a long and varied career, the Ivernia was a most remarkable ship. She
was built in 1955 for Cunard Line's Dominion service to Canada as the
second of the Saxonia Sisters quartet. After her time with
Cunard she then went on to have a varied career in the Soviet Union's
Far Eastern Shipping Company fleet (1973 to 1980) and later the Black
Sea Shipping Company fleet. This included service in support of Cuba.
She finally was scrapped in Alang,
India in 2004.
and Construction (1951 – 1955):
final weeks of 1951,
Cunard Line announced that they had decided to build a completely new
ships for the service between Liverpool and Montreal. This initial announcement
mentioned two ships, though this was soon extended to include two
ships. They were to be the largest Cunard liners ever built purely for
company’s Canadian service. The ships were to be built by John Brown
Ltd, Clydebank, Glasgow, Scotland, UK. All four ships in this
class were built to meet the requirements of Canada’s rapidly growing
and increasing volume of overseas trade. The basic design of the ships
a large passenger capacity, in maximum comfort, with space for a
amount of cargo – all within the biggest dimensions which would permit
navigation of the St Lawrence River up to the terminal port of Montreal.
been announced on the
25th November 1953, that the first two vessels were to be
Saxonia and Ivernia. The Ivernia was launched on the 14th
1954, just nine days after the Saxonia steamed into New York for
the first time. Originally it
had been arranged that the ceremony should be performed by the wife of
Canadian Prime Minister but plans had to be altered, and instead Mrs D.
Howe, wife of the Canadian Minister of Trade, sent the ship down the
launching of her sister, the Ivernia’s naming was not blessed with good
weather. As she took to the water, she was caught by a strong
quickly, she found herself dangerously close to the river bank with her
within just a few feet of a storage quay. It took six tugs to guide her
danger and into her fitting out berth.
fitting out of the Ivernia,
like that of the Saxonia, took nearly six months. On the 13th
1955, she sailed from Glasgow
on a series of trials that lasted until the 17th June.
Dominion Service (1955 – 1962):
been the original
intention to begin her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Quebec
the 30th June. However, Cunard were being hit by industrial
which resulted in changes to the plans. On the 25th June,
announced that the Ivernia would begin her maiden voyage from Greenock
of Liverpool and she sailed from there to Canada with 900 passengers
on the 1st
arrived in Montreal,
at the end of
the first leg of her maiden voyage on the 19th July 1955.
superb new liners settled on the route and illustrated well Cunard
commitment to the Canadian service. As was usual on that route, once
Lawrence became impassable due to winter ice, the ships were
temporarily to the Liverpool to Halifax
and New York
Ivernia’s first such sailing left Liverpool
the 2nd December 1955. She called at Cobh on the 3rd
December, Halifax on the 8th
December, and made her maiden arrival into New York on the 10th
1955. She remained there, unloading and loading her cargo until the 15th
December, when she set sail back to Liverpool,
arriving just two days before Christmas. Her sailings to the St
resumed in mid April 1956 and continued relatively uneventfully until
November 1956 when she was damaged by a severe Atlantic storm while on
outward voyage. The damage was temporarily repaired while she was in Montreal. Then,
of returning to Liverpool as usual, Ivernia sailed for London and
arrived there on the 2nd
December 1956. It was her first visit to that port. She then made four
Atlantic sailings from London.
it was planned that
the new quartet would replace the old prewar ships that had been
Canadian service, at the time that Carinthia entered service the
Ascania and Scythia were still fully
on the Canadian route. On the 12th October 1956 it was
that Franconia and Ascania would be
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
was entirely in the hands of the new quartet. While perhaps eclipsed by
glamour of the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Caronia, the new
were undoubtedly stars in their own right in the Cunard Line fleet.
the Ivernia made her
first appearance in Southampton on the 23rd March at the end
crossing from New York.
On the 1st April she sailed on a short cruise that took her
to Cherbourg, Plymouth,
to Cherbourg and then returned to Southampton on the 5th April 1957.
Saxonia aimed to
capture some of the continental traffic by making a call at Le Havre, Ivernia’s sailings often included Rotterdam. She
made her first call at the
Dutch port on the 7th October 1957 and sailed directly from
there to Quebec.
made several more sailings of this kind until early December when she
1960, 1961 and 1962
all proved unlucky for the Ivernia. On the 8th April 1960
the passenger gangway as she was coming alongside Tilbury Landing
Stage. On the
13th April 1961, although the Canadian service had resumed,
was still a great deal of ice around and while in the Gulf of St Lawrence she suffered ice damage. On
her return to Southampton on the 25th
April, she ran aground
off Hythe but lucky was undamaged. In April 1962 her propellers were
while navigating along the St Lawrence and she was forced to need dry
for repairs before she could make the return voyage.
