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How I experienced the People's Republic of China, Part I

Royal Viking Line brought me to China, for the first time in 1984, first class of course. The excitement was huge. In Highschool we had a young history professor, who once said: The yellow breed will rule us one day for two reasons. First because there are plenty of them and secondly, they are not lazy. This was hard to believe, when I first explored China onboard the Royal Viking Star.


As this blog post developed, all of a sudden I began to realize, that I spent most of my time with Royal Viking Line in these waters. So it turned out to be pretty much a wrap up of my career with a wonderful cruise line from 1983 until 1990.


How it all started.

After I finished my cook apprenticeship at the Gasthof Adler in Mellau, Austria I did the compulsory military stint.

Army mustering celebration in 1975. The hair dew according to the Rolling Stones hard-core fan, I still am.

Afterwards I worked at the Gasthof Adler in the kitchen and in the restaurant.

In 1979 I went to to Germany and attended a vocational college and then studied business administration for 3 years in Stuttgart, Germany.

Around 1980.


In 1980 I was home in Egg, Austria and went one evening to Mellau. There I met Franz Langer. The biggest show-off I have ever seen, I thought. Franz was befriended with Franz-Bernhard Fuchs, who was Pastry Chef on the Royal Viking Star. The two of them had some time off, while the Royal Viking Star was lengthened in Dry Dock in Bremerhaven. From my friends in Mellau I learnt, that Franz had already flown in Oysters from Paris for his parties in Mellau.

I remember Langer's rented BMW with his hard hat with a huge imprint CHIEF STEWARD located inside the rear window very prominently.

This was a world sensation at that time to cut a ship in half and add a 22 meters section.

Langer was Chief Steward at that time and he suggested I should work for Royal Viking Line, once I finished my studies. Also First Baker Bernhard Meusburger from Mellau worked onboard the Star at that time. In addition Kurt Bischof from Mellau was at that time First Cook in the hot galley onboard the Royal Viking Sky.

It was known in those days, that I was almost impossible to get a job at Royal Viking Line. The US Dollar was very high and nobody left, except for vacation.


In summer 1983 I did my final exams. I was fancy free and ready to see the world. Since 1980 Franz Langer, originally from Cologne in Germany, spent his off-time from then on only in Mellau. He was a friend of a son of the Hotel Sonne in Mellau, Gerhard Bischofberger. I went there and asked, if it would be possible to call Langer on the ship. He was still Chief Steward onboard the Star.

This was quite cumbersome in those days. You had to log in an overseas call and eventually they called back, when they had a line. Franz suggested, I should apply directly with the San Francisco office to the attention of Ulrich Baur. He furthermore suggested, I should apply as F&B Controller. I had to ask first, what that was.

Hotel Sonne Mellau


The normal application process went for us through a recruitment agency in Switzerland, headed by a Frau Siegentaler. Kurt Bischof explained that to me once. You would receive a contract from the Oslo office, you then had to go to your nearest Norwegian embassy to certify it (in my case Bern in Switzerland) and they would send you to a doctor for the medical check-up. The company would send you a flight ticket and the agent would pick you up at the airport of the destination. The first flight home, you had to pay for yourself.


When I was asked by locals at home how much such a cruise would cost, I always had the same answer ready: 10,000 Austrian Schillings per person and day for a medium category without flight. At that time, of course, that was an exorbitant sum by our standards.


So I made my application and was waiting for an answer. One day in autumn I received a telephone call from the telephone company telling me, that I would receive a call from San Francisco in the early evening. Now I got really excited. Even though I took advanced classes in English I began to write down possible answers to the questions, Mr. Baur might have. When he called me I noticed immediately the heavy Swiss dialect, and I noticed also that my English was much better than his. After two sentences, he suggested we should carry on the conversation in German. He offered me a position as F&B Controller, but only the following year early summer. I had no problem with that and agreed. The combination of a trained chef and a degree in business administration paid off.

A earlier picture of Ulrich Baur as Hotel Manager with his Asst. Dianne Dawson.


My plan was to have a carefree winter and perhaps work as a ski trainer back home.

On Dec. 19. 1983 I reicved a call again from the telephone company, that I would receive a call in the evening from Singapore. Franz Langer called me. The fish cook burnt his legs badly on a steam kettle and had to sign off sick. They needed a replacement fast. This would be a good experience for my future job, blah, blah blah.

The Royal Viking Star in Singapore after Kloster bough the company and registered the ships in Oslo.

