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The sinking of the SUN VISTA

Posted on Saturday, February 20, 2010 by

Sun Cruises, Singapore, a personal memory by Fred Burnett

Built at Cantieri Riuniti dell’Adriatico, Monfalcone, Italy as GALILEO GALILEI for
Lloyd Triestino SpA di Navigazione, Genoa 1961


MaritimeMatters: On the afternoon of May 20, 1999 the SUN VISTA was returning to Singapore after a cruise to Phuket, Thailand when a malfunction in the engine room switchboard ignited a small fire. The fire could not be contained and spread throughout the ship. A distress call was finally sent about 6:30 PM. Meanwhile, the passengers were instructed to go up on deck and prepare to abandon ship. All 472 passengers and 672 crew abandoned the ship. The SUN VISTA slowly sank deeper and deeper by the stern over the next seven hours. Finally at 1:22 AM May 21, 1999 she sank in about 200 feet of water some 60 nautical miles south of Penang Island, 50 nautical miles west of Port Weld, in the Strait of Malacca. A passing freighter eventually rescued the passengers after they spent about five to eight hours in the lifeboats. There were no fatalities with some minor injuries reported.

SUN VISTA, in her Sun Cruises livery of a solid midnight blue base and golden sunburst logo. This stunning shot was taken by Jonathan Boonzaier in June of 1998 as SUN VISTA lay off Malacca, © Jonathan Boonzaier.

Fred  Brunett’s passenger eye view of the events:  Time 2.30pm Singapore standard time 20th May, 1999.

There we were, myself, my partner, my sister and her husband standing on the bridge of the cruise ship SUN VISTA joking with the friendly staff and learning a little about the operations of the ship before we went on down for a engine room tour. What was so funny? Well, we could read messages about piracy warnings in the Malacca Straits and made wisecracks about a fire warning light partly covered up. Life is wonderful; my first cruise, what could possibly go wrong? The next 24 hours became an experience of a lifetime!

Our engine room tour wasn’t happening, our crew person rang the engine room and we were told they couldn’t do the tour with us at the moment. So off we go, maybe we’ll come back, hell it’s our last day of the five day cruise and the ship still had food and alcohol to be consumed, we’d spent the first four days trying to lighten the load, why stop now.

SUN VISTA © Jonathan Boonzaier

We went back to find my parents, the six of us were traveling together and just after we found them in our favourite bar all the lights went out and the ship lost power. Bit of a glitch we thought. After a while we were informed there was a minor fire in the engine room, (sort of explained why we didn’t get our engine room tour ) and we were requested to muster on the deck near the pool area. The crew started to set up BBQ’s for a bit of a feed and provided some entertainment. After a while we started to realise this minor problem could last for a while as we noticed a bit of smoke starting to come up through the funnel complex of the ship. By now we had lost all momentum and were drifting with no power. Things were becoming a little uncomfortable, no air conditioning, toilets overflowing but I don’t think many people thought anything was serious as a tanker had just crossed our bow, almost stopped then continued on. We thought things must be under control otherwise we would have requested assistance from them.

We had all been advised not to go below decks due to smoke and gas from the fire but as our cabins were fairly close to where my group of six had now moved to (up at the bow enjoying a wonderful view with a few beers) I decided with my brother in law to go back to my cabin and grab few things. Even then I never thought there was a serious problem but hey I don’t care what happens or where I am, as long as I’ve got my credit card I can survive. So yes below we went and gathered the necessities of survival, my hip flask of scotch my camera and thankfully my sisters jewelry. Now there’s a note of warning to all fellow travelers; read the fine print of your travel insurance policy regarding items kept in cabin or room safes you may find your not covered for loss or theft.

So now time is moving on, instead of a bit of inconvenience and excitement this problem was becoming a bit of a worry, I mean tonight was our last night, we had the big captains dinner. Lots of nice wine on order and here we all were on the decks, hot and humid, beer running short and the **** was about to hit the fan.

