Canadian Pacific Lines TSS Empress of Australia, the Around the World Cruise Ship

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime & cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or travel or cruise agencies, etc! Although having been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, I am now retired but having completed features on well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships, I trust these will continue to provide you the classic ship enthusiast the information you are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!


Canadian Pacific Lines


“Dream Ship of Cruises”

 TSS Empress of Australia

Interiors and her …

Around the World Cruises


A superb view of the Empress’ on this Canadian Pacific Postcard

Please Note: Photographs on this page are from the author’s private maritime collection, unless stated otherwise

On Page One of the Empress of Australia feature, there is a comprehensive history and many photographs of the ship, both with her black hull livery, as well as her wartime grey livery. But in 1928 Canadian Pacific Lines (CPL) with Trans-Atlantic passenger loadings running quite low during the winter months, thus it was decided they CPL would send the Empress of Australia on an annual four-month Around the World Cruise.

She departed on her very first Around World Cruise in December 1928, as she heading to Funchal, Gibraltar and on to the Middle East and toward Asia, etc. She would return to New York in April 1929 having come back through the Panama Canal and Caribbean ports.

Having operated her first major world cruise still featuring her black hull, later in 1929, CPL had the ships livery changed and she became a fine looking all white ship, with her hull having a thin blue band around it. She looked very much the tropical style cruise ship, with her three stately buff coloured funnels and masts. Many passengers having sailed on her cruises would liken her to a grandiose stately luxury yacht, being such a fine and a sleek looking ship.

There was no doubt, but her new look did make a big impression on the travelling public, and it even proved that her Trans-Atlantic loading increased somewhat. However, her next around the world cruise had rapidly booked out for the December 1929 to April 1930 voyage. The truth is that the Empress of Australia was now a First Class, all Luxury Cruise Ship, and she would accommodate no more than 370 priviledged guests on her cruises, with all having the complete run of this spacious ship.

Public Venues:

Most of the public venues used for cruising were located on Promenade Deck and below is a listing of most of these, as well as the Dining Room on B Deck and the Pompeiian Swimming Pool down on D Deck.

Main Entrance Hall: This was located forward of the ship on Promenade Deck and it was finished in white enamel and it had a large circular dome light. There were two wide staircases, as well as two elevators (lifts) that would take guests down to the other decks. There was a door into the Main Lounge as well as an entrance to the smaller Writing Room. Doors of the port and starboard sides would lead out on to the wide covered Promenade Deck.

Promenade Deck Space: As passenger headed out onto the spacious Promenade Deck they found ample space for comfortable well-covered deck chairs, as well as promenading, deck sport, and yes, in those days there was even a special space for dancing! The forward part of the deck was enclosed with portable glass screens, providing comfort on cooler and windy days. Of course in those day’s full steward service was provided out on deck as well as the traditional bouillon being served at 10.30 to 11.00 AM.

Main Lounge: The grandiose Lounge on Promenade Deck was decorated in what is known as “Empire style.” The appointments included a Grand piano, beautifully enriched with bronze. A special feature of thus huge venue was the complete absence of pillars, making room for a large central dance floor, which was covered by a carpet during the day as well as furniture, whilst at night this would be removed and guests would sit around the dance floor whilst the band played and passengers danced the night away. Other activities would also be held in the Lounge, including Fancy Dress Ball as seen in one of the photographs below! The ceiling was a cantilever style and it contained a large decorated glazed dome. Along the sidewalls of the Lounge, there were large widows that allowed light to stream in from the Promenade Deck, and on the decorative side, Ionic columns were located on all four walls of the venue. Furniture was made of satinwood, with carved and gilded enrichments, all upholstered in silk, these and the magnificent drapes were in complete harmony! Every part of this room was impressive, as the detail, furnishings, art works all worked in perfect harmony. This was indeed the ultimate of the luxury shipboard lounges of the day!

Postcard of the Main Lounge looking forward toward the Main Lobby


The Lounge looking aft and it is seen set up as a Ballroom - the door seen leads to the Drawing Room

Drawing Room: This delightful room adjoined the Lounge was decorated in the traditional Louis XVI style and was fitted out in white enamel with gilt enrichments. The furnishings include china cabinets, bookcases, and writing tables in addition to ample comfortable chairs, tables, and settees.

The Drawing Room

Writing Room: This bright and well lit room was located just off the Main Lobby on Promenade Deck, and it just like the Drawing Room as well as the Smoking Room was decorated in the Louis XVI style, having tinted walls and fine mahogany furniture upholstered in silk.