I had to be in Jakarta in 2 days time. I had to ask first, where that was. No contract, no medical, pay for your own ticket, you will get reimbursed, just come. OK, I had busy days ahead of me. Luckily Kurt Bischof was at home and he could answer all my questions. I had to go and buy cook uniforms, I booked a flight from Munich to Jakarta, 25.000 Austrian Schillings at that time. It was snowing like crazy. I had to leave on a Sunday morning at 4:00 am. On Saturday evening I went through my check list. All of a sudden I realized, that I did not have money to pay for the flight at the airport. Credit cards were not common in our valley then. I called my banker in Mellau. His wife answered the phone. Her husband went to church and would probably go to the Gasthof Adler afterwards to play some cards. So I drove to Mellau and found him at the Adler. I asked him to go over with me to the bank to give me money from my account. This was the only time I was in the safe room of the bank in the basement.

Since I did not get a contract, obviously I did not get a cruise itinerary with the respective port agents' information from the Oslo office either. So I had no clue where I was heading. Being a good son, I soon sent postcards from various ports of call.


My father brought me to Munich and I slept almost through the entire flight. The agent picked me up and brought me to the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta.

This foto I took from the hotel in Jakarta.

The following morning he was there again and brought me to the Royal Viking Star. I was frightened, when I stood in front of her. I boarded the ship on Chrismas Eve 1983 at exactly 10:00 am and all the bells went off. I sought to myself, what a nice welcome. But instead it was lifeboat drill. Like all of us, I could not find my way around for the first couple of days.

There I was at the saucier post and had no clue.

Nobody seem to like me in the Galley. Later on I found out, that much better cooks were already waiting for this position. Probably a favor from Franz Langer, I needed the least. My first job, was to cut hamburger garnished. My knife was not very sharp and the tomatoes were more crushed than cut. On the Entremetier post, there was a beautiful long knife laying on the table. I took it and now it worked. All of a sudden this hulk of a man with a long beard stood next to me. He told me quite clearly: if you take this knife ever again, you are dead meat. It was Chef Entremetier Raspo. In the evening I still had troubles with my knife. Raspo came over and said: here you have decent knife. They were all crazy in those days.

Raspo and Asst. Butcher Martin Walchshofer in the Crew Bar.


Our Christmas New Year's Activities for the crew.


My first Skald on Christmas Day.


Hotel Manager Sigi Maier, Hotel Manager Asst. Dianne Dawson and her mother, Chief Steward Franz Langer.


Fish Cook Frank from Germany, Sauciers Andi Buchner, Switzerland and from Vienna, Grill Cook Harald Schulze from Germany.

Walter Schippel and Roland Kainhofer were First Cooks in the Hotel Galley, Paul from Norway was First Cook in the Cold Galley and first Waltner Wasner from Germany, then Felix Sailer from Switzerland were Pastry Chefs.

Cook Klaus Wankmiller from Tyrol joined a couple of days before me in Hong Kong. Also Cook Heinz Sohm from Germany joined then and he was my first cabin mate.

Heinz Sohm from Germany and Harald Schulze.

Me, Klaus Wankmiller and Manuel from Austria.

Vila, Vanuatu.

Noumea, New Caledonia.

Crew Bar Stern, next to the Crew Purser's Office.


New Year's Eve Crew Party in the Venus Lounge, where the Captain read the wishes from all the ships around the world. I will never forget that. I felt pretty special at that time.

The Christmas Cruises ended in Sydney Australia.

The Royal Viking Star in front of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia.


I survived my first cruise and did not get seasick once.


Hotel Manager Asst. was Dianne Dawson, Mai-Britt Johannessen was Hotel Purser, Karen Kvam was Crew Purser. Andreas Friis-Lund was Concierge, Dan Higgins was Skald Editor, Dave Dobbins Printer and his girlfriend Heidi Fron was Hotel Purser Asst., Peter Leypold was Sous Chef, Wenche was Crew Steward, Peter Longley was Asst. Cruise Direktor, Carole Klein was Social Hostess, the Abe Weinstein orchestra, Allan Schooley was Cruise Consultant and funnily enough I have to clue who was F&B Controller. Definitely not Josef Matt or Alex Don.

A picture with Staff Captain Olsen to the left. I remember, he had a severe hearing problem.


Until spring we were in the South Pacific and South East Asia.



Suva, Fidji.


Me, Harald Schulze, Breakfast and Hot Snacks Cook Manuel from Spain, Klaus Wankmiller.

Apia, Western Samoa.


General Cleaning on the last day of the cruise.

Almost all Utility Personnel came from Spain and Portugal.

Drinking and smoking in the galley, hard to believe nowadays.


Piano Bar, Papeete, Tahiti.

Bora Bora.

First Baker, Bernhard Meusburger from Mellau.


Preparation for the Polynesian Cooks Party in Papeete.

Oswald Schadt, me, Heinz Sohm.


Norwegian Grand Buffet.

Felix Sailer and Urs Keller.