An announcement was made to every one to assemble at our designated lifeboat areas, (an area I was not sure of as I didn’t take much notice of the safety drill when we first boarded; funny how I’m very attentive at these briefings now when I travel). So now the confusion, anxiety and organised chaos really starts. Hey no life jackets, guess where they are? You got it, back to the cabin again with my brother in law. I tell you it was starting to get a little uncomfortable below decks now but we finally started to realise something was a tad serious, (besides lack of beer). We then mustered at our life boat position and formed up ready to hop into the lifeboat, this has ruined the Captains dinner hasn’t it! So in we get. At this moment I feel very surreal, yes I love to travel, have had some strange and funny things happen to me on holidays (most of my friends are now a bit weary of traveling with me) but this was weird. Never a fear of panic or anything, just a feeling of, well this just doesn’t happen, you only read about stuff like this.

SUN VISTA © Jonathan Boonzaire

Now the fun begins!!!! Our lifeboat is full (approx 72 persons) and we are the first away. Prior to this cruise I had not seen the recent movie blockbuster Titanic but three things happened that brought a chill to my spine when I eventually did see the movie. As our lifeboat was being lowered one of the two ropes which lower it had not been freed which then caused it to tip at a bit of a frightening angle. Thankfully the person on deck realised this, stopped the lowering until one of our crew found a knife and free’d the rope. Off we go again and stop just short of the water, now we can’t find the bung. Talk about comedy, I mean you have to see the funny side of it (now I do) if it wasn’t so serious you’d cry. You beauty, someone found the bung, only problem was it wouldn’t screw into the hole, don’t know what the problem was but our engineer crewman soon fixed it; thumped it in with his boot. Now lets get out of here we all think, not so fast, we are just not that lucky. Now our lifeboat is in the water, time to start the motor. You guessed it, maybe something to do with the Sun Vista not previously being shipwrecked and the lifeboats getting very little use but the motor wouldn’t start. Now life got a little hairy, as we are in the water the lifeboat started to drift towards the stern of the ship under the next lifeboat being launched. Everyone started to realise that we had drifted under where the second lifeboat was going to come down and started to yell at the crew on deck to stop lowering. I think I came within about three seconds of acute embarrassment as I was about to grab my girl and go over the side as we were right under the section where the boat would have come down. Luckily the crew realised the problem and stopped the other craft, very lucky for me, imagine what my girl would have done to me if I had thrown her in the drink for no good reason. I’ll take the shipwreck any day to that sort of carnage.

SUN VISTA © Jonathan Boonzaier

The final chilling moment then happened, the motor was started and when they released the big block and tackle that was used to lower the boat it swung past and just missed my father by centimeters. So now the time is approx 6.30 pm, all this so far has taken four hours, we are now on our second cruise of the day (you have to find the positive out of it all don’t you) close to sunset and we are watching the SUN VISTA disgorge lifeboats and smoke and I’m busy taking snapshots with my camera and taking the occasional swig from the hip flask. Now I’m no hero, I may seem a little carefree but I think most people realised the situation may have been dramatic but not really life threatening. I mean, I recommend to anyone if you are going to be shipwrecked then do it in the Malacca Straits, it is very calm, there are hundreds of other vessels within a reasonable distance of you, and as we all had life jackets on if you by some misfortune ended up in the water you would probably have more chance of dying of dysentery than shark attack or drowning.

So now lets just sit back and bob around in the ocean, watch the sunset and wait for our rescue. Organised chaos continued as we watched a tug arrive and pour water onto the Sun Vista in a vain attempt to put the fire out. Entertainment was provided by our crew, maybe not intentionally but what we had was an English speaking officer in charge of our lifeboat, Swedish engineer and a Filipino tiller man. As all three were needed to maneouvre and control the lifeboat I thought they did very well considering neither spoke the others language. I think the expletives were reasonably well understood and helped them all.

A couple of large container vessels soon arrived and just stood off and monitored the situation, I don’t know what was meant to happen and why we were not allowed to embark upon them straight away, all sorts of stories and rumours began to emanate like ferries coming from Penang to collect us etc etc but what did happen is that we bobbed around in the ocean until approx midnight when I think the officer in charge of our lifeboat made the decision to get us off and headed for one of the two vessels which had been standing off near us. We had a hairy 45 minutes getting people from the lifeboat onto the container vessel as the lifeboat was bobbing around in the swell a fair bit but everyone got safely off. So now we are on our third vessel in 24 hours, third cruise I guess. The crew of this vessel were most kind and gave us plenty to drink ( no beer unfortunately ) and several rooms to lounge around in. So now the discussion turned to what would happen to all our belongings, when would we get our stuff back and ain’t it just grand to be safe.

