Bibby Line TSS Oxfordshire Sitmar Line/Cruises & P&O Cruises TSS Fairstar
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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Lecturer & Author
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 any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having written on well over 700 Classic Liners, humble Migrant Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information they are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!
ssMaritime is delighted to present a page on a
liner and cruise ship that has become an icon to a multitude of ship and cruise
enthusiasts in the
Due to the Jet Age, travel by sea sadly rapidly declined in the early 1970s and migrants were transported in general on Boeing 747’s or Jumbo Jets being their more popular name. But the truth is, those who spent over 24 hours flying, missed one of the most amazing experience being a 5-week ocean adventure discovering interesting and historic ports of call before arriving in their new homeland. In addition, on the beautifully rebuilt and refitted TSS Fairstar all meals, entertainment, and excellent accommodations were all included, and cabins onboard were of a very high standard, not on some of those older wartime ships that fast rebuilds, where passengers tended to be house in very large dormitories.
However, in due course the greatly loved Fairstar
took on a completely a new role and she became a full time cruise ship. Sitmar
Line decided to home port their ship in
Those who sailed on this delightful ship will always remember her, for the name Fairstar conjures up joyful memories for up to a million people, being those who migrated from the UK and Europe and those Australian’s and Kiwis, who ventured on one of the many voyaged to and from Europe and the UK on Vacation, as well as her countless cruises between 1965 and 1997.
The Fairstar certainly had a varied and an interesting career … from a proud British Troopship, the Bibby Line T.S.S. Oxfordshire to a full fledged passenger liner sailing around the world to a full time cruise ship.
I trust that this feature will bring back enjoyable memories of this fine old Dame of the Sea, a ship that gave so much enjoyment to so many during her time at sea!
Maritime Historian, Author and Lecturer.
Commenced in the Passenger Shipping & Cruise Industry in 1960.
Please note: Photographs were either taken by the author, or as noted; All publicity images are from the author’s private collection.
A popular postcard with an illustration of the Fairstar seen as built
been laid up for a short time, the T.S.S.
Oxfordshire was chartered to the Fairline Shipping Corp, being part of the
famed Vlasov Group - Sitmar Line who would operate her for six years. She soon
crossed the North Sea to
However, there was a dispute between Wilton-Fijenoord and Sitmar, and recently I received some communication with an engineer who worked at the yards who has filled me in on some of the details …
“This is the Fairstar being laid up at the yard during the period that the owners did not want to accept her. As far as I can remember the ship was ready but there was a financial dispute with the ship repairs a price that is always worked out according the specifications. (At least it was in my days). When the job is done parties sit together to discuss the account.” (Continued).
The Fairstar seen idle during the dispute between Wilton Fijenoord & Sitmar
Photograph by & © Hans Kleijwegt
For Interest: At the bottom of each page is an Index to all pages related to the T.S.S. Oxfordshire & the Fairstar.
“The yard was attempting to get paid for extra-work that had to be undertaken, but the owner’s tried to convince the yard that it was part of the original contract. In other words the clearer the specifications about the work that was to be undertaken, the less problems in the future. In case of the Fairstar a great deal of ballast had to be placed in double-bottom tanks, because originally she had large dormitories for up to soldiers down there. With the rebuilding and additions of cabins, a cinema and many lounges, as well as her decks raised and moved forward, the ship had become much heavier topside, which meant she required additional ballast.
As far as I can remember this was the main
reason for the dispute which was finally settled by an international court of
arbitration for such cases in
After the dispute the Fairstar
was relocated in April if 1964 to Harland & Wolff for completion at
On May 19, 1964 the TSS Fairstar departed
Southampton for her maiden voyage to
She arrived in Fremantle, (
The Fairstar is
seen in Port Phillip Bay heading for the
From the author’s private collection
Sitmar Line had been operating voyages to
“Fairland Shipping Corp,” - part of - SITMAR Line is a name derived from Societa Italiana Trasporti Marittimi.
At the time, Sitmar operated three other ships
on the Australian/New Zealand migrant service, the
1 – MS Fairsea (Maiden Voyage with Sitmar in 1949 - 13,317 GRT).
