuel consumption and cost of a bigger ship with a speed of 27 knots. One conclusion was that such a vessel, reducing the round trip by a fortnight, would save more than enough in cost on the shorter voyage to outweigh the increased cost of the faster speed.

1959     November 3     Launched by H.R.H. the Princess Alexandra, who christened her with the name given to four previous Iron vessels (1869, 1887, 1905 &1914). The derivation of the name is from ancient Greek for the East and also from the Latin for the dawn. She was then was berthed at the fitting out quay in Buccleuch Dock.

The newly completed Oriana passes through the Ramsden Dock entrance into the Walney Channel with barely a foot to spare on either side, before sailing for dry docking at Falmouth.

1960     November     Trials were carried out on the Clyde and a maximum speed of 30.64 knots was attained in adverse weather conditions.

1960     December 3     Departed from Southampton on her maiden voyage to Australia.

1960     December 27     At Melbourne.

1960     December 30     Arrived at Sydney.


1961     January 5     Departed from Sydney's new International Terminal at Circular Quay for Auckland, Vancouver and US West Coast ports.

1961     February 5     First visit to San Francisco, the city council proclaimed the day would be known as Oriana Day.

1961     February 25     Arrived at Sydney.

1961     March 25     Arrived at Southampton.

1961     June     Below: a sailing schedule for June 1961.

1961     June 9     Departed Auckland at 5 p.m. for Sydney at 27 knots to set a new trans Tasman record of 47 hours and 30 minutes.


1961     July 31     Passed through the Panama Canal for the first time on a return voyage to Southampton. She was the largest vessel to pass through the canal since the German liner Bremen in 1938.

1962     Carried 156 Maltese emigrants to Australia. Below: anchored in Valetta Harbour, Malta.

1962     December 3     The 30,800 ton veteran USS aircraft carrier Kearsarge and the Oriana collided in dense fog off Long Beach, California. The Kearsarge received a 25-foot gash about ten feet aft on the starboard side. Oriana suffered a 20-foot hole near the bow and a small fire broke out in her boiler room, the ship was repaired at Los Angeles.

1963     September 17     Sydney Mayor, Henry Frederick Jensen presents the keys of the City to the captain of the Oriana at Circular Quay.


1964     Set a new record for passage between Auckland and Sydney; 45 hours and 24 minutes at 27.76 knots.

1964     Changed to P&O livery with a White hull instead of the traditional Corn colour.


1965     Ownership transferred to the P&O Line.


1966     September     Arrived at Sydney from San Francisco via Los Angeles; Honolulu, Suva, and Auckland.

1969     While transiting the Panama Canal, Oriana struck the side of a lock damaging a propeller.


1969     March     Stephen Wedd was in the Engine/Boiler rooms from March 1969 until November 1970 as fourth Engineer.  A link to his Oriana page opens in a new window.

"The web site got me thinking about a few other incidents during my 2 years in the engine and boiler rooms - such as blowing No 4 boiler - due to lack of water - and the valve sticking due to the low flow of water when all four boilers were lit and we were in port using very little steam.  It made quite a bang. My 4th Eng. colleague who had just left to go ashore on a boat saw the blast of steam from the funnel.  Later we put two and two together.  He'd 'lost' water about 7am and recovered, then I lost it again at 8.45, but with the damage unknowingly caused earlier there was no margin for error. Bang.  Many tubes sagging low and burst in the main chamber - just behind me one of my pictures.  Tubes were obtained in LA (story goes they were freighted out in a cargo plane) and shore staff sailed with us to Vancouver as they fixed the boiler.

Funny that even though the ship delayed sailing from Vancouver to Hawaii, the engineers from LA never quite finished and scored a trip to Hawaii!  Oriana could easily make 23 knots on three boilers so we weren't delayed much.

Another post fire trip event - relatively minor but it got some passengers worried - we were between Bermuda and Fort Lauderdale I think, and a problem with fuel occurred when tanks were changed.  The fuel had been heated up to 300 F (as normal) but were brought on-line early when suction was lost on another tank.  Problem was there was a significant amount of water in the fuel which had not been drained off.  We lost the fire to all four boilers and drifted for about 2 hours whilst gradually we isolated the problem and got clean fuel thorough.  One passenger was heard to say "They've run out of bloody fuel now and they daren't tell us! "

And in Sydney Harbour at berth in May or June 1969 one of the crew removed a main door to get access to the port side main steam condensers.  Problem was no one had closed the sea cocks.  The engine room took on about 4 feet of water in 5 minutes! Panic !!"

