S.S. AMERICA, S.S. UNITED STATES sailing on the 'All American' team to Europe


The story of the Australis

The early 1960s hit American shipping companies particularly hard. Passengers were deserting ocean liner travel, preferring the speed of jet aircraft. On the other hand, the Greeks were buying. Anthony Chandris, the chairman of Chandris Lines, needed ships to fill the company’s ambitious plan to expand cruise service in the Mediterranean and the growing immigrant service to Australia and New Zealand. When US Lines president John Franklin president listed the America for sale, Chandris moved quickly and dispatched the company’s technical director over to New York for inspection. The ship passed with flying colors, a final price tag of $4,250,000 cemented the deal. On November 15, 1964, the ex America now Australis sailed for the Chandris  Ambelaki in Greece shipyard for refitting as a one-class ship.

At the shipyard, significant changes for the new route included a more than double passenger capacity from 1,048 passengers to 2,844, the addition of complete air conditioning, 350 new cabins, and the installation of an outdoor swimming pool and bar on the aft end of the Promenade deck.

On August 21, 1965, the Australis made her maiden voyage as a one-class ocean liner with a capacity of 2,258 passengers. For the next thirteen years, she made around the world voyages starting in Southampton, carrying immigrant families to Australia and returning to her home port via the Panama Canal with tourists and passengers from down under.
What is notable from reading passengers and crew comments is the friendly atmosphere aboard helped ease the stress. Passengers boarded, expecting a no-frills austere voyage. They were pleasantly surprised by the splendor of the ship’s interiors and the warm, friendly atmosphere. Comments such as “The memories of the Australis will never leave me as I had some wonderful times aboard,” or it was the cheapest and best trip of my life.” Reflect on the good feelings that former passengers have towards the Australis.
The friendly atmosphere started at the top as described by Australis first captain Demitrios Challioris. “Being captain of such an enormous cruise liner was a very demanding job. Every morning you would have to go out on the deck, greet passengers, kiss their foreheads, listen to their wishes and complaints. Very often I was with my wife, so I would easily approach a pretty woman and talk to her, pay her a compliment and she would say, “Captain, would you please invite me to your table tonight?” Madame consider yourself invited”.
On board the food was good, the ouzo flowed, and the good times rolled. “There was a definite feeling that the ship was a no-mans land, and whatever they did on board would not be counted in the old world or the new life.” According to playroom hostess Margaret Volovinis. “This led parents to leave their children in the playroom for hours or to wander the ship at will. The young (and not so young!) men and women were falling into passionate romances with other passengers (only too willing!) crew members and a general air of true gay abandon! I never met passengers that had such an effect on me. People going on a two-week holiday cruise in the sun weren’t in the same category.”
From 1964 to 1977, the Australis made the sixty-day voyages around voyages with occasional cruises out of Southampton. Starting in the Mid 1970s, she was showing signs of growing old and tired. By then, she was approaching her fortieth birthday, had traveled 4,971,0061 miles carrying 1,301,482 passengers. Passengers boarding the Australis began noticing sins of her age. “The old girl is not what she used to be, “according to frequent passenger Steve Mullis who sailed from Southampton in 1976. Problems such as loss of power, mechanical breakdowns, small electrical fires became more frequent. The performance problems combined with a shift of travelers to jet power aircraft led Chandris to put the ship up for sale. A final trip to the scrapers seemed inevitable.

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Australis and QE 2 in Cherbourg. Authors Larry Driscoll collection

” There were many modern ships on the seas but none did it better. It wasn’t always the quality of the cabin or the carpet that counted. I visited other famous ships such as the France and the QE 2, none had the magic of the America/Australis. She may not have been as attractive, but to me, the attraction was her interiors, as the S.S. America and the knowledge that she was a friendly, safe, and extremely comfortable ship”.

Former passenger Steve Mullis

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THE NEW LOOK. Smoking Lounge s s aMERICA

S.S. America Home page

SS Australis/ Chandris

8 thoughts on “AUSTRALIS

  1. Harri KOLOKOTAS

    We came with my parents ( my brother was not 5 years old and I turned 6 shortly after we arrived) and we dont remember 99.9 % of that trip. All I remember is my mother making me a paper mache dress to wear that night AND the rest is left in the history of my mind … One other thing I do remember is that we spoke to another passenger whom my mother told me was French. That man offered me a cap to wear with a long “ponytail”and I have a photo somewhere in my mums stuff. I am hoping that someone will have photos from their trip and could share at some point. We arrived into Sydney from Greece on 14 December 1966.

  2. Ronald Claughton

    Hi Rob my wife Angela traveled from Piraeus to Australia with her parents and twin brother and friends they arrived in Freemantle on 29 May 1968 then to Bonegilla refuge victoria

  3. mel kennison

    I sailed from Southampton, on the 13/10/1965. We were supposed to dock in Melbourne, but because of a storm in Port Philip Bay, we had to sail on to dock in Sydney, on the 25/11/65. We were transported to Melbourne on the Southern Aurora, where we we set down in what is now Southern Cross station, which was always known as Spencer street station.
    I was 9 almost 10 years old, I remember the sail away, I remember the only port where my elder brother, sister, and I, got off with our father, was at Port Said. I remember a lot of little things, most memorable was when an Arab man spoke to my father, On our way back to the ship, wanting to buy my sister, he apparently offered my father a lot of money for her. I’d love to talk to and maybe meet other people from that cruise. we went to Baccus Marsh boarding school, our parents went to the Broadmeadows Hostel.

  4. Rob Hunt

    If anyone reads this who was on a 1968 trip per Australia, to Melbourne, Australia, I’d love to be in contact. A Greek passenger on that trip was headed for Bonegilla camp and as of June 2020, is near the end of his life. I’m trying to find some memories to share with him.
    Thank you in anticipation,

  5. Warren Brown

    Yes , I was on board the ” fire ” trip cabin 135 = lovely cabin with two portholes , a four berth.
    which was originally a first class two bed cabin.
    Chandris said I was to fly to UK from Suva , but I declined and enjoyed the voyage with vastly
    reduced passenger numbers and only two in our cabin.
    During the days in Suva , I always chose the coach going to a nice coastal hotel ( forgotten name )
    But a left turn after Suva and maybe a journey of 15 minutes ,
    with great food and pool right on the ocean edge.
    I remember us all having Chandris towels to use after swim.
    Happy memories of an era now long gone.

  6. Silvio

    Thanks for the information Joanna ,sorry I just sow your message here, I dind’t think anyone will replay me, how you know the Australis ? passenger , crew or friends ? and where you live now ? thanks



  7. Silvio Bianco

    I was a crew member on this ship S/S AUSTRALIS in 1967 1968 made 9 trip around the world ,I was from Italy but now living in USA for 45 years,
    I just wonder if any crew member of that era is reading this note ,will love to get in touch with them, I did work on the crew restaurant and also as LIFT BOY ( elevator )
    thank you

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S.S. AMERICA, S.S. UNITED STATES sailing on the 'All American' team to Europe