More than 250 former TSS Fairstar passengers sailed on P&O Cruises’ Pacific Pearl last weekend for a maritime reunion that recalled the halcyon days of cruising on one of Australia’s most famous ships.
Surrounded by Fairstar memorabilia, the group rekindled friendships and shared memories of their beloved ship as they marked the 20th anniversary of Fairstar’s final cruise from Sydney on January 21, 1997, during a cocktail party and a reunion dinner.
Pacific Pearl Entertainment Director Zoltina-J Medwick-Daley was among the reunion group and remembered more than 20 family holidays which morphed into a career at sea.
“Ships have a personality and Fairstar will always have a special place in my heart,” Zoltina said.
Australian entertainers honed their show business craft on the high seas with appearances on Fairstar including comedian Demo Simis who started off as a DJ and then became the water sports manager.
“It’s great to meet Fairstar passengers and crew again. The reunion brings back so many great memories,” Demo said.
The reunion was largely the work of Sydney paramedic Mike Ristuccia who first travelled on Fairstar as a 15-year-old on a family holiday. He fell in love with the vessel and later returned to work onboard as a photographer. These days, Mike is the host of a Facebook page dedicated to all things TSS Fairstar, which has more than 1000 followers.
In welcoming the Fairstar followers on Pacific Pearl, Carnival Australia Corporate Communications Manager David Jones described them as the pathfinders for the modern era of cruising.
“When Fairstar was carrying her hundreds of thousands of passengers over many years of cruising we never could have imagined that one day more than a million Australians a year would be enjoying cruise holidays,” Mr Jones said.
Fairstar began life as the British troop carrier Oxfordshire ferrying soldiers to the far flung corners of the Empire. History and aviation overwhelmed troop transport by sea and saw Oxfordshire transformed to Fairstar to carry thousands of assisted passage migrants from the UK to Australia, cementing her place in the lives of so many Australians.
“There were long and happy marriages that began with a cruise romance on Fairstar and there were many thousands of migrant families who arrived on Fairstar to make successful new lives in Australia.
It’s little wonder that this modestly appointed ship, by today’s superliner standards, has a special place in the hearts of so many Australians,” Mr Jones added.
When the ship ceased participating in the assisted passage program, Fairstar cruised full time from Australia through to her final days before eventually being sailed to India to be broken up.