Cunard Cruising Years (1962 – 1973):
1962, Sir John
Brocklebank (Chairman of Cunard Line) announced that both the Saxonia
Ivernia would be taken out of service and given an extensive rebuild
restyling to make them more suited to cruising. Both ships continued
Atlantic service for a few more months the Ivernia’s final Atlantic
voyage started on the 19th September 1962 and she was back
in Southampton on the 5th
October. On the 11th
October she arrived at John Brown’s on the Clyde
for her refit.
was to involve
considerable structural alterations and she would be given a completely
décor before taking up her new role as a dual purpose Atlantic liner
ship. It had been announced earlier that month that not only would the
and Ivernia be remodelled but they would also be renamed. Saxonia would
renamed Carmania and Ivernia would be renamed Franconia.
Names associated with previous famous cruising ships in the Cunard
Cunard’s plan was to operate both ships between Southampton and the St
during the summer with calls at Rotterdam,
during the winter months they were to switch to cruise service from
Everglades to the West Indies.
few weeks of the
Carmania’s return to service, she was joined by the refitted and
Ivernia, now called Franconia. On the
May 1963 the Franconia, her refitting completed, left Glasgow
on a trial voyage and arrived at Southampton
on the 30th May 1963. Two days later she resumed the
service with calls at Rotterdam and Le Havre en route to Quebec.
Franconia made her
Caribbean debut with a series of cruises out of New York. She departed on the first
on the 23rd November 1963, sailing to St
Thomas, Santo Domingo, Kingston
series of similar cruises continued until the 24th April
she sailed for Southampton to join
Carmania in the summer transatlantic service.
winter of 1964/65,
both Carmania and Franconia were well
established on the cruise scene. Franconia continued with the programme
established the previous winter, sailing out of New
to the Caribbean. She operated six
the first one departing New
on the 8th December 1964. Due to the extra sailing time
reach the Caribbean, her cruises were
longer than those of her sister, Carmania.
arrived back in
Southampton on the 1st April 1965 and underwent an overhaul
refit before resuming her schedule of transatlantic crossings to Canada on the 13th April,
departures including Rotterdam.
On the 1st October 1965, she ventured into the Mediterranean
for the very first time. Cunard scheduled her to undertake an Iberian
departing Southampton on the 25th September and calling at Malaga, Cadiz, Lisbon and
followed this with a similar cruise, which called at Casablanca
instead of Malaga.
A further sailing was made to Canada
and then she returned to New York for
season of 6 Caribbean cruises, which
the 20th December to the 20th March 1966.
May 1966, Britain
was hit by the National Seamen’s Strike. This was to have a devastating
practically bringing all ports around the country to a standstill and
immobilising many shipping lines. The strike dragged on for over six
ending until the 1st July. Ports such as Southampton
presented an incredible sight. Never had so many liners been gathered
in one place at the same time. In some instances they were berthed
abreast. All four of the Saxonia sisters were caught by the strike
action. Franconia, barely a month
into her Atlantic season, also
became strikebound in Southampton Eastern Docks. So for several weeks,
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
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.
Cunard withdrew the
Carinthia and Sylvania from service, however the Carmania and Franconia
continued to maintain the company’s cruise programme, as well as a much
summer liner service to Canada. Cruising, however, was to become the
important part of their employment. The Franconia
in 1967 became a full time cruise ship. That year Furness Bermuda Line
operations. Cunard saw this gap as an ideal opportunity to establish
in the year round cruise market out of the United States. Arrangements
made with the Bermudan government for Franconia to become the weekly
ship between New York
and the island.
It was at
this time, during
their winter refits, that both Carmania and Franconia
underwent a further change, their cruising green livery was replaced
more conventional white hull and upperworks. As before, Carmania was
Port Everglades but for part of this 1966/67 season she was joined
there by Franconia. Franconia made a
10 day Christmas and New Year
cruise out of New York
returning there on the 2nd January 1967. The following day,
sailed for Nassau and Port Everglades
into the Caribbean, returning to the Florida
port. She made three subsequent cruises from there but with the last
one, a 19
day trip, she returned to New
It was on
March 1967 that Franconia sailed from New York
on the first of a planned series of 28 cruises to Bermuda.
She did, however, make one diversion from this regular route when, on
July, she sailed northwards to what had once been her customary trading
the St Lawrence River. This cruise
from New York to Quebec,
Montreal and Boston,
ending in Bermuda. She then made a
cruise to Montreal and Quebec,
this time ending in New York.
