“Norway” (ex France) departing Miami – Extra Info

"Norway" (ex France) departing Miami

An enduring reminder of how splendid great ships really are.

Norway, ex France, a much loved ship.

 

 

When Gordon Frickers visited Norway she was still very much a working ship.
Invited on board Norway as a guest of Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Lines, the staff generously gave him a privileged tour of the whole ship including the Engine rooms.
After which he was invited to dine in the principal restaurant on board which like many parts of the ship, retained its elegant original French styling.

 

This very personal painting remained in the artist’s collection for many years and is now offered for a suitable home.

 

The artist Gordon Frickers has a long experience of working with professional sea people.

 

While many of this artist’s paintings are commissioned for presentations, gifts etc. by companies, this powerful study in oils, 22″ x 36″ was painted on speculation.

 

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Gordon Frickers © updated 28.05.15

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In some cases, educational and private use for example free use is permitted. By International law these pictures and texts may only be copied after written permission and a copyright fee has been paid.

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The following first appeared in Voyage in 2004.
Reprinted from Voyage, the Journal of Titanic International Society

Lore of a legendary liner

By Robert G. Lenzer

After a highly successful dual life as a trans-Atlantic liner and a Caribbean cruise ship, the SS Norway today sits silently in a German shipyard at Bremerhaven, awaiting word of her fate following a devastating and fatal boiler explosion more than one year ago.
Hopes of liner enthusiasts to keep her in service must be balanced against the inevitable and significant costs associated with a ship designed some 45 years ago.

The giant blue-and-white liner is the former France, the longest ocean liner afloat until Queen Mary 2 entered service in January 2004.
As the liner’s life may be nearing an end, and because 2004 marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of her “second life” as a cruise ship, it seems appropriate to reflect on her illustrious career.

On July 15, 1979 the world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner was sold to Norwegian Caribbean Lines (now Norwegian Cruise Line) for $18 million.
Ship lovers the world over rejoiced because the beautiful SS France had been saved from the breakers and would be operating as a luxury cruise ship.

The liner sailed again on June 1, 1980 (three months later than planned) but this time from the south Florida port of Miami as Norway.
She provided year round, seven-day, one class “luxury but casual” service, calling at St.
Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and a Bahamas out-island owned by NCL.
NCL’s chairman, Norwegian Knut Kloster, said then, “The purchase of the former France is a multimillion dollar investment that proves from our own 13-year success in the Caribbean, that the cruise business is here to stay.
Cruising in the tropics has become the number one affordable dream vacation of tourists all over the world.
We are proud that Norwegian Caribbean Lines has determined a use for the second youngest of the world’s superliners”, he added, noting, “She will be operated to the standard of our other modern cruise vessels which collectively carry more passengers to the Caribbean annually than any other fleet.”

The basis of Kloster’s and NCL’s decision to purchase SS France was threefold: time, space and prestige.
In the late 1970’s, NCL found itself in a tight situation as all four of their ships were operating at maximum passenger capacity, and with other cruising companies, was bumping as many passengers as it was booking.
By turning away prospective customers, NCL was presenting a negative image to the public and travel agents.

NCL needed more berths.
But a new vessel would have to wait at least three years before being placed in service.
The company could create additional space more quickly if it stretched its present vessels, the Skyward, Starward, Southward, and Sunward II, but this course would seriously disrupt the company’s services.

However, after an intense feasibility study NCL found it could obtain 2,000 additional beds with a cash outlay of over $100 million dollars by obtaining a suitable, idle ship and refurbishing it to modern cruising standards.
After a worldwide search, NCL’s Kloster decided the SS France would be his best choice.
Two major factors were that within a year NCL could gain as much as a 70% increase in capacity, and the prestige of owning the world’s largest and longest ship.
Kloster said, “This vessel is the most fantastic ever built.
It was an unique opportunity for us.”

After intense research by 60 marine specialists, Kloster made his bid of $18 million to Tag Enterprises, a French consortium owned by Okram Ojjeh, a Saudi Arabian financier.
Tag Enterprises had purchased the ship from Compagnie Générale Maritime, formerly the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (the French Line) on October 24, 1974 for $24 million.
She was to be converted into a floating hotel and leisure centre, a kind of itinerant small French city with boutiques, restaurants and film theatres.
She would be anchored successively off the Atlantic coasts of the United States and Canada and at unspecified locations in the Middle East.
However, these plans never materialized.
Kloster’s bid was accepted and approved by Tag and the French government.

