MV Doulos (1977-2010) - MS Franca C (1952-1977) - SS Roma (1948-1952) - SS Medina (1914-1948)

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A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960


A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

Please Note: All ssMaritime and my other related ssMaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues and I hope that the well over 675 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers ships I have written on will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts and continue a great deal of information and pleasure!


SS Medina (1914-1948) was sold and renamed: SS Roma (1948-1952)

MS Franca C (1952-1977) - MV Doulos (1977-2010)

Doulos Phos (2010 - ) A land-locked Hotel at Bintan, Indonesia


Doulos berthed at the International Passenger Terminal in Sydney

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens

MV Doulos

“A Ship Like no Other”

By Reuben Goossens 

--MV Doulos--

Chapter Eight

Onboard Impressions

My first visit to the Doulos had me climbing up the "crew only" gangplank to Promenade Deck. It was just like stepping into the pages of history. After being warmly welcomed by Doulos Project co-ordinator, Marlieske Smilde, we explored every corner of this fine ship. On the Bridge I spent time speaking with Captain Graeme Bird. We discussed the remarkable history of the Doulos and the ongoing improvements, which are continually taking place. Out on deck, both Lounge and Promenade Decks are tidy and well kept, but quite narrow. Whereas Boat and the forward part of Lounge Deck provides a vast amount open deck space, much needed with the multitudes visiting her whilst in port. Visitors to the book exhibitions are restricted to these two decks. A café is located at the book centre. Only those that book a tour are taken in-groups of ten for an informative visit. A charge of AU$7 is made for the tour, which includes a Doulos Passport, vouchers for a free ice cream and a book discount.

Forward midsection of the Restaurant has this original mural from the Franca C days

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens

Internally, the ship is relatively plain, considering her days as a luxury cruise ship. However there are a number of quaint touches remaining from her glamorous days as the Franca C. The Dining Room as example retains a number of these dating back to the 1959 and 1970 refit. The floor is still covered with the rich red carpets that were laid in 1970 and amazingly is still in good order, except in several heavy traffic spots. I then discovered two fine murals dating back to 1959. The forward mural is a water coloured Formica panel featuring stylistic impressions of historic Italian buildings on a parchment-coloured background.

This Franca C ceramic feature in the Main Restaurant was photographed by the author in 1999

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens

Aft port side mural is a collection of twelve large glazed, blue on white ceramic hand made tiles depicting vases with flowers, plates and canisters. Sadly all other murals and features of her past have vanished due to most walls having been re-panelled with non-combustible ones in compliance with the SOLAS regulations.

The Blue Mural that was originally located on the forward wall of the aft Stairwell on Boat Deck

This mural is now gone and replaced with a digitalised image of the Doulos made up of the people onboard

Photographed by & © Peter Knego

The famed blue mural, also from 1959 once located in the aft Boat Deck stairwell (originally Sun Deck), has been donated to the Costa Museum in Italy.

Her Bridge takes you right back in time, although there are some of today’s items of technology present, but are out of sight

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens

However, the most valuable treasure on Doulos is her Bridge, with its magnificent brass compass. The Bridge is the oldest fully functioning wheelhouse in the world, being the original Bridge from the Medina. Walking on its wings, then stepping inside is like walking into a museum piece, with its brightly polished brass, stained timbers and fine wood decking. However, although the feel is one of the past, there are several low-key 20th century touches, like the radar and a simple handle replacing the original steering wheel. Yet, on this Bridge there are no satellite navigational devices to be found. Outside her upper decks have changed little from the days she was first rebuilt in 1948, especially with her ladder like steps leading from Boat Deck to the narrow decks above.

Doulos' superb Counter Stern!

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens

At the time of inspection, the unusual "double" builder’s plate commemorating both the 1949 conversion of the Roma and the 1953 conversion of Franca C at La Spezia, had been removed and is kept in storage. I was able to take it up to Captain's Deck (directly below the Bridge) and photograph it. At this time its future is unsure, but it may be donated to the Costa Museum. Externally it is obvious that her hull is in good shape with a hull rating of up to 18.7mm, far better than most modern ships. Her counter stern is without doubt a classic, bringing back memories of the great ships of yesteryear.

