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.
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.
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.
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!
To be continued…