At approx 2.30am our ship fired up and began to move, lets go for a walk I suggested to Penny, my partner. We had had a few romantic strolls around the decks of the SUN VISTA over the last few nights so why no do one more. We arrived on deck, leaned on the rail to have a look around at all the ships and boats in the area. I don’t remember seeing that structure I said to Penny, looks like an oil rig or something. That’s strange we both thought, it’s shrinking; then it dawned on us as to what it was. We both stood there and stared at the last seconds of the wonderful ship, our first cruise the Sun Vista, slide ever so gracefully, bow last, beneath the sea. Hell of a cruise we both thought!!

SUN VISTA © Jonathan Boonzaier

So there you have it, one persons story of the SUN VISTA’s last day. Even though I was shipwrecked I still enjoyed the holiday, have I cruised since, absolutely, still the best way to holiday in my opinion and I’m hoping to do many more. What was the best thing to come out of the whole ordeal; well on a cruise you book everything up to your cabin, all your drinks etc and guess what, the drinks bill went down with the ship.

Article edited by Martin Cox, personal story contributed by Fred Burnett, Perth, Western Australia. With images from previous cruise taken by Jonathan Boonzaier.

(A version of this article first appeared on an earlier edition of MaritimeMatters in August 2002, edited and returned in 2011)

47 Responses to The sinking of the SUN VISTA

  1. Kandee

    August 14, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    I was on that same ship, in 1991. Back when it was the SS Meridian.
    It was used by Celebrity Cruise Lines. I was wondering what happened to it, and came upon your story. I was on the ship, for a cruise from NYC to Bermuda. It was my first time, and a great time I had. May it rest in peace, at the bottom of the ocean. Thanks for the story.

  2. Ned Welker

    March 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks for the article. My late wife and I sailed on the Galileo Galilei in the late 70’s sailing from Genoa. It was sort of a test cruise, lasting only a week. With only about 200 passengers and a crew of over 600, it was a wonderful experience. We had a huge storm at sea and the ship rolled like crazy but it was a great experience. I’m glad to know she wasn’t scrapped for salvage and went down at sea with no loss of life. A grand story.l

  3. Mauro Azzano

    April 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    I sailed the Galileo Galilei from Melbourne Australia to Genoa, Italy, leaving June 3, 1967.
    My parents, sister and I were supposed to were to sail to Durban, South Africa, then up through the Suez Canal. Unfortunately the six day war broke out after we’d sailed, and we ended up going around Africa and calling at Las Palmas, Messina and Naples.

    Even as an eleven year old, it was a great experience, the food was good and the scenery spectacular.

  4. Kenneth Eden

    April 7, 2012 at 6:08 am

    I recall the sinking of the SUN VISTA, however, was unaware at the time that she was a ship that I knew from her previous life, SS MERIDIEN. The sinking was way before instant photo and texting were available, at least, rare.

    The sister ship to the SS GALILEO GALILEI, the SS GUGLIELMO MARCONI I did sail, back in the late ’70’s, and these two ships were probably close sisters inside. The MARCONI went on to become the SS COSTA RIVIERA, the GALILLEI became the SS MERIDIEN, Celebrity Cruises new flagship.

    The MARCONI was extensively rebuilt, not so as to detract from her classic Italian ocean greyhound good looks, to become the RIVIERA, which I sailed on her “maiden” cruise in 1985 for Costa Cruises. Not enough money was spent in her, she was pseudo “nice”, and dumpy in some places. Dumpy is being extremely kind.

    On the other hand, the “brand new” MERIDIEN, fresh from a more extensive refit was just stop in your tracks gorgeous. Many new innovations were presented on this ship, that made a cruise in her differernt from her sailing peers at that time. She set a tone and precedent for todays ships – cruise experience wise, that is, that is still practised today. She was also owned by Chandris, founder of Celebrity.

  5. Rebecca

    April 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Thank you for the lovely memories – I was on the Sun Vista in the March 1999 – so when it went down I was extremely sad because the cruise was a magical time and one of the best times in my life

  6. Chris

    April 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I traveled on the Marconi in 1974 from Genoa Italy to Sydney Australia with my brother and my parents the sister ship to the Sun Vista what a beautiful ship an unforgettable experience that will remain with me forever, I was sadden to read about the sinking of the Sun Vista, after such a historical career with all the people from around the world, I can say that I was part of that history. Chris.