Roland Kainhofer.

Cold Party First Cook Paul from Norway.



Auckland, New Zealand.

Martin Walchshofer and the Bar boys.


Pastry Cook Markus from Switzerland.

Me and 'Ayatollah', somewhere.


Head Office structure: President: Warren Titus, VP Hotel Operation: Ulrich Baur, Director: Erling Frydenberg, Anni Martinsson, Alan Warden, Purchasing: Bob Coven, Sigurd Galteland (Oslo Office), Fleet Executive Chef was Theo Ruch, Entertainment: Brian Beaton, Shore Excursions: Jim Droney, VP Marine Operation: Captain Ingar Engan.


The new Royal Viking Star after the lenghtening of the ship in Bremerhaven.

Funilly enough the Bridge deck with the Casino and the Casino Bar was not portrayed.


Pattaya, Thailand.

Me and the British Masseuse Lesley in Pattaya.

Singapore, Bugis Street.

Soup Cook Oswald Schadt and his girlfriend Lesley.


The dude in the front I even know from behind. Hollywood Butcher Horst Katschnig.


Now it is time to explore China.


It was really special to us, to be allowed into the People's Republic of China. I presume we were the first cruise line to do so.


By the time Mao died, his designated successors were already dead: Lin Biao died in 1971 after an alleged coup attempt, and Deng Xiaoping was linked to the 1976 Tiananmen Square protests after the death of Premier Zhou Enlai and demoted. Thus, the previously little-known Hua Guofeng was designated as Mao's successor. Hua and his supporters, who stood for the continuation of Mao Zedong's policies, were outmaneuvered and deposed by Deng by 1980.

In December 1978, the "Four Modernizations" course, closely associated with Deng's name, was endorsed by the party leadership. Victims of Cultural Revolution and other excesses were rehabilitated and economic freedoms expanded. A market economy gradually replaced the centrally planned economy inherited from the Soviet Union to increase the system's economic efficiency. A peace and friendship treaty was signed with Japan, a former wartime adversary, and foreign investment was gradually permitted.

Deng visited the United States, which subsequently became an important foreign policy partner. Special economic zones designated areas where free-market mechanisms could be experimented with, and in 1984 another 14 coastal cities were opened.


The National Flag.

The large star symbolizes the leadership of the communist party, the smaller stars represent the four classes:

Workers, peasants, petty bourgeois, the national bourgeoisie. Entrepreneurs who had sided with the Communists since the war against Japan in the 1930s and 1940s.

These four terms were characterized by Mao Zedong in a 1949 speech as the four groupings that made up the Chinese people.

In addition, the number five also has a traditional meaning. Traditionally, people speak of five rulers, five colors, five elements, five virtues, five varieties, and historically, five parts of China: China proper, Manchuria, Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet.


The Royal Viking Sky was docked in Shanghai during the Circle Pacific Cruise from April 17 from 7:00 am to April 18 5:00 pm in 1982.

According to my knowledge Warren Titus had a good connection to a certain Hong Kong Chinese, a Mr. Wu. He was major shareholder of the Cathay Pacific Airline and also owner of the Travel Agency Arrow Travel. Mr. Wu had connections to China and this relationship allowed Royal Viking Line to do regular Cruises to China.

A view fotos from a crew tour to Beijing in 1983. Great people I did not know then yet.

Shanghai, Dinner at the Seamen's Club.

The Royal Viking Star in Dry Dock, Hong Kong November 1983.


We arrived in Hong on March 25, 1984 and stayed overnight at the Ocean Terminal.

The first two China cruises, I was still cook in the Galley.


The passengers and crew members, who boarded in Hong Kong had already completed the most adventurous part of their journey. That was the approach to the old Hong Kong airport, whose approach and departure aisle led right through the busy Kowloon district.

One could look into the bedroom of the residents from the airplane.


My 14 days China adventure cruise began in Hong Kong on Mach 26. 1984.

The Ocean Terminal with its glittering shopping world in Hong Kong.


We had an IBM System 32 on board at that time, which generated all the passenger and crew lists, as well as the cargo lists needed for the almost daily customs formalities.

But the Chinese needed all those myriad lists in Chinese characters.

Arrow Travel brought on board about 12 to 15 people who now translated all the lists into Chinese by hand. From 1985 onwards, our computer system on board could also output the lists in Chinese. By the way, the computer with a length of about 2.5 meters, a width of 1 meter and a height of 1.5 meters was located at F&B Controller's office. Some of you may still remember the floppy disks of about 30 x 30 cm.



I believe that Dietmar Wertanzl started around this time as Concierge. Once Franz Langer was promoted to Hotel Manager the Dream Team of the Royal Viking Star was pretty much complete.

