Ocean Cruise 1934

Janie & Lizzie Swanepoel

I told Dad I’d taken the kids on a boat trip to Maputo and he remembered his two older Swanepoel sisters Janie and Lizzie going on a trip from Maritzburg to Durban by train then to the same city in Moçambique by ship back in 1934. The city was called Lourenco Marques back then and the ship was called the Julio or Giulio or Duilio or the Giulio Cesar, he said.

Oupa would have organised the train trip at a special rate or free, being a railway man! This is where he worked:


Dad remembers the whole trip costing them seven pounds each, all in. Here’s a ticket from the Giulio Cesare in 1923, the year it was launched:


I went looking and found – as so often – that Dad’s memory was good. Maybe the Grundlinghs and Solomons know more about this trip? What an adventure it must have been for the girls! Dad said he was worried sick his big sisters wouldn’t return! ‘Cried my eyes out!’ he said. He was eleven years old.

Here’s the ship’s service history:

The SS Giulio Cesare was used on Genoa and Naples to South America voyages but also served North American ports. Until 1925 the SS Giulio Cesare and the SS Duilio were the two largest ships in the Italian merchant fleet.

In November 1933, the Giulio Cesare was reconditioned and made ready to serve on the Mediterranean – South Africa Service.


A feature of this ship was the Club situated on the boat-deck, with a bar. The ship also featured a saloon dining room, galleries and a ballroom. Second class was situated amidships. Talkie apparatus were also fitted to the ship and a long-distance wireless telephone was also available.

Tourist class accommodation was situated astern and also had several public rooms. The tourist passengers shared an open air swimming pool with the second class passengers.



SS Giulio Cesare


Julius Caesar


Italia Line (Navigazione Generale Italiana)

Port of registry:



Italy-South America & Cruising


Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Ltd, Newcastle-on-Tyne, United Kingdom.


7 February 1920


March 1922

Maiden voyage:




General characteristics


Ocean liner


22,576 grt


636 feet


76.15 feet


66.3 feet



Installed power:

  • four sets of geared steam turbines manufactured by Wallsend Slipway

  • six boilers D.E. & four boilers S.E. creating 220lb of steam pressure by Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company Ltd. Newcastle-on-Tyne

  • 21,800 shaft horse power


Quadruple screw


20 knots


Total passengers: First Class: 244 Second Class: 306 Tourist Class:1800


Paintwork: White hull and upper works ; Boot-topping green

    • Funnels white with red and black tops and narrow green band

Her fate:

During WW2, SS Giulio Cesare was chartered to the International Red Cross for a time before being laid-up in the port of Trieste. She was sunk there by Allied aircraft on 10 July 1944, along with the SS Duilio.


Ocean Cruisin’

Should’n have asked, should’n have asked, should have gone to a game reserve . . . Jess decided she wanted an ocean cruise for her eighteenth birthday. Tom was cool with that for his fourteenth birthday, so off we went.

I checked with veteran cruiser Craig and booked the four night cruise to Portuguese Island in Maputo Bay in Mocambique on the MSC Sinfonia.

Lots of queueing

What a bay!

Maputo Portuguese Island
– ferried ashore –
There's Milibangalala!!
There’s Milibangalala on the horizon! On the way back we had sunny weather.

The cruise north was rainy, so the kids had indoor fun. Jess took to quaffing cocktails at the various bars. Hey! She’s eighteen now! And the nice barmen didn’t need money, they just swiped her room key card.

MSC Sinfonia pub

Tom focused on the meals, making sure we got to where we needed to be and using the pizza and burger cafes in between meal times.

The highlight was going ashore on Portuguese Island in rubber ducks, having a swim and lunch onshore.

Portuguese Island

On the beach a huge group of people formed a square and danced to some catchy tune. We swam and walked. I could see Jess actually wanted to join the dancers. But she didn’t. She just watched and watched and swayed in time to the music. Little did I know that tune was going to come back to haunt me!

– hamba nawe –

Back on the boat an obviously Durban family walked past us chatting to their friends about going for a jacuzzi; I had seen the jacuzzi and thought “Good luck”; Minutes later they were back to where we were sitting and told their friends “Hey you can’t even go in there, it’s CHOCKED!” Elbow-to-elbow people. Bum-cheek to bum-cheek. Every facility was crowded, every deckchair taken.

The kids loved the experience, so all good.