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Shaw Savill - Southern Cross

One of the delights of writing this blog has been making contact again with old colleagues from my days working for P&O/Princess back in the 1970s.

An added bonus has been the new acquaintances that have contacted me with their tales from other shipping companies around at the time.

One such seadog is Jamie who worked for Shaw Savill who contacted me from New Zealand.

Southern Cross – Shaw Savill Line – Built: 1955 Gross tons: 20204 Length: 604ft Beam: 78ft Draft: 25ft Speed: 20kt -Propulsion: Steam turbines twin screw Passengers: 1100 Tourist – End of service: Laid up 1971

The Southern Cross was one of the most revolutionary ships ever built. She was the first aft engined passenger liner ever built and thus revolutionised ship design forever. Her example was then followed by other notable ships such as Holland America’s Rotterdam and P&O’s Canberra. Indeed many of today’s modern cruise ships follow her pioneering design principles. She was the first one-class passenger liner ever built and did not carry cargo, and as a result, she was the first true passenger-only liner.

Jamie has filled me in on working in the Purser’s department for Shaw Savill on

mv. Southern Cross

Jamie tells me:

Unlike cruise liners, I worked on immigrant liners on mainline voyages. However, we did sell shore excursions in each port we visited. Our life as young Pursers is very similar, I trained in Shaw Savill’ passenger office in Haymarket, London for 6 months before joining my first ship, Southern Cross, at Southampton in December 1967. During my time in London, actioned passenger bookings, allocation of berths, and matching single travelers with others of same-sex, in 4 or 6 berth cabins for the 5 or 6-week voyage to Australia or NZ. It was an interesting insight into how I could foresee strangers living and cohabitating together for the duration of the voyage.

Jamie onboard mv Southern Cross

Back in my early days at sea, we had no professional entertainers, until the early 70's when we had a troupe of professionals known as Vic Ogleys' mob. You were probably like me, thrown into the deep end, without any training, and told to MC the ballroom dancing in the Lounge. At that time, my only experience in dancing, was Scottish Country Dancing, at school dances.

The purser’s department on Shaw Savill was also expected to organise the deck sports as we see here in the video, taken from cine film taken by Jamie on Southern Cross.

After our passenger fleet was taken out of service in 1975 as a result of airline competition, we formed a club, Shaw Savill Society where all sea-going staff, shore staff, and even passengers were invited to join our group. Last May, was supposed to be the Final Reunion in Southampton before the UK Society wound up, which of course was postponed because of Covid. The reunion was delayed 12 months but is now put back till September 2021, which may yet be delayed again depending on the situation in the UK. In NZ, I am one of the founder members of the Society in this part of the world, and although we had our final National gathering in Auckland 3 years ago, we have since had two mini gatherings and planning another for this year. Our membership in NZ was over 200 has now dwindled to about 20 regulars

The Purser's Office - Southern Cross

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I travelled out to New Zealand on the Southern Cross in December 1959 at the age of nine. We passed through the Panama Canal on Christmas Eve and moored that evening in Panama City. Two years later we came home, again on the Southern Cross. This time we travelled via Australia and South Africa. I still have vivid memories of Sidney Harbour Bridge, crossing the Pacific with dolphins alongside the ship, and coming into Cape Town with the sight of Table Mountain rising behind the city. Two magical journeys for a working class child.


Jamie, The Purser
Jamie, The Purser
Jul 27, 2021

I served on Southern Cross as assistant purser 1967-69, and again for most of 1971 including her last voyage with Shaw Savill, before being sold to the Greeks, who converted her to a cruise liner in 1972, and she became their Calypso. By early 80's she had been sold to Western Cruise Lines and based at San Pedro, California, and was renamed Azure Seas. By this time I was living in New Zealand, and a group of Shaw Savill personnel flew to Los Angeles in September 1988, to sail on our old ship, on the 3 night cruise to San Diego. Ensenada, and Catalina Island and back to San Pedro. We were amazed at the cleanliness of the ship, most…


Bryan Portwig
Bryan Portwig
May 15, 2021

the southern cross would call in capetown on her voyages and went on to have quite a long sea going career - she ended her days as the ocean breeze - another somewhat strange habit of mine to follow ships from launch to the breakers

Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
May 17, 2021
Replying to

Shaw Savill sold their revolutionary passenger only liner, no cargo in 1971 . I spent much of that year working in the Pursers Office, with liner voyage to Australia & NZ in March, Med cruises out of Liverpool in July, and another voyage to the Antipodes in August arriving home 19 November. Initially she was destored at Southampton, then moved to lay up at River Fal, in Cornwall awaiting a buyer.

She was purchased by the Greeks in January 1973, who converted her to a cruise liner at the cost of US$10 million, and she was renamed Calypso.

In 1980, she was purchased by Western Steamship Line, and renamed Azure Seas, based at San Pedro, California.

Whilst based in California,…


Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
May 13, 2021

I too spent the years 1963 to 64 working for Shaw Savill starting out of New Zealand.

I met my late wife, who was a passenger, 0n voyage 33 Southampton to Southampton via the canal. Like lots of those early voyages, the movie could have been any one of them. All pretty simple stuff.

Great anxiety at the announcement of the first dance, then rough seas calling the show-off,

Prior to my seaboard life, life on the dance floor was a major effort. but that all changed that first dance, I can still hear the band.

I would like to continue, but having had a ladder accident, pain killers doing all sorts of crazy stuff, and I have cu…

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