In the 1950’s, two of Britain’s oldest and biggest passenger shipping companies cooperated to extend their traditional Britain-Suez-Australia-New Zealand routes across the Pacific to the West Coast of North America. The new service was so successful that by the end of the decade, the missing homeward leg through the Panama Canal via Florida and the Caribbean to Britain was in place. Thus both lines had an extensive route network that completely circled the globe.
In 1960, these companies merged to create the world’s largest ocean-going passenger fleet. P&O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company), with 11 liners and the Orient Line with five, became known as P&O – Orient Lines. At the time, jet aircraft were carrying more passengers across the Atlantic than the shipping lines. But it would be 10 years before Boeing’s 747 “Jumbo Jet” would win over the busy UK to Australia run.
In a three year modernization program, all nine pre-WWII ships were retired. The post-war ships were refitted and completely air-conditioned: P&O‘s Himalaya, Chusan, Arcadia and Iberia plus the Orient Line‘s Orcades, Oronsay and Orsova. Each group had similar design and style, and all were between 24,000 and 29,000 tons, completed between 1948 and 1954.
Junior officers and passengers aboard liner sailing from the UK to Australia…
At the time of the P&O-Orient merger, each line had under construction, the biggest, fastest and most luxurious liner ever built for a service other than the North Atlantic. Orient Line contributed the 42,000-ton Oriana in 1960. At 27.5 knots, she cut the travel time to Australia to three weeks. P&O designed the flagship, 45,000-ton Canberra of 1961, slightly larger and half-a-knot less speedy.
Though not included in this study, the 13,000-ton 240-passenger cargoliners Cathay and Chitral joined the fleet in 1961. They sailed 10-week round voyages between Britain and Japan via Suez until 1970, and were sold in 1975.
This combined fleet of 11 ships soon had the reputation of being the finest outside the North Atlantic service, and P&O (“Orient” was dropped in October 1966) adopted the slogan: “The Biggest Bloomin’ Ships Sailing The Seven Seas”.
The RMS Arcadia was one of P&O’s great liners.
Enroute to Australia… Officer and passengers…
Cocktails aboard liner sailing from the UK to Australia.
Sailing on P&O Lines…