Yard Chantiers de l'Atlantique, rebuilt Lloyd Werft
|Speed 19 knots
All text and photographs (unless stated otherwise) © Paul
In July 1984, I made my first short trip on a “mega cruise ship”, at the time
even the world’s largest and longest cruise ship, the Norway. We sailed from
Southampton to Amsterdam, and we had full day at sea to explore the ship. In
those days, the only ship matching her in size was the Cunard Line’s famous
Elizabeth 2. As it happened, she also was in the port of Southampton on july
25th. Thousands of onlookers had come tot the docks to see both vessels and when
the Norway and the Queen greeted each other by blowing their horns, this was an
occaision no shiplover will easily forget.
France passing the Statue of Liberty at the start of one of
her crossings to Europe
When I came out on deck the following morning, I sensed there was something
strange happening, but I did not realize what it was at first. Then I noticed
that we had come to a halt at sea! Later, it was rumoured that the Norway’s
master had given orders to stop her at sea, rather than letting her proceed at
slow speed as he thought it was undignifying for a once transatlantic speed
queen, to let her crawl to Amsterdam. So we floated around for some time
before Norway gradually started picking up speed again. When we entered the
locks of IJmuiden at 02.00 AM, again many spectators were present and all cars
switched on their headlights. A very spectacular sight!
The first class salon Fontainebleau (left) on the France was
later turned into the Checkers Nightclub (right) on the Norway
Norway started her career on the high seas as the French transatlantic liner
France in 1962. One of the last of her kind as the airplane had completely taken
over. Only a handful of liners remained on the route to New York, but before the
1970’s, almost all of these were gone. They either ended their days at the
scrapyard or switched to cruising. France was the longest passenger ship ever
built: 315.5 metres, a title she held until January 2004, when the Queen Mary 2
was taken into service. France made almost 400 transatlantic crossings between
Le Havre and New York, during her short career (12 years) as a liner.
In 1974, the French government decided to cut operating subsidies and although
her crew tried to prevent her being taken out of service by blocking the port of Le
Havre with the France, she was sent to lay up at the Quai de l’Oublie (quay of
the forgotten) at Le Havre.
She spent five years there, silent and indeed forgotten. Then an Arab businessman,
Akram Ojjeh bought her in 1979 and rumours concerning her future started
circulating: one said she would be used as a gambling hotel in the US, and that
Mr. Ojjeh already had already purchased loads of antique furniture to be placed
on board. Alas, it didn't come to pass….
Two mighty winged funnels of the France
In a surprise move, in 1979 Knut Kloster, owner of Norwegian Caribbean Line, a
firm that had pioneered cruising in the Caribbean with their first vessel Sunward, bought the idle
France. At the time, the ideal tonnage for a cruise
ship was thought to be in the 25.000 – 30.000 GRT range, and the cruise industry
looked upon Klosters plans with great scepticism. Unabashed, Kloster sent the
France to the German Lloyd-Werft and spent $45 mio on her to convert her from a
closed liner to an open cruise ship with large sun decks and outside swimming
Her profile remained more or less the same, apart from an enlarged sun deck at
the stern. Her indoor pool disappeared, two outer pools were added and her
machinery was downgraded from four to two steam turbines in order to achieve
more fuel efficiency. After an 8 month refit she was delivered by Lloyd Werft
and set out on her maiden voyage in 1980 under her new name Norway. She proved
to be a great commercial success, and the new age of the mega cruise ship had
It took competitor Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines seven years to respond by taking the
Sovereign of the Seas into service in 1987. She was the first purpose built mega
cruise ship, measuring 73.192Grt and carrying 2276 passengers.
France at full speed
Norway would stay in the Caribbean for an incredible 23 years . She had left the Caribbean on a number of occaisions
to make some cruises in European waters, mostly combined with a refit or
overhaul at Lloyd Werft, Germany.
