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My Maiden Voyage

Having set sail on my maiden voyage as Junior Assistant Purser on Oriana in November 1973 we headed out of Southampton, after a brief stop in Vigo for some fresh fruit and veg we headed across the Atlantic.

My job on Oriana was as Catering JAP and worked under the watchful eye of Brian Hockey who was Catering Deputy Purser at the time. Although to be quite truthful after initially showing me the ropes, Brian left me very much to get on with the job. Part of the job was to be on the dockside when provisions arrived for the ship, seeing that the ship’s provedore provided goods of the quality and quantity that was required to feed around 1800 passengers and 700 crew. This was not always quiet as straightforward as it would appear as stock often disappeared between leaving the lorry on the dockside and arriving in the ships storerooms.


Having crossed the Atlantic, Oriana had to negotiate the Panama Canal before sailing up the west coast to San Francisco. Arrival in San Francisco is a magical experience sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, watching as we pass by Alcatraz before berthing at a pier just along from Fisherman’s wharf. I remember vividly seeing the The Transamerica Pyramid which is a 48-story futurist building and at the time the tallest building in San Francisco.


My first visit to San Francisco was not quite as I had imagined. Instead of riding the cable car, shopping in Macy’s and eating on Fisherman’s Wharf, I spent most of my time in the pier shed counting cabbages and other stores needed for the onward journey across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and onto New Zealand and Australia. Time was short and whilst most of my colleagues from the Bureau were out and about enjoying the nightlife that San Fran had to offer I spent the afternoon, evening and night stocking the ship. Norman the store keeper, Peter the butcher and I were busy with clipboards and lists checking off the provisions until around 5.00am ready for departure the next day. Let me tell you it was bloody cold and we were wearing refrigerator jackets and gloves throughout the night.


As we set sail I vowed to myself that on my next visit I would make certain that I got to see the city in more depths. Little did l know at the time I would come back and spend three weeks there when Pacific Princess did a dry dock at Bethlehem steel.


My reward for working so many hours in San Fran came when we arrived in Honolulu. I must admit Honolulu was not quite as I imagined it would be. I was unprepared for a six lane highway running through it. Of course l had watched Hawaii 5 O as a teenager in the late 1960, but it had moved on a little since then.


Baby Doc and I decided that we were going ashore in the evening to see the film sensation that had hit the American big screen earlier in the year. It started Linda Lovelace ( look it up.) We followed this by another first, eating a real American Hamburger from a street stall, yes the movies had really came to life for me in Hawaii.


One of the passengers traveling home from the UK to New Zealand was Ngaio Marsh who was known as one of the "Queens of Crime", along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, Although at the time I had never heard of her we became friends on that trip and I later read all her books. She held the DBE award and was the first Dame I met. Although over the years at sea I met a few more.


I have always liked sausages and one of the perks of my job was to visit John in the cold larder, where there was always a tray of cooked sausages in the fridge. On the outbound voyage to Aus. we had true British bangers, but having arrived down under we had exhausted our stocks and had to restock with Aussie Bangers, what a disappointment they were.


Another item that quickly ran out whilst we were Aussie cruising was French and German wine and we had to fill the cellar with Aussie wines. Bear in mind this was 1974 women were not really welcome in Aussie Pubs, it was a man’s world and the drink of choice was beer, gallons of beer. It was only in 1970 that the liquor act was repealed finally allowing women to drink in bars. So wine was just starting to become popular in Aussie, but most of it came in box and the quality was of dubious quality.


Now of course Australia produces some of the world’s finest wines – But not then.



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