This week's commentary by TravelPage.com's European Cruise Editor, Malcolm Oliver reflects on the end of the line for the former pride of the French Line and NCL flagship.
Goodbye Blue Lady
Emotions have been running high in our CruiseTalk forum over the past several weeks. After months of debate the process of scrapping the Norwegian Cruise Lines Legendary SS Norway (ex SS France) has finally begun on a beach at Alang, India.
Here are selected thoughts from some of our forum participants:
- "It's just a terrible sense of loss all around. Seeing that timeless ship in all her glory both as France and Norway and to know that soon she will be a memory".
- " Wow I have a really sick feeling in my gut today. Glad I had the chance to sail the great Norway RIP beautiful.
- "Makes me realize that these works of art (not just "chunks of metal" as some like to call them ) do truly touch people's souls."
I suspect those of you who are more interested in a floating vacation than a discussion of the number of rivets in an Ocean Liner's hull, must think that we are all completely mad.
Never the less, here is a brief history lesson:
The SS Norway was owned an operated by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for just over two and a half decades. However, she had a life before this. She entered service in 1962 as the 'SS France', a grand Ocean Liner and the last 'ship of state' for the French Line 'CGT' (Compagnie Générale Transatlantique). She quickly gained a reputation for style and excellent cuisine, as she operated the transatlantic route between Le Harve and New York.
In 1974, due to increasing labor and fuel costs, the France was laid up. The era of intercontinental ocean travel was swiftly coming to and end with the increasing dominance of jet aircraft. This could have easily been the end of the story. However, in 1979 Norwegian Cruise Line purchased the France and spent a year converting her into one of the biggest cruise ship of the period. In fact she was 50% bigger than any other ship operating in the Caribbean at that time. She quickly became a big hit with the cruising public as few other ships could match her onboard facilities at the time.
In 2003 the SS Norway experienced a boiler explosion while she was docked in Miami. A number of crew members were killed and injured. After a prolonged investigation into the cause of the accident and a survey into the damages sustained, NCL made the decision that she was no longer economical to repair.
After the SS Norway was withdrawn from the NCL marketing materials after the explosion I though that the web site and brochures would surely appear incomplete without her. I was wrong.
NCL now have an expanding fleet of twelve vessels, many of which are 'Libra Class' newbuilds. They feature NCL's innovations such as private Garden Villas, which are a little reminiscent of the SS France's 'patio cabins' and 'Freestyle Dining'. These vessels are more attuned to modern public tastes.
NCL is also offering more home-port cruises from regional US ports. They have also created NCL America, a dedicated cruise brand that allows NCL to provide unique itineraries of the Hawaiian Islands on three American crewed ships: Pride of America, Pride of Hawaii and Pride of Aloha.
The SS Norway was 44 years old this year. She certainly aged better in those years than many of us. If you ignore her tremendous heritage and charm (which is of course is impossible for a ship fan to do) she had become completely outdated compared to today's modern floating resorts.
As sad as it may seem for ship lovers, the reality is that the cruise business is just that - a business. In that light, the 'Blue Lady' was simply a machine that had reached the end of her serviceable life.
Her time had come.