Thus France’s career concluded as she was renamed Norway.
The French Line flagship had been ordered from the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard, which had built the immortal liner Normandie in the 1930’s and would build Queen Mary 2 in 2000.

France’s building contract was signed on July 25, 1956 (ironically the day Andrea Doria was lost) and intended to replace the ageing Ile de France (which had rescued the Doria’s passengers) and Liberté.
Her keel was laid on October 5, 1957.
In 1958, the first commercial jet crossed the Atlantic and from that moment on, the once grand ocean liner fleet began its demise.
On May 11, 1960, France was launched at 4:15 p.m. by Yvonne De Gaulle, wife of the French president.
The France cost $74,300,000 to build.
Her westbound maiden voyage was from Le Havre via Southampton to New York on February 3, 1962, with the return eastbound voyage beginning February 13, 1962.

For the more technical students of maritime history, the following technical information on the former France, taken from sources at the time of her commissioning, may prove of interest:

The Hull

France was built under the joint supervision of French Bureau Veritas and the American Bureau of Shipping in full compliance with the strict technical and safety requirements of both organizations, guaranteeing the highest classification.

She was the longest ship in the world at 1,035 feet.
This was a very important factor to obviate pitching, and rolling was reduced to a minimum.

The most modern processes were used in her construction, including prefabrication.
Welding and a considerable amount of light alloys were utilized.

Engines and Electrical Power

The propulsion system developed 160,000 horsepower on four lines of shafting at about 162 r.p.m. for an approximate top speed of 32 knots.

The engines and boilers were housed in eight separate compartments, each about 65 feet long.
The propulsion unit and the associated services generating electricity and providing distilled water for the vessel’s needs and the distribution of non-propulsion steam were designed as two autonomous plants located in compartments separated from one another.

There were eight water tube boilers (with steam pressure of 914 lbs. per square inch and superheated to 932°F) of the Penhöet type provided with steam air heaters, economizers, super heaters and automatic super-heating control.

The ship’s production of electricity had great importance; in addition to the engine auxiliary apparatus, all pumps were operated by electricity, as were the roll stabilizers and the needs of the ship’s hotel services.
In addition to lighting system there are the elevators, the hoists, cranes winches and the refrigerating plant, the gallery stoves, grills, frying appliances, fans, cinema, etc.
On France there were two electric power plants, one in compartment 3 and the other in compartment 8.

Drinking Water

France was equipped with four distilling plants capable of producing 1,000 tons of water in 24 hours, a capacity that could reach 1,400 tons if necessary.
The water was processed using sterilization, demineralization and aeration.

Air conditioning

Some 102 air-conditioning units with refrigerated circulating water regulated on board temperatures.
It was necessary to install nearly thirteen miles of ducts throughout the ship.
The temperature in the different public rooms was automatically controlled and occupants regulated it in their cabins.

Security

France was built according to Method 1 of the 1948 London Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea, supposedly creating a fireproof ship.
The French Line even decided not take advantage of certain waivers permitted in Method 1 for furniture, carpets, etc.
On France all materials were incombustible.

Bulkheads were made of Marinite (semi insulated refractive asbestos); 1,250,000sq. ft. were used for the walls, interior surfaces and ceilings, approximately six times the area of Trafalgar Square in London.

In the main security control room were connections to 80 security stations throughout the vessel.
It was equipped with fire-fighting apparatus, a fire detector warning panel, an indicator board showing positions of watertight and fire-screen doors, and a panel for control of an inert-gas fire extinguishing system.
Some 240 klaxons were installed throughout the ship on two circuits, for both passengers and crew.
Throughout the ship were break-glass fire alarm boxes.

Finally, the liner was particularly well protected through a double hull extending half her length and 15 watertight compartments to ensure stability during any flooding.

Navigation equipment

Duplicate telegraphs connected the bridge to the engine rooms.
Navigation equipment included Decca and Raytheon radar units, a Decca navigation aid, a Sperry gyro compass with automatic pilot, two sonar devices, an electric log (speed and course indicator) and four buoys on each side with electric control from the bridge.

