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Island Princess - The Birth of P&O Princess Cruises in 1974

Although Princess Cruises was founded by Stanley B. McDonald back in 1965, at which time he chartered ships.

In 1972 Princess Cruises acquired Island Venture which had been built for Flagship Cruises. Renamed Island Princess, she became the newest and most advanced cruise ship on the west coast.

P&O came to the west coast in 1974 and purchased Princess Cruises. Stanley B. McDonald remained President until 1980. At the time of the takeover, the ship was operated out of Los Angeles by many of the old Princess Cruises staff, the head of hotel services was Pietro Corsi.

I was one of the lucky ones that were chosen by the P&O London personnel team headed by Tommy Atkinson to head out to LA for the takeover of Island Princess from Norwegian Flagship Cruises who had been running the ship for Princess.

The Original Island Princess Purser's Team in 1974

It was with great excitement that I joined ISLAND PRINCESS as crew assistant purser. A much smaller ship than P&O was used to. 600 passengers and 300 crew also required a smaller Purser's Dept, headed by Dickie Harris Purser, there was one deputy purser, a senior assistant purser, two assistant pursers, and two woman assistant pursers. The workload was heavy and involved a lot of multitasking.

One of the differences between the older P&O ships and the state-of-the-art cruise ship was that the officers had their own wardroom where our meals were taken as opposed to mess tables in the main dining room. As was normal the senior officers had passenger tables in the Coral Dining Room. However, it did mean that they did not have to join their table when they did not want to and had a bolt hole for such occasions. Something else new was the fact that the ship had a wine tank and there was always wine on the table for dinner, even if it was a little rough.

We had a great team in the Purser's office. Greg Jackson was SAP, the two girls were Katy Shallcross and Linda "Lovelace" Tattershall. Gareth "Glitter" Davies and I made up the male contingency. As I said earlier it was a lot of work in those early days for that takeover and inaugural Cruise. Everything was new to us and the systems took a little getting used to.

Yes, we worked hard, but we also had lots of fun and laughter. As they say, we worked hard and we played even harder. I am sure at times we hardly ever went to bed.

Gareth or "Glitter" as he was nicknamed was the heart and soul of the front desk. The age of the passengers was what could politely be called "Seniors" and the Old Girls absolutely loved Gareth. He sent them up mercilessly and they just loved it. Afternoons were the best times when there were normally only two of us covering the office.

On occasion one of the lovely old passengers would come up to the desk with a question, "Glitter's" reply would

Gareth Davies

be that he would have to call London for an answer, He would pick up the internal telephone and hold this one-sided conversation with the mystery person in the London office. If you are of a certain age you will know that in 1974 ship to shore calls were virtually non-existent, had to be taken from the radio office, and cost a week's wages.

Another of Gareth's afternoon tricks was that the having been asked for an item by a passenger, the wanted item would be located was in the basement. This would involve disappearing into the floor at the back of the office on his knees and reappearing waving the lost item. Meanwhile, we would be in the back office wetting ourselves with laughter. You had to see it to believe it. But as I have already said the old girls just loved it.

Gareth also had an imaginary girlfriend back in Wales called Betty. Rumour has it that Gareth married Betty to obtain a company mortgage that was only available to married couples at the time. Who knows if that was true or not.

Greg our senior assistant purser was another character and was in charge of the newly installed NCR 42 machine. No computers in those days and every charge slip on the ship had to be manually entered into this accounting machine. Every cabin had a folio card on to which these transactions were entered and at the end of the cruise, they would come to the purser's office to settle their account. It was always a bit of a nightmare in those last couple of days of the cruise.

Greg Jackson

After leaving Island Princess Greg and I kept in touch and even went on holiday together. Greg married an American lady and set up a home in California.

I was filled with great sadness when l heard he had been killed in a road accident.

Linda and I - New Years Eve 1974 Island Princess

Katie was a good dancer, but I always enjoyed dancing with Linda Lovelace although I would have to throw her around the dance floor and watch my toes...



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