Fa­mous first words

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - News -

ARNIVAL Aus­tralia boss Ann Sherry is plan­ning a big wel­come for P & O’s Ar­ca­dia when the 2000-pas­sen­ger ship ar­rives here next Fe­bru­ary on its maiden world voy­age.

The 82,000-tonne su­per­liner, which will visit Perth, Albany, Ade­laide, Melbourne, Syd­ney, Bris­bane and the Queens­land Whit­sun­days, has been de­scribed as in­dul­gent. This no doubt has some­thing to do with its child-free sta­tus; book­ings will not be taken for any­one un­der 18.

Other lit­tle in­dul­gences in­clude ex­te­rior glass lifts with roller-coaster views of the hori­zon, 3000 pieces of mod­ern Bri­tish art, the Pal­la­dium three-storey theatre, a hy­drother­apy pool in the spa and Ar­ca­dian Rhodes, the fine-din­ing seago­ing restau­rant cre­ated by English celebrity chef Gary Rhodes.

This is the fourth P & Oship to be named af­ter the myth­i­cal Greek par­adise that was the home of Pan. The first Ar­ca­dia was a 6498-tonne steamship built in 1887 to cel­e­brate the golden ju­bilees of the Penin­su­lar & Ori­en­tal Steam Nav­i­ga­tion Com­pany and Queen Vic­to­ria.

Ar­ca­dia 2 made its maiden voy­age from Lon­don to Syd­ney in 1954 and Ar­ca­dia 3, the for­mer Star Princess, which trans­ferred from the US to P & O’s Bri­tish fleet in De­cem­ber 1997, vis­ited Aus­tralia for the first time on a world cruise in 1998.

It was Ar­ca­dia 2, how­ever, that cap­tured the hearts of so many peo­ple on the line voy­ages be­tween Eng­land and Aus­tralia and cruises to Asia and the South Pa­cific be­fore, fly­ing a 23m pay­ing-off pen­nant, it made its fi­nal jour­ney in 1979 to the break­ers in Tai­wan.

I was a jour­nal­ist in the pub­lic re­la­tions de­part­ment of P & Owhen I left Syd­ney in Ar­ca­dia 2 on dec­i­mal cur­rency and Valen­tine’s Day 1966 on a cruise to Pago Pago.

I had been al­lo­cated a pre­mium cabin in the first-class sec­tion of the ship and when I came on board I was handed a note from the pub­lic re­la­tions su­per­in­ten­dent. It said he had au­tho­rised un­lim­ited sign­ing priv­i­leges for me to en­ter­tain the peo­ple on what was then called the Com­mended List.

I was on an­nual leave at the time and was

Adults only: The Ar­ca­dia is Aus­tralia bound look­ing for­ward to a re­lax­ing sea hol­i­day, so I asked my stel­lar Ir­ish stew­ard if we could work our way through the VIP par­ties I had been asked to host as quickly as pos­si­ble.

O’Dowd hap­pily agreed to set up back-to­back pre and apres lunch and din­ner drinks in the cabin and I was soon able to tick off most of the names. Guests were not in­vited in any par­tic­u­lar or­der. If some­one didn’t an­swer the phone, I rang the next per­son on the list. I did this un­til I had enough ac­cep­tances for each oc­ca­sion.

By the time O’Dowd ar­rived with ice and canapes be­fore lunch on day three I had con­tacted ev­ery­one ex­cept one man, Pa­trick Hutcheon. I had phoned him day and night, but he had never an­swered.

I told O’Dowd this meant we would have to have an­other soiree when­ever I caught up with the elu­sive Hutcheon.

I also told O’Dowd I was go­ing out on deck for a much-needed dose of salt air be­fore the first guest of the day ar­rived. As soon as I stepped into the blaz­ing trop­i­cal sun, I heard some­one shout my name. He­len, come over here, there’s some­one I want you to meet.’’

It was a col­league from my of­fice and when I walked over to where she was sit­ting, she in­tro­duced me to her com­pan­ion.

He­len, this is Pa­trick Hutcheon,’’ she said. My first words to my fu­ture hus­band were, Oh, at last I’ve found you . . .’’

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