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Cathy Hooper - Kenneth Barton a Passenger Remembers her kindness

Last year we heard about the sad passing of Cathy Hooper.

Cathy initially worked for P&O in her home city of San Francisco. When P&O took over Princess cruises in 1974, Cathy moved over to Princess in Los Angeles to create the "Princess Cruisemaster Club “ loyalty cruising scheme.

I had the great pleasure of sailing with Cathy way back at the start of P&O Princess back in 1975. We first met during the first Alaskan cruising season on Pacific Princess (The Love Boat).

Cathy Hooper

Cathy was a warm friendly and very lovely lady. I was reminded of this recently when I was contacted by a former P&O passenger Kenneth Barton, who had the pleasure of meeting Cathy on a flight to Acapulco to join the ss. Canberra.

Kenneth Barton Remembers

At the time I was a flight attendant and had obtained a pass down to Acapulco on Western Airlines (which was not the airline I worked for). The agent in San Francisco kindly upgraded me to first class, where I was seated next to Cathy.

When it came time for lunch, a flight attendant asked Cathy for her entree choice, and then, turning to me, said

"I'm sorry, but I don't have enough meals to serve one to a non-rev." I was disappointed, but smiled and assured her that it was fine. (After all, it was sometimes part of flying-for-free.) When the flight attendant turned away Cathy, with whom I'd only exchanged a few pleasantries on boarding, asked me to explain what the flight attendant meant. When I did, she excused herself and went into the galley. I heard her say to the flight attendant "So, I'm supposed to enjoy my lunch while the gentleman sitting next to me gets nothing? That makes me feel uncomfortable. Please do something." A few minutes later Cathy was served her lunch, and I was served one as well. Cathy winked at me, and we began to talk.

When she learned I was sailing aboard CANBERRA back to San Francisco, Cathy explained that a friend of hers who worked onboard was meeting her at Acapulco Airport, The two of them were planning to have dinner at the Acapulco Princess before tendering out to the ship, which was sailing after midnight. She asked if I would please join them for dinner; an invitation I was delighted to accept.

The Magnificent Canberra at night

After a very pleasant dinner, the three of us took a tender out to CANBERRA, which was lit-up like TITANIC, on the perfectly still, mirroring waters of Acapulco Bay. Our slow approach across the water was a mesmerizing experience. I wish my 1970s-era camera had been up to the task of night photography, but I will attach a photo which at least gives some idea of how splendid CANBERRA looked. For me, the gleaming ship conjured-up special memories...

Because when CANBERRA was on her maiden voyage in June of 1961, she called at my home town of San Francisco. I was 12-years-old, and ocean liner crazy. When not in school I could usually be found at Pier 35 if one of the Matson liners was in, or on the south side of the Bay Bridge, where the American President Line ships berthed. I had known for some time that the brand-new CANBERRA was arriving, and when she did, my parents and brother and I went down to Pier 26 - after dinner - to see this new P&O liner. I think the captain had given instructions for every single light on the ship to be turned on because, in the blue-black night, the white-painted CANBERRA glowed and throbbed like a living thing. She was absolutely dazzling. We could not go on board but were allowed to walk the length of the pier, and because every room was lighted, we could peek inside. It was literally one of the highlights of my childhood. So you can imagine how it felt, all those years later, to be approaching CANBERRA - again blazing with lights - looking very much as she had when I'd first seen her, nineteen years earlier

Cathy had perused my P&O ticket on the plane, so she knew I'd booked the least expensive inside single. It was all I could afford at the time. Once onboard CANBERRA, she marched me straight to the Purser's Desk, spoke in a low tone to someone she knew on the other side of the counter, and in a moment - presto-jingo - I'd been upgraded to cabin B14; an outside double in the curving forward superstructure, with one window looking to port, and another looking slightly forward! Instead of dining in the formerly tourist class Atlantic restaurant, I was reassigned to Cathy's table, #22, in the formerly first-class Pacific Restaurant.

Kenneth Barton with Cathy and The Ship's Surgeon in the

Pacific Restaurant Canberra

Cathy's kindness, I met wonderful people onboard CANBERRA. There were drinks one evening in Deputy Captain Ian Gibb's cabin. And more drinks with Captain Gibb on other evenings in his preferred Century Bar. I was also befriended by a wonderful little muffin-shaped dowager from Tunbridge Wells, who had grown up on ocean liners and who affectionately called Captain Gibb "'Gibby" (She had known him since he was a child.) Dancing with her one evening she asked me if I wouldn't stay on board for the rest of the 'round-the-world voyage - as her guest! (Sadly, my employer would not have approved.)

Cathy Relaxing on Canberra

Two months previously I had sailed aboard ORIANA, and had noted at the time what I thought was an onboard social oddity. Although the ship was no longer a two-class liner, the passengers seemed oblivious to the removal of class barriers. In the evening, elegantly-dressed men and women sipped Champagne, or gin & tonics in The Lookout, or Princess Room - both former first-class spaces. While aft, in the previously tourist class Ocean Bar and Midship Bar, passengers in t-shirts and shorts were cheerfully downing beer. Onboard CANBERRA, I discovered an identical dynamic was playing out. The Meridian Lounge and Crows Nest still looked and felt strictly First Class, while the atmosphere in Cricketers Tavern was decidedly Tourist (and on occasion, a rowdy Third!). It was my observations onboard ORIANA that had prompted me to pack my tux for CANBERRA. I suspected it was the ship's pointy end where I'd feel most comfortable.

Canberra at Pier 35 San Francisco

In truth, CANBERRA struck me as the cheerier of P&O's two biggest ships. But despite that, I preferred ORIANA. Partly it was the look of her. I loved ORIANA's lines, and her unique profile, with those WILLEM RUYS-like, mismatched funnels. She also had a certain business-like hauteur. And I enjoyed the way she bulled her way through heavy seas. The atmosphere on CANBERRA's expansive open decks was a bit too Butlin's for my taste. But then I only sailed on each of the ships once. Another voyage and I might have felt differently.

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