Captain Albert Ebbs (John Gregson) is promoted after 22 years as a staid and efficient skipper on grimy tramp steamers and given command of the large luxury cruise liner Queen Adelaide on a trip to Sydney, Australia.
Ebbs quickly learns that being in charge of passengers is a far cry from shipping freight.
He is horrified when he learns that his duties include an unending round of parties, dances, receptions and competitions, and finds himself in a constant state of embarrassment, discomfort and confusion.
This merry tale of maritime malarky – adapted from a novel by Richard Gordon, author of the delirious Doctor series – features Donald Sinden as philanderer Shawe-Wilson and a veritable who’s who of other stalwarts.
Other passengers include comely matrons Mrs Judd (Peggy Cummins) and Mrs Porteous (Nadia Gray): Bill Coke (Bill Kerr), a hearty Australian, and Gwenny (June Jago), his uninhibited wife: and Major Broster (Maurice Denham), the pompous and officious friend of the shipping line’s chairman.
Extra credit must go to Reginald Beckwith as “Tiny” Burtweed, the captain’s knowing but fussy steward.
During a fancy dress ball, Broster catches Prittlewell (Richard Wattis), the chief purser, substituting cider for champagne. Broster threatens to inform the chairman but is later compromised by Mrs Porteous. Broster then agrees to report favourably on Ebbs, and Ebbs and Burtweed look forward to many more voyages together.
Carry On star Joan Sims enlivens the proceedings with a cute cameo as a frumpy spinster.
There are deck games, cabin capers, a beauty parade and a children’s party, ending in custard pie throwing, as well as the ball sequence, and each follows through smoothly. Staging is first class, and the same goes for the camera work.
The film – bathed in brilliant Eastman Color – is essentially a series of inter-related events involving the captain’s problems with the passengers and crew members, and the emphasis is on slapstick.
The ship used in the long shots – and for some deck exteriors – was the SS Oronsay which was built in 1951 for the Orient Line.
Captain Albert Ebbs
John Le Mesurier