Cruise and liner history: Matson Lines and the Pacific Far East Lines.

The SS Mariposa on a South Pacific cruise in the 1960s.  Great video aboard one of the last American flag cruise and passengers ships crossing the Equator.  When class and style were king.


The elegant all first class liner SS MARIPOSA – sailing in the South Pacific of Pago Pago on a Matson Line Cruise in the 1950s.


If you can find a copy on Ebay or Amazon, rush to buy Nothing Can Go Wrong By Capt. John H. Kilpack with John D. MacDonald.

Here is a vacation post card, a valentine and a lament. Captain Kilpack was the skipper of the S. S. Mariposa when, in May 1977, it undertook one of its last long cruises – in this case a 77-day voyage from San Francisco to Leningrad and back again, with two transits of the Panama Canal and a dozen stops in between.

The former Matson Line ship would be sold later in the year to a Chinese company. These were the last two passenger liners sailing under the American flag operated by American companies. This book is wonderful… amusing and touching.

The New York Times book review follows.

November 15, 1981


Nothing Can Go Wrong By Capt. John H. Kilpack with John D. MacDonald. 305 pages. Harper and Row. $15.95.

Here is a vacation post card, a valentine and a lament. Captain Kilpack was the skipper of the S. S. Mariposa when, in May 1977, it undertook one of its last long cruises – in this case a 77-day voyage from San Francisco to Leningrad and back again, with two transits of the Panama Canal and a dozen stops in between. Mr. MacDonald, best known as the author of a series of detective stories that always have a color word in the title, was a passenger on that trip. Together, they have produced a story of the voyage that is amusing and eventually touching.

Each man speaks – or writes – in his own voice. In general, Mr. MacDonald, a veteran of many cruises, provides a straightforward narrative of the voyage, while Captain Kilpack adds an apposite yarn or two. The arrangement is less schizophrenic than it might be; for clarity’s sake, Captain Kilpack’s words are set in italics.

The captain is colloquial and funny, with a nice talent for dry hyperbole. He is also, as his accounts of dealing with amok passengers and officious port authorities reveal, a shrewd psychologist. He is above all a serious seaman, concerned and deft when forced to cope with such problems as sailing, against his own better judgment, from the Azores to Panama when the ship had lost most of its anchor and half its rudder.

Mr. MacDonald is crotchety. He is as impatient with officialdom as is Captain Kilpack. He is an ardent Francophobe, and he does not like the Swedes, or at any rate those of them who live in Stockholm, much better. But he is an acute observer of life aboard ship – he and his wife, Dorothy, may keep pretty much to themselves, but they both have their eyes and ears wide open – and gives good, concise information about what makes the ship work, both mechanically and socially.

Yet there is an elegiac tone to all this. Both passengers and crew know that this cruise will almost certainly be one of the last for the Mariposa. She and her sister ship, the Monterey, are the only remaining liners to sail under the American flag; should Congress not agree to extend their periods of subsidization so that they can compete economically with foreign-flag vessels, both are doomed. Even Captain Kilpack’s high spirits give way to something close to bitterness directed against the ships’ owners, the Pacific Far East Line, who, he rightly suspects, really do not much care about keeping the ships in operation. If he feels sold out, he has been – in a sort of postlude, we learn that when hearings on proposed legislation to save the ships were held shortly after the end of the Mariposa’s cruise, no one from the Pacific Far East Line bothered to attend.

”Nothing Can Go Wrong” takes its title from the assurances given the captain by the shipping company whenever anything does.


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.

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