  7. Passenger

    April 20, 2012 at 4:10 am

    Hi, I am a old passenger of the sister ship to the Sun Vista the Marconi traveling in the early 70’, reading the information about this disaster of the Sun Vista firstly sadden me deeply as these two ships were beautiful ships in there time entertaining so many people from all over the world on there journeys to various destinations.
    I read about an engine room fire that went out of control and eventually engulfing the ship and then finally sinking it in 60 meters of water in the “Malacca Straits” busy shipping lane I wonder why.
    Was the crew operating the ship asian crew members?
    This ship by the looks of the photos at the accident site was taking on water from the rear half of the ship while the fire still looked to be under control and people still on board, can a fire in an engine room at an early stage cause the ship to take on water and eventually sink? or was the Sun Vista’s fate known prior.
    I traveled on these ships and in those years the Italian crew were very professional personnel and these ships were state of the art equipment reducing travel time between Europe to Australia from 30 days down to 23. Very sound vessel in all respects.
    It was good to also read that no passengers or crew were lost in the tragedy, a sad ending to a great ship.


  8. Michael

    April 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I was a crewmember on the SS Meridian 91′-93′ so many friendships made and memories from our travels from Bermuda thru Caribbean, and down into South America. It was literally a floating city that my coworkers and I called home for several years. I cannot fathom that it is sitting on the bottom of the ocean. So sad, only regret is it didn’t take our old boss C.D. Tony Dent with it!

  9. Cathy Payne

    May 18, 2012 at 7:06 am

    I was on the SS Meridien in October 1986, the ship was named the Lady Galileo. This was my first cruise, 4 of us were jammed in one room but we had a ball. At the time, even with a converter, maybe your curlers would heat up and maybe they would not. I thought the ship was beautiful. The ship left from Penns Landing in Philadelphia going to Bermuda, then, we hit a hurricane and were in it for 26 hours. We sat with our lifevests on. It was very scary and also fascinating to watch, people were sick all over the ship except me. When we finally reached Bermuda we had very little time b/c of the hurricane. I had no idea that the Lady Galileo was sold and now became the Sun Vista until a friend of mine let me know that the ship that sunk in Thailand had formerly been the ship I was on in 1986. May she rest in peace at the bottom of the sea.

  10. j.walsh

    June 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Was our first cruise 1990 out of Boston to Bermuda.I am also sadden.

  11. wayne cameron

    September 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    We left Sydney Australia on the Galileo in July 1966 as she was named
    then, spent 5 wonderfull weeks on board,calling at many ports enrout
    to ITALY, made some wonderfull friends on board ,enjoyed going ashore
    at the ports we stopped at, Singapore,Ceylon,Bombay just to name a few.
    Sad to hear of he passing ,at least she did not end up at the scrap yard. Enjoy your water home Galileo.

  12. Vicki

    October 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Great recounting of the last hours of a beautiful ship. I sailed Sydney to Genova on Galileo in 1974, then Genova-Sydney on the Marconi on the return trip the same year. Two years later, because I had loved the Galileo so much, off I went to Europe on it again. It was a stunning ship, and there was just something about it that was quite beautiful. To this day I don’t know what that was, but I’m very grateful I got to experience it. I remember thinking at one point while on her that I hoped she wouldn’t end up being broken up for scrap and razor blades etc. It was a sad ending, but it’s nice that she is still down there providing a home to fish now. To that extent she still exists.


    November 29, 2012 at 11:42 am


    All, Sunvista also triggered my deep memories. I was there and probably no one knows that I was the person who organized the rescue of around 1000 persons on board Sun Vista. How the contaner ship and other ships magically arrived there and how Ferry boats reached the place where the ship was sinking. I organized everything speaking with Port Authorities, ships passing by , with single minded goal that everyone is to be saved. For me Human Life is very precious and I was so happy that I suceeded in saving each and everyone on board. I took a head count with people coming of the sinking ship, going on to other two ships which came for rescue. It was I who gathered the ships there and got them on to exact location. The Port was informed to organize fast ferry boats to reach the sight asap. I met people coming back to Hotel. It was a real tragic moment but the important part was that achievement , I still remember and cherish that I could save lives of so many people .

