"Schoolboy cruises were pioneered in the UK during the 1930's using troopships that were idle during the summer. Inevitably this venture was stopped by the Second World War and unfortunately it was not resumed when peace returned. However, when the Government announced that it would cease trooping by sea in 1960, the British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd. (known as B.I.) decided to convert one of its troopships, MS Dunera to a permanent educational cruise ship.
MS Dunera, of 11,162 tons and built in 1937, was converted to a floating school with dormitory accommodation for the pupils, classrooms, a lecture theatre/cinema, a library and deck space for sports, together with cabin accommodation for teachers and independent cabin passengers. She set off on her first cruise from Greenock on the 12th April 1961 and completed a further 14 cruises that year.
Although initial school bookings were poor, B.I. demonstrated their faith in the venture by introducing a second ship the following year. The MS Devonia, formerly the MS Devonshire of the Bibby Line, was a near sister of the MS Dunera. As the educational cruising scheme developed momentum, and pupils had time to save and/or earn money towards their fares, loadings improved and B.I. introduced their third and largest ship, the 20,527 ton SS Nevasa in 1965. Educational cruising reached its peak with around 60 cruises each year.
However, the MS Dunera and MS Devonia were both approaching 30 years of age and becoming expensive to maintain. Hence the decision to replace them with the SS Uganda that was becoming redundant on the company's East African service. In contrast with the three previous educational cruise ships, which were all former troopships with mess areas that needed relatively little modification to form dormitory accommodation, the SS Uganda required a major conversion. Work was carried out by Howaldtswerke AG at Hamburg. Most of her former cargo holds were converted to the student areas and the upper decks were extended to provide additional cabin accommodation. Moreover the quadrupling from around 300 passengers to a total of 1,200 students and cabin passengers necessitated a substantial increase in the galley, laundry, fresh water and electrical generation capacities. Her tonnage had increased from 14,430 to 16,607 tons. "( Collapse )