The itinerary of the Calédonien and Tahitien varied slightly over the years but saw the ships as regular visitors to the ports of Algiers, Madeira, Guadeloupe, Martinique, the Panama Canal, Papeete and Taiohae (French Polynesia), Port Vila and Lougainville (New Hebrides, now Vanuatu), Noumea (New Caledonia) and Sydney on return sailings of approximately 90 days duration from their home port of Marseilles.

Click here to see two typical itineraries, from voyages undertaken from Sydney to Marseilles in July-August 1965 and April-May 1970.

Below are the ports of call of Calédonien and Tahitien, as they are added they will be listed in sailing order from Sydney to Marseilles.

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Calédonien departing from Sydney on 3 April 1970. The famous 'coathanger' bridge is obvious in the background, along with the Opera House, still under construction. Photograph by Richard Francis.

Sydney, capital of New South Wales and the largest Australian city, was the end of the voyage, where the ships restocked and refuelled. Voyages on these ships offered Australians travelling to Europe an affordable (and much more interesting and enjoyable) alternative to the white passenger liners operated by P & O, Orient (well, they were originally orange in colour), Chandris and Sitmar, before air travel made these sea voyages less popular.

Lugainville, Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides (Vanuatu)

Calédonien at dusk, anchored at Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. Photograph by Richard Francis

Luganville is the second-largest town in Vanuatu, with a population of something over 10,000 people. At the time of my visit, the New Hebrides was a condominium jointly controlled by the British and French, with independence arriving with the formation of the republic of Vanuatu in 1980.

Copra, dried and crushed coconut used for the production of coconut oil, is a major industry in the Pacific islands, and this was loaded by hand into the Calédonien's hold during the several days in port at Luganville, resulting in a distinctive, poweful odour pervading the ship for the remainder of the voyage.

Loading copra at Luganville. Photograph by Richard Francis

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Papeete, capital of French Polynesia, from a travel guide published in 1957. Collection of Lawrence Miller

Tahitien leaving Papeete

Tahitien departing Papeete in 1962. Photograph by Luis Marden, as published in National Geographic Magazine, from the collection of Luc Pieterbourg.

Papeete seen from on board Calédonien, sometime in the 1950s. From the collection of Luc Pieterbourg.

Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

Calédonien anchored at Taiohae, port of Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands, 25 April 1970.Photograph by Richard Francis.

Tahitien anchored at Taiohae, port of Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands in 1965. Photograph by François Knopf.

A scene in Taiohae, port of Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands in 1965. Photograph by François Knopf.

Government building at Taiohae, port of Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands in 1965. Photograph by François Knopf.

The Panama Canal

A highlight of each voyage was the transit through the Panama Canal. More photos from this sequence can be found here. Photo by Jean-Michel Lanuque.

The route through the canal is shown in detail on the following map.

Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Both the sisters followed varying itineraries, which sometimes included the French island of Guadeloupe, along with Martinique, an oasis of French colonial culture in the Caribbean. Pointe-à-Pitre is the largest city of Guadeloupe, an overseas région and département of France located in the Lesser Antilles, of which it is a sous-préfecture, being the seat of the Arrondissement of Pointe-à-Pitre.

Calédonien at Pointe-à-Pitre. From the collection of Luc Pieterbourg.