Life On Board
With the passage to Australia taking weeks, Sitmar was well aware of the need to provide activities for the passengers. With assistance from the Purser's staff, passengers were encouraged to form a sports committee for the arranging of deck games tournaments. Fairsky was well designed for long voyages, with five open, teak-clad upper decks including a deep swimming pool aft, courts marked for deck tennis and quoits, also ping-pong tables which were popular with all age groups. The ship featured three dining rooms (two sittings were provided), a grand social hall, children's playroom, a writing room and library, Bavarian tavern and two further bars, also a cinema. Medical facilities included a fully equipped hospital with operating theatre and isolation ward.
Fairsky's staff provided frequent entertainment for the passengers, details of which were widely displayed throughout the ship on the daily activities program. Dinner dances and variety shows were periodically staged (one of the guest bands which played on the ship was The Seekers on their way to the UK to begin a career which would bring their music into homes all over the world), along with the obligatory mock ceremony (performed by the ship's Italian crew, with the help of passenger 'volunteers') when the vessel crossed the equator. Fairsky's own popular musicians usually played requests in the public rooms before dinner, also in the dining rooms on gala nights such as the Captain's welcome and farewell and 'fancy dress' theme evenings. Travelogues and recently released films were screened daily in the dedicated cinema. Children were also thoughtfully catered for with their own meal sittings at lunch and tea times, entertainment shows, cartoon screenings and occasional lessons provided, for example about the geography of their destination country. At the end of the voyage, each child would also receive at random a quality toy provided by the Line free of charge.
Typical highlights of the voyage included the trip through the Suez Canal, where local youths in "bum boats" dived for coins thrown by passengers, and the stop at the Yemeni port of Aden - the only time on the voyage where passengers had the opportunity to leave the ship and stretch their legs. Aden was also a place where passengers could pick up cheap consumer goods from around the world, or products made by the local tourist industry such as rag dolls stuffed with sand or leather wallets with ancient Egyptian motifs. More intrepid passengers could take a taxi trip out of the city to surrounding villages, where they were likely to be mobbed by crowds of poor children begging for alms.
Following the call at Aden, the journey would resume as a long uninterrupted voyage to Australia. The ship would first berth at Fremantle, Western Australia, then steam through the Great Australian Bight to Melbourne, Victoria and finally onto Sydney, New South Wales, dropping passengers off at each point. The voyage through the typically rough seas of the Bight would not uncommonly add a high point of excitement for the children on board and a low point - through seasickness - for the adults. Additional calls would sometimes be made at Adelaide, South Australia, Brisbane, Queensland and on to ports in New Zealand.
Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Suez Canal was closed until 1975. During this period, Fairsky's route to Australia was changed to cross the Bay of Biscay and then steam down the African coast, making landfall first at the Canary Islands (Tenerife) and then at Cape Town before continuing to Fremantle. Passengers were able to alight at each port and these calls were often overnight.
An alternative route used by "Fairsky" was to cross the Atlantic Ocean with a stop at the island of Madeira, and then on to the Panama Canal with a stop at Curacao. Once into the Pacific Ocean the route took a route to Sydney via the island of Tahiti, where passengers could visit the local surroundings before continuing to New Zealand where the ship called in at Wellington, again allowing passengers to "stretch their legs".
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her family migrated to from Southampton, UK, aboard Fairsky in 1966. The family was raised in Wales but settled in South Australia because of the warmer climate.
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