Acquired in 1971, the 17,000 ton SPIRIT OF LONDON was intended to be the 5th ship in the NCL fleet and twin to SOUTHWARD, to be named SEAWARD
Eight years before they would stun the cruising world by purchasing the magnifcent liner FRANCE, for conversion into NORWAY, the world's largest dedicated cruise ship, NCL's fleet consisted of small diesel powerd ships which operated year round in the Caribbean.
During 1971 the ship's builders, Cantieri del Tirreno e Riuniti ran into serious financial problems, which caused the yard to be nationalised, and as a result they attempted to renegotiate a higher price for the ship, which NCL refused and pulled out of the contract, when at this time P&O was looking to establish itself in the US cruise market, having failed to do so previously with CANBERRA.
Having been made aware of the incomplete NCL hull P&O made enquires and was able to purchase the ship which they renamed SPIRIT OF LONDON for £10 Million.
P&O then set about with their design teams bringing her in line with their requirements which was to be a ship aimed at an American market but to be decidedly British in its decor being somewhat in the 'swinging London' style which had been popular since the late 1960s.
In the respects of the ship's origins and P&O's intended market, when the ship was completed there was seemingly very little that SPIRIT OF LONDON and ORIANA had in common, but they do share a few minor similarities.
As ORIANA was the first cruise ship built specifically for the UK market, SPIRIT OF LONDON was the first purpose cruise ship to be owned by P&O as well as being the first diesel powered ship owned by the company.
With her introduction into service, bringing the P&O name to a new market, the ship would begin a new era with for the company and although her time under the P&O brand would be short lived, her popularity led to P&O purchasing Princess Cruises, which would be followed by over a decade of expansion for the P&O's passenger division.
ORIANA's introduction of course was also the beginning of a new era for the company siginlling the change of their tonnage from former liners such as the venerable CANBERRA and SEA PRINCESS/VICTORIA who were ORIANA's fleetmates at the time of her introduction, to the purpose built cruise liner
With ORIANA's success, it reassured P&O that their faith had not been misplaced and within 2 years they were drawing up plans for their next project- Capricorn later named AURORA, based heavily on, while also expanding upon ORIANA's superb layout and design.
|SPIRIT OF LONDON launched 9/5/1972 :P&O Heritage|
Sailing with mainly British passengers for her Maiden Voyage on the 11th November, she headed first for Funchal Madeira arriving 3 days later and would stay overnight.
23 years later ORIANA's first landfall was Funchal where she arrived to much celebration after 3 days at sea and enjoying an evening in port with a firework display put on in her honour.
In command of SPIRIT OF LONDON as she sailed on her Maiden Voyage was Captain Gerald McGowan along side his Chief Officer, Ian Gibb.
On the 9th April 1995 it was Commodore Ian Gibb who kept watch over ORIANA as her Master as she headed out of Southampton for the first time.
|Ian Gibb seen in a promotional video for SPIRT OF LONDON : PeriscopeFilm|