See the Lucania Story Part I
The Prince Robert was built by Cammell Laird Shipyard (Birkenhead, U.K.)  in 1930 as a coastal liner for the Canadian National Steamships, a subsidiary of the C. N. Railway. It was commissioned on July 31, 1940 and underwent many modifications as an anti-aircraft Armed Merchant Cruiser during WWII. H.M.C.S. Prince Robert was decommissioned December 10, 1945. After the war it was again substantially modified as the Charlton Sovereign (1948). The ship was bought by the Grimaldi Line in 1952 and renamed Lucania. She was the first Grimaldi ship to receive considerable rebuilding before entering their migrant service to central America. The ship ended its service with Grimaldi in 1962 and was later scrapped.

Canadian National postcard of Prince Robert

HMCS Prince Robert in the early days of WWII

HMCS Prince Robert
HMCS after many wartime modifications

The Lucania

Grimaldi-SIOSA (Sicula Oceanica Societa per Azioni of Palermo) Line

The Grimaldi brothers were nephews of Achille Lauro, the famous Naples shipowner. They built up a fleet of cargo ships before WWII. They decided there was a post-war market for cheap emigrant and refugee ships, and acquired a number of elderly vessels which received little upgrading.  Initial services were from Italy to Central America, but North Atlantic services were operated later.
The Grimaldi Fleet
Ascania - 1955-68 
Auriga - 1949-57 
Ausonia - 1983-96 
Caribia - 1965-82 
Centauro - 1951-55 
Irpinia - 1955-81 
La Superba - 2002- 
Lucania - 1951-62 
Repubblica di Venezia 
Urania II - 1950-54 
Venezuela - 1956-62 
Leone .
Lucania, a place in Southern Italy
Mount Lucania, a pyramidal summit deep in the glaciated wilderness of Canada's Yukon Territory.
The original Lucania was a Cunard Lines ship that made many Atlantic crossings. It was a smaller predecessor of the Titanic.

Memories of the Last Days of the 
Prince Robert (SS Lucania)
by John Giraudy

As a boy, I travelled from St.Lucia in the Caribbean to Genoa on the SS Lucania, then onward to London, my final destination.  My recollection of the voyage on the SS Lucania is a pleasant one. We boarded the blue and white funneled ship at about 3 am on the morning of July 30, 1959. I was sixteen years old and one of about twenty St.Lucian emigrants bound for the UK, via Genoa. The Lucania was expected at around midnight but did not arrive at St. Lucia until the early hours of Thursday morning and dropped anchor at the entrance to Castries harbour. We had to embark from a small, inter-island motor vessel called the "Lady Joy". As we approached the Lucania it was well-lit and appeared to me to be huge. Boarding onto the platform at the base of the gangway from a heaving vessel was a bit tricky because of a lumpy sea. Once on the Lucania I remember thinking how reassuringly stable it was compared to the bouncy experience on the smaller vessel. It did much to make me feel more confident about the journey ahead. I think we finally weighed anchor at about 0600.

I guess I was too excited to sleep because not long afterwards I remember us sailing south along the length of the island of St. Lucia, past the Pitons as the island of St. Vincent grew larger ahead of us and to port. We passed close enough to have a good view of Kingstown - the capital, (at about 0800) as we steamed our way to Venezuela. I forget exactly what time that afternoon we arrived and at which port - although I vaguely remember it being Maracaibo. The ship spent the rest of that day in the Venezuelan port and began its 7-day Atlantic crossing the following morning. A few hours after departing Venezuela we could see the distant but faint outlines of Barbados. Soon, there would be nothing in sight but sea and sky till we dropped anchor (at about 0700) at the Canary Islands. Shortly after our arrival I stood at the bow of the Lucania and I can still remember thinking how colourful and beautiful the island capital was. It was also amusing to see small boys in wooden boats diving for shiny coins thrown overboard by the Lucania's crew. Not one coin was lost! For the fun of it I wished I could have joined them.

That evening we weighed anchor once again, this time headed for the Mediterranean and on to Barcelona. It was quite spectacular sailing past the rock of Gibraltar to port but we were pleasantly distracted by playful dolphins or porpoises that raced the Lucania, trying to keep ahead of its bow as it cut through the water.

At Barcelona, we were allowed to go ashore for the first time in about ten days. Since that visit I have always remembered that city to be spectacularly beautiful. Soon and sadly, we were on our way to journey's end - Genoa. From there it was a boring steam train ride to the French port at Dieppe, then onward by channel ferry to New haven in England.

I can vividly remember how serious the all-Italian crew was about safety while taking us through the mandatory drill for evacuating the ship. At all times the crew wore blue-and-white cotton shirts and white pants. They were also a friendly bunch. However, not many spoke English. My cabin was down at sea-level and shared with seven other St. Lucians. A daily point of interest for everyone was the the bulletin board that posted our progress and also gave the weather forecast for the day. During the voyage we did encounter some rough weather in mid-Atlantic but it was more fun than fear. I was particularly amused by the weighted stainless steel ashtrays on deck that remained vertical as the ship rolled its way along. Back then it seemed odd and funny to young eyes.

I have fond memories of the Lucania and was sad to read of its retirement only three years after my sea voyage. Nonetheless I am happy to see that it provided both proud and productive service through its years of commission. I am trying to obtain some more information about the Lucania's manifests and shipping dates for 1959. I thank Bill Hillman sincerely for his Prince Robert website and for the research on the Prince Robert/Lucania that he has so carefully preserved.

John Giraudy

Official Grimaldi postcard of Lucania.

Web Refs

See the Lucania Story Part I
To the As You Were . . . Webzine Contents
Port - Directory

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