The balanced rudder was made of welded steel plate.
Its spindle was 20 feet long, weighed 30 tons and was moved by an electro hydraulic apparatus.

Forward France was equipped with two mooring lines, each comprised of 1,082 feet of chains and an anchor of 15 tons with hinged claws.
The chains together weighed 128 tons.

 

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Radio communications

The central radio station had medium, intermediate, short and ultra-short wave radio transmitters and receivers and could receive simultaneously up to seven radio communications.

A system of “mixing” ensured absolute secrecy in radio-telephonic conversions between ship and shore, and this could take place in many first class cabins and nine telephone booths around the liner.

Lifeboats

On the boat deck there were 20 lifeboats of light alloy with Diesel motors and a capacity of 165 persons each; two Diesel engined, radio-equipped motorboats, capacity 25 persons each; and three whale boats (made of Fiberglas® material) with a capacity of 30 each.

The Funnels

To eliminate soot falling on the ship’s after decks, the French Line and the shipyard designed special funnels fitted with two trapezoidal and horizontal ailerons through which smoke was expelled to the sides of the ship.
The 62-foot span of the two ailerons compared to the funnel height of 52 feet and gave the ship a most distinctive appearance that has never been duplicated.

Now a few figures to give an idea of the supplies necessary for the hotel department of the France at the height of her career:

Meat- 15 tons; poultry – 5.5 tons; fish – 5.5 tons; shellfish (lobsters, crabs, etc.) – 3000; vegetables – 30 tons; fresh fruit – 15 tons; eggs- 70 tons; cheese – 3 tons; milk – 8,000 pints; cream – 200 pints; flour – 9 tons; caviar – 330 lbs.

In the wine cellar: Champagne- 7,000 bottles; Fine wines – 4,500 bottles; whiskey, gin, etc. – 5,000 bottles; liqueurs – 3,000 bottles; table wine – 8,000 bottles; crew wine – 22,000 bottles; beer – 36,000 pints; mineral water – 30,000 bottles; cigarettes – 50,000 packets.

In the linen closets: sheets – 34,000 (representing a total length of 63 miles); napkins – 295,000; tablecloths – 32,000.
Altogether, more than 453,000 pieces, weighing 120 tons.

Silverware: 54,200 pieces weighing 12 tons, (of which 1,400 are of stainless steel).

China: 41,000 plates which, stacked one on top of the other, would make a column 1,500 feet high.

Glasses: 49,500 pieces weighing some 8 tons.

During her 12 years of active service, France maintained an average 70% of capacity on the trans-Atlantic run, while on cruises she maintained a capacity of 90 to 95%.
To the average landlubber these numbers seem impressive; in fact, France was losing money.
She was indeed a fine example of French prestige, but in March 1974 the French Line released figures showing the ship had been financed by an annual taxpayer subsidy of $12 million, expected by year’s end to rise to an astounding $22 million a year.

This tremendous sum was due to high operating costs mainly from the increase of bunker C fuel oil during the Arab oil embargo.
By summer, France’s future was in jeopardy as the French government stopped subsidizing the mammoth ocean queen.
Like many of her predecessors she had become an uneconomical white elephant.
The company decided to retire the ship, although passenger capacity remained high at 77% on her last voyages.
The France was scheduled to be retired at the end of October.
However, on September 12, with 1,264 passengers on board, the crew mutinied and took over the ship as it approached its home port of Le Havre.
The strikers remained on board for several days before being dispersed, and the ship was laid up at the Quai de l’Oubli – the “Pier of the Forgotten.”

Any maritime student or cruise buff would ask how NCL would compensate for the high cost of bunker C oil and high operating costs.
The answer was in the way Norway would be deployed as a first class cruise ship.
The ex-France was a two-class ocean liner and to maintain a dependable express service, she had to develop a speed of 30 knots with eight boilers and four engines developing 160,000 horsepower.
She burned 700 tons of fuel every 24 hours at full speed.

As a cruise ship Norway would not require speed.
So NCL would reduce her speed to a maximum of 21 knots with a minimum of 16 to 18 knots and hoped to gain a major savings: Instead of using 700 tons per day, she would burn a maximum of 228 tons.
Decreasing France‘s speed would involve shutting down the forward engine room and removing the two outer propellers.
For the first time, all engine room operations would be controlled from the bridge.