2 – SS Castel Felice (Maiden Voyage with Sitmar in 1952 - 12,478 GRT).
3 – SS Fairsky (Maiden Voyage with Sitmar in 1958 - 12,464 GRT).
The Sitmar Liner SS Fairsky seen in her early days just outside of Sydney Heads
When she was completed, there was no doubt about it, but the Fairstar was an exciting and a very modern ship for her day! She featured many fine public rooms, such on Promenade Deck forward there was the huge two level “Zodiac Lounge,” with the magnificent mezzanine and Bar above on Boat Deck. Just aft of the Zodiac Lounge on the port side was an attractive “Library and Writing Room,” whilst alongside the starboard side was a Shop. Amidships there was the famed “Bavarian Beer Hall,” with its huge timber topped Bar. The Bar also had an opening into the aft port side “Rainbow Lounge,” which was a colourful, but such a peaceful intimate room. The aft lounge on Promenade Deck was the popular “Aquarius Lounge” and nightclub. This room was so named, due to the large portholes in her mid-aft walls, providing a spectacular view into the swimming pool, located above on Boat Deck.
A fine aerial view of the Fairstar overlooking her Lido Deck and her pool to her forward decks above
From the author’s private collection
Overlooking the Swimming Pool on Boat Deck was the most popular day spot on the ship, and that was achieved from the Surf Club with its vast wall of floor to ceiling windows, featuring a unique Island Bar, with stainless steel cladding. The Children’s Play Centre with a pool was located far forward on Promenade Deck. Above the play centre on Boat deck forward, was the Jungle Room, which was a teenager’s delight. On the port side there was the Milk bar, a jukebox with a dance floor. On starboard side, where a number of poles with two seats attached and a shelf for drinks, leaves sprouting from the top of the poles, made this a unique room perfect for those so full of “puppy love.” The author knows all this very well, as he was one of the young set on Fairstar’s second voyage from Melbourne in August 1964, listening to Eric Burton’s and the Animal’s huge hit “The House of the Rising Sun,” as he sailed, via Sydney Brisbane, Singapore, Colombo, Aden, Suez, Port Said to Naples from where we took several trains to our destination.
The author seen at
the Pyramids at
Photograph by my Mother © Reuben Goossens
Due to the Middle East Was, the Suez Canal was
closed and all Sitmar liners were forced to sail to
In due course the Fairstar would sail on round
the world voyages, sail via
However, it was in 1965 that Sitmar Line
decided to broaden its operations and commenced a series of South Pacific
Then can what was the biggest even of all, for
it was on November 13, 1974 that the TSS Fairstar departed Southampton for the
very last time, and she sailed once more via Cape Town, Fremantle, Adelaide,
Melbourne, Sydney to Auckland and returning to Sydney to become the very first
cruise ship ever to call Australia home on a permanent basis! P&O these
days tend to make this claim, but it was an Italian company “Sitmar
Line,” soon to be renamed “Sitmar Cruises” who were the very
first to home port a cruise ship in
Fairstar, the cruise ship,
If we look back to the massive cruise industry Australia has to day, with so many ships home ported here, there is no doubt that the one ship the T.S.S. Fairstar spearheaded Australia's billion dollar-a-year cruise industry, even though there had been other cruise ships before her, but she was the very first ship to be permanently based in Australia on a year round basis, whereas all other ships, were only stationed here for a few months at a time during the Australian summer, being the low season in the UK and Europe whilst there was little work available for ships during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Fairstar arrives home from a cruise to
By the time she sailed her final voyage in 1997, she sailed past the Opera House over eleven hundred times.
From the author’s private collection
Sitmar Cruises operated the popular Fairstar for fourteen years, during which time she received a number of refits and improvements to keep up with the times. During this time she did have occasional mechanical problems, as do many ships, but generally Sitmar looked after her very well. Australian’s and New Zealanders enjoyed the mostly Italian officers and crew and their generous hospitality!