1970     May     Arrived at Sydney.

1970     August     Soon after departing for Australia and New Zealand, fire broke out in the boiler room, whilst the ship was still in Southampton Water.  The vessel lost all power and was towed back to the port, where repairs took two weeks.

1970     December 5     Arrived at Melbourne.

"The opportunity to see more of the world appealed to us, so we arrived at the docks, where the majestic Oriana 42,000 tons, was waiting.  We were to see much less of the world than expected; the Oriana had had to be refitted due to a fire on its previous voyage and was consequently delayed, cutting out several of the ports of call.  The Bay of Biscay was rather rough, but the rest of the trip was in calm but overcast weather until the Indian Ocean.  Our first port of call was Madeira, where we watched the sleds running down the steep streets.  Then on to Cape Town, the impressive Table Mountain, and an excursion by bus. I did enjoy a bottle of Cap Constanza, a fortified sweet wine, unavailable in Sweden because of the trade boycott. The next port was Durban, where we went on an excursion to a traditional kraal, and an animal park, where the bus took us very close to ostriches and some huge and rather impressive looking "pussy cats", which our children wanted to pat.

After Durban, the weather became sunny but the long (I think six days) voyage across the Indian Ocean was rather boring. Then, the radio accents changed to Australian, and there was an unmistakable excitement on board. A new continent emerged, together with Australian customs and Immigration officials, before we were let ashore at Fremantle. One of the very first impressions was the intense sun light, coming from an unexpected angle. The magnificent "Christmas Trees" were in flower. Perth in those days of early December 1970, was rather relaxed. The Oriana then took us across the Great Australian Bight, and finally in through the Rip, into Port Phillip Bay, and berthing at the pier in Melbourne, on 5th December, 1970."

1971     August     At Lisbon (below)

1972     January 29     Traversed the Panama Canal.

1972     November 13     Arrived at Sydney.

1973     Accommodation altered to 1,677 in one class. Cruising nine months out of Southampton and for three months from November out of Sydney.

1974     December 16     Berthed at Auckland.

1978     May     Whilst on a Caribbean cruise, the liner was a victim of a bombing hoax. Three days out from Southampton, an anonymous letter to the P&O headquarters warned that a bomb was on board. Although a bomb disposal squad was flown out to join the ship, a thorough search found nothing amiss and the squad was not required to parachute on board.

1979     March 24     Arrived at Auckland.

1981     Based permanently at Sydney for South Pacific cruising, replacing the Sea Princess.

1985     P&O announce her withdrawal from service.

1986     March 27     End of the final cruise voyage and then laid up at Sydney.

1986     May 21     Sold to Daiwa House Sales of Japan for use as a for use as an hotel, museum and cultural and tourist centre.

1986     May 28     Departed from Sydney for the Hitachi Zosen shipyard where she was refitted for her new role. The propellors and rudder were removed and placed on the fore deck by the former crew's swimming pool.

1986     August 1     Moored at Oita, near Beppu, a resort on the Japanese island of Kyushu. She was welded to a wharf and her funnels were painted pink.

1995     Sold to the Hangzhou Jiebai Group Co Ltd, a department store operator and towed to Chinwangtao (Qinhuangdao), China where she served as an accommodation center and hotel.

1998     November     The Hangzhou West Lake International Tourism Culture Development Co Ltd. purchased the vessel for US$6 million from Qinhuangdao in Hebei Province, the latter holding a 85 per cent stake.

1998     November 15     Towed by five tug boats from Qinhuangdao Port in North China to Shanghai. The subsequent restoration project included new elevators, alarm systems, and climate control. A press release stated that "the ship will maintain the traditional British style and elegance of its earlier years. Original furniture, ornamental objects, and even old newspapers will be maintained in the cabins".

