Friday, November 10, 2006

Achille, I say Goodbye!

I wonder if anyone who reads this blog would recognize the ship featured in this rather idealized artist's rendition of it from an on board postcard as the 'Achille Lauro'.

My family and I travelled from Australia to England on board the 'Achille Lauro' in early 1972 -- a trip that was quite an experience. And not always for the right reasons.

The itinerary for this trip was actually quite interesting, with some unusual ports of call along the way...

Sydney, Australia
A New Zealand port -- I can't remember which one at the moment
Punta Arenas, Chile -- which is on the Straits of Magellan and lays claim to being the world's southernmost city
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Three? Mediterranean ports -- from memory, a couple of Italian ports and Malta
Lisbon, Portugal
England (Southampton, I think)

Apologies for my less than precise recollection here, but it was nearly 35 years ago, and I was only 11 years old at the time.

Anyway, as it turned out we were informed as soon as we were on board that there had been some changes to this itinerary. The Mediterranean ports -- which I'm fairly certain had been altered and no longer included Malta -- would now be visited after most of the passengers left the ship in England, and Lisbon would be replaced with Vigo, Spain. The person I felt most sorry for was the owner of the luggage I spotted stored in an area out on one of the decks which had a sticker showing the Maltese port as the final destination -- I've always wondered where that passenger ended up.

These changes were bad enough -- most passengers had to cable ahead to their destinations to hurriedly re-organize accommodation due to the changed arrival dates at the various ports of destination -- but the last straw came as the ship approached Rio de Janeiro.

There had been some very rough weather several times during the trip, but not once had the ship's stabilizers been used to help steady the ship and make things even slightly more bearable for the passengers -- apparently the ship's owners weren't prepared to pay for the extra fuel this would have used. However, as we approached Rio de Janeiro on relatively calm seas, the stabilizers were suddenly and noticeably deployed. The passengers soon discovered that the reason for this was that it had been decided to slow the ship down to ensure it wouldn't arrive in Rio until after the Carnival was over -- apparently docking fees would be lower then. As if this wasn't enough, it had also been decided that the ship would only dock in Rio overnight, and that passengers would not be allowed off the ship for sightseeing during the brief time we were going to be in port. Well, the passengers mutinied! At the end of it all, the stay in Rio was extended, and the passengers got their day of sightseeing in one of the most famous cities in the world, even if the city was more than a little subdued and hungover. ;) One of the passengers even had Flotta Lauro (the ship's owners) agree to take him on to the ports which had been moved to the end of the itinerary and then to pay his air fare back to London.

Which leads me finally to the point -- such as it is -- of this somewhat random and rambling posting...

Kerry, my hostess for Secret Pal 9, asked us to post a random, wacky fact about ourselves in our blog, and this is mine...

I nearly drowned in one of the swimming pools on the 'Achille Lauro'.

Remember what I said about the stabilizers not being used? What the brochures fail to tell you is that it doesn't take a lot of side to side rolling of a ship to generate enormous waves in the swimming pools on the upper decks. While I was in the pool (the one closest to the rear of the ship in the photo above, for anyone who is interested), a sudden tsunami-like wave knocked me under the surface, and the waves which followed continued to drag me under as I fought to find a way out of the pool. I was literally going down for the third time when the hands of a stranger appeared from nowhere, grasped my flailing arms, and lifted me from the pool.

While I was searching for information on the 'Achille Lauro' -- I was actually curious to find out if anyone else had written about the 1972 mutiny by the passengers -- I came across the words to the ship's theme song, which most notably used to blast out over the P.A. system while we were waiting for food to arrive in the dining room. Is there anything you can't find on the Internet? ;)

And here they are!

La nave blu
gira per il mondo
scivola sull'onda
come un Delfino fila e va

E'un sogno viaggiare
E'un piacere ritornare
sull' Achille
Re del mar!

La nave blu
dall ' Europa all Australia
per i mari ovunque va
Achille, I say Goodbye

which hopefully translates into English as...

The blue ship
travels around the world
cutting through the waves
Like a dolphin ready to go

It's a dream to travel
It's a pleasure to return
aboard the Achille Lauro
King of the sea

The blue ship
From Europa to Australia
In whatever sea you go
Achille, I say Goodbye

I think I may even have the 'La nave blu' single record they sold on the ship around here somewhere...

And for some reason, the final line of this song was all I could think about the day the 'Achille Lauro' finally sank. A long delayed closure perhaps?

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At 7:19 pm, November 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness me! What an experience and what irony! Drowning in a pool in the middle of the sea. How did you get back?

At 8:07 pm, November 11, 2006, Blogger Pamela Lee said...

From England? We flew back on a Qantas 747 -- it was three years later and travelling back via passenger ship really wasn't an option any more.

I hadn't actually thought about the irony of the whole situation before, but you're right! :) I still look at swimming pools on cruise ships, though, and think death trap. ;)

At 10:02 am, January 02, 2007, Blogger Vanessa said...

You know, my mum and dad met aboard the Achille Lauro, back when it was the Willem Ruys. Coincidence!

At 8:20 am, August 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi..i'm the grandson of the artist of the song :P Mario Mari and Brother

exuse for my english XD

At 10:27 am, September 01, 2007, Blogger Pamela Lee said...

Wow! It really is a small world. :)

Did your grandfather have anything to do with the Angelina Lauro song too?

At 7:59 am, February 15, 2008, Anonymous Antonio Altieri said...

Hi..I have the Lp of Angelina Lauro and Achille Lauro song...but for now i have registered only achille lauro song on mp3

At 7:49 pm, December 16, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! We were on the same trip (although, I was 4 at the time - travelling with my parents,paternal grandparents, 3yo brother and 18mo sister) - I remember the Rio mutiny, and passing protesters on a flotilla as we went past Chile, and how the staff rationed electricity (restricting passenger use of the elevators, the nusery in the middle of the ship - the lights would be on when the parents came to drop off/pick up, then they would turn them off to play the movies, then when the loony tunes stopped, we would be left to play in the dark until about a quarter of an hour before pick-up time, when they would put up the lights, or put on another cartoon!), I also remember being in a lock in Amsterdam(?), and seeing a man rowing in a very heavy swell in the middle of the english channel with no sight of land. My parents, along with every adult on the ship, were exasperated by the stingy and slovenley service, but the staff treated us like their own children, whom I suspect they missed very much.
I came here looking for an MP3 or wave recording of La Nave Blu - the band used to play it every night in the dining room, so I thought I had learnt the lyrics by heart, but I thought it went "sull Achille, star Italiana" instead of "sull Achille, Re del ma" - do you remember if they ever played it that way?

At 8:10 pm, September 20, 2017, Anonymous Alan said...

My family and I were on the first trip back in 1968. I'd heard that after one more trip, all remaining voyages were cancelled, so obviously I was wrong on that account. We made very much the same journey, though we were never planning to enter the Mediterranean. We sailed directly from Rio to Vigo. The weather was so bad approaching Punta Arenas that all meals were cancelled and all chairs and tables were roped down. I'll never forget the feeling as the propellers came clear of the sea and the whole ship shuddered, for at least two days. But all in all, as a 12 year old, it was a great adventure.


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