Smoking Room: This venue which had both light tinted walls as well as oak panelled walls, with a white ceiling. Tapestry and leather covered the chairs and settees, mahogany round tables on a single thick post were with each setting of chairs and settees. The Room featured a fine fireplace with a magnificent painting hanging above it! The floor was in black and off white tiles.

The Smoking Room looking towards the fireplace

Verandah Café: Aft on Promenade Deck, was this fine Café, which was a very popular rendezvous for friends to meet, or couples to enjoy some special time together in a very special atmosphere! This venue has that delightfully casual feel, with a beamed ceiling and wicker furniture, much like what many would call a Wintergarden, as there were also many palms and other greenery on the venue! Food coffee, tea, and other drinks were available here.

Gymnasium: Far aft on Promenade Deck was the Gym, which was fitted out with all the equipment that was available in those days. There were rowing machines, as well as bicycles horse, camel, pulley and weight machines, as well as wall bars. There were regular sessions for both men and ladies, and private lessons could also be arranges, all for free of course!

Dining Room: This massive venue located on B Deck could seat all passengers in a single sitting and tables were arranges for two, four, or six persons. The Dining Room was superbly decorated in the “French Regency style,” with the walls and ceiling being white enamelled with ample gilt enrichments. Furniture was all in mahogany with the finest of leather upholstery. The entire room was domed up to A Deck with a decorative balustrade which can be seen on A Deck, were passengers can look down. This is without a doubt one of the most luxurious rooms seen on any liner or cruise ship, for there were so many features that made it stand apart! Adjoining the Dining Room were two smaller private dining rooms, each being able to accommodate 20 guests for private diner parties.

The grand Dining Room looking forward, aft there was a bandstand up on the balcony level

The Pompeiian Pool: Just as any great liners built, the Empress of Australia also had a magnificent indoor two story high swimming pool, which was located on D Deck close to the Main Stairwell. The pool came complete with a host of individual showers and dressing rooms.

The superb Pompeiian Indoor Swimming Pool

Outdoor Pool: In addition, there was also an outdoor pool out on the aft decks of the ship, and this pool would be popular during cruises, especially when in warmer to the tropical climates as well as being used for a variety of fun activities, and for the crossing the Equator Ceremonies!

Here we see the popular pillow fight over the outdoor pool during one of the ships activities


The cruise ship TSS Empress of Australia seen under tow as she departs port


The RMS Empress of Australia, as a cruise ship was an all First Class luxury ship, carrying just 370 passengers, when she had a capacity of 1,177 passengers. Therefore only the very best of staterooms were used during the cruise, from those glamorous multi room Suites to a fine two bed outside Stateroom.

Passenger accommodations were usually based over seven decks, however during a cruise it would be limited to just six decks, five of which were serviced by the ships two elevators (lifts).

All staterooms were handsomely furnished, with the vast majority having regular beds. Staterooms were available in either as a twin bed or a single bed configuration, although there were a few that offered sofa beds and Pullman beds to accommodate family or friends if requested. 80% of the staterooms were outside with a window or porthole and many offered private bathrooms, whereas those staterooms without private facilities did have hot and cold running water in the room and an abundance of spotless and spacious bathrooms and facilities close by! Every room has electric fans, and the ship was fitted with the very latest system of forced air ventilation, meaning that air was changed automatically within a few minutes. Forced ventilation was also featured in all public rooms.

Prince of Wales Suite: This was the ultimate in luxury Suites on the Empress of Australia, having a spacious and a comfortable lounge, bedroom, a sunroom, private bathroom and even its own small baggage room. This suite could also be booked with another Stateroom making it a two-bedroom suite.

The reason for the name of this suite is that this suite was used by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales in June 1927, sailing from Southampton to Quebec to attend the “Canadian Diamond Jubilee celebrations.”

Here we see the elegant Lounge of the Prince of Wales Suite

Deluxe Suites: These suites were made up of a number of rooms, having a beautiful lounge, a fine bedroom, a sunroom, bathroom, and like the Prince of Wales suite shown above, it also had its own in suite small baggage room. But in décor it was very different to the Prince of Wales Suite.

A Deluxe Suite with the lounge and bedroom being located in Staterooms 216 & 218

Outside Staterooms: These rooms would be located on different decks Room 217 would be on A Deck, whilst Room 320 on C Deck. These rooms offered two beds in varying configurations, a comfortable sofa, chairs, a table, as well as a double hot and cold-water marble wash table, with an oval mirror above and lights. Like all rooms there were several fans and of course the shipboard ventilation system, which kept all rooms nice and fresh, with air from outside.


