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.
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 email@example.com.