Ship History


RETURN TO THE HOMEPAGE                                                                                                                                                                                                                       RMS CARINTHIA 1955

With a long and varied career, the Carinthia was a most remarkable ship. She was built in 1955 for Cunard Line's Dominion service to Canada as the third of the Saxonia Sisters quartet. Her launch, performed by HRH Princess Margaret, was notable for being only the fourth Cunarder to be launched by a member of the Royal Family. After her time with Cunard she underwent a radical and dramatic rebuild in Italy in 1971 and after this transformation enjoyed a highly successful career with Sitmar Line cruising in North America. She finally was scrapped in Alang, India in 2006 as the last survivor of this quartet.

Design and Construction (1951 – 1956):

In the final weeks of 1951, Cunard Line announced that they had decided to build a completely new class of ships for the service between Liverpool and Montreal. This initial announcement only mentioned two ships, though this was soon extended to include two further ships. They were to be the largest Cunard liners ever built purely for the company’s Canadian service. The ships were to be built by John Brown & Co. Ltd, Clydebank, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. All four ships in this new class were built to meet the requirements of Canada’s rapidly growing population and increasing volume of overseas trade. The basic design of the ships combined a large passenger capacity, in maximum comfort, with space for a substantial amount of cargo – all within the biggest dimensions which would permit safe navigation of the St Lawrence River up to the terminal port of Montreal.

It had been announced on the 25th November 1953, that the first two vessels were to be named Saxonia and Ivernia. The order for the third ship, to be named Carinthia, was confirmed with John Brown & Co. Ltd in October 1953. In June 1955 with construction well underway, Cunard announced that the launch would be an extra special occasion. HRH Princess Margaret had agreed to perform the naming ceremony. This made the Carinthia only the 4th Cunarder launched by Royalty – the previous ones being RMS Queen Mary (by HM Queen Mary), RMS Queen Elizabeth (by HM Queen Elizabeth) and RMS Caronia (by HRH Princess Elizabeth). The date was set for the 14th December 1955.

The west coast of Scotland was being hit by severe weather and heavy rainstorms which made it difficult for work to continue on the outside of the vessel. Much of it had to be done round the clock and under floodlights to ensure its completion. Then there was another complication, 1000 of John Brown’s engineers made moves which threatened to delay the Carinthia. They decided to ban all piecework and overtime.  Strike action seemed likely, however it all was resolved by the day of the launch and the Carinthia was ready to receive the Princess.

Despite the rainy weather, the Princess insisted on walking along the hull of the ship to examine the launching mechanism. In her speech, she described the occasion as happy and brilliant. There were 20,000 spectators, many of them provided with a grandstand view from the keel of the sister ship Sylvania, which was then under construction at the neighbouring berth. At the time of the launch, it was rumoured that the Princess would make a visit to Canada and would sail there on board the Carinthia on her maiden voyage. Sadly this remained a rumour and the liner did not receive this additional royal patronage.

In her external appearance, Carinthia was almost identical to her sisters, with her curved stem, cruiser stern and large dome-topped funnel. She had an overall length of 608 ft 3 inches and was 80 ft wide, with a gross tonnage o f 21,946 tons. Carinthia was fitted to carry 154 First class and 714 Tourist class passengers with some of the First Class cabins being interchangeable for Tourist class use if the demand required it. In light of the reception of the overtly modern interior styling of the Saxonia and Ivernia, Cunard decided to adopt a more traditional approach to the interiors of the Carinthia with historical themes adopted instead.

Having been fitted out, Carinthia was dry docked at Elderslie in preparation for her speed trials off the Isle of Arran. She departed John Brown’s on the 12th June 1956 and should have been ready to run the measured mile on the13th June. However it was discovered that her bearings were running hot and her trials were delayed for several hours. The ship stood off the Tail of Bank while the trouble was corrected. The fault turned out to be a minor one and at 8.15 pm she set sail down the Firth of Clyde. While on her speed trials she passed and exchanged greetings with the inbound Ivernia. In May 1956 it had been announced that Captain McKellar would be transferred from the Saxonia to take command of Carinthia. At a luncheon held on board the newly completed ship, Mr F.H. Dawson, the General Manager of Cunard Line, announced that the Saxonia and Ivernia would be repositioned to Southampton. As a result a call at Le Havre could be made to capture some of the traffic between the Continent and Canada. Carinthia and her yet to be completed sister, Sylvania, would be still based at Liverpool.

