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Crows Nest Cabin

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Joining your first ship

I remember how excited I was to join SS Oriana for a training cruise as a Purser Cadet. It was a seven-day cruise from Southampton heading for Lisbon and Casablanca. My first cabin at sea was on E deck aft and by aft, I mean the very last cabin before the ship’s laundry. Not only was it very warm, very noisy and vibrated like a tin can tied behind a wedding car, it was also shared with three other sweaty cadets. However, it really was not a problem as I don’t remember spending much time in it anyway.

After training and a short break back home l was called back to the Oriana as a Junior Assistant Purser to sail for the South Seas and Australia. You can just imagine my excitement as 19 year old was hard to contain.

The cabin I as allocated by the Senior Assistant Purser was miles away from the extended laundry cupboard on E deck aft. Elevated all the way up to the Bathing deck, only two decks below the bridge. It had a full-blown window, which turned out to the biggest in my time at sea.

It had a generous bunk and a day bed, all covered with a rather bright orange checked material. As l remember the floor was linoleum with a rug. But in the 1970’s this was the height of luxury for a young lad on his first big adventure. Of course, by today’s standards it would not match up, but at the time it was better and more spacious than most passenger cabins.

Although it has a wash basin that was it as far as bathing facilities when. The showers and the wc’s were a shared facility just along the alleyway.

It did have a telephone which of course was so that you could be called out in the middle of the night when there was an incident and the one on duty. The junior pursers got this rather shitty job and were generally frightened to call out the senior pursers.

Back to the telephone, no buttons or dial, no pbx in those days, just pick up the phone and you were answered by one of the telephone operators who would plug your call through. The telephone operators were wonderful, as a junior purser they would advise on how to handle these night time emergencies and who you should call and who definitely not to wake up at three o’clock in the morning. During the first three weeks at sea I had a stowaway, a man overboard (false alarm) and tragically a lady that had a brain haemorrhage. Talk about being anointed with fire.

On the port side of the bathing deck were the cabins of most of the male purser’ officers, but for some strange reason I was on the starboard side with radio and deck officers. I was right next to the ship’s office, whatever that was but seem to be the hangout of the first officer, I think. This was a blessing in disguise at times l did not have to parade past the other cabins as a door let directly out to the Plough Tavern and the old first-class swimming pool.

Going back to that first day at sea I became aware that I had an officer’s steward to look after me, wow from student digs to this. Stephen was my first officers steward; he was a rather dower Goanese man. This was most unusual as most Goanese crew were delightful, helpful and friendly. Not so with Stephen. After my first night I was rudely awakened by the cabin door flying open, three or four rather heavy footsteps across the floor and plonk as a small tray with a pot of tea and biscuit landed beside my bed, Clonk, Clonk, Clonk, Slam and he was gone. I tried so hard to communicate with Stephen, but it was a lost cause.

Now apart from sleeping your cabin was a great space for a pour out. I had two specialities.

The peach blossom party. (BKM 6’7” If you knew him was partially responsible for the Blossom part). The peach blossom was a delicious concoction, half a peach (tinned of course in those days) was soaked all day in Cointreau. It then was placed in a champagne coupe and topped up with sparkling wine. Of course, when you reached the peach you ate it.

My other specially was an Utter Bliss coffee party. This was held after dinner before hitting the public decks. In those days I was the proud owner of a coffee percolator, remember them. Sugar and big slug of Tia Maria was place in the glass topped with whipped cream flavoured with Cointreau. Yes, you guessed I was rather fond of Cointreau. Ernie Shackleton was chief pastry cook and he would supple the whipped cream in a waxed paper bucket. The cream was tinned UHT but hey hoe once it was mixed with Cointreau who cared.

One final piece of essential equipment in your cabin in those days was your stereo system, usually purchased in some duty-free port along the way. Mine came from Suva in Fiji, a port I came to know and love over my time at sea.

I lived in this cabin for my first year at sea.

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Dec 08, 2021

You must have had a very nice SAP to allocate that cabin. 😉


Martin Norris
Martin Norris
Jun 16, 2021

wonderful memories thanks for sharing. I worked on the Oriana and it was my final ship before coming ashore to start a new life in Sydney. That was 1983. I remember the Plough Tavern, Midships bar and the Stern Gallery i worked in all of those as a Public Room Steward. Great days.

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