Outbound to Malta

Getting to Southampton

Most passengers have arrived at Southampton by train with maybe a few of the better-off being dropped off by car or taxi. It is unlikely that anyone will have driven themselves to Southampton as the final destination of the cruise is Tilbury.

Judging by the contemporary photo below taken at the Cunard White Star Line, it must have been very hectic. Passengers shown here were probably crossing the Atlantic hence the large trunks; I imagine cruise passengers would have a lot less baggage.

Southampton Station 1930s
White Star passengers at Southampton waiting to embark and/or waiting for a train to London [10]

Southampton Docks were extremely busy during the period between WW1 and WW2 and the following facts are reported in the 1938 Handbook to Southampton Docks:

  • 560,000 passengers passed through including 70,000 cruise passengers
  • 500,000 people visited
  • 2,500 passenger trains arrived and departed
  • 18.5 million tons of shipping passed through
  • 32 shipping lines used the port serving 160 world ports

Within a few years, Southampton would suffer terribly in the Blitz with the Luftwaffe making 57 attacks on the city and dropping an estimated 2,300 high-explosive bombs and over 30,000 incendiary devices - mostly towards the end of 1940. Many houses, factories and much of the city centre were damaged or destroyed. The image below, a part of a map produced by the Ordnance Survey, has a red dot for the bombs dropped. The Supermarine factory making Spitfire planes at nearby Woolston was one of many destroyed. The port area was hit badly in an attempt to disrupt trade.

Southampton Blitz
Size comparison - Moldavia, Pride of Rotterdam and Symphony of the Seas. [21]

First Impressions

We can only guess what impression Moldavia made on the passengers as they boarded to start the cruise. For many it would be the first time they had been on board a ship so it would have been strange whatever she had looked like.

The photo below shows Moldavia at a wharf in Australia as she would have looked at the time of the 1936 cruise. You can see many more photos of the ship and her history on the Benjidog Ship Histories website HERE.

Moldavia from the Allen C. Green Collection image H91.325/1414 [9]

By 1936 Moldavia was reaching the end of her life and she could not be considered luxurious - but she would certainly have been clean and well-maintained. However if someone from 2019 were to go aboard the vessel they would think they were visiting a museum.

Comparison with Modern Vessels

The table below compares Moldavia, with Pride of Rotterdam - a typical modern ferry, and Symphony of the Seas the largest modern cruise ship at the time of writing (2019).

Ship Length Breadth Passengers Number of Decks
Moldavia 168.4 Metres 21.9 Metres 830 4
Pride of Rotterdam 215.4 Metres 31.9 Metres 1,260 + 250 vehicles 12 (including vehicle decks)
Symphony of the Seas 361 Metres 65.7 Metres 6,680 18

The diagram below shows the length and breadth of the above vessels to scale.

Size comparison - Moldavia, Pride of Rotterdam and Symphony of the Seas. [8]

Departure from Southampton

The photo below gives a general impression of part of the Southampton dock area as it was in 1933.

Southampton Docks
View of Southampton Docks in 1933 - Britain from Above image EPW041071 [20]

Southampton 'New Docks' were built on reclaimed land and opened in 1934. The new docks included a quay over a mile long and I believe that P&O used berths 105 and 106. The photo below shows the New Docks in 1946; berths 105 and 106 would have been around where the 2nd and 3rd ships from the top left are berthed. This location is now known as Mayflower Cruise Terminal and P&O, Cunard, Princess and other cruise companies are using it in 2019.

Southampton Docks
View of Southampton New Docks in 1946 - Britain from Above image EAW0011338 [20]

We're Off!

The first and longest leg of the cruise starts at Southampton at 16:00 on Saturday 1st August 1936 and will take us along the English Channel, past the Channel Islands, around Finesterre at the Western tip of Brittany, across the Bay of Biscay, around Spain and Portugal, through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean Sea to Malta.

The distance is approximately 2,125 nautical miles. Moldavia's 7 oil-fuelled boilers, 6 steam turbines and twin screws give her a cruising speed of 16 knots.


Reports from the time show that the weather was not very good when the cruise started with a low pressure system over northern Scotland and a high pressure system in the mid-Atlantic.

The sea in the English Channel was reported as 'rather rough' and we may surmise that crossing the Bay of Biscay will result in many cases of mal-de-mer with passengers, possibly including those that compiled the album, resorting to the purchase of Seajoy Plasters - there is an advert for them on the 'Life on Board' page HERE. The temperature in the South of England was in the low 60°s F, but passengers could look forward to temperatures between 70° - 80° F in the Mediterranean.

Weather Weather
Weather forecast from The Times 4 August 1936. [19]

The chart has a "hand-drawn" look compared with the computer-generated charts we are accustomed to nowadays. But it does include barometric pressure and temperature - in Degrees Fahrenheit of course.

Activities Southampton to Malta

Organising Events

We have 6 days at sea before we reach Malta our first port of call. Many passengers have not have been on a cruise before so are spending the days getting used to the routine of the ship, exploring the facilities, eating and drinking, relaxing, and making friends.

On the second day out planning starts for on-board activities with the help of a committee of passengers. Read more about this on the 'Life on Board' page HERE. Details of a 'Moldavia Jockey Club' event held on 4 August 1936 can be found on the same link.

Time to Plan Excursions

On the way to Malta, passengers would be considering the excursions to take at the various ports of call. You can see the booklet issued to passengers giving an overview of the cruise and the excursions available HERE.

Totting up the cost of all of the tours in the leaflet, it would have set them back £7-3s-0d per head in the pre-decimal currency of the time. A popular 'Historical UK inflation rates calculator' says that this is equivalent to about £480 per head at 2019 values.

The excursions booklet also warns passengers that they need to 'make early application for excursions' as they are booked in advance by wireless and that numbers are limited on some of them.

Events Programme

According to the Events for the Week programme which you can see on the 'Aboard' page HERE, you could engage in dancing each evening at the aft of 'B' Deck, or play Lotto (we now call it Bingo) in the After Dining Room at 9.15 PM.

During the day there would be various games and activities organised by the Passengers Committee but unfortunately we don't have a programme for these.