The Cunard Years (1956 – 1968):

Carinthia was then handed over to Cunard Line and set sail for Liverpool where she arrived on the 17th June. On the 27th June she embarked over 800 passengers for her maiden voyage to Canada. It had been hoped that she would make the crossing in record time but she was delayed for 5 hours by fog off Newfoundland. Her crossing to Quebec had taken 4 days 21 hours and 6 minutes at an average speed of 20.91 knots. On her return voyage to Liverpool she carried 890 passengers.

Although it was planned that the new quartet would replace the old prewar ships that had been running the Canadian service, at the time that Carinthia entered service the Franconia, Ascania and Scythia were still fully employed on the Canadian route. On the 12th October 1956 it was announced that Franconia and Ascania would be withdrawn from service in November 1956. Early in 1957 the Scythia was transferred to the Liverpool to New York service and in January 1958 she was sold for scrap. Now the Canadian service was entirely in the hands of the new quartet. While perhaps eclipsed by the glamour of the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Caronia, the new Canadian ships were undoubtedly stars in their own right in the Cunard Line fleet.

At the time of her entry into service, it had been announced that Carinthia would undertake a “dollar earning cruise” out of New York to the Caribbean during the forthcoming Christmas and New Year. She had maintained her St Lawrence sailings up until December. Then in mid December she departed Liverpool via Cobh and Halifax for New York. She made her first ever arrival in Halifax on the 20th, about 50 hours behind schedule. A succession of storms had pounded the liner almost continually from Cobh to Halifax. The passage from Liverpool to Halifax had taken 7 days 14 hours and 12 minutes during which the ship had averaged 12.35 knots through at times she was forced to slow to just 6 knots. Two days later, she left New York on the first cruise to be operated by one of the Saxonia sisters. The 14 day cruise took her to Martinique, Trinidad, La Guaira, Curacao, Cristobal and Port au Prince, arriving back in New York on the 6th January 1957.

After returning to Liverpool, Carinthia underwent a brief overhaul. However the work had to be left incomplete as she was recalled to service. Because of the Suez Crisis the annual Mediterranean cruise of the last remaining White Star liner Britannic had been cancelled and as a result the schedule of sailings from Liverpool had been upset. In February, Carinthia was in the news again when it was reported that two fires had broken out in the Tourist Class cabins, one during a recent voyage to New York and one after the ship had berthed there.

On the 16th October 1957, at Liverpool, the Carinthia suffered slight shell door damage while leaving Sandon Dock for the Prince’s Landing Stage to embark passengers. In April 1959 she had one of her propellers damaged by ice in Montreal harbour. She was not inspected until she arrived back in Liverpool, when it was discovered that her starboard propeller was so badly buckled that it had to be replaced. As a result of this unscheduled dry docking, she left Liverpool 24 hours late and in order to catch up she omitted her usual call at Greenock. Passengers who had planned to board there instead were transported down to Liverpool. Later that year, Carinthia made some deviations from her usual Liverpool route. She made her first call at Rotterdam on the 31st October 1959 and remained there until the 2nd November. Then on the 20th November, she made her debut at Southampton. In April 1960 she made a record breaking crossing between Montreal and Greenock. The voyage took 5 days 6 hours and 27 minutes, the liner averaging 21.8 knots.

In November 1960 the Canadian government chartered the Carinthia for some trooping voyages. This short charter came to an end on the 15th December 1960 when the last brigade of Canadian troops was disembarked at Halifax. She then sailed for New York to embark passengers for Liverpool.

Carinthia narrowly avoided disaster on the 30th August 1961. She was bound for Montreal from Liverpool and Greenock when, in thick fog 30 miles west of Quebec, she collided with the 7,013 ton Canadian ship Tadoussac. Both vessels were damaged, the Tadoussac having windows and lifeboats smashed, but luckily there were no casualties on either ship. Carinthia had 873 passengers on board at the time. It was reported that only frantic last minute manoeuvres by the pilots of each ship had avoided a head on collision. Despite the incident, Carinthia arrived in Montreal only 30 minutes late and departed for Britain on time.

