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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author 

Please Note: All ssmaritime and my other related ssmaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues to write article on classic liners and cruise ships in order to better to inform cruise and ship enthusiasts for their pleasure!


Page One


From Birth to Breakers


SS Oriana had one of the most recognised funnels in maritime history! 


This twelve page feature will cover the remarkable history if SS Oriana, a great liner, popular cruise ship and in her final days a tourist attraction. These pages also include various experiences provided to me by past crew member and it makes for interesting reading. In addition this feature is packed with photographs for to reminisce of the days you may have spent on her or stood quayside admiring her.

Although this page covers Oriana from her conception in 1954 to being broken up, I have a separate three page feature entirely related to her design, building, launching, fitting out, sea trials and maiden voyage. The link to this feature can be found at the bottom of this page along with all the others.

In 1954 Orient Line began planning to build a new liner, a ship that would be the grandest and largest Orient liner ever to be built, however, it was not until 1956 that Orient Lines made the final decision to build a new ship for the Australian trade. With the added costs of fuel consumption, as well as maintenance of their older ships, it was decided that a larger, fast, more efficient liner would provide a profitable and a superior facilities. After two years of careful planning, Oriana’s the keel was laid on September 18 1957. This, the largest ship built for Orient Lines, would soon join their already sizable fleet. However, unknown at this stage, Oriana would be the last great liner to be built for Orient Lines.

Since the Orion, built in 1935, each Orient Line ship’s name commenced with the letter ‘O. As Orient Lines searched for a new name, an Australian P&O employee jokingly suggested naming the new ship ‘Orstralia.’ Thankfully, a unique name was decided on, one that was given to Queen Elizabeth I, by the poets of her era - Oriana. Orient Line ships all had their own distinctive emblem, and now a suitable emblem was needed for Oriana the new super liner.

Mr. Milner Grey created an exciting new emblem for the Oriana, in the form of an ‘O’ topped with a crown made of pearls, and containing a double ‘E’ inside the ‘O’ representing Queen Elizabeth I, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Please Note: Photographs and images in this feature are from the author’s private collection, or as stated otherwise. I hereby request that all © copyrights are fully respected, and that no photographs from this site are copied without permission from the actual owner! Reuben Goossens.

The contract to build the Oriana was awarded to Vickers Armstrong Ltd of Barrow-in-Furness. Construction work commenced 18 September 1956. Slowly the unique design of the Oriana became obvious, new, but she retained design similarities of other Orient Lines ships, such as the Orcades, Oronsay, and the newer Orsova. Location of her lifeboats was the most obvious modification. Oriana was the largest ship to built at the Barrow yard and as we know, it would also be the last ship they constructed for the Orient Steam Navigation Company.


SS Orsova is the proud predecessor to the SS Oriana

The contract for the £14 million Oriana was placed on May 12, 1954, but work on her did not commence until September 18, 1957. The official hull laying plate was numbered, 1061, which many jokingly claimed was her “Maiden Name.” Oriana was launched on Tuesday November 3 1959, by Princess Alexandra, after which the Oriana proceeded to her fitting out dock in Buccleuth and to complete her aluminium superstructure and interiors.

The next twelve months saw her turn into a fine ultra modern passenger liner ready for service. Located forward atop the Crows Nest, there a short radar mast, it is well known that the Orient Line usually did not have a conventional mast on their liners. Oriana had the usual high, but more streamlined, central funnel, However, aft there was a strange new feature a small dummy funnel.

A perfect view of her unusual upper superstructure and funnel configuration

At 41,915 tonnes the Oriana was the largest passenger liner to be placed on the Australia / New Zealand service. Her dimensions being, 245.1m long, in 30.5m wide, having 730 cabins, 17 public rooms, and 11 passenger decks. She was able to carry 2000 passengers, in two classes, having a crew of around 980.

During her sea trials carried out on the Clyde, between 13 and 16 November 1960, she achieved a maximum speed of 30.64 knots, and this was in woeful weather conditions. With two sets of Pametrada double-reduction geared steam turbines, which generated 80,000 horsepower, were geared to twin screws, giving a cruising speed of 27.5 knots.

