RMS Empress of Canada (1960)

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RMS Empress of Canada (1961) (cropped).jpg
Empress of Canada
  • 1961–1972: Empress of Canada
  • 1972–1993: Mardi Gras
  • 1993: Olympic
  • 1994: Star of Texas
  • 1994–1995: Lucky Star
  • 1995–2003: Apollon
Port of registry:
  • 1961–1972: London,  UK
  • 1972–1995: Panama,  Panama
  • 1995-2003: Pireaus,  Greece
Builder: Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, England
Yard number: 171
Launched: 10 May 1960
Completed: March 1961
Maiden voyage: 24 April 1961
Identification:IMO number5103936
Fate: scrapped 2003
General characteristics
  • 27,284 grt (2,728,400 cu ft; 77,260 m3)
  • (1972, 18,261 grt or 1,826,100 cu ft or 51,710 m3)
Length: 650 ft (198.12 m)
Beam: 86.6 ft (26.40 m)
Draught: 29 ft (8.84 m)
Installed power: 30,000 shp (22,000 kW)
Propulsion: Geared turbines, twin screw
Speed: 20 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Capacity: As built, 192 1st class, 856 tourist class
Crew: 470

RMS Empress of Canada was an ocean liner launched in 1960 and completed the following year by Vickers-Armstrongs of Walker, Newcastle upon 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.


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 Saint 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 (2,728,400 cu ft; 77,260 m3) with a length of 650 ft (198.12 m) and a beam of 86.6 ft (26.40 m). She was 10 ft (3.05 m) longer than her immediate predecessors due to a more curved bow and she had one foot (0.30 m) 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 (23 mph; 37 km/h), she achieved 23 knots (26 mph; 43 km/h) 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, Newcastle upon Tyne on the River 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]

Empress of Canada at, Liverpool, 1971, with Manxman.

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 Empress of Canada 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 23, 1971, thus closing for good the Liverpool–Canada link. She remained at Liverpool until December 14 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 17.

Other ship lines[edit]

Mardi Gras at Montreal, Canada on August 28, 1979.

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. Her registration was transferred from the United Kingdom to Panama with a measurement of 18,261 GRT (1,826,100 cu ft; 51,710 m3) under Panamanian measurement rules. This saved on dock dues, while Carnival advertised her as "27,000 tons of fun!". Carnival's first ship, she left Tilbury on February 26, 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. In 1995 Epirotiki merged its operations with Sun Line, creating a new company named Royal Olympic Cruise Lines. For a while she sailed for this line and was later chartered by Direct Cruises (division of Direct Holidays) for voyages around the United Kingdom. Direct Holidays was purchased by the tour operator Airtours in 1999 (later MyTravel then Thomas Cook). Coincidentally perhaps, around this time Carnival acquired a share of Airtours plc (around 23%) – though primarily to secure distribution of the Carnival brand through the tour operator. This was a relatively short lived liaison. A quid-pro-quo agreement was made between Royal Olympic and Airtours to scrap the five-year Apollon charter agreement and in 2000 all voyages planned for the vessel were cancelled and she was returned to Greece where she was laid up. This agreement saw the Airtours vessel MS Seawing transferred from Airtours Sun Cruises (the Airtours in-house cruise division) management to Royal Olympic under a 3rd party management agreement. This agreement also included an option to purchase at the end of the newly agreed management deal.

In 2001 the Apollon 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.



  • Musk, George (1981). Canadian Pacific: the Story of the Famous Shipping Line. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7968-2.

External links[edit]