This allowed her to resume her regular Bermuda
schedule. The series of cruises to Bermuda ended on the 17th
November and three days later Franconia sailed for Liverpool via
Bermuda and Cobh. This was her first
Atlantic voyage of the year. She
remained in Liverpool, being overhauled, until the 22nd
when she departed on a Christmas cruise to the Atlantic Isles and North Africa.
1968, from mid April
to November, Franconia again maintained the regular cruise service
linking New York and Bermuda.
Before that, she began 1968 with a cruise from Liverpool to Portugal, North Africa and the Atlantic
before sailing over to New York to
cruises down to the Caribbean. In
November, after the end of the Bermuda season, she was back in Southampton where she underwent a month long
overhaul before sailing on her usual Christmas and New Year cruise. The
was slightly different calling at the Atlantic Isles, North Africa and Dakar in Senegal.
Franconia was based
in Florida for her winter cruise
instead of New York.
On the 8th January she left Southampton for Miami
and made a cruise from there to San Juan
and St Thomas.
ended in Port Everglades and the remainder of the cruise programme was
there. The pattern of her 1969 cruise programme was the same as
time the Carmania
and Franconia had built up a loyal following and were very popular on
sides of the Atlantic. Early in 1970,
port of registry was changed from Liverpool to Southampton.
In January 1970 the Franconia joined
sister Carmania in Port Everglades. Sadly it was to be their last
season in the Caribbean.
found themselves facing the most important event of their long and
history – a takeover bid. In August 1971 a successful £26 million bid
Trafalgar House Investments Ltd, a company with interests in property,
engineering, hotel ownership, house building and investments. The new
Cunard Line were faced with the fact that both Carmania and Franconia
were in need of further refitting and modernisation. With several new
built cruise ships coming into the market, the two sisters were
look dated, particularly when compared with their new fleetmates, the
flagship Queen Elizabeth 2 and the cruise ship Cunard Adventurer.
their new owners, Trafalgar House, realised that to bring the Carmania
and Franconia up to standard would be
an expensive business.
It was eventually decided to withdraw the two venerable ships, lay them
put them up for sale. Their roles in the Caribbean
would be taken over by the new cruise ships Cunard Adventurer and
the two ships
soldiered on. Franconia maintained her regular pattern of sailings,
Caribbean cruises in the winter and then on the New
to Bermuda run throughout the summer.
departed New York on the 2nd
October 1971 on her final cruise to Bermuda.
Her last sailing for Cunard was a transatlantic voyage on which she
left New York,
return, on the 9th October 1971. It was not to be a routine
when she was part way across the Atlantic,
responded to a distress call from the burning Norwegian bulk carrier
Using one of her launches, Franconia
to take off eight of the crew from the burning ship. She arrived in Southampton on the 17th October 1971,
career with Cunard at an end. She was laid up and joined by her sister
on the 31st October. A few days later they were joined by
Savill liner Southern Cross which had also been withdrawn from service.
three redundant liners made a majestic sight awaiting their fate.
and Franconia remained there for
almost 7 months. When it was
apparent that there was no immediate prospect of selling them, Cunard
to place them in more permanent lay up and on the 14th May
two ships sailed for the River Fal in Cornwall.
Soviet Years (1973 – 1989):
1973 it was
announced that the Carmania and Franconia
been sold to Panamanian interests, Nikreis Maritime Corporation. It
very complicated transaction as it was also announced at the time that
Maritime Corporation was affiliated to a New York company known as Robin
International. It turned
out that they would fly the Hammer and Sickle and sail for Russian
entering service for
their new owners, it was arranged for the Carmania and Franconia
to be overhauled by Swan Hunter on the River Tyne. The Franconia
was the first to leave the River Fal, sailing from there on the 14th
August 1973. She arrived on the River Tyne on the 17th
It was announced that the Franconia
renamed Fedor Shalyapin.
overhaul work on Fedor
Shalyapin was completed first and on the 20th November 1973
sailed from Southampton for Australia.
After her refit the Leonid Sobinov, joined her sister (Fedor Shalyapin,
Franconia) in February 1974 in service in Australia. The layout and
their public rooms and cabins remained exactly as it had been when the
had sailed for Cunard. Even the coathangers in the wardrobes were still
Cunard Line. The only apparent alteration was the names of the public
The refit work had mainly concentrated on the ships’ machinery,
the long months of inactivity had not caused any problems. The most
external change was that now the funnels were painted white with a
band that carried the golden crossed Hammer and Sickle emblem. On both
stern the names were spelled out in Cyrillic lettering. The ships were
registered in Vladivostock and
came under the ownership of the Far Eastern Shipping Company until
both ships embarked on a programme of
cruises out of Sydney.
