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

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…

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