SS Oriana seen during her sea trials

Oriana departed on her maiden voyage from Southampton, Sydney bound on December 3, 1960, returning to Southampton via New Zealand and the US. She became known as the fastest liner on the UK - Australia service, as she was able to sail from Southampton to Sydney via the Suez Canal in just 21 days.

 P&O Postcard of the Oriana in her original livery

As can be seen above, Oriana retained that distinctive (yet modern) Orient Lines profile, for which the company was renowned for, being leaders in overall ship design.

Oriana arrived in Sydney December 30, 1960, for her very first call

and she would be a regular until her final departure in 1986

Mid 1961, Oriana was joined by the P&O Peninsular’s new 45,733 GRT ss Canberra, which became the largest liner to be placed on the Australian service. Rapidly, *Canberra became the ship that received most publicity. Undoubtedly Canberra was an imposing sight, being all white ship, with long sleek lines, and the author enjoyed his voyages on her a number of times. However, Oriana soon gained a vast following, with past passengers returning to sail on her many times - ‘Take a ship, back to the home country’ was the popular statement in the early days. Oriana was the choice of many a seasoned traveller! * Read the authors – “Canberra Cruise Review.”


 Oriana finally complete and ready to head for New Zealand & Australia


Oriana the Liner

In 1966, the name of Orient Line disappeared, when together with P&O Peninsular, it simply became the P&O Line. Oriana sailed around the world for almost fourteen years. In the late sixties, the round the world service started to become unprofitable with a decline of passengers, being mainly due to flights to London, or Europe now offered discounted fares. P&O had to make a decision on how to handle the situation.


Oriana the Cruise Ship

After serving as a part time cruise ship, in 1973 P&O announced that the Oriana would become a full time cruise ship. At first, she remained a two-class ship, however, in 1974, the class barrier was dropped, and Oriana, like other P&O ships, became a one-class ship. A number of onboard changes were made with the removal on the Silver Grill on A deck, which was replaced with additional cabins, as well as name changes for some lounges. As a cruise ship, both the Oriana and Canberra were a remarkable success story. On November 12, 1981, Oriana left Southampton for the final time, heading for Sydney, were she commenced a full time cruise programme. She became the toast of Australian cruise lovers, and proved to be a great success for P&O! She cruised the South Pacific, as well as an occasional Asian itinerary. Over all, Oriana enjoyed an eighty per cent occupancy rate. Her success had other shipping companies enter the market, placing their ships on full and part time cruise duties from Australia. There were Russian, Italian, Greek even a Chinese company who based their ships in the Southern Hemisphere, all vying for that ever increasing cruise dollar. Sitmar, P&O and CTC cruise Companies were the most successful cruise operators. After successfully cruising out of Australia, came a shock announcement on 22 July, 1985. P&O announced that the Oriana might be withdraw from service. The reason obviously being, the competition from Russian and other cruise companies, all offered heavily discounted fares, effecting P&O’s profits. One of these being Sitmar Cruises, operating the popular Fairstar, had become a major player in the Australian cruise market. Then on August 7, it became official; Oriana would conclude her cruise duties on March 27 1986. At the time, no decision had been made regarding her future.

Oriana departed Sydney on March 14, 1986 for her final cruise, packed with enthusiasts, who had cruised on her many times. Oriana returned to Sydney on March 27, sailing majestically through Sydney Heads, up the harbour, under Sydney Harbour Bridge, and slowly docked at the Pyrmont Passenger Terminal. The ships master for the final cruise was Captain Philip Jackson. ss Oriana had by now sailed some 3,430,900 nautical miles, and achieved a record speed 29.21 knots.

It had been announced that Oriana would be replaced by the 20,000 GRT Island Princess. She would cruise from Australian ports six months of the year.

In 1988, P&O Princess Cruises purchased Sitmar Cruises and decided to use the popular Fairstar as their permanent Australian based cruise ship.

 Oriana at anchor during a Pacific cruise

The next day after her return from her final cruise, 28 March, Oriana was moved to Pyrmont wharf 21, were she remained laid up for two months. On May 7, it was announced that Oriana had been sold to Japanese interests for the use as a floating hotel, museum, and restaurants.

