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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author


T.S.S. Olympia

Sold to become Caribe, Caribe I, Regal Empress

Sold for scrap in March 2009 and sailed for India as the MV Regal Tmpress


The elegant Greek Liner – TSS Olympia 

Photograph provided by Angus Ogilvy and used with permission


“A Birth At Sea”

By Jim (Olympios) Bournelis

“My Father, whose name is Nicholas Bournelis was ready to leave his job as a driver for the American Embassy in Athens and decided to head for "America,” which was of course “The Land of Opportunity" and as he always told us nothing was going to stop him. My Mother Toula and my two brothers, Peter, then aged 11 and Evangelos aged 1, were part of the entourage on the forthcoming voyage and adventure.

However, the problem was that my Mother was 8 months pregnant with me and at that time there was a policy against women being so advanced in their pregnancy and travelling on the TSS Olympia on a Trans Atlantic voyage. But nothing would stop my Father from boarding, thus we did and the Olympia departed Piraeus on April 12, 1960.

However, on the 19th my Mother went into labour and I was told that my Father carried her all the way to the ship’s hospital. Of course that was my day of “freedom” and for the rest of the voyage it became one big party on board!

TSS Olympia’s captain was Captain Demetrios Sigalas, and he asked for the honour if he and his wife could become my Godparents, thus two days later the Baptism took place, which was followed by a large reception, which was attended by many of the passengers. One of the gifts that I was given was a free voyage on the ship, my Mother received one at a fifty percent discount but my Father would have to pay the full price! I guess that was his penalty for bringing my pregnant Mother on board. However, we never did take advantage of the generous gift, but it was much appreciated at the time.

“Birth at Sea” - Photo gallery

All photographs were provided by Jim Bounelis

Mrs Toula Bournelis looks on as baby Jim has just been delivered in the ships hospital


Greek Orthodox Chaplain Rev. Antonios Navromaras leads the baptismal service and Captain Demetrios Sigalas

is seen holding the baby with his wife seen next to him as well one man and an officer


This is Jim’s big moment!


The baptism is complete and the party is about to begin!


With the big affair over there is time for a photo with the happy Mum Toula, the captain and his wife

the proud father Nicholas Bournelis holding his one year old son Evangelos and their eldest son Peter next to the captain



Above and below: Two items from the ships Log and a statement from the Captain regarding the baptism

Both images of these documents were provided by Jim Bournelis


My Mother and Father arrived in New York on April 24 with one extra passenger and I entered America having dual citizenship, Greek and Liberian. However in 1976 through the Naturalization process I officially became a USCitizen. But the birthplace on my passport continues to read: Born: “at sea.”

Here we see young Jim at seven years of age

A school photograph provided by Jim Bournelis

Throughout my childhood, I was embarrassed to complete the “birthplace” space on school forms, thus I always put the ship’s name along with “Atlantic Ocean” and sometimes I included the latitude and longitude!  Most of the time, the schools changed it to Lancaster, PA, my hometown. By the way, having a middle name, Olympios, was a fact that I kept quiet unless I was pressed for that information. 

A photograph of my parents taken in 1993. Sadly Jim’s father passed away on April 6, 1999

Photograph provided by Jim Bournelis


A recent photograph of Jim and his family …

Jim and his wife Chrysan in the middle and their sons Nikolas (left) and Ian (right)

Photograph provided by Jim Bournelis

My story of being born on the TSS Olympia is fascinating to whomever I may tell it. I admit that I also enjoy having no real City or Country of birth, but instead the Atlantic Ocean! I have always wondered where the ship was located, my relatives in Greece would tell me when it was docked there. But, a couple years ago I took a chance and googled the ship's name and was delighted to find the information. I showed the pictures to my Mother who recognized only a few of the areas, because of all the renovations. My regret is that I wish I would have emailed you sooner because it looks like the time is almost up for us to see the ship. My Mother is now 78 and of course I’m almost 49 and both of us would love to see the ship before she goes. My Father passed away in 1999. My wife, Chrysan and two boys, Nikolas, 19, and Ian, 17 also are very interested in this story having a happy ending.

The very first postcard of TSS Olympia was an artist’s impression

From the Authors private collection

Reuben, I will compile the all of the information I have and email to you.  I have a copy of the ship's log for that day; a family picture in the hospital room along with the Captain; my birth certificate, and a copy of the Baptismal card. Much of this information is in Greek so it may be a little difficult for you to read. I also have the "Greek Line" hospital towel as a souvenir.

Most of all, I'm happy to pass on this story to someone who knows the history of the ship. I must admit that I reviewed your information on the website to see if there was mention of a birth on board the ship. I'm curious if you knew about it all?  Regardless, I'm very appreciative of the opportunity and look forward to communicating after I send you the "good stuff". I am not looking for any publicity from this, just interested in adding a little more history to the TSS Olympia before it is retired.”

TSS Olympia INDEX – Note new feature - # 8.


1… TSS Olympia - The only Greek Trans Atlantic Liner ever to be built. Sold to become the Caribe and Regal Empress


2… Caribe refit photographs - Photos and story by ex crew member Michael Goldsby


3… Photo Album One


4… Photo Album Two - Photos by an Australian passenger, Michael Barnes


5 Deck Plan


6… The ex Save the TSS Olympia Campaign – The History of the Campaign


7… Read the Memorandum of Agreement - Proof of how Senator Leonidas Raptakis turned TRAITOR and deserted TSS Olympia!


8… Birth at Sea – The fascinating story of how Jim (Olympios) Bournelis was born mid Atlantic!



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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 (my email address may be found on only), 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 right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

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