Fairstar the cruise ship still with her much loved yellow funnel with the big blue V
From the author’s private collection
Fairstar mostly cruised around the
The Fairstar is seen here departing
Photographer is unknown – Please see the photo Notes at bottom of page
On June 3, 1984 the Fairstar entered the
Cairncross Drydock in
Then from 1988, she commenced making one Asian
fly/cruise programme annually and when she arrived in
As Sitmar Line had been renamed “Sitmar Cruises” having gained two new luxury cruise ships for the American market, the Fairstar was again in Singapore shipyards in June 1988 where she received the new Sitmar Cruises colour scheme on her funnel: a stylised (1) White & Red Swan on a dark Blue funnel. Personally I did not like this funnel on her and it certainly did not prove to be very popular with Australians either, for they had come to love the beloved Sitmar yellow funnel with that great big blue V on it!
(1) Above & below: Here we see Sitmar Cruises Fairstar with the new blue Funnel Livery with the white/red swan logo
Also note the canvas with plastic windows section forward along Promenade Deck!
The photograph above was provided to me by Sitmar Cruises - The one below is unknown - Please see the photo Notes at bottom of page
However, due to Sitmar Cruises
incredible success with the cruising public in the
Thus P&O decided to give her another refit in April 1989 that saw her lounges and accommodations being upgraded with new carpet being laid as well as new furnishings. But it was her Boat Deck that saw the biggest change as it was extended far aft and full width making her Lido Deck and Pool area so spacious! In addition, it also provided the perfect buffet and keep fit area directly below on Promenade Deck. As well as adding full cover for newly created “Starlight Disco.” Now the TSS Fairstar had become a genuine cruise ship with all the comforts of one! In addition her passenger capacity was now 1,390.
Finally in June 1991 did P&O Holidays decide to change that horrid blue funnel for it certainly needed to be changed, and the funnel was pained all white with a (2) Blue and Red Swan. This livery remained until the next and final change in late 1993.
(2) The Blue and Red Swan Sitmar Cruises Logo on a white funnel, which suited the ship better, but still not right!
From the author’s private collection
During her P&O years, she was regularly updated to meet changing Australian tastes, standards and demands. As she cruised on, she became lovingly known as the P&O “FunShip” under the renamed company, “P&O Holidays” team, which was superbly headed by the author’s maritime friend “Mr Fairstar,” Phil Young the Managing Director, who was later *followed by the equally able Mr. Phil Riley.
(3) The new dolphin logo on Fairstar's funnel
Holidays now operating the much-loved Fairstar, but in 1993 they finally gave
her a much needed new logo on her funnel, being (3) two blue overlapping
discs, with a white jumping dolphin. This, together with the ships
This the very first and new Dolphin brochure for 1994-95 cruise season, released by P&O Holidays in July 1993
The bright new looking TSS Fairstar departed
on her first cruise in her new guise, being an 11 night Pacific Island Cruise,
visiting all the most popular Islands, such as; cruising along the Chesterfield
Islands, then onto the superb Champagne Bay, one of the popular locations in
Vanuatu, then to its Capital Vila, next to the ideal uninhabited Mystery
Island, where the Natives come per small boats from other islands and set up
stalls and they perform, and in those days P&O used to have a great BBQ
lunch on the Island, but those days seem to have gone. Next was
The Fairstar was on a 13 night cruise and is seen berthed in
was heading our way. We departed at 9 PM and thankfully this very rough storm had blown out by then!
There is no doubt that the product known as the “FunShip” Fairstar grew in popularity, one that remains unequalled to this day! Yes there have been and now are many fine modern ships home ported in Australia, but not one has left an impact on those who love cruising, than the Fairstar the “FunShip” did!
The author and a friend undertook, what turned out to be his very last cruise on his beloved TSS Fairstar, which departed Sydney on September 17, 1996 and she would make her very last cruise ever just three months later!
The author is seen on the Fairstar’s Bridge port wing overlooking aft along Officers & Boat Deck
Photograph by associate Kosta Specis © Reuben Goossens
You will find a series of photographs that I have taken whilst on board of her lounges, her decks and some of her other facilities, in order that her memories may live on! These and others images are shown on the Photo Page and can be reached via the link on the Index below. HOWEVER her story continues!
Fairstar ready and
awaiting her guests for another “Fun Packed” cruise!