Carinthia’s Atlantic crossings from the 19th April to late May 1962 were all cancelled due to strike action and she was not able to resume her sailings until the 31st May 1962. In July 1962 she had a most unusual departure from her usual transatlantic route, leaving Montreal on the 20th July 1962 for Gdansk in Poland. A somewhat more glamorous diversion occurred in 1963 when she made a call at Bermuda on the 25th January while en route to New York and a further call was made their in February 1963. A strike by longshoremen in the St Lawrence River that October caused considerable disruption to the Canadian service. Carinthia, carrying 203 passengers, was diverted to Halifax, arriving there on the 10th October 1963. She continued to use Halifax as her turn around port until the strike was resolved. In January 1964 one of Carinthia’s crossings to New York was made via Bermuda.

Towards the end of 1963, having observed the success of refitting the first two of the quartet, Cunard announced that both the Carinthia and Sylvania would undergo refits which would enhance their Tourist Class accommodations. 80 Tourist Class cabins were to be refitted in a style similar to that of the rebuilt ships, giving them private bathrooms as well as new décor. Carinthia’s refit was scheduled to take place in Liverpool from the 29th December to the 30th January 1964.

While upgrading of both ships was doubtless a welcome move, it was far from enough to make them readily competitive with other ships then in service or being built. Both ships were pure transatlantic liners and not suited to seasonal cruising. Quite simply in the end the quartet had not been as successful as Cunard had hoped. Even when faced with that fact, and having transformed Saxonia and Ivernia into the more cruise orientated Carmania and Franconia, the shipping line seemed reluctant to rebuild the Carinthia and Sylvania to make them fully compatible with the two earlier ships.

Even Cunard Line’s direct competitors on the UK to St Lawrence route, Canadian Pacific, were beginning to find it difficult to maintain a regular three ship service by this time. In September 1963 they withdrew the Empress of England from the Atlantic and placed her on full time cruises. In the end even a two ship service was more than they needed and in 1964 they sold the Empress of Britain to Greek Line. Only the splendid and relatively new flagship, Empress of Canada, remained as the Saxonia sisters’ competitor on the UK to Canada service.

While the Carmania and Franconia had been sent cruising, the Carinthia and Sylvania continued with their year round transatlantic service. Carinthia’s 27th December 1964 arrival n New York had caused problems. The dock workers went on strike over the berth that she had been allocated and as a result her return voyage was delayed until the 2nd January 1965.

By this time it had become clear to the directors of Cunard Line that the demand for transatlantic voyages in the mid winter was declining rapidly and the decision was taken to send the Carinthia and Sylvania on a series of winter cruises. On the 7th January 1966 Carinthia sailed from Liverpool on a Mediterranean cruise. Two days after her return, she departed again on another similar cruise of 13 nights before returning to her more usual winter service on the Liverpool to New York service.

In early May 1966, Britain was hit by the National Seamen’s Strike. This was to have a devastating effect, practically bringing all ports around the country to a standstill and virtually immobilising many shipping lines. The strike dragged on for over six weeks, not ending until the 1st July. Ports such as Southampton presented an incredible sight. Never had so many liners been gathered together in one place at the same time. In some instances they were berthed three abreast. All four of the Saxonia sisters were caught by the strike action. Both Carinthia and Sylvania were stopped in Liverpool. So for several weeks, there was no Cunard Line service across the Atlantic to either New York or Canada. With this most prestigious player temporarily out of action, it was left to the liners of Holland America, Norddeutscher Lloyd, French Line and the United States Lines to fill the gap. By mid July, everything had returned to normal, but with so many weeks with its fleet out of action, it had an unfortunate effect on the finances of Cunard.

On her return to service, Carinthia was involved in a couple of minor incidents. She damaged one of her propellers while she was in Montreal harbour in August and had to undergo repairs on her return to Liverpool. Then on the 25th October she collided with the vessel Forester while in Liverpool. But 1966 ended on an even more dramatic note for her. On the 8th December she was caught in the worst gale of her career, which caused her to arrive in Liverpool two days late. The storm damage necessitated a dry docking, which included work on her badly damaged rudder. Cunard had planned to repaint her all white in time for her Christmas cruise but the delay caused by the storm and the time spent on repairs meant that no time was available for this additional change to her appearance. She kept her black hull not just for the Christmas cruise but for the rest of her career with Cunard Line.

