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That's Entertainment All Ship Shape

When taking up a career as a P&O Pursers officer back in the 70’s, you were not just signing up to pen push and count cash you were also expected to be part time entertainers helping out the regular Entertainment Officers. It was not until the mid-seventies and the arrival of Princess Cruises that the Cruise Director was born. Back on Oriana in 1973 the Chief entertainment officer was a guy called Billy May, I always thought he was a throwback to an Old Tyme Music Hall compare. If memory serves me right, he was helped out by one further entertainment officer and four social hostesses.

Each cruises a number of professional entertainers would join the cruise mainly on a free cruise and be expected “Do a turn” a few times during their trip. Usually a couple of singers, a variety act and of course not forgetting the port lecturer. There were no dance troupes or professional show teams on the ship as is the norm nowadays.

Being a bit short handed it would fall on the shoulders of the ships officers to ditch the uniform, get into the drag of the evening and strut their stuff and help out the entertainment team. The entertainment officers did a great job of getting the

most out of our limited talent.


At least l made her smile.


With Annette Moore (WAP)

Every trip there were lots of theme nights and the purser’s department was press ganged into action. Especially where cash was to change hands. Well not exactly a fortune, it was more chips and tokens that dollars and cents. Horse Racing Night and Casino Night spring to mind. It is hard to imagine a cruise ship these days that does not have a Casino to rake in the dosh from the punters. But back in the day except for One Armed Bandits dotted around the ship that was it as far as gambling was concerned. So once a cruise the gambling tables would come out and were manned by ships officers. The stakes were low, and it was all a bit of harmless fun.

Another themed evening was the horse racing night. Punters would sponsor a horse and provide a jockey, usually the sponsor’s wife. A race card would be produced with fanciful names and pedigrees.

Hire Purchase

By Husband out of Money

You get the idea.

The Tote was operated by the Assistant Pursers and before each race the bets were taken. Something like a shilling or two, if you remember shillings you are old like me, 5p for the younger members of the crew.


The horses were wooden cut outs and mounted on a wooden track, tied to a piece of string and attached to a winding handle at the other end of the room. The hapless jockey would mound the saddle at the end of the track and on the starting pistol they would wind like hell. The first horse over the line scooped the magnificent prize, I’m sure they were magnificent, but l cannot remember what they were. The Tote takings would have been totted up by this stage and then divided by the number of winning tickets. Sammy the Staff Captain would often be lurking around the tote table to make sure the dealings were fair and square.

Doing a little research, I discovered that horse racing was in full swing onboard ship in the 1930 and still carries in today. However, I must say I think the old way of winding the handle was much better that the snakes and ladder game of throwing dice to move the horse seen on the ships today. Much more exciting for the punters. I also seem to remember that old horse racing films were often used on cargo ships as a means of entertainment.

You cannot talk about theme nights without mentioning Island Night.

Always a chance to throw off the mess kit and climb into a grass skirt or lavalava, and that’s just the guys. Often these events were held on deck where shedding one’s clothes in the tropic air was a welcome relief. The steel band would come out and rum punch would flow to get everyone in the mood.

Island night would not be complete without the Hawaiian Wedding Song and of course the inevitable Limbo competition. As officers we were expected to team up with a passenger and help them under the bar. Well to be honest the bar never really did get very low but bounce the bar and you were out. If the sea was slightly rough it all added to the fun.

Entertainment Princess Style



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