Canberra Photo-Gallery
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The World of the 1950's was witnessing the Jet Age when P&O made plans for their newest ship. Designed for the Australia service, she was built at Harland & Wolff in Belfast, the same yard that built the infamous Titanic of 1912. Named for Australia's capital city Canberra, she would operate jointly with Orient Line's new Oriana, also under construction at the time. The two companies had for some years shared the luctrative mail contract between Australia and the UK but no sooner had the two ships been launched, both companies officially merged to form P&O-Orient Lines in 1960.

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Canberra was revolutionary in design. Her steam turbo-electric power-plants were the most powerful ever installed in any ship. Moreover, all her engine machinery was also installed aft, which accentuated her streamlined styling. But it was during her trials in May 1961 that at full speed, her bows lifted almost out of the water, whereupon she had several hundred tons of concrete added to her forward compartments!
(left) 16th March 1960: The launching of S.S. Canberra in Belfast

She entered service on 2nd June 1961 with a 42,000 mile voyage via Suez to Australia, New Zealand and across the Pacific to California. While problems with her condensers would cast a shadow over her initial performance, at each port enormous crowds turned out to greet her. See Maiden Voyage Brochure Cover

Canberra (1961)
45,270 grt; length 818ft; speed 27.5 knots;
Passengers: 548(First) 1,690(Tourist)

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Open Ship's X-Section Guide

Canberra was designed as a 2-class Liner, with First-class occupying the forward section and Tourist Class in the remainder, the latter most frequently filled on the outward voyages with "Ten Pound Poms" emigrating to Australia.

Her layout changed very little over the years.
(left) A handy Passenger's X-Section Guide dating from 1995

Show Picture Full Size The interior design of the ship was carried out by a professional team headed by Sir Hugh Casson FRIBA and the range of rooms and facilities for Canberra's 1,690 Tourist-class passengers was of a standard higher than anything seen before on any British passenger ship.

There was a Main Lounge, Smoking Room and Reading Room, the Pop Inn for teenagers, even an English "Pub", The Cricketers' Tavern, as well as a Ballroom, The Island Room and a trendy poolside cafe, the Alice Springs Room. Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size
The Alice Springs Room The Island Room

In fact, Tourist-class had 2 outside pools, including one with an adjacent kids paddling pool, as well as its own extensive Sports Deck, while a third pool amidships, the Bonito Pool was for First-class, as was the adjacent Bonito Club, a sophisticated Night Club and Ballroom (Picture >>)

Her 2 restaurants were situated low-down on E-deck for stability on long voyages. Tourist-class had the larger Atlantic Restaurant seating over 700 (Picture >>) one of the largest on any ship at the time, while forward was the Pacific Restaurant with seating for her 550 First-class passengers (Picture >>)

Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size In First-class, the Meridian Room had its own small forward Cocktail Bar, the Century Bar, but an internal spiral stairway rose 3 decks to the impressive Crows Nest Observation Lounge. Show Picture Full Size
The Meridian Room & Spiral Stairway The Crows Nest

Show Forward Deck Plan One of Canberra's many innovative features was in the idea of the "Cabin Court" introduced in First-class, whereby inside cabins were able to benefit from "borrowed light" from external windows. Show Cabin Court Picture

In 1974, however, Canberra underwent a major refit in which she was permanently converted into a one-class ship, more in keeping with her developing role as a cruise ship. Over the ensuing years, she established a solid reputation with her predominantly British passengers cruising from the UK, until fate propelled her into the history-books in a most unexpected manner.

