MV FAIRSEA and the Suez Canal 1961.

SITMAR CRUISES and SITMAR LINES were common names for the Societa Italiana Trasporti Marittimi (English: Italian Society of Maritime Transport); an Italian shipping company founded by Russian émigré Alexandre Vlasov. Vlasov operated cargo and passenger services from 1937 until 1988, when it was sold to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). After the sale of the company, all of its ships were transferred to the fleet of P&O subsidiary Princess Cruises with some remaining in service to the present day.

Aboard the MV Fairsea in 1969.

SITMAR began when Alexandre Vlasov carried coal in the Mediterranean using two small cargo ships. During the Second World War, these ships were lost to the company. Vlasov re-started SITMAR after the war, and slowly assembled a new fleet of passenger and cargo ships. SITMAR obtained contracts with the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) to take refugees from Europe to Australia and other nations.
SITMAR’s first vessel to operate from Australia was the Castelbianco. Amongst the many companies contracted to transport displaced people, SITMAR’s vessels were noted for providing higher quality accommodation and food.

During the 1950’s, SITMAR became a major passenger shipping company. It offered regular journeys between Australia and Europe for migrants and other passengers. For several years, the company operated journeys between Europe, Central America and South America. SITMAR also engaged in the tourist trade between Europe, the United States and Canada.

The Central America and South America services, and the North Atlantic summer services, were abandoned by 1957. Except one, SITMAR sold its cargo vessels and the company concentrated on passenger routes between Europe and Australia until the early 1970s, when it began operating cruises from North America. The company used the name Sitmar Cruises in Australia, and abandoned the liner trade to operate full-time as a cruise liner in 1974.

The Sitmar cruises were excellent and the line very successful.

In July 1988, Sitmar Cruses was purchased by the P&O Group. In Australia, the operation was re-named P&O-Sitmar Cruises, and in 1991 became P&O Holidays. The company’s ship MV Fairstar was the most popular cruise ship sailing from Australia until 1997, when Fair Princess replaced it. It was replaced in 2000 by Pacific Sky.

The Vlasov Group, now renamed V-Ships, currently operates Silversea Cruises.

For a complete history of Sitmar please visit the wonderful website SS Maritime by clicking here.


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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