1999 February 16     After a US$3.63 million renovation and with hotel accommodation, a "Museum of World-Famous Ship Models," a swimming pool, a miniature golf course, a wedding chapel, and a 20,000 square metre exhibition hall, she was opened to the public on the Huangpu River at Shanghai and and received an average of 3,000 visitors daily.


1999 October 18     A foreign tourist reported, "Finally, we toured the innards of the very retired S.S. Oriana. This is the colorfully lit hulk that we can see from our 83rd floor hotel window. At that distance it looks like a classic ocean liner. Up close it looks tacky but tacky with class. Inside it looks like chilled death. Unfortunately, the tour of its organs included a dinner in its European style restaurant. As we were the only customers in the restaurant the staff seemed caught off guard when we actually ordered something; apparently the menu is a period piece that just reflects what once was. Even spookier than the restaurant was what was left of the ship. It was as if the Bangladesh breakers had just finished work on the interior; then someone had bad second thoughts about it and called on Bangladesh interior decorators to put it back together again".

1999     December 24     Nine-day millennium celebration from December 24, 1999 to January 3, 2000 included theme dinners, symphony concerts, buffets, fashion shows, auctions, and garden parties.

2000     July     Despite more than 500,000 visitors, the liner failed to attain expected profit levels and its operators lost at least US$241,000.

2000     August 16     It is announced that the Shanghai International Commodity Auction Corporation will auction 85% of the shares in the "Former British Royal Vessel." The net assets of the Shanghai Oriana Entertainment Corporation are estimated at 112 million yuan.

2000     September 28     The Hangzhou based Song Dynasty Town Group succeeded in netting an 85% stake at a price of US$7.25 million from one of the liner's major shareholders at an auction. Huang Qiaoling, a member of the board of directors, revealed that the future operation of the liner will focus on its features as a "British culture and a palace at sea."

2001     December     The World Ship Society's December newsletter reports that the liner is to be moved yet again. This time to the Chinese port of Dalian, having been sold for approximately US$4.5m. She is to be refitted to become a floating theme park, museum and banquet hall.

2002 July    An English-language Chinese newspaper reported that The Oriana luxury liner theme park is to open to the public in Dalian, a port city in northeast China in July. (It was later reported that the park was commissioned on 18 July)

The Hangzhou Songcheng Group, a company in east China's Zhejiang Province invested nearly 300 million yuan (375,000 US dollars) to purchase the ship in 2001 and refit it.

The refurbished ship is expected to be berthed permanently at Xinghai Bay in Dalian. Visitors will be able to see the ship's original bridge, VIP hall, post office, hospital and museums and enjoy films and artistic performances there.

2004 June      Oriana reported to have been severely damaged and partially sunk in a major storm. Detailed report


SS Oriana liner, the world's only deluxe liner-theme park and a famous static attraction at Dalian Xinghai resort area departed from her pier towing by four tug boats at the early hours of yesterday morning, reported by Dalian Evening News. Adjusting by two tug boats on two sides and towed by one on the head and another driving boat behind, the last great Orient Liner - Oriana was first rectified from the slant and took less than 20 minutes until vanished into far most horizon.

Built in 1957 and set its maiden sail in 1959 from the same port where Titanic from the same shipbuilding factory, Britain's Orient Line, set the maiden sail, SS Oriana is known as the "former British Royal Vessel"
featuring the British culture and a palace at sea. But renowned here in Dalian ever since her arrival in Xinghai Bay on 28th, June, 2002, local citizens favors her more as the nickname of "White Princess".

Looking back for her unparalleled history, the 260-meter-long deluxe passenger liner, one of the four most famous liners in the world had sailed 6.5 million sea miles since 1960, carrying some 400,000 guests all over the world and visiting 108 ports. And once arrived in Dalian in 1985. The Hangzhou Songcheng Group, a company in east China's ZheJiang Province invested nearly 300 million yuan (375,000 US dollars) to purchase the boat in 2001 and refit it.

The refurbished ship berthed at Dalian Xinghai Bay a year later and opened to public on July 18. 2002. According to the source, she would be permanently at Xinghai Bay in Dalian as the world's unique deluxe
liner-theme Park. As the themed park, visitors are able to view the ship's original bridge, VIP hall, post office, hospital and museums and enjoy films and artistic performances there.