Another change would be that NCL was not marketing the Norway as a luxury vessel, but to the American middle class.
Kloster commented, “We market our cruises to middle America.
I’m sure you can still make money selling luxury, but I have a personal ‘but’ about that.
As a businessman I feel more comfortable catering to the middle class.
In our world, it really make more sense.” Further economies would involve automation and reduction in crew.
The ship now has 920 crew opposed to France‘s 1,300, a reduction of 30%.

Refitting and refurbishing France into Norway was a monumental undertaking.
Initially the cost was estimated at $42 million, but with inflation the figure reached $65 million by completion.
The automated shipyards of HAPAG-Lloyd at Bremerhaven, West Germany transformed her from an enclosed transatlantic express liner to wide open, spacious Caribbean cruise ship.

Renovations included lengthening the sun deck, boat deck and verandah deck, adding 120 new cabins, refurbishment of all public rooms and the addition of bow thrusters (three forward, two aft).
The thrusters, a high priority job, were one of the design team’s major challenges.
They proved a great advantage when the ship was travelling in narrow channels, and the ship could dock without tugs.

Furnishings, decor and even the uniforms for the crew were new and specially designed; the carpeting for the public rooms and staterooms – 44,000 square yards of it in 26 different patterns – had to be woven.
Even the ship’s china was specially made.

Two 400-passenger tenders, similar to World War II landing craft and named Little Norway 1 and Little Norway 2 were specially designed, since Norway’s 35-foot draft prevented her from docking in many harbours.
They ride on the bows of the ship and are lowered under davits to the water and brought alongside once she has anchored.
Passengers are taken quickly and comfortably from separate loading points.
With both tenders operating, all 1,900 passengers can be off loaded in one hour.

However, before any renovation work could start the ship had to be moved from Le Havre to Bremerhaven, aided by two small tugs, ordinarily a simple manoeuvre with any other ocean liner.
But this was the former France.
The union shipyard workers wanted Kloster to do the refit’ at a French shipyard, but the French government admitted the union bid to convert France into Norway was too high.
In fact, a French refit would have cost about 20% more and taken about 32 months more to finish.
Nevertheless the union tried once more to stop Norway from leaving.
As the ship attempted to leave, more than 150,000 workers parked their cars on the harbour locks, closing the harbour.
On August 18, 1979 the liner finally left her berth amid mixed emotions.
An ex-employee of the French Line, Henri Scrivener, a former mechanic on the liner, summed up French feelings, saying, “We shall miss this ship.
I worked for its owners for 37 years.”

Norway proceeded under the tow of the French tug Abeille Provence to Bremerhaven, arriving there four days later. Norway’s renovation lasted from August 22, 1979 until April 26, 1980, some 32 months under the watchful eye of naval architect and designer Tage Wandborg of the Danish firm Knut E. Hansen, which had designed 30 passenger vessels (1967) including the four other Norwegian Caribbean vessels.
Assisting in designing public rooms and modernizing passenger cabins was Angelo Donghia of New York.
A huge challenge to the design team was the upgrading of all former tourist class accommodation and public rooms to the standard of the former first class sections.

Kloster said, “We shall transform and expand the public rooms of this great ship, while actually upgrading room accommodations for each passenger.
Because she is a one-class ship,” he continued, “every passenger will have the run of the entire vessel.”

Another major problem was how passengers and crew members would familiarize themselves with the huge liner, since the line was marketing the Norway as the destination in itself.
The design team created a system based on colour coding: “George Taylor, a graphic designer and partner with Taylor, Groboski Associates, Miami, created the system which matched colour design with easily recognizable deck symbols, thus allowing passengers to know at a glance where they were aboard Norway.
In addition, general directional signs were erected in English, Spanish and German.
The ship’s system of colour coding at that time was unique and was carried throughout the vessel.” Carpeting in forward corridors were pink, while those aft were blue.

As a trans-Atlantic liner the ship had been designed for two classes and indoor activities.
The design team had to design a ship based upon outdoor activities.
Decisions had to be made on which public rooms had to be redesigned.

In many cases the former tourist class public rooms were restructured.
The ship’s general theme became Scandinavian, with a sub-theme of the Caribbean.
Some decks’ names evoke feelings of Norway, for instance, Fjord deck with its beautiful apartment-type suites with private terraces.
All the suites on this deck are named after Norwegian fjords.

