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Sailing aboard the wonderful RMS ORCADES in the 1950s and 1960s…
Deck officers on the RMS Orcades relaxing in officer's wardroom.

Sailing aboard the wonderful RMS ORCADES in the 1950s and 1960s…

The RMS Orcades was an ocean liner serving primarily the UK – Australia – New Zealand route.

  • She started service as a British Royal Mail Ship (RMS) carrying first and tourist class passengers. Orcades carried many migrants to Australia and New Zealand and was later used as a cruise ship.
Aboard the RMS Orcades.

Aboard the RMS Orcades.

  • Built at the Barrow yard of Vickers-Armstrongs, Orcades (yard no. 950) had an identical hull and machinery to P&O’s Himalaya (yard no. 951), but differed in superstructure and interior layout.
Young officers and passengers having cocktails...

Young officers and passengers having cocktails…

  • In the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne the Orcades served as an accommodation ship.
Children's games aboard the RMS Orcades sailing from the UK to Australia.

Children’s games aboard the RMS Orcades sailing from the UK to Australia.

  • The ship was refitted in 1959 and 1964. Under the 1964 refit Orcades became a single class vessel and her hull color changed from ‘Orient corn’ to white. In 1952 Orcades was fitted with a ‘top hat’ funnel extension to clear smoke from the after decks.
  • The vessel’s near sister ships were Oronsay and Orsova.
  • Orcades is the Latin name[3] for the Orkney Islands.


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

Orcades sails away. 

  •  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.

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