"H.M.S. Australis - The early days" Personal Page by Odinnthor
My very first Cruise Ship,,,,look at her now!!
The First ship I ever travelled on with Chandris Cruises out of Pireus, Greece, was the H.M.S. Australis. Actually I joined the Australis somewhat later (see below). Sailing out of Southampton, England, we did a season of Mediterranian cruises, resulting in several adventures. She was a great ship, but this is where she ended up, in bad weather she ran aground on the west coast of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, while being towed to Thailand. A sad end for a great lady.
I have said that the Australis was my first cruise ship. It was, - but not as a member of the staff. Fresh out of school, I had been working at the Icelandic Weather Bureau at the American Naval Base in Keflavik, Iceland, and had saved up some money and decided to take a Mediterranian cruise with Chandris Lines on their ship, the Australis. This was my very first trip outside Iceland. I was hooked!! What a great experience! The women far outnumbered the men! I had died and gone to heaven, - and not the one with the 73 virgins!! When I got back, I thought only of getting back on ship as soon as possible. I had intended to become a commercial pilot, - had a pilot licence when I was 18, - but it all changed with this cruise.
I had a great interest in stand-up comedy but felt that it was really hard to be funny in Icelandic. Studied American comedians on the "Armed Forces Radio & Televison serivice, piped out of the Naval Base and I got to see the American variety shows, and I imitated the comics I saw, in my then fractured English. I spied and obtained two comedy albums, of which only one copy per, came to Iceland. One by Bill Cosby and one by Shelley Berman. I learned them word for word, phrase by phrase, pause by pause. I had however never once been on stage.
I wrote a letter to the Chandris Lines office in London, stating that I had been on one of their cruises, and there was a void in their show presentations, - they really needed an experienced comedian. I had been on Icelanic television (not!), and done regular club performances (not!), and that I would be in a hotel on Piccadilly Circus in London, on a certain date, and if they were smart, they would contact me there. This, my friends is known as "courage of ignorance". I kissed my mama goodby, and spent my last dime on a one way flight to London, and nine days hotel stay, completely oblivious of my incredible stupidity.
Sitting in my hotel room on Piccadilly Circus, there was a knock on the door, and, - wait for it..........a representative from Chandris walked in with a contract for a nine month season on the Queen Frederica heading for the South Pacific in a week, and they wanted me to join the Staff. The salary was a measly 10 pounds a week, - I heard myself say that I would do it for 20 pounds, nearly biting my own tounge off......! He said OK, and that is how the whole adventure began. You simply cannot make this s*** up!
How did I manage to pull this off? That is also a story of incredible luck. The voyage to Australia took a month. Ship was full of German immigrants. They spoke no English. The staff rehearsed all the shows that we would perform on the following South Pacific crusies. During the reharsals and shows, which were ensamble shows, I got to be on the stage as part of the background, and when it came to my spot, - they said, - this will be your spot, - when we get to Australia. I was a fast learner, - dances, songs, routines, all except my SPOT. By the time we got there I was writing stuff, and I shamelessly stole and used Bill Cosby's routines and some of Shelley Berman's as well. One of Bill's routines talked about monkeybars. What the hell were monkeybars??!! Could not figure it out, but I used it anyway and it got laughs. What the hell, - it seemed to work, - don't mess with it!
Colorful crowd we had. Another one of Ken Ironside's group photos. Not bad eh?
Part of the Hellenic show in the Mayfair Ballroom. Can you believe a kid from Iceland teaching the Zorba dance? I sure did later, on the Queen Frederica! We would get the people involved, drink Ouzo, and break dinner plates over the head, and on the floor!! Ooobahh!!
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