L for Lay, Lady,Lay: Living in the ‘70s

Lay across my big brass bed

Stay, lady,stay

Stay with your man awhile

Until the break of day,

Let me see you make him smile

Lay, Lady, Lay  Bob Dylan 1969

May 1972

The Oriana pulled away from the wharf, the streamers broke and the faces of family blurred into the distance. Joanne and Leo rode the lift down the bowels of the ship and found their cabin.  It was small and dark, with narrow double bunks and only just enough room for their suitcases.

Reuben Goossens Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Lecturer source of this photo

‘It’s not as if we will be spending much time in here,’ said Joanne. ‘We’ll be outside doing lots of activities, won’t we?’

She had heard so much about Leo’s voyage to England on the Fairsea. Stories of swimming like seals in the ship’s pool, dancing and drinking all night, and performing in a magnificent Egyptian themed extravaganza had all seemed so exciting.

They arrived at the dining room and were shown to a table where they met their dining companions for the next seven days. They found they had very little in common with the singles they met. The first course was always consommé.  In fact, Joanne felt that the entire dining deck smelt of consommé.  She could sense its pervasive aroma it as soon as she stepped out of the lift.

Every morning at 6.00am there would be a knock on the cabin door, the lights would come on in the pitch dark room and a steward would bring them two glasses of orange juice. There was no such thing as a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign to hang on the door. There was no such thing as ‘tipping the steward’ either, or at least Leo and Joanne didn’t.

The storm hit the next day, with grey skies and huge waves rolling the ship from side to side.  The pool was closed and the dining room emptied out as more passengers took to their beds.  There was a washbasin in their cabin but the bathroom was at the end of a long corridor.  Joanne had to step over the remains of people’s meals to reach the shower but she was determined she would not succumb to seasickness.

It severely tested her strength when she decided to iron one of Leo’s shirts in the laundry room.  The heat from the dryers and the roll of the ship was almost too much for even her strong stomach.

They gathered on the deck in the wind as Ball’s Pyramid and Lord Howe Island slipped by.  How inviting the curved beach looked.  It would be so wonderful to stand on level, still, unmoving land.

Finally they could go ashore.  The ship had pulled into Suva, Fiji and they gazed over the railing at the dancers performing below them.

‘Let’s find a taxi and get to a beach,’ suggested Leo.

They were both astonished and underwhelmed at their destination. Beside a plain rectangular motel was a cement pool with absolutely no charm whatsoever. Behind the motel were rows of mangroves where glimpses of water indicated the possibility of an ocean beyond.

‘At least the pool hasn’t got huge waves in it,’ laughed Leo.

It wasn’t long before they made the acquaintance of two Americans.  Pete and Peta were heading to Australia.  With the shortage of teachers in Australia Pete had accepted a position as a science teacher at Picton High School while Peta would try to get work in a laboratory somewhere.   They would be living in the same geographical area as Leo and Joanne, so promised to catch up later in the year.

Oriana in the background at Nadi, Fiji

The Oriana set off for Nadi, but not before Joanne and Leo bargained for a huge woven clothes basket which was stored in the ships’s hull. Some passengers decided they would cross the island and meet the ship on the other side. The less time spent on the Oriana the better, as far as they were concerned. On the other side of the island of Viti Levu the ship docked at Nadi and then sailed on to Noumea where they arrived in an ugly industrial port.

‘It looks just like Port Kembla,’ said Joanne.  Somehow the image of idyllic Pacific Islands was fading rapidly.

Precariously they jumped aboard the tenders, and reached the shore where a bus rattled into Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. Joanne was left with an image of muddy roads full of potholes and rain drenched markets but Leo saved the day. They entered a magnificent patisserie and ordered a concoction of icecream, meringue and fruit called Chantilly Glace.

Boarding the ship they found themselves accidentally in the First Class section.  Expecting at any moment to be evicted they looked with admiration at the grand dining room, ballroom and lounge areas. Tourist class looked very plain when they finally made their way back.

At the Captain’s Cocktail party Joanne wore her long blue and black dress, once intended for the wedding. Probably a wise decision to leave it for the honeymoon.

They had one more interesting event before they left the ship.  As they had to put their suitcases out into the corridor on the last night of the voyage, they had to make sure they had clothes ready for the next morning.  Waiting on the deck until their number was called for disembarkation they saw an amazing sight.  Mini skirts were the norm at the time, and leaning over the railing was a girl who obviously had forgotten to leave out her underwear the night before.

Built in 1959 for the Orient Steam Navigation Company, the SS Oriana became part of P&O in 1966. She changed to a one class cruise ship in 1973, the year after our honeymooners’ brief voyage and was based in Sydney from 1981 to 1986 after which she was retired and sold to become a floating hotel in China. As a result of being badly damaged in a storm she was subsequently scrapped in 2004.

12 thoughts on “L for Lay, Lady,Lay: Living in the ‘70s

  1. Hahaha! I’m guessing the mini-skirt wearer might have “forgotten” on purpose. 😉

    I had no idea there was a teacher shortage in Australia during the 1970s. I wonder how many Europeans and Americans moved to Oz as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing at all the notes she journaled… I loved the drawings in the last post. I always say I’m going to journal a getaway but then I feel it’ll be boring. We stop for all the antique places. Me, I’m always hunting for vintage Nancy Drew books.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We sailed out to Australia in 1968 on the Orcades, a one class P and O ship and possibly a sister ship to the Oriana. My mother, who was normally paranoid about our safety, related more within the limits of a ship, and we went about with unprecedented freedom. The food was unending – sic course dinners every night and I believe consommé was a fairly frequent item…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that cruise might have turned me off forever. First class would have been wonderful but as youngsters money would be tight. I had to smile at the large basket bought and stored in the hull.

    Liked by 1 person

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