Sometimes there’s a ship that seems perfectly ordinary, yet due to a convergence of fate ends up playing a major role in ocean liner history. Such a ship was Empress of Canada.
Empress of Canada wasn’t renowned for her external beauty, interior fittings or service. She was actually a pretty bland ship, like many smaller late 50s/early 60s liners.
Yet Empress of Canada will forever have a place in history due to the fact that she marked the end of one major shipping line and the birth of another. By accomplishing this feat, she also helped conclude one era and begin another.
Launched in 1961, just as airlines were beginning to bite deeply into transatlantic passenger traffic, Empress of Canada was sent into service between England and Canada. Soon, however, she was spending more time cruising the Caribbean than crossing the North Atlantic.
In 1972, the last liner ever built for Canadian Pacific was sold to a new cruise-oriented shipping line called Carnival. Renamed Mardi Gras, the little “fun ship” became the foundation of an empire that would eventually absorb other historic shipping companies, including Cunard Line and Holland American Line.
By 1993, Carnival was moving onto larger and more modern ships and Mardi Gras was sold to Epirotiki Line and renamed Olympic. Over the next several years, she was sold and resold several times, sailing under the names Star of Texas, Lucky Star and Apollon. She was finally sold for scrap in 2003.
Her legacy, however, lives on.
Think of it this way: if there had never been an Empress of Canada, there might not be a Queen Mary 2.
There’s also an interesting footnote to the story. Empress of Canada’s funnel was repainted in accordance with Canadian Pacific’s new livery sometime prior to her sale to Carnival (replacing CP’s old buff-colored funnel theme). Carnival wouldn’t (or more likely couldn’t) spend the money to repaint the funnel, so the new line simply adopted the red, white and blue livery as its own. The theme lives on to this day.