The Fedor Shalyapin remained in Far Eastern and Pacific waters. By
was scheduled to be in Yokohama.
She sailed to a variety of fascinating ports before arriving back in
and then Sydney.
appear that there
were no clauses in the contract of sale of the former Carmania and
restricting their areas of operation, as had been the case with their
sisters Sylvania and Carinthia.
While her sister Leonid Sobinov divided her time between Europe and Australia.
Fedor Shalyapin was employed mainly out of Australia
and in the Orient.
Between May and November 1976, she undertook a series of Pacific
charter to Shaw Savill Cruises of Australia. It was during this charter
much reported but unverified incident took place. Fedor Shalyapin was
the Tasman Sea on her way from Auckland
when, in the early
hours of the morning, the ship suddenly stopped and all her lights went
The ship’s cranes started up and a submarine came alongside. There was
transfer of goods and personnel between the two vessels. The incident
course denied by the Soviet Embassy and Shaw Savill denied any
this unusual incident remains a mystery.
December 1979, Soviet
troops invaded Afghanistan.
As a result the Australian government banned all Russian passenger
calling at Australian ports. The ban took effect from February 1980.
Sobinov was the first to leave to return to Vladivostock. Because of
the internationally illegal restrictions of civil merchant ships made
by U.S. and Australian governments and others preventing USSR ships in
their ports because of the political and military assistance to
Afghanistan's internationally recognized government with their cruel
fight against that country's islamist mujaheddins in late 1970's. As a
result in 1980 the Fedor Shalyapin was reregistered in Odessa and
transferred to the ownership of the Black Sea Shipping Company and made
cruises in Europe as Russia kept to the international maritime laws and
they were much successful here.
charter work, the two former Cunarders were now used on the most
to places of political unrest such as Angola. On other occasions
could be found on voyages from the Black Sea across the Atlantic to Cuba.
Both the Leonid Sobinov and Fedor Shaliapin sailed
together with the Ivan Franko (1964) on the regular cargo and passenger
line (without timetable!) between Odessa and Cuba. The Leonid
Sobinov transported volunteers from all over the world, most from Cuba,
to the struggle against the South-African fascist forces in Angola and
won there successfully, and many of them came also back with the Leonid
Sobinov on 3rd February 1989 in the Port of La Habana welcomed by
Chairman Fidel Castro in person.
Fedor Shalyapin was
back in northern Europe and in the spring made at least two calls in London. It was
that in 1982 she would make a 97 night World Cruise calling at 21
even in her Cunard Years had she undertaken such a varied voyage. There
going to be calls at Guayaquil, Lima,
Pitcairn Island, Yokohama, Bangkok, Maldive Islands
then various Mediterranean
ports. Sadly this was not to be, the cruise was instead given to the
more prestigious Mikhail Lermontov.
chartered by the German tour company Jahn Reisen GmbH for several years
early to mid 1980s and it seemed that this would be her final burst of
During the summer she made 10 and 14 day cruises out of Genoa
to ports around the Mediterranean. In
winter she cruised in the Far East.
On the 20th
June 1986, Fedor Shalyapin collided with the tug Amadores II while in Piraeus. Sadly
sank with the loss of one crew member.
Final Years (1989 – 2004):
beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union
changed the future of the two former
Cunarders. At first they became part of the Ukrainian fleet. In 1992
Shalyapin was registered under the ownership of Odessa Cruise (Fedor
Shalyapin) Co., another Valetta
real ownership of the two ships remained in Ukraine.
Although both ships were
registered in Odessa
as part of the Black Sea Shipping Company, at some point Fedor
listed as being owned by the Far East Shipping Company. The ships no
carried the Hammer and Sickle emblem on their funnels. The Fedor
instead had a broad blue band with a white and gold logo of a bird in
while both ships
continued to sail, looking pristine and well maintained. In mid summer
Fedor Shalyapin made an extended cruise from St
calling at 20 ports around Europe and in the Mediterranean ending at Odessa. While
she looked reasonable, it was clear that the end was nearing. By the
1995, both ships were laid up at Ilichevsk, a Black Sea port some 40 km
west of Odessa.
2004 the Fedor
Shalyapin set sail from Ilichevsk under her own power bound for the
breakers of India.
On the 11th February 2004 the former Fedor Shalyapin, now
Salona, was beached at Alang,
scrapping. A sad end to a fine ship after a long and remarkable career.