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With Reuben Goossens

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


Union Castle Line


---RMS Dunnottar Castle --

Sold to become the luxurious cruise ship …

MS Victoria

Later to become … The Victoria, Princesa Victoria & Victoria 1


 A postcard of the sturdily built RMS Dunnottar Castle, the liner that would become a modern luxury cruise ship

Union-Castle Line, London, commissioned a new liner the RMS Dunnottar Castle to be built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast for the London (Tilbury) to Cape Town service. Her keel was laid down in 1935 in Yard no: 959, and was launched on January 25, 1936.

Below are two wonderful images of her fine hull having been completed and her launching as she entered into the water!

The new Union Castle liner seen in the Harland & Wolff stocks nearing the time for launching


Here we see the launching of the Dunnottar Castle

She was completed and delivered to her owners on June 27 and departed in July 1936 for her maiden voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, although her return voyage concluded at Tilbury (London). She then continued a regular service between Tilbury and South Africa.

Dunnottar Castle is seen here fully decked with her flags flying


RMS Dunvegan Castle


RMS Dunvegan Castle in a busy port

Dunnottar Castle’s identical sister the RMS Dunvegan Castle, was built in yard 960, and was launched on March 26, and was completed on August 18. Dunvegan Castle departed for her maiden voyage to Africa in September 1936 and sailed until her call up for wartime duties in 1939.

Having served as a liner, she now has to go to war

For interest, the author has the original plans, containing every single detail, including changes made during construction, from the shipyard of both these ships. In addition I have the plans of her conversion in the Netherlands when she became the MS Victoria, then her conversion by Chandris into MS The Victoria, as well as modifications made by Louis Cruises for Princesa Victoria, thus the set is complete! The full set is part of my extensive collection of plans, which include the Windsor Castle Southern Cross and many other notable liners!

This is one of the few colour photos that is available of the RMS Dunnottar Castle


Deck by Deck description - RMS Dunnottar Castle and RMS Dunvegan Castle:

Upper Deck: The 236 seat beautifully domed First Class Dinning Room was located forward, followed by the galleys and the 242 seat Tourist Class Dinning Room. This was followed by eighty seven tourist class cabins were located aft. These were of a two or four berth configuration. All except for eight inside cabins had a porthole, but none had a private bathroom. The hairdresser was located in the main Tourist Class lobby. The main stairs led up only one deck to the Tourist Class Lounges.

Tourist Class two berth cabin

Shade Deck: Far forward were accommodations for the purser and assistant purser, chief steward and the ships doctor, as well as their offices. This was followed by 70 First Class cabins, having accommodations for one or two bedded, as well as some three berth cabins. All cabins had a porthole, but only four with a private bathroom. Portside aft was the First Class hairdresser and the ships shop, which was followed by the Tourist Class Covered (Shade) deck, with the Tourist Class Main Lounge and Smoking Room in the centre.

Tourist Class Lounge

Lower Promenade Deck: The forward section contained twenty single and twin bedded cabins, all having a window, but without a private bathroom. This was followed by the main vestibule, stairwell and the Information Bureau and another forty two First Class single and twin bedded cabins, all with a window, eight with a bathroom. The Nursery and enclosed Children’s play deck Portside aft of the First Class accommodations. This was followed by the main Tourist Class Promenade Deck, with the ships hospital far aft.

Upper Promenade Deck: Located forward was the First Class Library followed by the Main Lounge and Smoking Room. On both sides there was the spacious covered Promenade Deck, with the swimming pool located aft.

Boat and Sun Decks: These decks offered ample space for sport facilities and sun baking.

Main and Lower Decks: These two lower decks contained crew quarters, the baggage room, general storage, and insulated cargo spaces. The ship had five holds, two forward, three aft.

World War II: Dunnottar Castle remained on the African service until the outbreak of WW2, when she and her sister Dunvegan Castle were taken over by the British Navy to be converted as initially as armed merchant cruisers in 1939. Dunnottar Castle departed on her first tour of duty on October 14, 1939. However, in 1942, she commenced duties as a general troop ship, as well as transporting expatriates home after the war. However, she was seconded for a special operation as she was used to sail on a top secret operation to erect a meteorological and wireless (radio) station on *Tristan da Cunha on April 5, 1942. She continued in her naval role until 1948, when she was decommissioned. Dunnottar Castle retires from her duties having had a distinguished wartime career.

