The "SS Bretagne" was an
ocean linerlaunched July 20 1951out of Saint-Nazaire; the second of two ships built for the "Société Générale de Transport Maritimes" (SGTM) which operated passenger lines out of Marseilles. Her sister ship "Provence" was launched a year earlier at Newcastle. "Bretagne" was constructed with three boilers and "Provence" with only two, making "Provence" less capable of increasing speed to counteract possible delays.
Career with SGTM
After two brief shakedown cruises, "SS Bretagne" began her maiden voyage at Marseilles on
February 14 1952, traveling to Genoa, Naples, Barcelona, Dakar, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, concluding in Buenos Aires. "Bretagne" joined "Provence" in liner and immigration service from Europe to South America. Fine accommodations met First class passengers but the majority of the ship's berths were for third and fourth class passengers, the latter sleeping in large communal dormitories segregated by sex. These berths were mainly filled with poor Italian emigrants seeking a new start in South America.
Career with Chandris Lines
Declining interest in tourism and immigration led SGTM to offer "SS Bretagne" and "SS Provence" out to charter. At the same time, Anthony Chandris was looking to add a second liner to serve the
Chandris Linesroute between Greeceand Australia. "Bretagne" was selected by reason of her third boiler and extra speed; November 18 1960saw the signing of a year-long charter contract with option to buy. The French seamen's union would continue to serve aboard "Bretagne" during that year and for six months following purchase. Sister ship "SS Provence" was chartered then purchased by Costa Line, who renamed her "Enrico Costa".
A major refit for "SS Bretagne" was undertaken in
Genoain January 1961 in order to eliminate third and fourth class berths and make room for 1,050 tourist class passengers. A second swimming pool was installed and air conditioning was brought to all the passenger areas, not just first class. In May, when the conversion was complete, "SS Bretagne" sailed to Bostonunder a new sub-charter contract with Caribbean Cruise Lineto begin cruise shipservice between New Englandand the Caribbeanon June 9 1961. Though passengers weren't too pleased with poor Caribbean Cruise Line service standards, Anthony Chandris was satisfied with the new interior layout. He purchased the "SS Bretagne" on September 20 1961in Southamptonfor UK£ 3 million, two months before his charter contract was to end.
September 22 1961, "SS Bretagne" sailed as a "Europe Australia Line" ship (a subsidiary of Chandris) from Southampton to Australia by way of Madeira, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne, arriving in Sydneyon October 26. Quickly turning around, the liner left the next day to visit Brisbane, Bali, Singapore, Colombo, Aden, Port Said, Piraeus, Marseillesand Lisbonbefore arriving again at Southampton. "Bretagne" made four more voyages to Australia and then was turned over to full Chandris ownership and control in June, 1962. The ship was sent to Genoa for further changes including a new ballroom with seating for 500 so that live shows and entertainment could be staged during cruises. At this time the ship was rechristened "SS Brittany" and was re-staffed by 320 Greek seamen replacing the French.
"SS Brittany" began her new career on
June 20 1962with a series of nine week-long roundtrip cruises between New York and the West Indies, accepting only 500 passengers in the best cabins. These voyages were catered and operated by Chandris in close conjunction with Caribbean Cruise Lines—publicity was favorable in contrast with the previous year. Capacity averaged 95% and plans were made to increase the number of cabins by 110 through the conversion of two refrigerated cargo areas, a process that was undertaken in transit by workmen brought aboard during the New York-Caribbean cruises. The changes would create a single passenger class of 1,500 berths, including the 150 former first class ones, for an extended summer cruise season in 1963.
September 12 1962, "SS Brittany" left Southampton to resume round-the-world winter service to Australasia. A new feature she offered was an accelerated process for customsand immigration formalities in Wellington, New Zealandby having three New Zealand Customs officials embark at Sydney to start their paperwork early. This innovation was well-received.
Fire and loss
On her fourth trip back to Southampton, she stopped at
Piraeusin late March 1963 with serious engine trouble, disembarking and flying her passengers onward to their destinations. "Brittany" was moved to a drydock for overhaul by Hellenic Shipyards in Scaramanga. Repairs were nearing completion on April 8 1963when a welder's torch set off a fire that burned quickly out of control. Fears of explosion from her own fuel tanks meant "Brittany" had to be towed out to harbor and beached to let the fire burn out the next day. The ship was a total loss; her hulk was sent to La Speziafor scrap in March, 1964.
The loss of "Brittany" led to the Chandris Lines purchase of SS "Lurline" in September, 1963; that ship was renamed "Ellinis".
*cite book |title=The Chandris Liners and Celebrity Cruises |last=Plowman |first=Peter |year=2007 |publisher=Roseberg Pub |isbn=1877058475
* [http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/lines/sgtm.htm The Ships List: SGTM]
* [http://www.ssaustralishomepage.co.uk/chandris.html The Chandris Lines story]
* [http://www.yalumba.co.uk/Framesets/Chandris%20Lines.htm Michael Ian Byard Online: Chandris Lines]
* [http://www.geocities.com/chandrislines/brittany.html Chandris Lines "Brittany"]
* [http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/ChandrisBrittany.html Photos and postcards of "Bretagne" and "Brittany"]
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