Messageries Maritimes publicity page in the 1957 publication Tahiti et les iles.

I discovered this color advertisement for the Messageries Maritimes ships, Calédonien and Tahitien, in a small book that was published in 1957 by Madame Burtschy-Franchi Editions Marbur Papeete Tahiti (limited edition 250 examplaires sur venin de lux). This book is a fascinating and invaluable resource, being an elaborate bilingual Tourist Guide for Tahiti and surrounding islands. It is in French and English and provides a veritable window to Tahiti in the 50's.


This brochure was published in early 1957. These color photos of the first class dining room and bar would have to be from 1956 or possibly earlier, and quite rare. I have not see any others on the internet so far. "The French shipping company, Cie. Des Messageries Maritimes, ordered two (twin) ships, the Calédonien and the Tahitien. Calédonien was built by A & C de France at Dunkirk and delivered in September 1952, whereas the Tahitien was built by Arsenal de Brest (yard no: ME2) and was delivered in February 1953. Both ships originally operated on the Marseilles to Sydney service via the Panama Canal.

First Class Bar

click to enlarge

The Dining Room of the Calédonien (Premiere Classe)
(Click on this image to see an enlargement)

These photos will bring back some fond memories for the lucky few who traveled First Class. While looking for similar photos of the interiors of these ships I discovered a strange difference in the Dining Rooms of Premiere Classe. Richard Francis has launched a new site where he has posted photos that are from his original Messageries Maritimes brochure. These same photos are found on another site L'ENCYCLOPEDIE DES MESSAGERIES MARITIMES where they are found on a page about the Tahitien. You will notice that some of the details such as the ceiling lights and windows are the same however these two rooms are quite different as well as the murals

Dining Room

The Dining Room of the Tahitien (Premiere Classe)

Click on this link to see more pictures including the interior and deck plans.

also see the site of Richard Francis for more information

entry regulations and fares

Useful information 1957

I have reproduced above, two pages from the 1957 guide (inverted to white on black), here we see that the price of a voyage from Marseille to Papeete, Premiere Classe on the Calédonien or Tahitien cost around $700 USD. The same trip by plane (Transports Aeriens Intercontinentaux) Paris to Papeete in 1957, was over $1000 USD. Now over 50 years later the cost by plane is about double where a Cruise First Class would be easily 10 times more, not to mention that today there isn't a passenger ship sailing that route.

click to enlarge

Here is another color photo from the guide, Papeete waterfront 1950's,
today the hills behind are covered with houses, and the price of land astronomical.
(Click on this image to see an enlargement)

See the next page, Panama.

Click on this LINK to see an INDEX.

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