*Tristan da Cunha is a remote volcanic group of islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, and it is also the name of the main island of that group. It is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying 2,816 kilometres (1,750 miles) from the nearest land, South Africa, and 3,360 kilometres (2,088 miles) from South America. It is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha which also includes Saint Helena.

Dunnottar Castle: Soldiers relaxing on deck

Dunvegan Castle: Sadly, the fate of this fine liner was to be quite different to her sister, and her wartime duties and her valuable life was to be far too short, for having been seconded by the Royal Navy in 1939, tragically she was torpedoed west of Ireland by the German U Boat U46 on August 27, 1940 and she sank the next day, recording a sad loss of 27 lives, but thankfully the vast majority on board were obviously saved!

A Return To Service:

With Dunnottar Castle having been released she received a long and a comprehensive refit, returning to her original glory, and she was even better than she had been before. Her accommodations were dramatically upgraded and reduced in numbers with a total of 167 less berths being available in the two classes. Her new tonnage was registered as being 15,054 GRT.

She resumed her London round Africa service on February 10, 1949 for the Union Castle Line. Her ports of call were as follows: Tilbury (London), Gibraltar, Algiers, Port Said, Massawa, Aden, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar-es-salaam, Tanga, Beira, Lourenco Marques, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Casablanca, Lisbon and back to London. This was a service she continued to operate for the next nine years with variations to the itinerary.

Like many ships in the 1950’s strikes were aplenty and the Dunnottar Castle also effected and thus she had her troubled days. In June 1950 she was stuck in Beira, Portuguese East Africa, for 5 full days, entirely due to a striking crew and only after an agreement had been made with the company in the UK could the ship depart and continue her voyage. Mind you many of the passengers did not mind a bit, for all services continued on board as usual!

However, by 1957/58 the Union Castle line was building new and much larger liners, such as the new 28,582 GRT - Pendennis Castle, which was completed in November 1958, and the smaller Dunnottar Castle days were about to end, however this superbly built liner still had a good 46 years left in her as a superb cruise ship and she would outlive all her newer rivals!

RMS Dunnottar & Dunvegan Castle’s Specifications as built:


Tonnage:                        15,007 GRT

Length:                           174.53m - 560 ft

Beam:                            21.92m - 71.9 ft

Draft:                              8.05m - 28 ft 2 in

Engines:                          Burmeister & Wain Diesels 11,200 BHP

Screws:                          Twin Screw

Speed:                            17 knots

Passengers:                    285 First Class (Both ships)

                                      250 Tourist Class

                                       After 1948 wartime refit – (Dunnottar Castle)

105 First Class

                                      263 Tourist Class

Cargo:                            5 holds


Special Images:

I received a photograph from steward that served on the Dunnottar Castle Joe Auckland and his photograph can be seen below. Joe served on her in 1951; there is also another fine photo of the ship provided by him.

Joe and a friend out on deck – I am not sure which is Joe?


A fine view of the ship! Thank you Joe!


One of her last fares and sailing schedules

In 1958 she was sold to become a luxury cruise ship for Incres MS Co of Monrovia and she was about to receive a transformation of the kind that had never been seen dome on any ship before!

I conclude with this fine stern view of the RMS Dunnottar Castle, BUT

She would soon receive a remarkable transformation to become a modern super luxury cruise ship

The MS Victoria


An early artist impression of the new MS Victoria


INDEX Please Note: These pages are being updated and not all pages may be online as yet!

Union Castle Line      One of the great Shipping lines of the past!

Page One                    RMS Dunnottar & Dunvegan Castle.

Incres Lines              One of the finest cruise companies in history!

Page Two                    MS Victoria.

Page Three                 Photo Album.

Page Four                   Brochure Page 1.

Page Five                    Brochure Page 2.

Page Six                      Brochure Page 3.

Page Seven                 Brochure Page 4.

Chandris Cruises       Under various guises, but a good basic budget cruise operation.

Page Eight                     MV The Victoria.

Page Nine                     Photo Album.

Louis Cruise Line      A Maltese Company a good basic cruise operation.

Page Ten                      MV Princesa Victoria.

Page Eleven …                 Photo Album

Page Twelve              Deck plan.

Page Thirteen             Photographs by Stephen William Storey.

Page Fourteen           MV Victoria I – Sad scenes of her beached and being scrapped.




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Commenced in the passenger Shipping Industry in May 1960 &

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me in order that due credit may be given. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!


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