Video of 1950s sailing aboard RMS ORCADES – Tourist class pool area.

The RMS Orcades (later SS Orcades) was built by Vickers Armstrong Ltd in Barrow-in-Furness as Yard Number 950. She was launched on the 14th October 1947 and completed on the 14th November 1948. Orcades replaced her predecessor, Orcades II, which had sunk during the war when she was only five years old.

Orcades, the first ship built for Orient Lines after the war, shared her hull design with P&O Line’s Himalaya, but her superstructure was different with her having a new look with her bridge located amidships crowned with a tripod mast and a upright funnel sitting high directly aft of the mast. She was a contemporary of P&O’s Himalaya.

(Left: Orcades sailing from Sydney) As a two class ship, she provided accommodation for 773 First Class and 772 Tourist Class. Later, in 1964, she became a one class ship accommodating 1635 passengers. Her specifications are as follows. 28,164 GRT (tons), length 706ft (216m), width 60ft (27.6m), Draft 30ft 5in. With twin screws and steam geared turbines Orcades achieved 24.7 knots during her sea trials in November.

After she was finished she was handed over to her owners, Orient Steam Navigation Company (Orient Line) and she departed on her maiden voyage on the 14th December 1948 from London (Tilbury Docks), sailing to Australia and New Zealand via Gibraltar, Naples, Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. The Orcades was the first new liner to reach Australia after the war. She continued on this service for the next six years. In August 1955, Orcades departed London for her first sailing to New Zealand and Australia via the Panama Canal and returning to the UK via the Suez Canal.

First Class Dining Room

In 1959, Harland and Wolff gave Orcades a substantial refit, with the addition of a new first class swimming pool, the previous one was allocated to tourist class, and the ship became completely air-conditioned. Her new accommodation was now 631 First Class and 734 Tourist Class. Atop her funnel a stove pipe was fitted in order to improve the dispersion of smoke. The funnel, which sits so high on the ship, now looked even taller. Her tonnage increased to 28,396 GRT. The next year Orient Line and P&O pooled their resources and fleets as P&O-Orient Lines.

(Left: Tourist Class Lounge) In November 1959, Orcades served as an accommodation ship during the Melbourne Olympic Games in Australia.

In 1964, Orcades received yet another refit, turning her into an all one class ship. The first class Grill Room was converted to a 157 seat cinema. She now catered for 1635 passengers. The traditional Orient Line corn coloured hull was painted white, making her ready for a dual role as a passenger liner and cruise ship. Her first departure as a one class liner was in May 1964.

In 1966 Orcades came under the ownership of P&O Line after they had taken over the remaining shares in Orient Line.

In April 1972, whilst berthed in Hong Kong during a cruise, a fire broke out in the boiler room causing damage. As it happened the Iberia was laid up in the UK and parts were taken from her and flown to Hong Kong for repairs to be made.

After repairs she returned to Australia and departed Sydney for the last time on the 3rd June 1972. After her return to Britain she commenced cruising for a short time. But soon she was taken out of service on the 13th October 1972 and was then laid up in the Southampton. Several months later she was sold to Taiwanese breakers, Nan Feng Steel Enterprises. In January 1973 she departed the UK for the last time manned by a handful of crew. She arrived at Kaoshiung on February 6, and was handed over to the breakers, who commenced breaking her up on March 15, 1973.


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.


  1. Michael L. Grace

    Sorry, don’t know.

  2. Can I find details of the Orcades first voyage after her full air conditioning. Is there a record of the condenser tube leakage she suffered returning from Belfast with the world press on board before her voyage. I know the re was also a small fire in the refrigeration insulation.

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