Greek Line - TSMS Lakonia

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

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“Memories of the JVO

MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

Chapter Six

Greek Line

The ill-fated Cruise Ship

TSMS Lakonia

The gleaming white TSMS Lakonia is still showing her original Dutch heritage – She is seen here at Southampton April 24, 1963.

The JVO, now thirty-three years old, was considered to be a worthwhile purchase by the Greek Line and considering she had a major refit and a face-lift just a few years ago, the company decided to use her as a running mate for their other cruise ship, the “Arkadia.” Both ships would cruise in and around Europe. The JVO arrived in Genoa on June 7, 1963.

JVO's arrival in Genoa 7 June 1963

The elegant MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was officially handed over at 1600 hours (4 P.M.) on June 8 to her new owners; the British based Mr. Goulandris’ “Ormos Shipping Company,” being a subsidiary of the “Greek Line” He had purchased her for an undisclosed price!

Here we see the official handing over that took place onboard the ship

Officine Mariotti completed a refit at Genoa. Her eleven public rooms were all renamed with more suitable names for cruising, such as, the “Tropicana Restaurant,” the “Atlantic Room,” and “Pavilion Theatre.” Even her decks were renamed, like Sun, Sports, Boat, Promenade, Main and Restaurant. The aft swimming pool was enlarged and its surround was reshaped and modernised. Twelve additional cabins were added, and all cabins now featured bedsteads instead of berths. Air-conditioning was extended throughout the ship. Upon competion, she was now regisdtred as being 20,238 GRT, or Gross Registered Tonnes.

Greek cruise liner, TSMS Lakonia

The ship, also lovingly known as the "Grand Old lady,” now reappeared painted all white and a new name, 'Lakonia.' She now looked more like a young maiden. Soon she sailed for Southampton, arriving mid morning on 24 April 1963. That day she undertook her first cruise for the Greek Line, departing at 1700 hours. Ports of call would vary; these would include Madeira, Le Havre, Tenerife, and Las Palmas. A feature being, that passengers could leave at a port and holiday there then later rejoin the ship for the voyage home to the UK. Other ports of call in some itineraries would include one or two of the following, Lisbon, Vigo, Tangiers, Casablanca, Malaga and Cadiz. The company planned a vigorous schedule of some twenty seventeen cruised from April through to November 1963 with another twenty-seven planned the following year.

 

 

Above & below: Cruising life on board TSMS Lakonia

 

For a variety of reasons, the Lakonia's performance began to slow and fell behind schedule. Finally, she arrived in Southampton on 22 November 1963 three days behind schedule. She discharged her passengers at berth 106 and was transferred to berth 101. Liners awaiting a refit or re-deployment traditionally used this berth.

On 9 December, she entered Number 6 Dry Dock for yet another extensive refit. The fuel injection system was changed from blast air, a novel item when built, to pneumatic. This was considered to be the problem of her poor performance. The company that refitted her, Thornycrofts guaranteed that this new system would enhance her performance as well as her fuel economy.

 

 The Ocean Bar & the New Agora Shopping Center aft on Promenade deck

 

Other improvements undertaken at the time were a new kitchen and pantry. Cabins were redecorated with new and additional bathrooms fitted. By Thursday 13 December 1963, she was berthed at 107. She went through all the major safety inspections and passed all her safety regulations. The crew had been put through the full lifeboat and fire drill. Seven lifeboats were lowered to the embarkation deck, after which four were lowered into the water. Lakonia was well equipped with twenty- four lifeboats, with capability of saving one thousand five hundred people in case of emergency. The Lakonia was also in possession of a foreign ship certificate and her inspection was completed with satisfaction. To all concerned, Lakonia was practically a new ship, fully refitted, and with improved engines. This was a ship that had been tried and tested for many years, sailing the globe. She was ready to continue her cruising career.

Captain Mathios Zarbis, a veteran sailor from the Aegean Island of Andros

On Thursday 19 December, she was berthed between the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary and the Lakonia was gaily flag-bedecked and looked splendid with her hull gleaming white with her fresh coat of paint. Lakonia was indeed ready for her eighteenth cruise in her new guise.

Passengers arrived in full anticipation of what might lie ahead for them on this exciting Christmas cruise with a number of wonderful destinations where the weather hopefully would be much warmer than in the UK. Her eleven-day cruise was scheduled to call at Madeira, then Tenerife for an overnight stay on Christmas Eve and finally Las Palmas before returning home to Southampton. Passengers had read the brochure, which included a statement,

"Here is a holiday you will remember and talk about for the rest of your life."

No truer statement could have been made, for this cruise would indeed be remembered and talked about, not only by passengers, but also by the whole world!

Please Note: All colour images on this page are from a Lakonia brochure from the author’s collection

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Chapter 8 - Lakonia's Final Voyage

 

Or the - JVO Index

 

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“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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