Her final departure from Sydney was hampered by strikes, but she finally departed Sydney on the afternoon of May 29 1986. Her departure from Sydney became a sombre event, as thousands of past passengers, and those that had come to know her distinctive profile whilst in port, looked on with great sadness. The tug Lady Lorraine sailed ahead of her, spouting her fire hoses, as many small vessels accompanied this great ex Orient Line Passengers Liner to Sydney Heads. The great lady of the sea looked a sad sight, as decks were devoid of any passengers, with no sign of life to be seen anywhere except on the bridge. Rather than sailing by her own, four tugs moved her to Sydney Heads, she them went underway by her own steam. Oriana arrived in Osaka three weeks later.


 Still looking grand, the Oriana says goodbye to Australia

She arrived in Japan at 3.00 pm on Tuesday June 24 1986. She docked at the Hitaci Zosen Ship Repair Works at Sakai in Osaka. After renovations, she was towed to Beppu Bay. Oriana may have remained afloat, but became a sad sight, especially as the Japanese owners painted her funnels pink. The hotel venture generally failed and in 1995, the Oriana was sold, this time to Chinese interests. She was towed to Chinwangtao, China, where she became an accommodation ship for the Chinese Government, including a tourist hotel. Oriana was sold again in November 1998. She was purchased for around $6 million by Qinhuangdao in North China’s Hebei Province. Undertow, she arrived in Shanghai October 1998. She was fully refitted in Zing Hua Harbour as a floating tourist attraction, which was funded by the “Hangzhou West Lake International Tourism Culture Development Co Ltd,” who spent some US$3.5 million in renovations. In February 1999, after a massive refit Oriana was relocated to the Pudong district of Shanghai.

Oriana seen as a floating tourist attraction moored in Shanghai

She was attached to her moorings, as can be seen in this photograph

Holding a 85% stake in the ship (15% was held by Hangzhou Jiebai Group Co Ltd), Hangzhou West Lake International Tourism Culture Development Co Ltd announced on August 15 2000, that they would auction its holdings in the Oriana. Even though Oriana had more than 500,000 visitors, she did not make the anticipated profits. Finally, the auction took place on September 28, 2000.

Night view of the Oriana still seen in Shanghai

She was towed to the Chinese port of Dalian, arriving there on June 30, 2002. Observers noted that she looked better than she had for a long time, being freshly painted and bedecked with flags. She looked more like the Oriana we all know. The event was covered on television, and she became the talking point in Dalian. She underwent yet another refit before being opened to the public in her new role at this popular resort.

On June 16, 2004, SS oriana was struck by a vicious storm in which she was badly damaged. She took on a great deal of water due to her being holed at bow that saw her lower decks flooded, and soon she listed to port. Attempts were made to right her and the owners even considered restoring her, however the cost proved to be too great. On May 13, 2005 SS Oriana departed Dalian and was towed to Wayou scrap yard in Zhangiagang China where she was broken up.

ex Crew member, Simon Lockyer, provided us with the perfect photograph of the Oriana

For this is how we like to remember her!

Read Simon’s story at


SS Oriana - Main Index:

Part One         The building of a liner:

Page 1:           The building of SS Oriana

Page 2:           The launching and fitting out of SS Oriana

Page 3:           Sea trials and Oriana’s maiden voyage

Page 4:           Deck Plan, Rare Photographs and other Images

Part Two        The Ships History, Photo Pages & Stories:

Page 1:           History and Images of the Oriana 

Page 2:           Oriana Postcards issued in 1960

Page 3:           Oriana Photo Album - Page 1

Page 4:           Oriana Photo Album - Page 2

Page 5:           Oriana “Lady of the Sea by Neil Whitmore

Page 6:           The Paul Oliver Collection

Page6b:          Paul Oliver Story

Page 7:           Dalian - See the sad photographs of SS Oriana damaged during a storm

Page7b:          Oriana at Zhangiagang shipyard in China - Taken 29 July & 9 September 2005



This is recommended reading!

Orient Line – A Fleet History

Is available for £23.50 plus p&p from “Ships in Focus”



Also Visit our Features on the following Orient Lines/P&O Ships


Orient Lines: RMS OrcadesSS Oronsay - SS Oriana - RMS Orion

P&O: RMS Strathaird SS Iberia - SS Canberra



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Please Note: ssmaritime and associated sites are 100% non-commercial and the author seeks no funding or favours of any shape or form, never have and never will!

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.

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!

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