Above & below: here we see the two Staterooms 217 on A Deck and 320 on C Deck




The “Dream Ship of Cruises”

 TSS Empress of Australia

137 Day round the World Cruise

Departing New York December 2, 1929 - Returning to New York via the Panama Canal on April 17, 1930

As stated on Page One, I own a very rare and special book, of which just 370 were printed, being one for each passenger who sailed on the 1929/19 Around the World Cruise. This is a hard cover book, entitled, The World is Round! - having a dark red cover with a red binding. It has a typical Indian colour picture surrounded in white and red. It contains 102 pages that details every aspect of the voyage and the ship. There is a four-leaf fold out page, and on one side there isg a map of the world, revealing the ships voyage, as well as an extensively detailed itinerary, with columns such as; Places visited, Countries. Shore excursions (all included in the fare), Miles (sailed between ports), Ports, Arrive (at), Leave (at), Time in Port (Days & Hours). The longest all inclusive tour is 8 days and 12 hours leaving the ship in Haifa, visiting all the places in modern Israel and ending up in Egypt having visited the temples down south, as well as the Cairo’s Pyramids and the Museum, etc, as well a short Nile River Cruise! On the other side there is a huge photograph of the ship.

Cover of the 1929/30 passenger World Cruise Book


World Cruise Map for the 1929 – 1930 Voyage


Here we can view the complete schedule and excursions of the cruise

For a larger version, CLICK HERE or click the Image above!


The Empress of Australia offered a host of activities, as the Directress of Entertainment and the Staff Captain would assist in arranging a host of functions, parties, nightly dances, as well as lectures. The ship would have two high class Orchestra’s, one would be more in the Classical in style, whilst the other would be from easy listening to blues and current songs, as well as the popular dance style.

There was always so much to do, be it sports out on deck, such as Deck Tennis, Quoits, Shuffleboard, as well as other organised Sports Tournaments. For card players there would be bridge, and other card games as requested.

Having a lot of fun with the horse racing game out on Deck

Out on deck, you can take part in a horse race, make a bet, and see if you can win on the wooden horse of your choice! During the day, there were concerts, be it in the lounge or out on deck, all performed by one of the ships bands. Not to forget fun in one of the two swimming pools, or some fitness in the gym.

Husbands have to trust their wives in this fun running game on Promenade Deck!

The ship also has a camera club, as well as a travel club, also was the occasional available movies, shown in the Main Lounge at night. The Library was packed with good books for passenger reading pleasure. Of course there will be a variety of special nights and Balls, including Captain’s, Asian, and Hawaiian Nights, Fancy Dress, and Masquerade Balls and so much more.

Guests dress up for the Fancy Dress Ball, and gather in the Main Lounge for a special photograph

One of the cruise highlights is the Crossing of the Equator Ceremony, when certain passengers would be selected, and they have to face King Neptune and partake of the Crossing of the Line ceremony, which is a great deal of fun.

The Empress of Australia Dance band and passengers who took part

in the Crossing of the Line Ceremony gather for a photograph


The Empress of Australia (right) is seen in a Panama Canal Lock, with the Empress of Canada beside her

In Closing:

From what we have read and seen above, the Empress of Australia was a pacesetter in the cruise industry, but she did one thing better than the modern cruise ship, everything was included and there were no optional extras, at every turn. I find it sad, how NCL and carnival has completely changed the direction of cruising, where once, the only extra’s was your drinks and what you obtained in the ships shop, today, ships have many optional restaurants, which are very heavily promoted to the point of being pushed. On some ships, they come to your table and attempt to sell you prawns or steaks at inflated prices! Then optional tours cost the earth, and drinks are the same prices as in the most expensive bars back home, and often even more! Then there is the high tipping system that is often automatically added to your account daily, around $12 to 15 per day, and that adds up if two are sailing on a 14 night cruise, for that can add up to an amazing $450 per couple. If you are on a world cruise of up to 45 days, as I do that adds up to $1350!

Thus, it is wonderful having looked back at the good days of a great Classic Liner and a wonderful luxury Cruise Ship, the TSS Empress of Australia!

Reuben Goossens - Retired.

Maritime Historian, Author, Lecturer, and Cruise Reviewer.

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping and Cruise Industry in 1960.


The Empress of Australia is all dressed for her world cruise and she looks just wonderful


Return to the RMS Empress of Australia Page One


 “Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.

I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”



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