The new Hotel Manager came onboard this cruise as well. I was soon to become Purser Assistant and my uniform was already tailored. He did not like his uniform and demanded that his stripes had to be put on mine. Naturally I did not like the man. He did not stay long, anyway.


Bascially the initial itinerary of this China Cruise was kept until 1990. Exception: In the spring season of 1984 the arrival/departure times of Shanghai were different. Later on we went to Qinhuangdao instead of Xingang and two view more new places.


I have received a parcel today (August 9.) from our ex colleague Ranveig Gro Bredal. She sent me amongst many other things a complete set of the SKALDs from this very cruise. Thank you very much and a big hug from all of us.

Wenche and Ranveig.


My Bar here in Austria was quiet last night. The weather is too nice and everyone is outside or on vacation. So I got up very early this morning. I couldn't wait to read the SKALDs, Ranveig sent me. It was a very emotional morning for me. So many fantastic memories.

At 7:30 am my brother Gerhard called me to go mountain biking with him this morning. A perfect way to clear the head. I will take some pictures for you from the Bregenzerwald valley.

Off we go.

The outer Bregenzerwald with its gentle hillside.

We reached the top for today.

In the distance you can see Lake Constanze.

Direction towards the Inner Bregenzerwald with its serious mountains. Just behind the mountain range is the famous Arlberg skiing region with its posh villages Lech, Zürs and St. Anton.

A rewarding moment.

My home town Egg in the Middle Bregenzerwald.


On the last leg up the hill to my home it was getting quite hot.

View from my rooftop terrace.

Perhaps some of you can understand now, that living somewhere else was never an option for me. And perhaps it was not good for my career, but the next step for me was always home and never some head office on the US west coast or in Florida.


My brother has to look after his babies.

I think, I just make a quick Minestrone and then we go back to China.

So Mr Riezler, move the hoof and get on with the story.


Representatively for all China Cruises we will wake up with a brand new SKALD every day on this voyage.

Hong Kong, March 26 1984, sail 5:00 pm.


At 5:00 pm the Royal Viking Star departed and we were in the East China Sea heading for Shanghai, China.


March 27 1984. at sea.

Wanna know who was on and what was going on? Well read your SKALD.


Great Bar Tenders.

Dan, David, Heikki and Mustafa.


March 28 1984. at sea.



Coming closer to Shanghai the ship enters the mighty Yangtze River. The you make a left turn to get into the Huangpu river delta. In those days the riverbanks were a restricted military zones. We were only allowed to arrive and depart after dark. Some of you might remember, that photography was strictly prohibited during the passage.


March 29 1984 Shanghai, China. dock 5:00 am. overnight.


The clearance procedures of the vessel took in those days a perceived eternity.


The dark brown Huangpu was bustling with activity. I assume that all sewage was discharged into the river.

In the front of this skyline we were docked then.


I had a long chat in the Crew Mess with a very nice gentleman who spoke fluent English and German. He came on board and was from the International Seamen's Mission. Just as in the Soviet Union, the flow of tourists was clearly controlled and directed. The crew was invited to the Seamen's Club or the Peace Hotel. Otherwise, there was nothing in Shanghai at that time.

In the evening I went with colleagues over to the Seamen's Club, which was within walking distance. Oh my god, what a cultural clash. The city was dark, no street lights, hardly any car, if any they searched around with parking lights. You could see in the open workshops of the craftsmen. The dress of the entire population was either the little greenMao uniform or the blue work clothe.

The Seamen's Club apparently was before the Soviet embassy. In there was a huge bar counter. The only two alcoholic beverages available were a very good Tsingtao lager beer out of the big bottle and Irish coffee. There were also private rooms at the seamen's club, were one could have dinner.

Like in the Soviet Union there was a general curfew at midnight.


March 30 1984. Shanghai, China. sail 5:00 pm.


This morning everybody had to get up early. Breakfast was served at 5.30 am.

The 720 passengers were unceremoniously divided into two groups. They made a full-day trip by train to Wuxi or to Suzhou.

Therefore, most of the crew had 'lunch off' and you could experience the city of Shanghai.


So let's go an hit the town.

I often stood on this bridge later on. The water stank beastly. In the small river floated everything imaginable in garbage up to dead cows.

There were hardly any vehicles on the streets. Some trucks and some official black sedans.

But there were millions of bicycles.

I took the pictures you are looking at with my Minolta SLR camera.

Back to work.


As of 1985 sailed at Midnight from Hong Kong and arrived at 10:00 pm in Shanghai. We left Shanghai at 10:00 pm.


Our next port of call was Dalian, China. But we had to cross the Yellow Sea first.


March 30 1984. at sea.


April 1 1984. Dalian, China. dock 8:00 am, sail 5:00 pm.