Norway is 1,035 feet in length with a beam of 110 feet; she displaces 76,000 gross tons and can accommodate 1,900 on cruises (2,400 maximum) in 945 staterooms.
Queen Elizabeth 2, in-service since 1968, is 963 feet long, 105 feet wide, displaces 70,327 gross tons and can accommodate 1,750 passengers (1,850 maximum) in 861 staterooms. Norway has twelve decks, (ten for passengers): Sun, Fjord, Oslo, International, Pool, Atlantic, Biscayne, Caribbean, Dolphin and Engine Deck.
The lowest passenger deck, Dolphin, contains a spa, an indoor swimming pool and several indoor staterooms not currently used, along with saunas, Jacuzzis, and squash and racquet ball courts.

Atlantic Deck, once “A” Deck, formerly contained the first- and tourist class dining rooms.
The latter, known as the “Versailles” dining room during her France days, was extensively refurbished and is now the Leeward dining room.
Seating 760 passengers, it has a spiral staircase linking its two levels.
The forward dining room, once the first-class “Chambord,” is now the Windward dining room seating 500 passengers beneath the original domed ceiling and surrounded by the original France murals.
Breakfast, luncheon and dinner are served in two seatings for each meal.
The midnight buffet is split between one of the dining rooms and Great Outdoor Restaurant aft on International Deck.

On Viking Deck a disco, “A Club Called Dazzles” was built where the former indoor tourist class Pool and gymnasium once stood.
Dazzles incorporates neon and strobe lights and other laser lighting effects into the floor and ceiling; the room’s placement aft ensures no disturbance to passenger cabins.
Donghia’s design has one wall that looks directly into the lighted outdoor swimming pool.
The room’s solid glass floor weighs 3.3 tons.
Also on this deck is the ship’s barber shop and beauty parlour.

Pool Deck was the old glass-enclosed tourist promenade deck.
Some 34 new suites, all outside with two lower beds, replaced the enclosed promenade.
Also on this deck is the ship’s Saga Theatre one of the largest seagoing auditoriums, with 669 seats, where top name entertainment, Las Vegas-style revues and musical comedy routines dazzle full houses.
In an outside foyer, the Saga Bar offers drinks before entertainment and during intermission. Norway carries an entertainment staff of 70, including a chief cruise director, three cruise directors, an assistant cruise director, four hostesses, 35 musicians, 18 entertainers and two disc jockeys.

Also on this deck is the ship’s casino, the Monte Carlo Room, originally the tourist class lounge.
The walls and ceilings are original but all other decor was new including carpeting, furniture, lighting fixtures, sculptures, etc.
The room features 60 slot machines, bingo and blackjack.
Aft on the Pool Deck is the North Cape Lounge, originally the tourist class grand salon.

Yet further aft is the Lido Bar, which provides access to the ship’s second outdoor pool and open Lido Deck.

The Norway’s International Deck is a 480-foot, air-conditioned Main Street, which at the time of the ship’s conversion was the world’s largest glass-enclosed promenade deck.
Main Street is divided into “Fifth Avenue” (port) and “Champs Elysée” (starboard).
International Deck, formerly the Verandah Deck, was the first class promenade deck and contained most first class public rooms.
It now contains international boutiques, eight specialty stores, cafés and lounges.

Aft of the shopping arcade is the posh Club Internationale, the former first class smoking room.
Except for minor modifications the room’s original decor was left intact, “…to show what a public room on a classic transatlantic liner once looked like….” The Club Internationale is an elegant nightclub seating 450.
This public room has a dramatic air, “to correspond with the elegant evening atmosphere of the Avenue,” Donghia said.

Amidships the passenger will find Checkers Cabaret, with a red-and-black onyx colour scheme, formerly the first class grand salon.
The second of Norway’s nightclubs it can seat 440.
Other public rooms on this deck include a children’s play room, a soda fountain and a 36-seat chapel.

