The Sitmar Line ships (acronym for "Societa Italiana Trasporti Marittimi") were recognizable at a glance by the oversized "V" on their funnels, which stood for the founding Vlasov family. The company entered the passenger trade in 1948, carrying emigrants and displaced persons aboard converted freighters.
Strong demand led to purchase of an American cargo passenger liner which had served as an auxiliary aircraft carrier in World War II. Rebuilt as the ocean liner Fairsea, she entered service in 1949. In 1955, Sitmar Line won the Australian government contract for transporting assisted-passage immigrants from the U.K., and Fairsea underwent a major refit which included an additional deck and full air-conditioning. Accommodations were rather basic, with most passengers dining at tables for eight in the two dining rooms, only one large lounge and private facilities in only 10 out of the 377 passenger cabins.
Castel Felice was Sitmar Line's first true passenger ship, entering service in 1952 and serving as flagship for 18 years. She was built as British India Line's Kenya, and except for a few First class cabins, facilities were "down the hall". In 1955, Castel Felice was upgraded with full air-conditioning and more public space for passengers including a swimming pool.
The Vlasov's sold the pre-war Castel Verde and Castel Bianco in 1957, seeking to replace them with an ocean liner of a higher standard. They obtained another converted aircraft carrier, and significantly rebuilt her as their Fairsky. She was given full air-conditioning, three new decks, three spacious dining rooms on Promenade Deck, and a full deck of lounge space plus a swimming pool on Boat Deck. Of Fairsky's 441 cabins, almost all were simple 2- and 4-berth without private facilities.
Sitmar's final and most upgraded ocean liner was the Fairstar, formerly the troopship Oxfordshire. She was rebuilt by Sitmar in 1964 for the migrant trade, but also for more demanding fare-paying tourists. Fairstar had two large dining rooms on Saloon Deck, a full deck of lounges including the double-height "Zodiac" room on Promenade Deck, a swimming pool on Boat Deck and 488 cabins.
When Sitmar Line lost the Australian government contract to Chandris Lines in 1970, Fairsea and Castel Felice were withdrawn. Fairsky remained on the Europe to Australia route until 1974, when she was redeployed as a full-time cruise ship, but then partially sank and was scrapped. Fairstar was taken off the line voyage service in 1973 to begin another successful career as Australia's favorite cruise ship until Sitmar Line was sold to the P&O group in 1988, remaining in that service until 1997.
"Free as the breeze... Life on board Sitmar is vibrant, infectious. A Sitmar ship is a free ship... free of land-based worries, pressure and responsibilities. You're free to play, stroll around, sit and relax. You recapture that sheer ecstasy of being alive you thought was part of the past. Sitmar ships are one class with no artificial barriers to friendship."
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Built: 1941 by Sun SB & DD Co, Chester PA, USA
Built: 1930 by A Stephen & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland
Built: 1941 by Western Pipe & Steel Co, San Francisco CA, USA
Built: 1957 by Fairfield SB & Engineering Co, Glasgow, Scotland