  14. Trevor

    February 27, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    My very first cruise was on the SS Meridian when it was owned by Celebrity Cruises. It was my honeymoon, December 1996. Sadly, deluxe ocean view meant two portholes, but we had an amazing time. It’s awkward to think she’s on the bottom of the sea now, but wonderful to know that everyone got off safely.

  15. Leo

    March 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I worked in Dining room of Meridian and open that ship in Spring of 1990 when arrived from Bremenhafen, Germany. We spend few weeks in some dry docks in Virigina and travel East Coast of US slowly heading towards New York and Bosoton from Ft. L, Florida. Cruises were to Bermuda and back from all east coast towns. Charlston, Willmington, Philadelphia,… finally in New York I was off to vacation and after summer I end up on RCCL ship

    Meridian had something traditionally classy about it. It had character and it gave you a feel of old style cruise ship with touch of luxury. I really miss this ship and had so many profound memories from this ship.

    It was sad to end that way…

    Cheers, Leo

  16. Kenenth Eden

    March 21, 2013 at 6:37 am


    We sailed inn the SS MERIDIEN and loved her.

    It is very interesting that you mention that tshe was traditionally classy
    and gave a feel of old style cruise ship with a touch of luxury.

    Inded, Today, with celebrity, the new ships and fleet they have offe the same touches, only on new ships. The Chandris touch lives on.

    We took Bermudas and Caribbeans on the SS MERIDIEN, chances are we sailed her at the same time. She was a dream of a ship.

  17. Barb Callahan

    May 29, 2013 at 3:22 am

    August 1992 I went on my first cruise, the SS Meridian from NYC to Bermuda….we thought it was beautiful except for one thing, our room was one of those cubby holes in the bottom of the ship, no window, bunk beds and very tiny……it smelled like a septic tank the whole cruise, but we had so much fun….I often wondered what happened to the Meridian, now I know…..I have cruised many cruises since then, Norwegian being my favorite. Nice story and glad everyone was safe.

  18. Bill McGreevy, Jr,

    June 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    The Meridian in 1996 was my first and only, so for, cruise.

    Destination was Bermuda from New York on Celebrity. Hurricane Felix was in the vicinity and we all didn’t want to be diverted, to like, the Bahamas. The ship made it to Bermuda, albeit with big waves and seasick passengers. I don’t get sea sick. Neither did my brother: Never watch the horizon, breath through your mouth, keep the stomach filled, etc. Navy survival they call it I guess. I’ve been on rough smaller craft so maybe I learned. We watched the water crash out of the swimming pool on each swell and watched the skies clear as Felix swells passed on by. The ship was still solid throughout. Very little side-to-side sway. Even rather “old” by maritime standards, they (the Italian architects when it was the Galileo…) really built this thing! Two days arrived in Bermuda. Smooth trip back to NYC.

    Question: how does a ship deteriorate so fast in three years? How does a ship sink from a fire? It was not in open ocean so fire tugs could have easily been called to the rescue. Plus the CO2 choke engine environment control should have controlled the engine room fire. Unless you flood the lower levels below water line the ship should still float and not quickly sink? Right? The sinking to watery grave of the Sun Vista makes no sense to me. Smacks like an insurance dump, get what you can for it, to me…

    This is a sad ending to a truly noble ship: sure it was old, but it had some class, and deserved a better fate. It could have been a decent short freighter, rather than see its demise to the bottom of a waterway straight, or to the scrappers torch.

  19. Jeff

    July 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I worked on the Meridian in the early 90’s. It was my favorite ship in a long career in cruising. The staff crew and officers were all great. All those cookouts on the bow of the ship in Bermuda. The Royal Navel Dockyard!!!! Such FUN!!!! I really am sad she sank. But at least she is at sea where she belongs and not in a scrap yard..

  20. Alberto Gallo

    August 31, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I worked on the SS Galilei for about 50 days in the spring of 1984. The vessel owned by the Chandris Lines. I left Setri Pon. in Italy, arriving in New York after 17 days at sea. I was employed by a company of Genoa. Before leaving the renovations were underway and during the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and then come to NY work continued and the ship was profoundly transformed especially inside. It was a tough but fascinating experience. I met several members of the crew. I left the ship to Boston to return to Italy by plane. The day before leaving the ship, after a whole night to work to repair a swimming pool in the stern, I realized I had not known well all crew members … A beautiful girl of about 25/27 years, I think of a country in south america, greeted me shyly and read sadness in her eyes. It was too late, the airport waiting for me. It was the last time I saw her, I never knew the name … was the last time I saw the SS Galileo Galilei ….