The four bars include Viking Bar, West Indies Bar, Cabaret Bar and the Windjammer Bar (whose decor reflects a nautical motif of the great sailing ships).
Other rooms include the Café De Paris (an imitation of a French sidewalk café,) an ice cream parlour, and an office for shore excursions; further aft is the new Great Outdoor Restaurant.
Tage Wandborg commented, “Main Street will be full of atmosphere and life from morning to late evening.
Here we have a huge outdoor restaurant where passengers may take their breakfast, lunch or midnight buffet.
There will be comfort and elegance.
No one will be squeezed.”

The conversion included a large new lido deck aft, extending over the ship’s side like an aircraft carrier deck, but the design does not affect Norway’s lines.
With this deck, Norway has some 65,000 square of open deck space, more than any other cruise ship currently in service.
She also has closed-circuit television in all staterooms so passengers may view first-run movies in their cabins.
There are numerous meeting rooms for small groups.

On the Sun Deck the conversion added a new outdoor swimming pool, the ship’s third, and Sunspots Bar.
Further aft is a paddleball court and more open deck space.

Initially Norway’s hull was to be painted a tropical white with the blue NCL logo.
Now the hull is painted a dark blue.
The funnels, originally changed to white with a two-toned blue trim, are now dark blue.

The existing staterooms on the ex-France were not altered structurally but were extensively redecorated with new bedspreads, carpets and drapes etc.
New staterooms were added on Fjord and Oslo decks, which included 120 cabins, 24 deluxe staterooms and 8 penthouse suites.
All staterooms on Fjord, Oslo, International, Pool, Viking, Norway, Atlantic, Biscayne and Dolphin decks are air-conditioned with private facilities.
More than $800,000 of art was installed on Norway’s corridors, public rooms and staterooms.
It includes 100 paintings, 50 tapestries, 1,400 graphic prints and 200 posters.

Originally Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) was chosen to become the Norway’s home port, but in the final analysis Miami won out after made exhaustive, simulated model tests of the port’s outer channel.
The Norway operation out of Miami had decided economic impact on the community.
An estimated $25 million a year has been funnelled into the economy.

Originally Norway was to sail from Germany to Florida without passengers.
After much thought NCL offered a pre-maiden transatlantic crossing scheduled to begin May 3, 1980, with the ship departing the shipyards of HAPAG-Lloydat Bremerhaven, West Germany via Oslo, Norway, Southampton, England and New York with 1,200 passengers.
Within weeks all berths were sold and there was even a waiting list.
A six-day New York Bermuda cruise would follow on May 18-24, 1980.

As sailing day approached renovation work was not completed.
NCL sent 500 shipyard workers on the maiden voyage to finish the remaining work.
As the Norway proceeded to Oslo from Bremerhaven another problem developed.
Toilets became clogged with sand, which had been sucked into the ship’s plumbing through the sanitary water intakes after use of Norway’s new stern thruster.

The plumbing clogs caused state rooms on two passenger decks to flood.
Upon her arrival in Oslo, 870 passengers embarked but 124 were “bumped” due to the ship’s plumbing problems, permitting an additional 100 plumbers to board at Southampton to correct problems.
The scheduled New York-Bermuda cruise was cancelled to allow completion of the renovation work.

Despite these problems Norway’s arrival in Oslo was a remarkable event; she received a tumultuous welcome, being greeted by an armada of 1,000 small boats mainly sailboats and other craft.
In the next 36 hours some 45,000 Norwegians toured the ship.
As a promotional stunt a yellow cab was lifted aboard and driven down “Champ Elysée.” A dinner in one of the ship’s dining rooms that evening benefited the United Nations refugee program and was attended by 500 guests, including King Olaf V of Norway and actors Rock Hudson, Burl Ives and Tony Randall, who said, “The boat so, so big – so enormous you really think it is the biggest thing you’ve ever seen in your life.
There must have been a million people waiting to get on.”

Norway flies the United Nations flag honouring the 25 nationalities represented among her crew.
She is the first passenger liner to receive this special designation.

NCL appointed Torbjourn Hauge, a 46 year old Norwegian, as Norway’s first captain.
He supervised the multinational team overseeing Norway’s conversion.
Hauge said several members of the French team remained with the ship since it was launched and provided invaluable advice and support in the conversion. “Considering the ship is 17 years old and has been in dry dock in Le Havre for the last five, she’s in great shape,” he said. “She was built by French industry with much thought given to prestige.
Essentially, she’s a real beauty and for me to personally take command of a vessel of this calibre is like a dream come true.”