A close up of the new Electric crane and new slim-line forward mast

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens

Recently, a single electric crane replaced her main mast and derricks. However, a new shorter main mast has been placed just forward on the foredeck. Remarkably, the outline of her original name, Medina, still appears high on the bow. Just below and a little forward, the welded outline of the name Franca C can be seen hiding behind the name Doulos. Thus three of her names are visible on the starboard bow, whereas sadly the name Roma is nowhere to be found. This may be due to it having been painted on the hull rather than welded, as were the other three names.

 For a clear and large photograph click HERE for a New Page, or use the link at the bottom of the page!

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens


Here we see her wonderful bow detail and those grand old hull plates!

Photograph by & © copyright 1999 - Reuben Goossens

I was privileged to spend time five days on her savouring that special atmosphere she has, knowing that each day she is making maritime history. On 22 August 2004 Doulos reached the amazing milestone of 90 years. This remarkable feat has been accomplished due to a number of factors. Being a well-built ship and well cared for by her various owners, but since 1977, all onboard believe that the Doulos has been "kept afloat by the Grace of God." As one member of the crew told me, “In 1912, it was said that the Titanic was 'unsinkable' and that 'even God could not sink her.' Well the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage and lies on the bottom of the ocean. However, Doulos, launched two years after Titanic sank, is still sailing because God is keeping the Doulos afloat!”

Doulos, having reached this grand age, has become a ship of great maritime significance. OM – Operation Mobilization took on a 63-year-old ship and had faith in her again when 79 years old giving her a "Heart Transplant." Because of this and the on-going improvements, this remarkable ship will sail safely into the 21st century until at least 2014. The amazing fact is, should she reach that time, the 100 year old Doulos will have reached the milestone of being the only motor ship in history to be fully operational for a Century. All ship lovers should be astounded by her and take this remarkable ship to heart, for the mv Doulos is one of a kind. In fact she is the last of its kind a genuine vintage liner still afloat and sailing the seven seas!

With the Doulos being owned and operated by a charity organisation, OM Ships - and she has visited hundreds of ports in more than 150 countries.

Doulos is seen here arriving in Sydney on July 4, 1999

Photograph © copyright 1999 Ramon Williams

MV Doulos was warmly welcomed on Sunday July 4, by hundreds of Sydneysiders. The crew and staff were dressed in their national costumes and flying their national flags as the ship sailed past the Opera House and berthed at Circular Quay. The next day the world's largest floating bookshop onboard Doulos was officially opened by the Governor of New South Wales, Gordon Samuels, who stated that he was fascinated and very impressed by the ship's work. “It is not often, I suppose, that a vessel sails into port carrying 300 people who are well motivated and determined to do what they can to improve the lots in the lives of other people less fortunate than they are,” he stated. Another official guest was Nick Farr-Jones, ex-Captain of the Australian Rugby team, who thanked the Doulos for coming to Sydney.

In the first 2 days Doulos was open to the public, some 8,167 people visited the ship. The public interest in the guided tours around the world's oldest ocean-going passenger ship was overwhelming. Thousands of people have enjoyed a special tour which takes them from the bridge to the engine room and many interesting sights in between. Doulos’ visit to Sydney Australia was a huge success and all were hoping to see her return in the future!

There is good material available on the Doulos, including the book published by OM "The Doulos Story" as well as a number of booklets entitled, "Doulos - A Story of International Rescue" and "Serving the Nations."

View a page with a large Photo & Description of Her Previous Names Still on her Bow


Go to Chapter 9 – Doulos’ Mission - The work of OM International


Return to the Author’s – MV Doulos “A Ship Like No Other” Main Index


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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are: 1. By the author. 2. From the author’s private collection. 3. As provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are photographs provided to me without details provided regarding the photographer concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me, that due credit may be given.

Copyright: “MV Doulos - A Ship Like No Other” is owned, protected under the International © copyright laws and is the property of Reuben Goossens of No part of this work including any of the images shown may be copied or reproduced by any means or reproduced by any format whatsoever, be it for private or commercial usage, without prior written permission from the author. is owned and © Copyright by Reuben Goossens - All Rights Reserved.