Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Immigrating With Savoir Faire

As regular Savoir Faires are aware I am an ocean liner buff and posted several times on the interiors of the luxury transatlantic liner the S.S. France. This time it is time for the British to make an entry with the Orient Line's Oriana of 1961.Although both ships were born of the same era and respectively were the flagships of their respective companies, the Oriana were vastly different from the France. The France was primarily constructed for the luxury North Atlantic trade, while the Oriana was built for the immigrant trade down under. With this in mind the interior decoration of the British Liner differed vastly from that of the France. Similarly the France displayed the best the French could offer and was a ship of state, while the Oriana displayed the best of British design in the early sixties. However one would be forgiven for thinking that the Brits had taken a few notes from the Scandinavians when it came to the Oriana's interiors

Few ships managed to so well combine the trend setting and traditional. Oriana was the first British ocean liner with a bulbous bow, the first ocean liner with bow thrusters and a television system. She dispensed entirely with masts and booms for cargo handling in favour of cranes and sideporters. More than 1000 tons of aluminium were used in her superstructure, the weight saving permitting an entire extra deck. Yet she was true to many Orient Line hallmarks: the cowled funnel, the concentration of funnel and bridge structure amidships introduced in Orcades, the galleried after decks and the distinctive corn coloured hull. Her décor was coordinated by the renowned Brian O’Rorke, who had pioneered contemporary interiors in British tropical ocean liners with the Orion in 1935.

The Oriana entered service in 1961 for the Orient line on the down under Australian service. While not as streamlined as her eventual running mate the Canberra she was still an attractive ship. Her interiors were strikingly modern taking on an almost clinical effect with the large use of plastics, Formica, glass and natural woods mixed in for good measure. This must have come as a rude shock to the wealthy Australians returning to the mother country for an extended vacation, who were more used to the chintzy kitsch of other liners doing the same run. If the wealthy passengers were in for a shock then the majority of immigrants travelling in Tourist Class must have had a coronary attack! The interiors were probably unlike anything they had ever seen before.

The interiors were light and breezy full of light and space. Artistic decoration seemed to be added as an afterthought to these spaces as there is very little of it. The designers relied on the form and line of the furniture to create comfortable spaces that would become home for the 6 weeks of the voyage.

Even though stark and incredibly practical the interiors were a tour de force in modern design. Everything was stripped down to its bare minimum as can be seen in the picture of the ship’s Tourist Class Stern Gallery. The room has a soft industrial edge to it which makes a beautiful space that perfectly suits the passenger’s needs.

The designers were not afraid to use colour, and the colours that they used were bold and striking which suited the form of the furniture beautifully.

The ship was primarily an outdoor ship with large lidos and swimming pools to suit the warmer climates which she would be travelling in. Windows could be opened allowing fresh sea breezes in.

I would think that if you were a young child, exposed to the wonderful wooden forms in the children’s play room for 6 weeks, that you would automatically grow up to appreciate form and function.

With the Oriana good design and practicality was not a right, but available to all, whether returning squatter or new immigrant. You too while travelling on assisted passage to a new life in Australia, had some savoir faire.


  1. Hello David:
    Both the France and the Canberra were familiar to us, docking frequently in Southampton, but we have no recall of the Oriana which, as your images show, was hugely stylish and modern for her day.

    Assisted Passages - a term we have not heard for years and one which conjures up those far off days of the 1950s when all the talk was of emigrating to Australia.

  2. Wow...very posh! I can tell by the way they decorate the grapefruit with cherries.

  3. I am note familiar with this boat - but how very forward looking, stylish and democratic!! I'm not sure I can imagine a 6 week cruise!!

  4. This was so fashion forward for its time....very elegant and quite posh, I must say. But being on ANY boat for that lenght of time sounds hellish to me ( I am severly claustrophobic and no boat could entice me for even a day) when I was about 10 we were on a cruise, the only one I have ever been onf from Hawaii to Japan and I think we were on it for almost 2 and a half or 3 loooooooong weeks. My mom said she had more than enough at that point. Cruise ships are glamorous and fun, but to me not what they used to be as depicted above. Kind of like flying when one used to get all glammed up to fly, now you see (at least Americans) in their hideous sweatsuits and baggy jeans, its just, sadly not what it once was!

  5. I am in love with all the historic interior shots! Wouldn't it be so rad to travel back a bit in time and "travel" old-school style! The saying is so true...they just don't make things like they used too!

    xx Cat brideblu

  6. I like how conversational alcoves were designed into the space in the ninth photo. Is it my imagination, or did this ship have much lower ceilings than others?

  7. Your choice of topics is always wonderful. I am looking forward to your actual cruise this coming June to see how do you manage to get beauty and glamour out of it too!

  8. Great post! I love these pictures...

    PS I tried to translate the phrases on my blog for you ;)

    See you!

  9. Great post- My dad actually immigrated to Toronto and arrived to Canada when he was 13 via one of these ships. We always tease him that he is 'straight off the boat'-
    He described it as similar to these but I've never thought to look up photos!

  10. The old photos are perfection, David where do you find these things? always so cool to read about too!! Great post,
    Nancy xo

  11. Those concept renderings are fantastic.
    Were I not terrified of ships this reading
    may have enticed me onto one. Although I
    imagine that cruise ships nowadays are like
    floating shopping malls from Kansas, and not
    quite as elegant as the lovelies you write about.

  12. I know you lost a lot of comments during Blogger's recent 24-hour shutdown, and mine was one. Just wanted you to know this posting was appreciated. The Oreana must have seemed very chic in its day, though the ceilings seem rather low!

  13. Hello David:
    Like Mark above, our comment too was lost. But this is just to say that we much enjoyed the post, bringing back as it did memories of the Assisted Passage scheme.

  14. I remember distinctly to have made a comment in this Post too. I still hope they will be recovered somehow. But it is not that important. We are developing too high expectations in everything and that is only a recipe for frustration.

  15. That playroom for children was a work of art in its own right. Wow.

    Here's a photo of the only cruise ship that I was fortunate enough to travel on, the SS. Cambodge, New Years Eve 1968 from Bangkok to Singapore through the Gulf of Siam.

  16. Many thanks all for your lovely comments! Also to those whose comments have been wiped.

    Belle, I think I will do a post on the SSS Cambodge for you as it also has a bit of history behind it.

  17. Stay tuned for another post on another Immigrant Liner soon!


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