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GoCruisewithJane in the 60's

Its time to go back to the 1960’s again to delve into my memories from cruising in the 1960’s. Here I am, entrant No. 74, taking part in the Fancy Dress in 1969 onboard P&O Orcades. Rather cute, even when wearing a paperbag wouldnt you agree?! Taking part in the childrens fancy dress was almost compulsory, but why did the outfits always have to be made out of paper, card and crepe paper? I cant tell you how uncomfortable these outfits were. Stiff white paper card with black crepe paper fringing stook to them to make them look like 1920’s flapper girls outfits. I couldnt sit down for two hours once they were on and there were staples and sticky tape pinching and stabbing at every opportunity. Fancy dress was always a big occassion. On the morning of the fancy dress you would go to the playroom and select your materials to create your costume, and it was an all day occassion to sit and craft your masterpiece. But getting them on and keeping them on was something else!

The adults always had a Fancy Dress night on every cruise, and that really was a big event. If I was really lucky (and reallly, really good during the day) I would be allowed to stay up for evening dinner in the main restaurant and be allowed to go and watch the parade. It wasnt just the odd one or two adults that took part in the fancy dress. A large number of passengers would enter into the spirit of things and go down to dinner in their costumes. There was always a good party atmosphere on Fancy Dress nights, then after dinner the main ballroom or show lounge would be used to parade the participants through and be presented for judging. I can even recall my Dad entering once, which was very out of character for him!

Fancy dress parades were still as big during the 1970’s and 1980’s onboard the Canberra, in either the William Fawcett Room (later the Ocean Lounge) or the Stadium Theatre. I wonder what it was that made them become less popular.  The Stadium Theatre…. what a strange room that was! The floor sloped for one thing and I dont think it was in the direction of the stage either. Of course, it wasnt a purpose built theatre and was originally the outside sports deck, but was later converted to form an improvised show lounge. Either side of the stage there were glass doors, that were really difficult to open when you are only a ‘little person’, that lead to the Crows Nest Bar. They were made even more difficult to open because the doors were situated on a rather narrow step, and I guess the doors were heavier than normal because they used to open onto the outside deck before the theatre was converted. To either side of the Crows Nest doors, there were wooden steps leading to another heavy door, which took you out onto the Observation deck. It was always very very quiet up here, and I always used to think I was so high up, but it is of course nowhere near as high as deck 19 on Azura!  I dont really recall much of the shows, but I guess that would be because I was always in bed. The shows that I can recall were made up of the entertainment team. There was no such thing as a big show cast in those days. They were ‘Social Hosts & Hostesses’ in those days, and in the evenings they had to sing and dance as well.

To the aft of the Stadium was the Bonito club, the first class ballroom, with its glass wall that folded back to open the entire space up to the deck area. Even into the 70’s & 80’s I can  recall the Officers that would line the entrance to the Bonito Club and make them selves available for a quickstep or foxtrot. I can only think of a couple of P&O Officers that I see these days ballroom dancing. Maybe P&O should make it compulsory that they master at least one ballroom dance and mingle with the passengers a little more like they used to!

Outside the Bonito Club, on both port and starboard side, there was the covered area of deck which led through to the Stadium. I always used to think that part of the deck was very posh, and so First class!

I will see what other memories and photos I can produce for you next time, so dont forget to keep checking back.


  • Philip Gordon
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Before the days of the casino onboard ship, there was a card game called Joker 7. This was played on 2 tables which were hidden away behind a screen. You found out the location through the GOOD MORNING SHEET (who remembers those)and the dealers would be there for about 2 hours a day.

    You had 7 cards dealt and you could bet on more reds than blacks or a numbered pair or an exact number of red or black cards. The odds were on the table and the 7 black or red cards only was 40 to 1. I saw someone win this once and the dealer could not pay him out because she did not have that much money.

    On Iberia and Chusan, there was also one fruit machine called TIC TAC TOE and if you got the jackpot, you won £6.00 (which I did do once, and then bought everybody a drink so I only ended up with £5.10.6d).

    I also do remember a lot of other things about P&O in the 60s and 70s (non gambling related) so there is more to come.

  • Huw Jones
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    I sailed on Orcades in August 1972 , shortly before she was scrapped. We were in cabin C127, my mum still has the key! Do you remember the nightclub. It was on one of the lower decks and the walls were aluminium, with a stippled hammer effect – wow! I was 9 and one of my most vivid memories was the smell in the restaurant at breakfast, it still makes my mouth water!
    Cruising was an ultimate escape in the 60s, but now everyone wants to watch TV and use their mobiles. Still, who cares, there is no better holiday. 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted June 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

      I dont recall the nightclub (perhaps not allowed in when i was onboard) but I will confess to having a Canberra cabin key!! You might recall they were blue if you were ‘tourist’ class, and red if you were First class.

  • Philip Gordon
    Posted June 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I also have a red Canbera cabin key and a metal sign saying “your cabin steward is Philip” naughty, I know.

    Most first class passengers would wear their cabin keys on their belts so everybody knew they were from first class.

    Do you remember the swimming pool on Canberra with windows under the water, now where did they lead to ?

    • Post Author
      Posted June 13, 2010 at 1:04 pm

      Philip, I do recall that if you had a tourist class key you kept it in your pocket so nobody could see it, lol.
      The swimming pool with the windows under water was the Alice Springs pool and the lounge beneth was the Peacock Room which later went on to be Neptunes Lounge. I never did get my head around why they felt the need to change the names of the william Fawcett Room and Peackock room? I aways called them by their original names.


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