Maiden voy­ager

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

of the trip. On King Nep­tune Night, for ex­am­ple, I cut quite a dash dur­ing the equa­tor-cross­ing cer­e­mony in my mer­maid’s cos­tume that mother had fash­ioned dur­ing on­board craft classes from blue cel­lo­phane, aqua­ma­rine crepe pa­per and strate­gi­cally placed pipeclean­ers. Here was a woman who fiercely be­lieved an empty egg car­ton, a wire coathanger and a roll of coloured pa­per would get you out of any cos­tume drama; hers was a phi­los­o­phy I fol­lowed with moderate suc­cess when my two sons were small and needed, say, Beth­le­hem shep­herd out­fits at short no­tice.

I re­call the sway and shift of the top bunk at night as Ar­ca­dia rolled and pitched and I read my Beatrix Pot­ter books by torch­light. It was al­ways a thrill to leap down from my el­e­vated sleep­ing quar­ters, in the airy way of chil­dren, barely miss­ing my par­ents’ heads.

Mother and fa­ther would light their fil­ter tips and pa­rade on deck in but­toned-up jack­ets (it was the age of glam­our smok­ing), dress care­fully for din­ner (I was rel­e­gated to the chil­dren’s early sit­ting, much to my undis­guised dis­gust), and clap and shout like loons as I com­peted (very suc­cess­fully, might I add) in ju­nior shuf­fle­board cham­pi­onships and spell­ing bees.

There was the odd bout of mal de mer and an en­forced diet of wa­ter crack­ers and flat lemon­ade. Round­ing the Bay of Bis­cay, ju­nior sailor Su­san brought up her nau­ti­cal nurs­ery tea in front of the cap­tain. Well, over him, if fam­ily folk­lore is to be be­lieved.

I re­mem­ber the weather warm­ing, seem­ingly day by day, and a new in­dig­na­tion at be­ing forced to wear my vest (which was a sin­glet when we got to Syd­ney, just as plim­solls turned into sand­shoes). I squir­relled away the plas­tic cock­tail swiz­zle sticks my par­ents brought back to the cabin each mid­night. And what a healthy col­lec­tion I had by voy­age’s end. Best of all? No school for five whole glo­ri­ous weeks. The grand old Ar­ca­dia the sec­ond, which was launched in 1953, made its fi­nal jour­ney to a ship­break­ing yard in Tai­wan in 1979 and P & O Cruises launched its name­sake in the 1990s, which was in fact the re­vamped 1989-built Star Princess, which used to be part of the com­pany’s North Amer­i­can sis­ter op­er­a­tion, Princess Cruises.

In prepa­ra­tion for next month’s in­au­gu­ral Aus­tralasian visit of the fourth Ar­ca­dia, P & O Cruises has put out a call for past pas­sen­gers to tell their sto­ries of voy­ages aboard the his­toric Ar­ca­dia ships.

It’s ex­pected many Aus­tralians will have tales from the sec­ond Ar­ca­dia. Dur­ing its 25 years of ser­vice, it car­ried more than 430,000 pas­sen­gers around the world, in­clud­ing to Aus­tralia.

Ann Sherry, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Car­ni­val Aus­tralia, which rep­re­sents the Bri­tish arm of P & O Cruises’ op­er­a­tions in Aus­tralia, says, ‘‘ Af­ter World War II, more than one mil­lion Bri­tons sailed to Aus­tralia as part of the largest planned mass mi­gra­tion in his­tory and most came on P & O ships, in­clud­ing Ar­ca­dia.

‘‘ Peo­ple make friends for life on a cruise ship and some even meet the love of their life, so we are sure there are plenty of sto­ries to tell.’’

P & O Cruises plans to post a se­lec­tion of sto­ries on a spe­cial Ar­ca­dia web­site; those with the best tales will be in­vited to a re­union event on­board the lat­est Ar­ca­dia.

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Bri­tish im­mi­grants Ar­ca­dia will visit Fre­man­tle on Fe­bru­ary 12, Al­bany on Fe­bru­ary 13, Ade­laide on Fe­bru­ary 16, Mel­bourne on Fe­bru­ary 18, Syd­ney on Fe­bru­ary 20-21, Bris­bane on Fe­bru­ary 23 and Whit­sun­days on Fe­bru­ary 25. Past Ar­ca­dia pas­sen­gers who wish to share their ex­pe­ri­ences should send their sto­ries and con­tact de­tails by Jan­uary 30 to ar­ca­dia@pocruises.com.au.

www.pocruises.com.au

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