Her 14 night Christmas cruise departed Liverpool on the 23rd December 1966 and took the traditional route to the Atlantic Isles, Gibraltar and Lisbon. Carinthia returned to Liverpool on the 6th January 1967. The year was to prove the most significant since her entry into service. Having made one transatlantic crossing to Halifax and New York, she sailed for Southampton and undertook another Atlantic Isles cruise. There were two more crossings to New York before the resumption of the Liverpool to Canada service but on the 20th July 1967 the Carinthia sailed from the River Mersey on a cruise to Lisbon, Cadiz , Casablanca and Vigo. This was followed by another similar cruise but including Madeira instead of Cadiz. This was to be her very last cruise under the Cunard flag. She then made a further six round trip crossings to Canada.

Carinthia sailed from Southampton on the 23rd November 1967 for her final voyage across the Atlantic under the Cunard flag. This last voyage did not take her into the St Lawrence as by now winter ice had become a hazard. Instead, she docked at Halifax and sailed from there on the 3rd December. Six days later she was back in Southampton and her Cunard Line career was over. She was laid up alongside the Caronia which had also been retired the previous month.

The Sitmar Line Years (1968 – 1988):

Carinthia and Sylvania were destined to spend over two years laid up in Southampton’s 101 berth in Western Docks. On the 31st January 1968 a contract for their sale was signed in London. The pair had been bought for just £1 million each and the buyers were reported to be the Fairland Shipping Corporation and the Fairwind Shipping Corporation. Carinthia was to be renamed Fairland and Sylvania would be renamed Fairwind. But they would in fact be sailing for Sitmar Line, Italian based but controlled from Monaco. The sale was completed on the 2nd February 1968 and included a clause which prevented the two ships from operating on any of Cunard’s regular routes such as those from the UK to Canada or the USA. They were also precluded from sailing on cruises from British ports.

Societa Italiana Trasporti Marittimi SpA, otherwise known as Sitmar Line, had been formed in 1938 by Alexandre Vlasov. For many years, Sitmar Line was involved in the Australian migrant and low fare around the world tourist trades. By the late 1960s, the liner had disposed of several of their older ships and were looking for higher quality ships with which to maintain their service between northern Europe and Australia. At the time they had the Australian government contract to carry migrants from Southampton out to Australia, so the two redundant Cunarders appeared to fit their requirements exactly and would have made fine fleetmates for the company’s Fairstar, the former Bibby Line troopship Oxfordshire.

Having given the two ships new names suited to the emigrant service, the new owners seemed to do nothing with them other than repaint the funnels in their colours, buff with a large blue V (for Vlasov). The fact was that almost as soon as Sitmar had bought the two ships the Australian government, instead of renewing their contract had awarded it to Chandris Line. Without that valuable contract the Fairland and Fairwind sat, looking forlorn, becoming a feature of the Southampton waterfront as Sitmar worked out other ways of employing them. It was becoming ever more obvious that the migrant contract would remain with Chandris and that by the time it ended aeroplanes would have taken over.

In the end Sitmar Line unveiled a plan to rebuild the two ships totally into deluxe cruise ships and tenders for the work were requested from several European shipyards. Their new plan of employment was to be based in Los Angeles and sail to San Francisco and Vancouver before crossing the Pacific on what would have been the most exotic of liner voyages – lasting a month, it would have called at Honolulu, Papeete, Raitea, Pago Pago and Suva before arriving in Auckland and then Sydney. After about three months of cruising from Sydney a return voyage would be made to California. Cruises were also scheduled out of Los Angeles. While one ship would be cruising from Sydney, the other one would be doing the same from Los Angeles.

These trans pacific voyages were due to start in May 1972. The contract for the rebuilding of the ships was awarded to Arsenale Triestino, San Marco of Trieste in Italy. On the 6th January 1970, the Fairwind left Southampton under tow and arrived in Trieste on the 18th January. She was soon joined by the Fairland on the 21st February. While the ships were being rebuilt, Sitmar continued to market their proposed Pacific liner service and cruises. Sitmar Cruises Inc. was established to operate the two ships. However despite their efforts Sitmar found that they could not arouse sufficient interest. Long haul Pacific cruises out of Los Angeles and San Francisco at that time were dominated by the Mariposa and Monterey. They were well established ships, having sailed for Matson Line for several years, and had now been taken over by Pacific Far East Line, who continued to operate them on the same service. Meanwhile the P&O empire was well established in Australia and also operated trans-Pacific services. Also Shaw Savill and Lloyd Triestino were well known on Pacific routes. Therefore Sitmar decided to market the new ships purely as cruise ships. It was decided to base the two ships in Los Angeles and cruise to Mexico in the winter and to Alaska in the summer.

