House flag of Sitmar Cruises
|Fate||Acquired by P&O, 1988|
Sitmar Cruises and Sitmar Line were common names for the Societa Italiana Trasporti Marittimi (English: Italian Society of Maritime Transport); an Italian shipping company founded by Russian émigré Alexandre Vlasov. Vlasov operated cargo and passenger services from 1937 until 1988, when it was sold to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). After the sale of the company, all of its ships were transferred to the fleet of P&O subsidiary Princess Cruises with some remaining in service to the present day.
SITMAR began when Alexandre Vlasov carried coal in the Mediterranean using two small cargo ships. During the Second World War, these ships were lost to the company. Vlasov restarted SITMAR after the war, and slowly assembled a new fleet of passenger and cargo ships. SITMAR obtained contracts with the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) to take refugees from Europe to Australia and other nations.
SITMAR's first vessel to operate from Australia was the Castelbianco. Amongst the many companies contracted to transport displaced people, SITMAR's vessels were noted for providing higher quality accommodation and food.
During the 1950s, SITMAR became a major passenger shipping company. It offered regular journeys between Australia and Europe for migrants and other passengers. For several years, the company operated journeys between Europe, Central America and South America. SITMAR also engaged in the tourist trade between Europe, the United States and Canada.
The Central America and South America services, and the North Atlantic summer services, were abandoned by 1957. Except one, SITMAR sold its cargo vessels and the company concentrated on passenger routes between Europe and Australia until the early 1970s, when it began operating cruises from North America. The company used the name Sitmar Cruises in Australia, and abandoned the liner trade to operate full-time as a cruise liner in 1974.
In July 1988, Sitmar Cruises was purchased by the P&O Group. In Australia, the operation was renamed P&O-Sitmar Cruises, and in 1991 became P&O Holidays. The company's ship MV Fairstar was the most popular cruise ship sailing from Australia until 1997, when Fair Princess replaced it. It was replaced in 2000 by Pacific Sky.
- Castelbianco (1947–52)
- Castel Bianco (1952–57)
- Castel Felice (1952–70)
- Castel Forte (1950–60)
- Castelverde (1950–53)
- Castel Verde (1953–57)
- Fairland (1968–71)
- Fairsea (1) (1949–69)
- Fairsea (2) (1971–88)
- Fairsky(1) (1958–77)
- Fairsky (2) (1979–82)
- Fairsky (3) (1984–88)
- TSS Fairstar (1964–88)
- Fairwind (1971–88)
- Sitmar FairMajesty (1988)
- Sitmar Fairwind (1988)
- Vassar Victory (1947)
- Wooster Victory (1947–50)
Vlasov operated cargo ships flying the Greek, Italian and the United Kingdom flags before and during the Second World War. SITMAR ships carried a letter "V" on their funnels, standing for "Vlasov". After the war, Vlasov purchased the former American troop ships Wooster Victory and Vassar Victory, chartering them to the IRO. Wooster Victory, first operated under its original name, was renamed Castelverde whilst Vassar Victory was immediately renamed Castelbianco. Both vessels flew the Italian flag.
The IRO charter contracts ended in 1952 and the two ships were extensively rebuilt and used to carry emigrants between Genoa and Central America. This service ended in 1957, and both ships were bought by the Spanish Line.
Vlasov bought two American C3 ships; one was refitted to carry 1,800 passengers and renamed Fairsea (1). It flew the Panamanian flag and set the naming style for future SITMAR ships. At first, Fairsea (1)was used for IRO charters, but later it was used for journeys to Australia and the North Atlantic.
In 1955, SITMAR gained a long-term contract from the Australian government to carry emigrants from Southampton to Australia. The other C3 ship, renamed Fairsky (1) and flying the Liberian flag, was also used for this charter. Castel Felice - originally owned by BI Line and named Kenya - and the Fairstar - a troopship called Oxfordshire purchased from Bibby Line - also sailed between England and Australia until 1970 when Chandris Lines took over the contract.
Vlasov purchased the ships Carinthia and Sylvania in 1968, and tried unsuccessfully to regain the Australian contract. The ships were renamed Fairland and Fairsea (2) and were docked at Southampton for several years. Having lost its contracts, SITMAR entered the cruise market. Fairland and Fairsea (2) were refitted as cruise ships while Fairsea (1) was scrapped in 1969 after a fire in its engine room and Castel Felice was scrapped in 1970 following the loss of the Australian contract.
SITMAR tried to build a favourable reputation in the American cruise market. Fairsky (1) was scrapped in 1977 and the company sought a large ship to replace it. SITMAR failed to obtain the Queen Anna Maria, which was bought by Carnival Cruise Lines. In 1979 the company bought the Portuguese ship Principe Perfeito and renamed it Fairsky (2). It was due to be converted by 1981 in Spain. However, the conversion was deemed uneconomic and the ship was sold in 1982 to John Latsis. Instead, the company acquired a new ship, the Fairsky (3), in 1984.
Today there is one surviving ship, the FairSky which later became the Sky Princess, Pacific Sky, Sky Wonder & is now known as the Atlantic Star and was laid up in Marseille, France was Scrapped 2013, she was the latest Sitmar ship to be scrapped.
The other ship was the planned Stimar FairMajesty which later became the Star Princess, Arcadia, Ocean Village and is still in active service today, currently sailing as the Pacific Pearl for P&O Australia