  21. Dick MacGregory

    August 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Alberto, I joined the GALILEO as a paying passenger on her first cruise from Boston-Bermuda. Great cruise especially watching the continuing refit as we sailed. My porthole looked out on to a stern promenade and was covered by rolls of carpeting which proceeded to get lower and lower as the cruise progressed. Always will remember, being out by the pool and watching banquettes being carried by on their way to the lounges. It was a great cruise experience!

  22. Dianne Tavakoli

    November 4, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    By chance I came across your article and all of these wonderful memories of my first journey across the oceans came flooding back. I set sail from Fremantle / Genoa on the Galileo in late November of 1968 (45 years ago.) Shared a 4 berth cabin with 3 other girls, all strangers. Our cabin crew were Sicilians. Everything about that ship was amazing, it was smooth sailing all the way even around the Cape of Good Hope. The ship itself was pure luxury. It was so well maintained, I’m sure the crew spent the nights cleaning and polishing everything in sight. Our cabin crew were so attentive (was it because of the 4 young Aussies occupying the cabin??). The food was so good, and I remember being wined and dined in 1st class by a Sicilian Mafia member (so our cabin boy informed me). The entertainment was first class and it was a sad day when we docked in Genoa and said our farewells to the wonderful crew and other passengers befriended along the way. I was sad to read that her life ended so abruptly, but the seabed is not such a bad resting place for a great lady. Thank you for your very interesting article.

  23. JohnPaulla

    January 7, 2014 at 4:51 am

    Thanks for the memories. I sailed on the Galileo Galilei in 1964 Sept from Singapore to Genoa, and we had to be in full suits for dinner (no buffet then). I remembered the sinking of the Sun Vista, as we had friends on it then. It was Celebrity’s first ship — the S.S. Meridian.

  24. Cecilia

    January 10, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I sailed on the Galileo Galilei in Febraury 1972, from Genoa to Sydney, to settle in Australia. And what an amazing journey it was! Loved the spaghetti which I used to order as an entree and main meal! I was in a performance group and celebrated my birthday in first class after a performance. Il Comandante, Rodolfo Sanguli, congratulated me and the band played ‘Que sera, sera…’ Wonderful memories are flooding back! I still have my ‘Bigiletto di Passagio’, as well as the deck plans of the Galieleo, and lived on Deck ‘C’ for four weeks in cabin C 225, upper bunk with a porthole, looking out into the ocean the big wide world. I also kept some copies of the menu and most copies of L’araldo del mare’, which was published daily. Was baptised ‘Calamarie’ at the equator crossing and have a certificat to prove it! :) What a great journey this was!
    Was sad to read that this great ‘boat’ is now resting at the bottom of the ocean. Like losing an old home.

  25. Elisabeth Gordon

    January 23, 2014 at 6:51 am

    Friends and I sailed the Meridian out of Baltimore to Bermuda in October of 1995. We had a marvelous time, and I am pleased to say that, as planned, my now 17 year old son was conceived on our voyage. I almost gave him the middle name “Meridian”, but now that she sleeps with the fishes, I am glad that I settled on Carlos….

  26. Christopher McLeod

    February 10, 2014 at 6:22 am

    I sailed on the Galileo Galilei from Melbourne to Genoa in December 1963. It was a wonderful trip especially as we stayed for several days in Singapore, Bombay (Mumbai), Suez , Messina , Naples and finally Genoa. I returned to Australia in 1973 by air after spending nearly 10 years living and working in the UK.

    It is sad to think of that huge ship lying at the bottom of the sea since 1999 and that the cabin I lived in for the 28 days of the trip is now home to fish, crabs and seaweed!

    Thank you for this story.

  27. Bob steele

    March 18, 2014 at 1:49 am

    I worked on the ship for nearly three back in the mid eighties. At the time the ship was called the Gallieo and was part of the Chandris cruise line. Those were happiest days of my life and I only learned of the sinking tonight. I knew the ship was renamed few years after I left in 1986. In 1985 we were in Bermuda and left port to go to an East coast port in American and ran into a cat 4 hurricane. It was a frightful night, but the old ship got through it okay. The Captain was relieved from command for that mishap.

