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Former Sun Princess - PEACE BOAT

A JOURNEY OF SELF DISCOVERY


By John Martin


The greatest journey you can ever undertake is the journey of self-discovery.


In 1983 a group of Japanese university students chartered a ship as a creative response to government censorship regarding Japan’s past military aggression in the Asia-Pacific. They wanted to visit neighbouring countries with the aim of learning first-hand about the war from those who experienced it and initiating people-to-people exchange.


The Peace Boat initiative was born. A Japan-based NGO working to promote peace, human rights and sustainability. It now organises three three-month global charters and two shorter Asian regional voyages each year. Over 35 years they have organised 70 around-the-world voyages visiting over 200 ports in 80 countries.


Peace Boat carries out various projects and campaigns to promote peace, human rights and sustainability development. Working with partner organizations and individuals in Japan, Northeast Asia and around the world, Peace Boat uses local grassroots actions, international conferences, global networking and media, as well as its ship, to raise awareness and make a positive impact on socio-political, economic and environmental issues. Peace Boat works with its local partners to offer unique cultural experiences not available anywhere else.


The ‘Topaz’ as Peace Boat 2003 – 2008 undertaking the organisation’s global cruises.

Starting live as "Empress of Britain" for Canadian Pacific Steamships. She later became

"Queen Anna Maria", ‘Carnivale", "Fiesta Marina", "Olympic" before she became "Topaz" where she sailed under the name "Peace Boat" In 2008 she went for scrap after 51 years of continuous service.


John Martin remembers when


"Ocean Pearl" was chartered by the Peace Boat organisation from Ocean Cruise Lines as part of its short Asian regional voyages in December 1989. 16 days Singapore – Singapore via Thailand, Peoples Republic of China, Vietnam and Cambodia. At a time when three of these countries were considered ‘closed’.

After a call to Koh Samui and Bangkok we sailed to Ya Chiang (now known as Sanya) on the south coast of the island of Hainan, South China. The most difficult immigration clearance I have ever undertaken. Trying to find out who had the authority to allow the "Ocean Pearl" passengers ashore proved frustrating.


All passengers and crew were personally seen and matched with their passports – and yet the officer who was wearing the most stars was obviously not.


The charterer’s representative and agent didn’t seem to know either. We were just told not to offer the ‘usual courtesy gifts’ to the boarding officials. A tender port, it was four hours before someone ‘gave the nod’ to allow boats to go ashore, probably the nominated commissar.


The large boarding party of officials were reluctant themselves to go back ashore and took the opportunity of enjoying the hospitality on board until sailing at 5 pm the following afternoon. And then they were happy to keep the ship delayed from its schedule, eventually sailing with them at 9 pm and making them get off with the pilot! The city itself was run-down and scruffy. Not like the modern resort it has now become. The paper money was well-worn and smelled.



Our next port of call was up the Saigon River to Ho Chi Minh City. A lot more welcoming. We were greeted by a group of girls dressed in their traditional Ao dai, singing songs to greet us as we berthed. A far more interesting city to explore. The elegance of the French colonial buildings were being neglected but one could see how the city had been in its heyday. Visits to the museums to show the horrors of the American ‘atrocities’ supporting the southern Republic of Vietnam in that ten year horrific civil war.









Street Traders in Ho Chi Minh City



Mode of public transport was either by pedalled trishaw or motorbike taxis. Cars seemed to be few and far between. The charterer’s agent recommended a restaurant noted for its traditional Vietnamese food and booked a table for four of us one evening. The Staff Captain and Ship’s Doctor took one motorcycle, the Staff Engineer and myself another. Me in the sidecar, the engineer riding pillion. The city was mainly in darkness as street lighting had never been restored. Road intersections were chaotic as hundreds of such vehicles were attempting to make crossings without traffic lights or police control. On one crossing we were hit broadside on by another bike and the sidecar wheel was buckled. The driver was most aggrieved that we failed to pay him the fare as we could not continue the journey. But he did manage to get us another ‘taxi’. We did get back to the ship safely before the expiry of the 11 pm curfew.



Arrival in Kampong Song, Cambodia was relatively easy. We were moored alongside a bunkering berth where the fuel pipes were showing definite signs of a lack of maintenance. Luckily we were not relying on taking on any oil. We were close to some lovely beaches and despite the proximity of the berth, the sea itself was clear which tempted a swim. We were surprised in engaging with some children that they had a good command of English – and were delighted that they could practice on us. Cambodia was one of three countries that had previously been under the administration of French Indochina.



Kampong Song - Cambodia


We returned to Singapore for stationing for our next cruise via Bangkok.


PEACE BOAT TODAY


Pacific World - Peace Boat

After having chartered Pullmantur’s ‘Ocean Dream’ (2016 – 2020) and ‘Zenith’ (2020 – 2022) Peace Boat have bought their own ship ‘Pacific World’ which has taken over Peace Boat duties.


She will be the largest ship ever sailed in the 37-year history of Peace Boat. P&O aficionados will recognise her as one of Princess Cruises ‘Sun class’ ships.

She was actually "Sun Princess".


READ MORE BY JOHN MARTIN


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