The early 1960’s was an exciting time for me. When I finished school and prior to heading off in the direction of further education, I got a ‘holiday job‘ that was just enough to fund the cost of a coastal cruise from Durban to Capetown and return. The vessel was the mv Africa.
The rebuilding of the Italian state fleet after World War 2 included a significant number of ships operated by Lloyd Triestino, an illustrious name in Italian shipping.
The Africa and the Europa were allocated to the African routes and two others, the Victoria and the Asia, were destined for India, Hong Kong and the Far East. The trio of the Australia, Oceania and Neptunia, built in Trieste in the San Marco shipyard of the Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico group, were allocated to the Australia route and were the first to enter service between April and September 1951. The Africa, was built in the Monfalcone yard of the aforementioned builder, while the Europa was built by Ansaldo of Livorno, entered service in 1952; the Victoria and Asia began service on the Far East routes in spring 1953.
Back to my initial cruise and the experience of life on the ocean wave. The Africa and her sister ship the Europa were unique and some of the most handsome small passenger liners built in the fifties. Their introduction made an instant impression on the South African travelling public. They offered stiff competition to the Union-Castle Intermediate service at the time. Being airconditioned was a definite bonus appreciated by passengers travelling through tropical waters. They were stylish and cosmopolitan and introduced an exciting Italian flair to life on board. The schedule from Genoa/Trieste via the Suez Canal down to Capetown and return was also popular. During the closures of the Suez Canal, they were diverted via the West Coast of Africa until the Canal reopened and they could revert to travelling south via Suez.
My round trip to Capetown in the early 60’s opened my eyes to this exciting form of travel. After travelling down the South African coast, the Africa arrived at Capetown’s Table Bay in the early hours before sunrise. With daybreak, the outline of Table Mountain appeared. It dramatically seemed to tower above the vessel and it was a sight I will never forget. Other South Africans, obviously a little envious, maintain that when Capetonians are away from home they suffer withdrawal symptoms caused by the lack of the presence of their Table Mountain ‘security blanket’.