Introduction to the SS Uganda Trust
A history of the SS Uganda
A history of the SS Nevasa
How to order your copy of the SS Uganda book or SS Nevasa book
Contact the SS Uganda Trust
Links to other sites
MS Dunera, of 11,162 tons and built in 1937, was converted to a floating school with dormitory accommodation for the pupils, classrooms, a lecture theatre/cinema, a library and deck space for sports, together with cabin accommodation for teachers and independent cabin passengers. She set off on her first cruise from Greenock on the 12th April 1961 and completed a further 14 cruises that year.
Although initial school bookings were poor, B.I. demonstrated their faith in the venture by introducing a second ship the following year. The MS Devonia, formerly the MS Devonshire of the Bibby Line, was a near sister of the MS Dunera. As the educational cruising scheme developed momentum, and pupils had time to save and/or earn money towards their fares, loadings improved and B.I. introduced their third and largest ship, the 20,527 ton SS Nevasa in 1965. Educational cruising reached its peak with around 60 cruises each year.
However, the MS Dunera and MS Devonia were both approaching 30 years of age and becoming expensive to maintain. Hence the decision to replace them with the SS Uganda that was becoming redundant on the company's East African service. In contrast with the three previous educational cruise ships, which were all former troopships with mess areas that needed relatively little modification to form dormitory accommodation, the SS Uganda required a major conversion. Work was carried out by Howaldtswerke AG at Hamburg. Most of her former cargo holds were converted to the student areas and the upper decks were extended to provide additional cabin accommodation. Moreover the quadrupling from around 300 passengers to a total of 1,200 students and cabin passengers necessitated a substantial increase in the galley, laundry, fresh water and electrical generation capacities. Her tonnage had increased from 14,430 to 16,607 tons.
Students spend days at sea under the control of their teachers, known as party leaders. Activities included lessons during term time, port lectures, deck sports and writing up logs/diaries. Evening entertainment included a disco and a cinema. The party leaders were coordinated by the ship's headmaster and deputies, and the ship also had a staff of matrons and masters at arms to help with ailments and patrol the dormitories. In addition the ship had a well equipped hospital to handle more serious medical problems.
Days ashore were normally either spent on organised coach tours or on independent sight seeing when students would roam cities in groups of five. Summer cruises were mainly to Scandinavia, the Atlantic Islands and the Western Mediterranean while winter cruises were mainly in the Eastern Mediterranean. Initially travel to the Eastern Mediterranean was by train to ports such as Genoa, but this soon changed to charter flights to Venice, Naples, Athens and Malta.
B.I. was absorbed into P&O in 1971. Most former B.I. ships were repainted in the P&O livery but the SS Uganda and the SS Nevasa were among the few that were allowed to retain B.I. colours, albeit with a P&O houseflag.
The oil crisis of 1973 increased the cost of marine fuel fourfold. This resulted in the early disposal of many traditional passenger liners, especially those with steam propulsion which was by now far less efficient than the marine diesel, and unfortunately one of these victims was the SS Nevasa. This much loved ship went off to Taiwan for demolition shortly after the end of her 1974 season, after just 18 years in service, leaving the SS Uganda as the only surviving UK educational cruise ship.