Chandris Liner Britanis

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  • 1932 to 2000
  • 18, 254 Tons
  • 632 x 79 Feet
  • 20 Knots

The Britanis first became famous as a Matson Liner; in fact she had three careers as a Matson liner, under different names.

In the 1980s, she became the oldest serving cruise ship in the world.


X Monterey of the Matson Line X


In 1932, the second of three new Pacific liners was built for Matson Lines.  Named the Monterey, she made her maiden voyage from San Francisco on the US to Australia route, and continued this service until 1941.  The Matson sisters usually voyaged via Honolulu and Auckland with occasional cruises to other Pacific ports through the 1930s.

The ships provided an unparalleled level of service in the Pacific, though the service was subsidised by the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand governments to allow regular mail services between these countries of the British Empire.  Monterey catered for 472 first class and 229 cabin class passengers on the Pacific crossing which took about a month, cruising at 20 knots.

As with her Matson sisters, Monterey was re-fitted for war service in late 1941 and served faithfully as a troopship throughout the war; carrying over 6000 men on some trips.  She was returned to the Matson Line in 1946 and was to be re-fitted to resume her passenger services.  Galloping inflation made the cost of re-fitting her prohibitive and so she was laid up for over five years while her younger sister, Leilani, provided the only Matson service between San Francisco and Honolulu. 

Leilani’s service had been very popular though, with high passenger loads and, in 1956, Matson Lines were looking to add a second ship to the Hawaiian route.  Having sold the Monterey to the US Maritime Commission in 1952, Matson now bought her back and she was re-fitted and modernised with accommodation for 761 first class passengers.

In the first of a number of confusing name changes, Matson Lines now renamed the ship as Matsonia.



X Matsonia of the Matson Line X


The ‘new’ Matsonia joined the Lurline on San Francisco/Honolulu services from June 1957 and the ships continued this partnership for five years until, with passenger numbers declining, Matsonia was laid up.

Early in 1963, Lurline suffered serious engine problems and had to be taken out of service.  Matsonia was brought out retirement to replace Lurline and, six months later, when Chandris Lines bought Lurline (renaming her Ellinis), Matson Lines re-named Matsonia as Lurline.


X Lurline of the Matson Line X


The new Lurline continued the Hawaiian trade, mixed with occasional cruises, until 1970 when Matson Lines put the ship up for sale.

Chandris Lines, who had already bought the original Matsonia and Lurline from Matson, now purchased the ‘newer’ Matsonia/Lurline, and renamed her Britanis.


X Britanis of the Chandris Lines X


The Britanis was given a refit at Pireaus to suit the Australian emigrant trade.  Chandris had recently won the UK Government contract to transport British migrants to Australia and the Britanis was to be utilised on the Southampton to Australia route.

She departed Southampton on 21 February 1971 and, over the next four years, made three round the world crossings each year, in partnership with her Chandris sisters, Ellinis and Australis.  In 1974 Chandris rationalised some of its’ services, partly due to rising oil prices, and Britanis was withdrawn from the Australian trade to concentrate on cruises.

Over the next twenty years, the Britanis became one of the oldest and best loved cruise ships in the world, mainly serving on Mediterranean and Caribbean routes.  She was given a major refit in 1986 and continued Caribbean cruises through until 1994 for Fantasy Lines, a subsidiary of Chandris.

In the mid 1990s, Chandris elected to phase out its’ Fantasy Cruises and Britanis was chartered to the US Government as an accommodation ship in 1994 and then laid up in Tampa in late 1996.  She was sold to Belofin Investments in 1998.


X The End of A Great Ship X


Renamed Belofin 1, the grand old ship was initially to be scrapped, but a downturn in steel prices stalled this idea.  Various rumours about the ship circulated over the next few years, including a popular if expensive idea to restore the ship as a Lurline museum/hotel/conference facility in the United States.

None of these rumours eventuated and in October 2000 Belofin 1 was towed across the South Atlantic by the ocean tug, Irbis, to be broken up in the Indian sub continent.  During the transatlantic journey, Britanis took on water and began to list, off the Cape of Good Hope.  The ship was cut adrift from the tug and sank on 20th October.

If you wish to see the sad end of this great ship, exclusive photos of the sinking are available at World Online.  Vale Britanis.

This is an unofficial, non-profit, just-for-fun, page but is © 1995 - 2002 by Graham Thomas