    The Gallieo was what I remember being called a seven seas ship.. I did know that the ship used to go from Europe to Australia in earlier years.. She was a beautiful ship and I explored her from the top to the bottom.

    May she rest in peace.

  28. Lisa Hardy

    March 31, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post which I came across when searching for Sun Vista, trying to work out what year I went on it.

    I was on it in March 1999, the year it sank. I remember when we were doing the lifeboat drill we laughed saying it was a bit of a farce as a lot of the crew didn’t seem to know what they should be doing. We wondered what would happen if it sank, then 8 weeks later it did. I’m so glad that everyone got off safe and sound, although from your post it was as we expected, there was trouble with the lifeboats and no other life jackets apart from those in your cabin which you could not get to.

    I just wish I had taken more photos when I was on the trip. I think all I have is one picture of the Captains night, but none of the ship at all. I’m quite sad about that now.

    Thank you for sharing this post. It was great reading everyone’s memories of it. It never put me off cruising and I have been since and go again in a few weeks, this time to Alaska.


    April 2, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I travelled on the GALLIEO from Sydney to Fremantle [Perth West Oz]way back in 1965, What a great little boat Had a Ball!!!!!

  30. Raul Gutierrez

    April 10, 2014 at 10:22 am

    I was on the Sun Vista on its last trip and still wondering whatever happened and if stories heard from crew members are true. As I remember, from the over 1100 souls aboard, I was the only Mexican citizen. According to the ship’s captain, the main panel board exploded.

  31. Benjamin Wilreker

    April 15, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I have been looking for an NTSB report on the Sun Vista accident or an equivalent investigative report. Has anyone seen anything?

  32. John and Peggy-Anne Garlick

    June 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    My wife, our 3 young children, and I boarded the Galileo Galilei in Durban, in October 1976, en route to our new home in New Zealand. The Suez Canal had only recently been re-opened, allowing the vessel to traverse the East Coast of Africa.
    Aside from the first few days, when our elder daughter was green with sea-sickness, we all had an amazing time for the next 3 weeks. We hardly saw the children – they were so well looked after by the entertainment staff, and we had a great time ourselves, swimming, dancing, dressing up, making friends and visiting several ports en route.
    The boat emptied out in Sydney, where several hundred Italian immigrants disembarked, leaving us with 3 more days to Auckland – or so we thought!. A delay of 3 days, when the hospitality staff went on strike, allowed us to explore Sydney.
    We have nothing but good memories of the Galileo. It was a sad end for her, but we are glad she didn’t end up in the breakers yard in Bangladesh!

  33. Joe Sturges

    June 6, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Sad ending to a well loved ship, but far better a death at sea than being ignomimiously run up on the breaker’s beach.

    Joe Sturges

  34. Michael

    July 24, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    The ship certainly had a number of eventful voyages — including a journey to the United States Supreme Court in 1995. On one of the ships last voyages as the Galileo (before it was rebuilt and rechristened as the Meridian), an engineer named Antonio Latsis suffered a detached retina in his right eye as the ship was leaving Baltimore. Rather than returning him to Baltimore on a pilot vessel to see an ophthalmologist on an emergency basis, the ship’s doctor had him wait two days until the ship arrived in Bermuda. As a result, he lost 75% vision in his right eye. In his lawsuit to recover damages for the doctor’s alleged malpractice, a key legal issue was whether Latsis was a “seaman” entitled to special remedies under U.S. law. That question went to the United States Supreme Court as Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995). Mr. Latsis won a temporary victory at the Supreme Court, but when the case was remanded to the lower courts he eventually lost before a jury.

  35. Di Morris

    September 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I sailed on the Gallileo tourist class from Melbourne to Genova leaving December 1969. I think the route, from memory, was this: does anyone else remember?

    Canary is

    Would love to hear from anyone else on that journey. Corinne Rozema I met in the cabin of 4 (or was it six) girls. Think she was crowned as winner of some beauty contest on board. Spaghetti flowed. Everyone was sick going over the Great Australian Bight.