While on her sea trials the Norway attained a speed of 25 knots with her two engines and two propellers and, with her thrusters, could turn in her own length in seven minutes.

While on her trans-Atlantic voyage, Norwegian Caribbean Lines decided to give passengers a 20 per cent discount on their fares since the ship was not up to usual NCL standards.
All ship’s bars were opened and drinks were on the house.
In the end NCL took a loss of $1.5 million.

Norway entered Caribbean cruise service on June 1, 1980 as scheduled.
Since the ship was still not up to standards NCL gave passengers a 50 per cent discount on any future cruise.

After several cruises, the ship’s itinerary had to be changed because many people not used to the sun became much sunburned.
So now the ship called at San Salvador, NCL’s private out-island (today called Great Stirrup Cay) on Fridays as the ship is Miami-bound, with a call at St.
Thomas on Wednesday.

By the fourth cruise, a leak developed in the ship’s desalinisation plant.
Water was in short supply and had to be rationed until the ship could take on fresh water at Freeport; this cruise did not call at San Salvador.

Success has followed Norway despite two power failures (one electrical and one a boiler breakdown.) Figures released by NCL in 1981 for Norway’s first year of operation showed she carried 86,200 with a 95 per cent load factor.
In fact Norway was so popular that many passengers indicated a desire to go on another NCL cruise.
The ship was rated excellent in many areas such as food, service and entertainment.

In 1980/1981 accommodations on Norway ranged from $870 to $3,450 per person, double occupancy, in the summer and drop to $810 to $3,480 in the fall.
Her success continued way into the 1980’s.
She was the first ship to offer a full Broadway show Hello Dolly as well as lavish Las Vegas-style revues in the two-story Saga Theatre.

Norway was also the first venue for NCL’s popular theme cruises.
The annual Floating Jazz Festival, Fitness and Beauty Cruise, Country Music Cruise and Big Band cruises, among others, debuted aboard the Norway.
As the ship’s popularity grew, so did media interest.
Travel writers, authors and ship historians were drawn to her rich history. Norway’s visual beauty drew considerable attention from television producers who used the ship as the location for scores of television productions, including “The Anne Murray Christmas Special” on CBS, and “The Today Show” on NBC.

In 1984, NCL took Norway “home” to Scandinavia for the ship’s routine dry-docking at the HAPAG-Lloyd shipyard in Bremerhaven.
A special series of one time only cruises took her to some of the most scenic regions of western Europe and Scandinavia, including the majestic fjords, the North Cape and the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Thousands throughout Norway watched the ship pass their coastline.

Following her summer in Scandinavia, she returned to the Caribbean.
In 1986, the ship’s itinerary was altered slightly, deleting Nassau but adding the popular Dutch/ French port of St.
Maarten.

In August 1990, Norway underwent a seven week, $40 million refurbishment at Lloyd-Werft shipyard formerly HAPAGLloyd, in Bremerhaven, overseen by naval architect Tage Wandborg who directed her original conversion.
Two glass-enclosed decks of luxury cabins, including the cruise industry’s four largest suites, were added atop the vessel, increasing tonnage to 76,049 and passenger capacity to 2,022.
The owners and grand deluxe suites, spanning 760 and 600 square feet, respectively, featured floor-to-ceiling windows, a wraparound private balcony with breakfast area, a Jacuzzi and full bath that overlooked the ocean on the forward Sun and Sky decks.
Forty percent of the new cabins had balconies and the suite level of the Norway’s total capacity was brought to 20 percent.

Other enhancements include a health centre with floor-to-ceiling windows and state of-the art equipment, a 360-degree jogging track, 12-person Jacuzzi, a multipurpose conference room offering views of the sea, and renovations to the Lido Lounge, creating a larger poolside area by day and an elegant supper club by night.

In addition, the Roman Spa, designed by Stephenjohn Ltd. of London, was constructed on Dolphin Deck where the former fitness centre and indoor pool were located.
This 6,000 square-foot spa was staffed by European-trained specialists and offered fitness, health and beauty programs in a complex of herbal treatment rooms, hydrotherapy baths, massage rooms, a cardiovascular exercise area, steam rooms, saunas and a beauty salon.