The conversion of Fairland and Fairwind was little short of remarkable. In April 1970 the Fairland was renamed as Fairsea to suite her new cruise identity. She was the first of the pair to be completed and emerged from the yard looking totally different from her Cunard Years. Internally all the passenger and officer spaces had been removed and the ship gutted. The old Cunarder became reborn as an elegant Italian cruise ship. Her superstructure was now extended forward and was completed by a gracefully curved and enlarged bridge front. What had been an enclosed promenade from which to view the cold Atlantic had been opened up to allow passengers to enjoy the tropical sea breezes. The greatest change was aft, where their were now tiered sun decks, lido areas and three pools. She had a new raked funnel. Fairsea was resplendent in an all white livery, with just three short blue stripes at her bow and the uppermost decks were painted in buff to match her funnel.

While the Fairsea now had a sleek Italian style she was still a traditional ocean liner of the 1950s. Her interiors were totally changed and with an elegant Italian feel. All trace of her previous Cunard décor was gone. She was to all intents a totally new ship.

The completely transformed Fairsea left Trieste on the 3rd November 1971 for Los Angeles calling at Cadiz, St Thomas, Antigua and Acapulco en route. The voyage was a series of firsts for the former Cunarder: her first voyage through the Panama Canal, the first time in the Pacific. Having arrived in Los Angeles on the 9th December 1971 she then continued to San Francisco where she was officially presented to the press and representatives of the travel industry.

On the 14th December 1971, Fairsea began her cruise service down to Mexico. The cruises were 6 days long: southbound the ship would depart Los Angeles at 9pm and after two days at sea would arrive at Puerto Vallarta. The following day was also spent at sea before arriving at Acapulco on the morning of the 6th day. The passengers would use the ship as their hotel that day and it was not until the following day that they would transfer to hotels in the city, flying home three days later. For the northbound cruise, passengers would fly down to Acapulco and after three nights there would board Fairsea for the cruise home via Zihuatanejo and Mazatlan. Both the southbound and northbound cruises could be combined to make a 12 day round trip.

Between August and November, Fairsea was employed on two rather longer cruises: 17 days from Los Angeles to Acapulco, Balboa, through the Panama Canal to Cristobal, Cartagena, Aruba, Martinique, San Juan and Port Everglades. After an overnight stop at that port, she would begin the return cruise to Los Angeles. This was also of 17 days and by calling at different Caribbean ports enabled the round trip to be marketed as a 35 day cruise.

By 1975 Sitmar ceased all liner operations , severing their links with the long voyages from Britain to Australia. The name Sitmar Line ceased to exist and from then on the company was known as Sitmar Cruises and concentrated on the Australian and American cruise markets. This gave them time to continue establishing the Fairstar on the Australian cruising scene and the Fairwind and Fairsea in America. In February 1973 the Fairwind was transferred to Port Everglades and she operated Caribbean cruises. Meanwhile the Fairsea continued to enjoy huge popularity and success on the West Coast with her summer cruises from San Francisco to Alaska and her winter cruises to Mexico from Los Angeles.

The reputation of Sitmar Cruises continued to grow, Fairsea and Fairwind were staffed by dedicated crews and were superbly maintained. Both Fairsea and Fairwind compared very favourably with new vessels then entering service. The Sitmar ships with their sturdy, deep draft, North Atlantic hulls and strong bows built to withstand any seas, ensured their passengers a far more comfortable voyage than the new cruise ships could offer. Before very long, both Fairsea and Fairwind were operating longer cruises. Both had already experimented with 17 day trans-Canal cruises and from the very outset Sitmar had promoted the idea of longer cruises by the combination of two itineraries. Now as well as operating the standard 7 day trips that most of their competitors focussed on, Sitmar expanded into cruises of 10, 11 and 14 days as well. The spaciousness of the ships made them ideal for these longer voyages, though it would be several years before they sailed beyond the Caribbean, Mexico or Alaska. While both ships moved, on a seasonal basis, it seemed that Fairsea was to remain the ‘Alaska ship’ and each summer found her heading north. Eventually, she made Vancouver rather than San Francisco for her Alaska cruises. This diversity of cruises, coupled with the overall comfort of the ships and Sitmar’s good service, helped give the line its enviable reputation.