The Falklands War 1982

Show Picture Full Size Canberra was off the coast of Portugal on her way home from her World Cruise when on 5th April 1982 she was requisitioned as a troop transport in support of the Royal Navy Task Force being assembled to re-take the Falkland Islands following their invasion by Argentinian troops.
(left) At anchor in Cumberland Bay, South Georgia, QE2 transfers troops and supplies to Canberra

Hastily stripped and fitted with 2 helicopter decks, she embarked 4,000 troops and sailed on 9th April, a full week ahead of the main Battle Fleet. Unlike QE2, which followed with the main Task Force, Canberra earned full battle honours by being directly in the midst of action throughout the war.
(right) At anchor off Port Stanley, "The Great White Whale" and her escort, HMS Andromeda
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Show Picture Full Size Her many exploits having earned her the nickname The Great White Whale, she even embarked over 4,000 Argentinian prisoners of war and flew the Argentinian flag upon returning them to Puerto Madryn, before she herself returned to Southampton on 11th July 1982 to a rapturous welcome from a grateful British public. See BBC Footage on YouTube >>

Following her celebrated return from the War, Canberra and QE2 were both refurbished and it was at this time in 1983 that I took John to Southampton to see the two Liners, commencing what would become a lifetime in cruising.

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Post Refit in 1982 - awaiting
her anchor & lifeboats
An evocative sunset
departure in 1985
Canberra drags her anchor as she enters Gibraltar
(Photographed from Vistafjord in 1985)

However, it was not until 1995 when Canberra was 35 years old and now nearing the end of her useful life, that Dad & I decided to travel on her, before the opportunity would be lost forever.

Canaries Caper
on board 13th - 23rd May 1995

View the complete Log of this cruise >>

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Luggage Lable Loading Luggage
In Southampton
Our H-Grade
Cabin A3
Canberra in Funchal, Madeira

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The Bridge "Wedding Cake"
Signal Mast
A game of cricket on
Sun Deck
Her iconic
Twin Funnels
The Bonito Pool
The old First Class Sun Deck

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Canberra's Promenade Deck, protected from the weather and sheltered by her lifeboats slung inboard, proved a popular spot for passengers seeking a little shade from the heat of the sun.

The Cricketers' Tavern (right), dates back to the Tourist-class days of the 1960's but to this day remains popular with many of Canberra's staunchly British passengers! Neptunes (below left) began life as the Tourist-class Smoking-Room, the Peacock Room. The underwater pool-viewing windows were added when the ship became one-class for cruising in 1974. Show Picture Full Size

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Neptunes Night Club
with windows to the pool
The Meridian Room
Promenade Deck
Spiral Stairway The Crow's Nest
Observation Lounge

On Promenade Deck, the Meridian Room (above), was the main Lounge for First-class. It still has its adjacent Cocktail Bar, the Century Bar, as well as its exclusive spiral stairway leading up 3 decks past the First-class cabins to the main Observation Lounge, the Crow's Nest, still popular today.

Show Picture Full Size Canberra's Pacific Restaurant
Situated forward, this was the smaller of her two restaurants, seating about 550, originally for her 1st-class passengers. Served by a common galley, today the menu and service is the same in both.
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Menu 1 >> Menu 2 >> Menu 3 >> Menu 4 >>

A weakness shared with ships of her period, however, is that Canberra has no proper Show-Lounge and to accommodate the modern concept of "Production Shows", they converted the old First-class

Sports Deck, The Stadium, into an improvised venue, giving birth to the Stadium Theatre Company which now produces the shows on all P&O's ships.
While her Show-Lounge may not have been very good, her Cinema (right) seated 332 and remains almost unchanged from when the ship was launched; it also doubles as an excellent Lecture Room for Port Talks etc.
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Junior Officer Port Bridge Wing Bridge Telegraphs The Main Bridge
& Steering Position
Chart Room

Southampton - The Final Homecoming 1997

On 30th September 1997, Canberra completed her final cruise and made her homecoming into the port of Southampton to another tumultuous welcome. Surrounded by private boats and pleasure-craft, she was given the rare honour of a Royal Navy escort, while in a final gesture of recognition from the RAF, there were fly-pasts by the Red Arrows and from a lone Canberra Bomber.

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Festooned in flags, Canberra makes her final return to Southampton proudly flying her paying-off pennant Farewell to Canberra

There was much public discussion that, because of her role in the Falklands War, Canberra should be preserved as a museum-ship. But in the end, she was sold for scrap and sailed to Gadani Beach, Pakistan, where she slowly met her end. Show Picture Full Size

Mileage aboard Canberra: 3,359 n miles

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