RMS Empress of Canada (1960)

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1971 view from Princes Landing Stage, Liverpool with Manxman.
Career
Name: 1961-1972: Empress of Canada
1972-1993: Mardi Gras
1993: Olympic
1994: Star of Texas
1994-1995: Lucky Star
1995-2003: Apollon
Operator: 1961-1972: Canadian Pacific
1972-1993: Carnival
1993-1995: Gold Star Cruises
1995-1998: Royal Olympic
1998-1999: Direct Cruises
1999-2003: Royal Olympic
Port of registry: 1961-1972: London,  UK
1972-1995: Panama,  Panama
1995 onwards: Pireaus,  Greece
Builder: Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Yard number: 171
Launched: 10 May 1960
Completed: March 1961
Maiden voyage: 24 April 1961
Identification: IMO number: 5103936
Fate: scrapped 2003
General characteristics
Tonnage: 27,284 GRT (1972, 18,261 GRT)
Length: 650ft (198.1m)
Beam: 86.6ft (26.4m)
Draught: 29ft (8.8m)
Installed power: 30,000shp
Propulsion: Geared turbines, twin screw
Speed: 20 knots
Capacity: As built, 192 1st class, 856 tourist class
Crew: 470
For other ships of the same name, see Empress of Canada.

RMS Empress of Canada was an ocean liner built in 1961 by Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker-on-Tyne, England for Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd.. This ship, the third CP vessel to be named Empress of Canada, regularly traversed the transatlantic route between Liverpool and Canada for the next decade. Although Canadian Pacific Railways was incorporated in Canada, the Atlantic (and pre-war Pacific) liners were owned and operated by the British registered subsidiary Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd. and were always British flagged and manned and therefore Empress of Canada was not the flagship of the Canadian Merchant Marine.


History[edit]

Empress of Canada was planned for the transatlantic route from Liverpool to Canada for the Canadian Pacific Line. She was a slightly enlarged sister ship and running mate for Empress of Britain and Empress of England on the route from Liverpool to Montreal. During the months that the St. Lawrence was frozen (typically November to April) the ships sailed from Liverpool To St. John, New Brunswick. However, Empress of Canada was designed to be Canadian Pacific's premier cruise ship during the winter months and rarely sailed on the liner service in winter.

She had a gross tonnage of 27,284 with a length of 650 ft (200 m) and a beam of 86.5 ft. She was 10ft longer than her immediate predecessors due to a more curved bow and she had one foot more beam. Unlike her earlier sisters, she had a bulbous bow. She was powered by 3 Foster Wheeler boilers feeding steam to two Pametrada double reduction geared turbines, one for each of her two screws. Designed for a service speed of 20 knots, she achieved 23 knots on her trials. She had accommodation for 192 first class passengers and 856 tourist class, with all first class cabins and 70% of tourist class having private facilities. During her cruise seasons, she operated as a one class ship.

The order for the vessel was signed in 1958 with the Vickers-Armstrong yard in Walker on Tyne in England, which had built Empress of England on the same slip four years previously. Her keel was laid in January 1959, she was launched on 10 May 1960 and entered service in 1961.

Canadian Pacific[edit]

On April 24, 1961 she left Liverpool bound for Montreal on her maiden voyage, which proved to be a success. She did her first winter cruise in December of that year, which again proved to be a great success since she was fully air-conditioned like her sister vessels.

Empress of Canada and Liver Building, Liverpool in 1971.

Time had trouble ahead for the transatlantic route which resulted in famous ships leaving or never sailing again such as the SS United States and RMS Queen Mary. The reason behind this was the increase in air traffic. Because of World War II there were huge developments in aviation design which resulted in faster flights across the ocean. As time went on the Empress did fewer and fewer trips across the Atlantic and by 1969 she completed only seven Atlantic voyages and spent the rest of her time cruising in the Caribbean. In 1968 Canadian Pacific modernised her look, changing their house flag, colour schemes and new funnel design.

After completing 121 transatlantic voyages and 82 cruises for the Canadian Pacific line she made her final arrival at Liverpool on November 23rd 1971, thus closing for good the Liverpool-Canada link. She remained at Liverpool until December 14th and then sailed for London's Tilbury docks for lay up, arriving (for the first and only time) at her port of registry on December 17th.

Other ship lines[edit]

It was thought that Empress of Canada might be sold to the Shaw Savill Line, to be renamed Dominion Monarch alongside her former fleet mate Empress of England, which had become Shaw Savill's Ocean Monarch, but the sale did not take place.

Instead she was sold in January 1972 to Carnival Cruise Lines and after a few internal changes and an update on her colour schemes she was put back into service as Mardi Gras, re-registered in Panama and measuring 18,261 GRT under Panamanian measurement rules (which saved on dock dues), Carnival advertised her however as "27,000 tons of fun!". Carnival's first ship, she left Tilbury on February 26th 1972 for Miami and her new life as a Carnival "fun ship". She sailed for her new owners until 1993, joined in 1975 by her near sister Empress of Britain.

By 1993 Carnival wanted to update their fleet by ordering new tonnage so she was sold to Epirotiki in that year, and was renamed Olympic, Star of Texas, Lucky Star and finally Apollon. For a while she sailed for this line and was later chartered by Direct Cruises for voyages around the United Kingdom. Direct Cruises was purchased by the airline Airtours. Carnival took some interest in the line but later pulled out and in 2000 all voyages planned for the vessel were cancelled and she was returned to Greece where she would be laid up for a little while.

In 2001 she was put back in service for three- and four-day cruises out of Piraeus due to late delivery of Olympic Explorer. She operated alongside the new Olympic Countess before being laid up for good in 2003. She was sold for scrap later the same year, having been in service for 42 years.

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