Note the Alfresco Café aft on Officers Deck
Although the Fairstar had a
comprehensive AU$2 million refit at the
Almost one million passengers
cruised on Fairstar since her first official Australian based cruise from
Now we can just see the Kiosk on the left, the Pool and the Sunset Lounge Windows
She is credited for pioneering the cruise
Much of Fairstar’s success is credited
to the fact that she was managed by Australian’s for Australian’s
and Kiwis, offering a quality product suited to the market. Fairstar was such a
familiar sight in
P&O Holidays Fairstar at Circular Quay International Passenger Terminal on January 21, 1997
As Fairstar sailed out of
Still looking amazing and spotlessly clean, the TSS Fairstar returns from her very last cruise ever on …
January 31, 1997
and we see the ship that will take over from her, the TSS Fair Princess berthed
This wonderful photo was taken by & is © Gerald Laver, thank you Gerald!
Souvenir farewell P&O Fairstar Zippo brass lighter sold in the gift shop during her final months
Image © and lighter from the Jim Stanoff collection -
The TSS Fairstar
and her replacement, also an ex Sitmar ship is seen behind her at
On February 5, 1997 the Fairstar still looked
simply wonderful, just if she was ready to return to cruise the Pacific again.
However, in reality she was a sad lonely sight with her successor berthed just
astern. Just two seven days later the ex Sitmar liner and cruise ships, which
was taken over by P&O Holidays, our beloved “FunShip” left
Sydney for the very last time as she was heading for the breakers in India. On
her bow she had been given a new name, but she rather crudely renamed “RIPA”
and she flew the St.
Note her new name
“RIPA painted so poorly high up on her bow and upper name board - She is
seen from the
Photograph is by & © Gerald Laver
We were not given any warning and she left
early in the morning, as I said just seven days after I took the photograph of
the two ships together. Her dolphin logo had been poorly painted out in white,
and the name RIPA had
also been poorly painted on her upper name board. I was told by someone who
just happened to be there that “She quietly slipped her berth and it
seemed all to fast that the beloved Fairstar was out of sight and she had
She then set a course for a long
slow voyage for
PS: (RIPA is Australian slang for something really great or fantastic).
The Fair Princess was previously the Sitmar
luxury cruise ship the SS Fairsea, ex Cunard RMS Carinthia. Princess took her
over in 1988 and renamed her Fair Princess and late in 1996 she arrived in
Eventually technicians were brought over from
The Fair Princess amazingly did end up being greatly loved once she was fixed and I sailed on her a good number of times
Including her last
It must be said due to the excellent service,
combined with top entertainment, and volumes of basic, but good food, the
wonderful old Fair Princess (ex Carinthia, Fairland), became loved by those who
cruised on her! But suddenly the announcement came in 1999 that Fair Princess
would be sold and early in 2000 she headed for a Casino consortium in
TSS Fairstar Main INDEX
Part 1 … Oxfordshire - History. The troop ship that became a loved liner & cruise ship!
Part 2 … Oxfordshire Her Final Voyage.
Part 3 … Fairstar History & Page One.
Part 4 … Fairstar Photo Album Photographs taken during her final years.
Part 5 … Fairstar Deck Plans. Her original 1964 Plan and a 1995 Plan.
Also Read … Fair Princess Story From their Cunard days to Sitmar & P&O ships,
Read… The Sitmar Ships covering all the other Sitmar ships.
Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
Visit our ssMaritime Main INDEX
Where you will discover over 700 Classic Passenger & Passenger-Cargo Liners!
Where the ships of the past make history & the 1914 built MV Doulos Story
Please Note: ssmaritime and associated sites are 100% non-commercial and the author does not seek funding or favours and never have and never will.
on ssmaritime and associate pages are either by the author or from the
author’s private collection. In addition there are some
images and photographs that have been provided by Shipping Companies or
private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors,
however, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding
the photographer or owner concerned. Therefore, I hereby invite if owners of
these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address
can be found at the bottom of the page on (www.ssmaritime.com), in order that due credit may be given.
Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are either by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images and photographs that have been provided by Shipping Companies or private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors, however, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer or owner concerned. Therefore, I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address can be found at the bottom of the page on (www.ssmaritime.com), in order that due credit may be given.
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