In September 1993, Norway travelled to the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia for a four-week, $23 million renovation under the direction of marine architects Peter Yran and Björn Storbratten, designers of NCL’s newest vessels, the Dreamward and Windward.
During the renovation, most of public rooms and passenger cabins were appointed with new carpeting, decor and fabrics, incorporating and enhancing many of the SS France’s original attributes.
New sound and lighting systems were installed in the North Cape Lounge and Dazzles Disco.
And the classic Saga Theatre debuted a new show when the ship returned to service, “The Will Rogers Follies.”

Another major undertaking was a million dollar renovation of the 5,000-square foot casino.
An Art Deco-style theme was designed by L.E. Seitz Associates, Inc., a leading hospitality and casino design firm.
The casino entrance features inlaid black granite flooring, mirrored walls, colourful signage and antique slot machines replicas.
From the custom-designed carpeting to the etched and inlaid coloured glass artwork on the walls to the backlit stained glass ceiling, no small detail has been overlooked, according to NCL.

Throughout the 1990’s success continued to follow Norway.

In 2001 she made several cruises and several trans-Atlantic voyages in her final season with NCL cruising.
Rates on the Norway in 2001/2002 ranged from $3,739 per person for the top suites to $879 for an inside room.

As she was now 41 years old, NCL decided to retire the ship in 2001 and indeed actually sent the ship on its “final” trans-Atlantic crossing which was sold out by many believing her next destination would be the scrapyard.
But following September 11 and Americans’ disinclination to travel overseas, NCL decided to keep the ship in service until 2004.

On May 26, 2003 after disembarking 2,135 passengers and 911 crew at Miami, Norway was rocked by a boiler room fire and explosion that killed eight crew and injured 15.
The boiler in question had operated normally during the cruise.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report, “Damage was extensive.
The outer casing [of boiler 23] is ruptured allowing the interior of the boiler to be visible on the starboard aft section.
The explosion knocked out and open doors three decks above the boiler.
Fuel oil heaters on the starboard side were blown partially from the mounting brackets and were found to be hanging loose.”

There were other damaged areas, according to the NTSB report: “…
Adjacent to the boiler room on the starboard side of decks four and five there was significant physical damage to the bulkheads’ doors and door frames.
Crew cabins on Caribbean Deck sustained severe damage to the inboard (passageway) bulkheads, door and door frames.
The cabin doors were blown out of the frames, damaging the frames in the process.
Debris from the boiler room was deposited on exposed surfaces.”

During the cruise all equipment was operating normally and neither crew nor NCL officials at NCL could determine the reason for the explosion.
Even investigation proved difficult due to the high level of asbestos in the boiler room; NTSB officials had to wear protective clothing and respirators while in the area.

After interviewing 200 crew, ship’s officers and other personnel, the National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation.
A definitive report is not expected before the end of 2004.
In the meantime, relatives of those killed or injured in the explosion have experienced a difficult time in suing NCL for damages.

Currently Norway is idle in Bremerhaven, Germany after being towed there in July 2003.
At first, her owners said the ship would return to service in the fall of 2003, but this was changed to spring 2004.
Now there is no word whether the ship can be economically repaired.
A complicating factor is that she will have to be brought up to the latest Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) standards, involving still more expense.

NCL lost more than $11 million in revenue on the idle Norway in the year since the explosion.
At press time it was reported that ship brokers estimated she was worth $15 million in scrap.
Her future is yet to be determined.

With each of her metamorphoses, Norway emerged rejuvenated while displaying the classic elegance of her former self and a heritage that is solely her own.
She offered the best of both worlds in a setting of unparalleled beauty.
Although vessels of greater capacity exist today, there will never be another ship that combines the Norway’s superior craftsmanship, classic lines and extraordinary heritage.
One hopes she will return, phoenix-like, to sail again.

Editor’s note: Before this article went to press, the author contacted the National Transportation Safety Board for an indication of when the report on the 2003 explosion aboard Norway would, be issued.
The NTSB was unable to provide any information.

Conflicting reports have surfaced regarding the liner’s future: Some suggest scrapping is imminent, but another states that a group of French business executives have announced their hope of purchasing the liner and refitting it as a museum, possibly moored at Le Havre.
At this writing, none of these scenarios has been confirmed, but it would appear that
Norway’s days as a Norwegian Caribbean Line vessel are over.

 

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