  36. Teresa

    September 14, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Hi, I sailed on the Gallileo from Sydney to Genoa in November 1968. Our route took us across the Pacific through the Panama Canal and on to Lisbon, then Sicily and finally Italy. I had a wonderful time (I was 22 at the time)and I had no idea the liner had changed her name to Sun Vista – or that she had sunk!

    Came across the article by accident. This has brought back many wonderful memories for me and I too loved that ship – we had a chap called Jonny D’amore as the entertainment officer, I have many photos or that voyage. I have cruised Australia/England on two other occasions, once on the original Oriana and then on the Fairstar (Sitmar Line) but neither could compare to the great time I had on the Gallileo. God bless her.

  37. Tommy Evans

    December 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    My wife and I took our first cruise on the Celebrity Meridian on October 25, 1992 from Charleston, SC, to Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and then the eastern Caribbean for 12 days. It was our honeymoon and we met some wonderful friends along the way. The crew was excellent and the ship was very classy. I have pictures and video that brings back many memories. I had no idea she had sunk. We have taken several cruises since then, but none on Celebrity which has still been the BEST cruise line! We recently booked with Celebrity Summit for a Spring cruise to the Caribbean. I decided to search for the Meridian. I figured she was simply decommissioned by now. To bad she sank. She had a wonderful history with thousands of stories to tell.

  38. D.W.GLOVER

    January 8, 2015 at 9:46 am


  39. Nuno Serafina

    January 16, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Greetings for my crew colleagues in 94 (busboy). Home port Sanjuan , with cruises of 10 and 11 days.Love the job, hate the Life boat drills.

  40. Ian Were

    January 17, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    In early 1973 I sailed, tourist class, on the SS Galileo Galilei from Adelaide to Genoa, stopping at Fremantle, Cape Town, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Malta, Sicily, Naples and Genoa. My memory is it took 29 days travelling at an average of 19 knots. Thanks for the posts. Wonderful memories.

  41. Frank

    February 5, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I was working as a chef on the Meridian and met my wife on the way y.to Bermuda in 98

  42. Doreen

    March 6, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I just came across my scrap book containing our memories of our cruise on the Galileo over New Years 1987/88. We were just married 2 weeks before and it was my first cruise and my first time travelling to a warm climate in the winter. I read with interest the daily Seascape reminiscing about the excursions and the activities we took part in on the ship. It was a rough voyage with little white bags stuck in the hand rails along the corridors. The ship was unable to dock at two stops – Jamacia and Mexico due to rough seas and tendering was postponed for several hours. We met several wonderful couples and had a great time. We even participated in the Newlywed Game. We have again taken several cruises now that we are retired. We look back on our cruise on the Galileo with fond memories and yet marvel at how cruising has changed and evolved over 20 years. The Galileo had a wonderful history and it appears many passengers had fond memories of her as well.
    Thank You for making my first cruise voyage a wonderful memory

  43. ravi nair

    April 12, 2015 at 12:05 am

    [ was the third engineer on duty in the engine room when the fire started in the switchboard. there were a few guests at that time too. we then experienced a black out, boiler shut down and an eventual shut down of the ships machinery. We embarked lifeboat no. 16 and helped the passengers in our boat to board a passing cargo ship and was back alongside the ss sun vista to rescue the Captain and remaining ataff on board just before she sank into her watery grave in front of my very moist eyes.

  44. ravi nair

    April 12, 2015 at 12:19 am

    I have still preserved the life jacket. paper cuttings with articles and pictures of mine in the spedboat the final report of the board of inquiry conducted by P & I club and other institutions. Can someone tell me if she has been retrieved from the seabed or is still buried Ravi nair.

  45. Raik

    April 13, 2015 at 5:26 am

  46. Lloyd Cross

    April 29, 2015 at 7:44 am


    Just found your story – I was on the ship when it sank and remember every minute to this day and have told my story as a presentation at several events since – I was part of the British entertainments team on board – it was the first ship I ever worked on but I got back on another cruise ship 10 days later and am still in the industry to this day :)

  47. Phyllis Tobin

    July 5, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Enjoyed the Boston to Bermuda cruise in the late 1980’s. The swimming pool was down to half which made a perfect tidal wave pool. Still have my worry beads—- remember them. I hang them on my Christmas tree every year. It was the most fun cruise ever

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