Fairwind and Fairsea, once outmoded Atlantic liners, had taken Sitmar Cruises to the very pinnacle of success and popularity. By 1975 the company was looking to expand its fleet. In 1980 they decided to order their first ever purpose built passenger ship. The contract was signed in October 1980 with Constructions Navales et Industrielles de la Mediterranee of Toulon for a vessel of 38,000 tons. She was to be named Fairsky. She would be powered by steam turbines as the other ships of their fleet were steam turbine powered and the Sitmar engineers were already familiar with this technology.

In April 1984 the new ship was finally delivered to Sitmar Cruises. Her design was greatly inspired by the Fairwind and Fairsea and she was very similar in layout to the former Cunarders. With the new flagship entering service, Sitmar refitted the Fairwind and Fairsea in a similar style. The refits were carried out at Norfolk, Virginia, USA and the Fairwind was the first to undergo the transformation. The Fairsea underwent her transformation from the 2nd May 1984. Both ships had the public rooms along their Promenade Decks totally rebuilt and other rooms were redecorated. At the same time the cabins were refurbished. Once again the former Cunarders were looking at their best.

With three ships now in service in the American cruise market, Sitmar rearranged the itineraries slightly. Fairsky took over the role of the Fairsea on the US West Coast with sailings to Mexico and Alaska. Fairsea moved to the Los Angeles to Panama Canal and Curacao cruises during the winter and then returned to the Mexico cruises between May and October. Fairwind continued to sail out of Port Everglades to the Caribbean. In 1986 with the increased popularity of the Alaskan cruises, the Fairsea was redeployed on these cruises. But while the Fairsky was based at San Francisco, the Fairsea sailed from Seattle and made 10 day cruises. There were more changes at the end of the Alaskan season as Fairsky replaced Fairwind in the Caribbean and Fairwind transferred to the trans-Canal cruises. Fairsea now maintained a regular series of cruises throughout the winter months from Los Angeles to Mexico. A similar programme operated in 1987.

In 1988 in anticipation of their large new cruise ships soon to enter service, Sitmar embarked on a programme of updating their image. The buff funnels were repainted deep blue and the V logo was replaced with a stylised swan in white and red. As a result of this rebranding all the ships were renamed with the addition of the Sitmar name as a prefix.

Princess Cruises (1988 – 1996):

However everything soon changed when on the 28th July 1988, P&O announced that they were taking over Sitmar Cruises. Under this new ownership all Sitmar ships were to adopt the identity of P&O’s subsidiary, Princess Cruises. Sadly this was the end of Sitmar Cruises as it became merged with Princess Cruises. However in Australia the Fairstar would continue to be marketed under the brand P&O Sitmar, as Sitmar was still the dominant cruise operator in Australia.

Fairsea was renamed Fair Princess. Her sister became Dawn Princess. Both ships continued to operate the schedules planned for them under Sitmar. Sadly as part of the new P&O empire it was likely that these aging ships would not stay long in the fleet. In 1993 the Dawn Princess was withdrawn from service. However surprisingly the Fair Princess remained part of the Princess Cruises fleet.

But in 1995 the news came that Princess Cruises were to sell the Fair Princess to Regency Cruises. Delivery would be made following the completion of her programme of summer cruises to Alaska.

Regency Cruises announced that the Fair Princess would be renamed Regent Isle and she would sail on the 14th October from San Francisco to Hawaii. Her schedule was planned right up to October 1996. However just days before Recency Cruises were due to take delivery of her, it was revealed that the company was in serious financial difficulties. They stopped trading on the weekend of the 28th-29th October 1995. When Regency Cruises collapsed the sale of the Fair Princess had not been finalised. As a result P&O / Princess Cruises were left with a ship they did not want.

