MAD MEN TV Travel in the 1960s – Sailing from Los Angeles to Nassau aboard the P&O-Orient Lines liner SS ORIANA. Part One…

MAD MEN Series Travel in the 1950s and 1960s: Thanks to TravBuddy and contributor Andy99 for the following account of a voyage he made aboard the SS Oriana (P&O Orient Lines) from Los Angeles to Nassau. This voyage was one of many available during the MAD MEN TV era – 1950-1960s.

A wonderful video tribute to the SS Oriana…

By ANDY99 – at TravBuddy… 

In 1965, when I was a teenager, my family traveled on a cruise from Los Angeles to Nassau aboard the P&O liner RMS Oriana. We made a port call at Acapulco and transited the Panama Canal in the process. I’d taken travel photos before then, but I like the photos from this trip as they represent my first set of travel photos that tell a complete story. In this blog I’ll use the photos to show you what it was like to travel though the Panama Canal. So, let’s step into the WAYBAC Machine and take a look at cruising in the 60’s.

19289_12368956577693SS Oriana docked in the Port of Los Angeles at the new terminal.

In the 1960s, cruises typically were not self-contained round trips as they are now.  Instead, sections of longer line voyages were sold as cruises. Oriana was traveling on an eastward round-the-world voyage from Southampton via Australia when it docked at Los Angeles in July 1965.


Port of Los Angeles passenger terminal – Visitors waving goodbye. They had all been aboard ship during embarkation time for cocktails and parties given by passengers leaving from Los Angeles. A tradition that doesn’t exist anymore.

Oriana had been launched in 1960 for the UK-Australia trade. But with competition from jetliners, the ship was soon given over to round-the-world voyages with the idea that most passengers would not take the whole voyage, but embark and disembark after visiting a set number of ports along the way.  P&O promoted transatlantic crossings from San Francisco and Los Angeles aboard its ships as a way to travel to Europe via the Panama Canal and the Caribbean. (“Getting there is half the fun.”) Our cruise had been promoted by Finlay Fun-Time Tours, a Los Angeles operator that had arranged for passengers to take the Los Angeles-Nassau portion of the voyage and return home by air.

The ship appeared large as we boarded, but at 41,915 GRT Oriana was smaller than the popular cruise ships of today.


We had an Inside Cabin (no window/porthole) in First Class.

Sail Away from Berth 93A was around 4:00 p.m. There was a delay as the innovative telescoping covered gangway was stuck. (It was similar to airport jetwalks and was something new in ship passenger loading at the time, making the Port of Los Angeles Cruise Terminal state-of-the art.) When the operator was finally able to retract the gangway from the ship, a huge cheer went up! Then, as Oriana got underway, the passengers all stood at the railing and threw out rolls of serpentine to celebrate. (You don’t see that anymore!) As the ship sailed down the Main Channel it passed the Ports O’Call Village restaurants and shops, where our passing was acknowledged over a loudspeaker.


Oriana’s Bridge.

Dinner was always in the main Dining Room, where we joined other passengers at a table for six.


First Class dining room on the SS Oriana

Every night was a “formal night” then, and men always wore a jacket and tie to dinner. Passengers were not aloud in public rooms without a jacket and tie. Some wore black tie.

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Young officers and hostess aboard the SS Oriana

Another now-quaint custom was that all the ship’s officers dined at a table with the passengers. An Assistant Purser was the officer assigned to our table. He was personable, but always eager to excuse himself and leave early. (He kept going on about all the girls in bikinis that were traveling in Tourist Class. Obviously he wanted to get back to the aft pool to check out the scenery!

For more history on the SS Oriana visit SS.MARITIME.COM

To be continued…


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.