All text and photographs (unless stated otherwise) © Paul Timmerman
One of three contemporary
well known British cruise ships, Andes, Caronia and Reina del Mar, Andes can be regarded as one of the finest passenger ships
of her time. Andes could compete with Cunards famous Caronia of
1949 in terms of luxury and service.
One of three contemporary well known British cruise ships, Andes, Caronia and Reina del Mar, Andes can be regarded as one of the finest passenger ships of her time. Andes could compete with Cunards famous Caronia of 1949 in terms of luxury and service.
Originally, she had been built to the highest standards, as Royal Mail intended her to be the finest ship ever on the Latin American run.
While Andes and Caronia catered for the ultra de luxe market, the third notable British cruise ship at the time was the Reina del Mar, which served in the middle class market as a tourist-style vessel.
Andes was ordered from the famous Harland & Wolff shipyard at Belfast. Royal Mail Lines were worried because their French competitors Cie. Sud Atlantique who were planning a new liner of their own, measuring about 30.000 GRT, to be named Pasteur. In the first place she would be a fast liner.
Cocktail Bar, B-deck
Andes, at 25.600 GRT, would be somewhat smaller than the Pasteur, but she would have very luxurious interiors. Royal Mail planned her to serve the de luxe market.
Of course, Royal Mail had a reputation to think of, as they had made name in the twenties with the Asturias and the Alcantara, both beautifully appointed vessels.
Because of the outbreak of WWII, Andes did not sail on her planned maiden voyage in 1939. Still in Belfast being fitted out, Andes was quickly converted to a troop transport. Her wartime voyages took her mostly to the Orient, the Pacific and South Africa.
At last, in 1947, she was handed over by the British government to Royal Mail and was restored to her originally intended de luxe standard.
Andes as a liner, still with a black hull
She emerged with a very elaborate first class capacity of over 300 passengers and 200 in second class, which was almost as luxurious as her first class interiors. She did not have a third class. Other ships in this period did have third class accommodations, which were filled with emigrants on the outbound voyage, and with tourists on the return trip. Third class was very profitable those days.
At last, in January 1948, Andes left Southampton on her first commercial sailing to South America (Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo and finally Buenos Aires). It took Andes sixteen days to reach Buenos Aires from Southampton.
Between her liner voyages, Andes was used in cruise service, mostly in European waters.
At first, she sailed on the South American run, together with running mate Alcantara, her schedule only being interrupted for occasional cruising.
At the end of the 50s, Andes was converted to a full-time cruise ship, as her liner services were taken over by a new trio of ships the Amazon, Aragon and Arlanza which were ordered in the mid fifties.
Andes, starting with her first cruises, had already developed a loyal following. She was refitted at De Schelde shipyards at Flushing in Holland. Her first sailing as a dedicated cruise ship was in June 1960. She carried less than 500 passengers, which was a very limited number of passengers indeed, regarding her size.
She was immediately compared to Cunards Caronia, one of the the first full time cruise ships serving the de luxe market.
Andes was regarded by many as a floating club house, catering for the very rich, who returned year after year. 60% of her passengers were repeaters which developed into the foundation of the Andes Cruise Club. 500 passengers were being looked after by an equal number of crew members. It was this high level of service Royal Mail aimed at.
Alas, at the end of the sixties, Andes started to fall on hard times. Although refitted as recently as 1967, she became more and more expensive to run as fewer passengers sailed in her and operational costs (fuel, wages) soared.
Royal Mail tried to attract a younger clientele by dropping some of the luxury aspects of her cruises, for example by introducing flashy entertainment, but it did not help.
Ultimately, it was decided that Royal Mail saw no future in passenger shipping altogether. Cargo ships were seen as a far better investment.
In the mean time, Andes started to suffer small mechanical breakdowns, like problems with her engines and airconditioning. Although her last refit of 1967 should have kept her in service until well into the seventies, Andes was retired in 1971.
She was sold for scrap, and was subsequently dismantled at Ghent in Belgium.