Oriana caught a fire just after her opening to public yet didn't suffer from much loss. As a local tourist destination, the Park failed to attract enough tourists due to relatively higher tickets price of 80 RMB yuan.

Her tragedy continues. About 2AM on June 18, 2004 a strong gale caused ORIANA her to heel over at a sharp list to port, dumping the access ways in to the bay, the fatal damage was just after local administration
determined to remodel her into a free public park. Domestic and foreign salvage teams worked for a year to repair her but all failed in vain. She still leaned to the side and stood bleakly.

According the anonymous insider reported by Dalian New Business on May.12, she might not be any commercial use and will be trashed ultimately. Also from the report, her destination is Zhangjiagang Port,
Jiangsu Province in East China. Her last owner is an anonymous shipbuilding company in Jiangsu.


Dawson, Philip S.
British Superliners of The Sixties     A Design Appreciation of the Oriana, Canberra and QE2
Conway Maritime Press, 1990. ISBN 085177542X
A most interesting book about the development and construction of large passenger ships of the 1960. Mainly concerned with ship construction and accommodation layout but also some detail of machinery. Deals essentially with Canberra, Oriana and QE2 but also mentions other liners of the period.

French, Nelson
Ormonde to Oriana     Orient Line to Australia and Beyond - A Purser remembers.
UK: The Self Publishing Network, 1996. ISBN 0 902830 43 0
Nelson French joined the Orient Line In 1947 and served in every ship of the Fleet, including the commissioning and Maiden Voyage of the last of the great Orient Liners - Oriana.

Griffiths, Denis
Steam at Sea     Two Centuries of Steam Powered Ships
UK: Conway Maritime Press, 1996. ISBN 0851776663
A detailed look at the history of steam power at sea.

McCart, Neil
20th Century Passenger Ships of the P&O
Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens, 1985. ISBN 0850597161
Details of all 20th century P&O ships

McCart, Neil
S.S. Oriana     The Last Great Orient Liner
UK: Fan Publications, 1992. Famous British Liners Series, soft covered, 52 pages.
Gives a brief history of the Orient and P&O Lines, and how the Oriana came to be built. The author uses many anecdotes from ship's crew, passengers and builders. The ship is described throughout, and has numerous black and white photos accompanying the text. Also covered are some of the problems the Oriana encountered, including the collision with USS Kearsage, an Essex Class aircraft carrier, fires, and a bomb threat. Most of the 70 photographs included in the book are monochrome. There are two colour photographs of the Oriana in her original "corn" coloured livery, and also in her all white livery (all white was adopted in 1964). The photographs show the Oriana in close up, profile, aerial, and in dry dock , and make this book most useful to the modeller wishing to build and detail the Revell/Modelcraft kit of this beautiful liner.

Morris, Charles F.
Origins, Orient and Oriana
Brighton: Teredo, 1980. 491 pages. Illustrated throughout with b&w photographs, and line drawings.
The book extends far beyond the confines of this one company to describe the many pitfalls few professional seamen would guess.

Rabson, S. & O`Donoghue, K.
P&O A Fleet History
UK: Wold Ship Society, 1988. ISBN 0905617452
General history of all P&O ships.

Scott, J.D.
Vickers     A History
London: Weidenfield & Nicholson. 1962.


Life Magazine     March 3, 1961    S.S. Oriana an illustrated article.

Ships Monthly Magazine     November 1993    Illustrated article: former P&O liner, now a museum.

Ships Monthly Magazine    June 1999    Illustrated article: tourist attraction in Shanghai.

"Chusan and Oriana" by Jack Loius Koskie (1914-1997)
Watercolour, 19.5 x 23cm.

Above Right: transiting the narrow Boulari Passage at Noumea in New Caledonia


Thanks to Philip Baxter, Bill Bell, Phil Cousins (Dock Museum, Barrow-on-Furness), Ian Roberts, Stephen Wedd, Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers) for many of the images and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together. Updated (history post 2001) by NZNMM staff. Final (2005) entry thanks to Mike Pryce.

This page is part of the Migrant Liners in the Antipodean Service section of the
New Zealand Maritime Record
web site.

Copyright (c)2003-2005
NZ National Maritime Museum

Return to the Ship Index

Enquiries & Research