Ivernia (1955) / Franconia (1963)

RMS Ivernia was a Saxonia class ocean liner, built in 1955 by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland for Cunard Line, for their transatlantic passenger service between the UK and Canada. In 1963 she was rebuilt as a cruise ship and renamed RMS Franconia, after the famous pre-war liner RMS Franconia. She continued to sail for Cunard until being withdrawn from service and laid up in 1971.

Near the end of 1951 Cunard Line announced their intention to build two new ships for the Liverpool-Montreal route. Not long afterwards, the plans were extended to build four ships rather than two – RMS Saxonia, RMS Ivernia, RMS Carinthia and RMS Sylvania. They were designed to be the largest ships operated until then by Cunard on their service between the United Kingdom and Canada, while still being able to navigate the St Lawrence River to Montreal. The contracts for building all four ships were awarded to John Brown & Company, in Clydebank.

RMS Ivernia was launched at Clydebank on 14 December 1954 by Mrs C M Howe, the wife of the then Canadian Minister of Trade. Completed six months later, she underwent sea trials, and then prepared for her maiden voyage. The original plan had been for her to set off from Liverpool on 26 June 1955, but industrial action forced a change of plan, and instead, she departed from Greenock on 1 July 1955, carrying 900 passengers and crew, on her maiden voyage to Quebec and Montreal. She arrived safely in Montreal on 19 July 1955.

For the first year of operation, Saxonia and Ivernia shared the Canada route with the older Cunard ships RMS Franconia (1922), RMS Ascania and RMS Scythia. As the third and fourth Saxonia class ships entered service, however, the older ships were withdrawn, and by mid-1957 the Saxonia sisters were the only Cunard ships sailing the UK-Canada route.

By 1962, the increasing popularity and availability of air travel was having a distinct impact on the profitability of transatlantic shipping services, and Cunard decided to refit the Ivernia for cruising. At the same time, they decided to change her name to Franconia, the older ship of that name having been withdrawn from service several years earlier. Ivernia arrived at John Brown’s Clydebank shipyard on 11 October 1962 for a major refit, and emerged as the new Franconia on 25 May 1963 in “Caronia green” colours (see RMS Caronia).

From 1963 until 1967, Franconia continued to operate a reduced passenger service between the UK and Canada during the summer months, and spent the winter months cruising the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas. In 1967 the decision was made to withdraw her completely from transatlantic passenger service, and after a refit (during which she was painted white, instead of Caronia green), she switched to permanent cruising service, alternating between the Caribbean and the Atlantic isles (Madeira, The Azores and the Canary Islands) and north Africa.

In 1971, Cunard was taken over by Trafalgar House. During the subsequent re-organisation, it was decided that, with new ships in construction, it would not be worth the cost to refit and upgrade the Franconia. She was withdrawn from service and laid up, initially at Southampton, and then in the River Fal, Cornwall, while a new owner was sought. In 1973, she was purchased by the Far Eastern Shipping Company and started a new career cruising around Australia and the far East. She was also given a new name: SS Fedor Shalyapin. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she was withdrawn from the Australian cruise routes, and for a few years sailed on routes such as Odessa to Cuba. In 1980 she was transferred to the Black Sea Shipping Company. For several years in the early to mid 1980s she was chartered by a German company, Jahn Reisen GmbH, and resumed cruising in the Mediterranean and the far East. In 1992, the ship was transferred to the Odessa Cruise Company, a company registered in Malta.

In the summer of 1994, she made an extended cruise from St Petersburg, calling at 20 ports around Europe and in the Mediterranean ending at Odessa. It was her last cruise, and in 1995 she was laid up at Ilichevsk, a Black Sea port 40 km southwest of Odessa. She remained there until February 2004, when, as the Salona, she sailed to Alang in India, and was scrapped.

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Quick Glance

Name(s): 1955—1963: RMS Ivernia
1963—1973: RMS Franconia
1973—2004: SS Feodor Shalyapin
2004: SS Salona
Owner(s):: 1955—1973: Cunard Line
1973—1980: Far Eastern Shipping Company
1980—1989: Black Sea Shipping Company
1989—2004: Odessa Cruise Company
Route: Many (lol see above)
Builder: John Brown & Company
Clydebank, Scotland
Launched: 14 December 1954
Maiden voyage: 1 July 1955
Fate: Scrapped in India 2004
General characteristics
Type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 21,717
Length: 608
Propulsion: Steam Turbines / Twin Screws
Speed: 25 knots
Capacity: 929 Passengers
– 125 First Class
– 800 Tourist Class 

461 Crew


2 thoughts on “Ivernia (1955) / Franconia (1963)

  1. My parents took my brother and me to Europe in 1956, sailing from Montreal to Liverpool on the Ivernia. My Dad wanted to ship a car to England, and so we travelled on the Ivernia and not the Andrea Doria from New York. On the return voyage, our Captain slowed down in heavy fog, and delayed our return by a day. The Andrea Doria went down that night in the fog. I remember my parent saying passengers were upset with the Ivernia’s Captain for being so cautious. Thank heavens he was. It was a beautiful ship.

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