The P&O Australia Years (1996 – 2000):

She was sent to be laid up at Ensenada in Mexico to await her fate. In the summer of 1996 P&O announced that the popular Australian based Fairstar would be retired from service in January 1997. It was then announced that she would be replaced by the Fair Princess which would move to Australia. The Fair Princess was refitted in San Diego’s Southwest Marine dockyard to meet the new SOLAS requirements that had just come into effect. On the 31st January 1997 the Fairstar arrived back in Sydney at the end of her final cruise. On the 6th February 1997 the now retired Fairstar and the Fair Princess were berthed together and on the 7th February 1997 the Fair Princess sailed on her first cruise from Sydney to the South Pacific.

The Fair Princess sailed through 1997 on a series of cruises similar to those that the Fairstar had operated. Sadly during her annual overhaul in February 1998 mechanical problems surfaced. The extensive repair work required resulted in her cruise to the South Pacific due to depart on the 16th February 1998 to be cancelled. The repairs completed, the Fair Princess prepared for her next cruise. On the 27th February 1998 with all her passengers embarked he sailed out of the Darling Harbour Cruise Terminal and into Sydney harbour when suddenly all her generators failed. The Fair Princess was moved back to the terminal and her engineers worked all night to get her ailing machinery operating again. By the next morning it was clear that her cruise would have to be cancelled. However salvation was near. Lord Sterling, Chairman of P&O was in Sydney and immediately got on the telephone to the USA and organised an emergency repair crew. She finally departed on her next scheduled cruise on the 8th March 1998. However all went well this time. Over the following years she gradually built up a loyal following.

In December 1998 it was announced that her cruise scheduled to depart Sydney on the 22nd February 1999 would be cancelled. Instead the Fair Princess would undergo a refit to enhance her facilities. Fair Princess returned to Sydney on the 15th February 1999 after a cruise around New Zealand and immediately went to the shipyard for a refit. For a while it seemed as though the Fair Princess would sail alongside the newly transferred Pacific Sky out of Sydney. However it was announced that when Pacific Sky started cruising out of Sydney in November 2000, the Fair Princess would be repositioned to sail from Auckland. Some cruises would take her further into the Pacific and the positioning of her in Auckland was hailed as being innovative and exciting. On the published schedule the last cruise of her series from Auckland was a positioning voyage departing Auckland on the 5th March 2001 and arriving in Sydney on the 9th March 2001. However there was a shock announcement from P&O on the 19th June 2000 which stated that the Auckland cruise programme of Fair Princess had to be cancelled as they had negotiated her sale. It seemed that she was to be sold for use as a casino ship based in Hong Kong to be called Emerald Fortune.

Fair Princess’s final months with P&O were not without incident. In 2000 she was positioned in Sydney for use as a hotel ship for the Olympic Games. After the end of her period as an Olympic hotel ship she had less than two months left as a Sydney based cruise ship. A few days after her final cruise she slipped out of Sydney virtually unnoticed on the 15th November 2000. Before leaving, she was destored by P&O and some of her small artwork collection was transferred to the Pacific Sky. She arrived in Hong Kong on the 29th November 2000 for further preparation work.

The Final Years (2000 – 2006):

In February 2001 it was announced that her name had been changed from Emerald Fortune to China Sea Discovery. She was now owned by a company called China Sea Cruises. She was used on the overnight gambling run from Hong Kong. Sadly she was far from successful. She was briefly used for cruises from Hainan Island. Her black topped funnel was now scarlet with a pale blue and white diamond design on it. Her hull was still white with a blue sheer line. The Hainan cruise venture was shortlived and by June 2001, China Sea Discovery was laid up in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. On the 12th June 2001 she was reactivated on cruises from Taiwan. On the 2nd October 2002 the CSD resumed cruising from Keelung, Taiwan after previously being under arrest. By 2003 she was laid up in derelict condition in Hong Kong. In early summer 2005 the ship was auctioned off and was sold for scrap.

On the 20th November 2005 the Sea Discovery (former Carinthia) arrived at Alang, India for scrapping and was beached. Thus the last surviving ship from the Saxonia Sisters quartet will soon be no more. Amazingly they were all built in the same place (John Brown & Co. Ltd, Clydebank) and now are all scrapped in the same place (Alang, India).

On the 17th February 2006 the beached and partially dismantled former Carinthia (now Sea Discovery) at Alang, India suffered a serious fire in the engine room. The fire trapped some workers inside and 9 had to be taken to hospital with burns. The fire left the ship a charred hulk from stem to stern.

(c) Cruise Travel 2005-2018                                                                                                                                                                    A China Visa from UK website