In the ‘80s other companies started to operate large cruise ships, beginning
with the already mentioned Sovereign of the Seas. Norway
was surpassed in tonnage
and NCL sent her to Lloyd Werft again for an extensive refit. To regain the title
of being the world’s largest cruise ship and to enlarge her earning capacity,
two decks were added on top of her superstructure. Now an extra 135 luxury
cabins were available. Norway “grew" to around 75.000 GRT in the process. Her
profile was altered somewhat, happily it was not spoiled as only her funnels
seemed to be shortened. The new decks were built around the existing funnels.
Speaking of Norway’s profile, on her forecastle two 24 mtr long barges were
added during her conversion to cruise ship, appropiately called Little Norway I and
II. Her deep draught of over 10 mtr makes it impossible for Norway to dock in
most ports, so passengers have to be tendered ashore. Both of these tenders have
large passenger carrying capacities.
Norway at anchor
Norway – interiors
As far as cabins are concerned, there is a mixture of cabins available in many
categories, ranging form small inside cabin which have become a bit outdated over
the years (and are reminiscent of her ocean liner days) to luxury outside cabins
which have been upgraded. To this the 135 cabins we already mentioned on her new
top decks have been added. These reflect the latest standard of luxury in the
cruise business, some even have balconies.
Norway has two dining rooms, Leeward and Windward. The Leeward is a two level
dining room with interconnecting stairs featuring an enormous chandelier, which
was transformed from the former Restaurant Versailles which really was a rather
simple and cold dining room.
The Windward dining room has been left virtually unaltered. It has a circular form, and
features a grand staircase from which passengers can make a dramatic entrance
into the dining room. Original murals and grandiose wood-panneling has been
retained over the years, and these add an unmistakable classic charm to this dining
L'Express, a French magazine August 1979
Norway features two enclosed promenades. These are her former first class
promenades, which sheltered her passengers from the often angry North Atlantic.
It makes one dream about the days France made crossing after crossing between Le
Have and New York, seeing many celebrities stroll along these promenades…..
They are called Fifth Avenue and Broadway, and they give access to public rooms
on this deck. Norway carries a large number of passengers, meaning that when
for example a captain's cocktail was organised, long lines formed in Champs Elysees
and Fifth Avenue. Hoever, NCL had found a clever solution to this: when standing
in line passengers were entertained by various artists like magicians, musicians
In fact waiting lines did grew out of proportions when passengers were asked to
collect their passports before disembarking. In some cases it took hours before
all passports had been returned. This was solved by flying customs officials in
by helicopter, so picking up passports could start much earlier, thus avoiding
congestion at the desk.
French gloating? Newspaper France Soir reports Norway's maiden
voyage has to be postponed because of plumbing problems
One of the ship’s most impressive public spaces, which must be mentioned here is
the former First Class smoking room Salon Riviera, which is largely unaltered from her original
appearance. After entering this magnificent room, you have to climb a circular
stairway to reach the center part. A perfect place for a drink (there is a small
bar) and dancing at night. On both sides there are views on both indoor
promenades, and also on the Boat deck, one deck up. Several fixtures, from the
ship’s days as France still remain in place, e.g. the ornaments on the
ceilings. New in this room are two statues of ancient Gods, both made of
semi precious stones, which had to be hoisted aboard by crane! The Club
Internationale as its present name is, remains one of
the finest rooms afloat, reminiscent of the glory days of ocean travel, and is
in the same league as Rotterdam V’s Ritz Carlton Lounge.
In 2001 Plans were announced by NCL to transfer Norway to their
subsidiary Orient Line (Orient operates soft expedition cruises). She would as
it were switch places with Star Cruises' (NCL's parent company) modern cruise vessel
Superstar Leo. The Leo in turn would be incorporated in the NCL fleet and sail in US
waters while Norway would trade for Orient, trying to open up new markets. Although
Superstar Leo was actually transferred to the NCL fleet in 2004 and is
currently sailing as Norwegian Spirit in US-waters, Norway remained in the
Windward dining room, largely unaltered from her days as
Alas, in May 2003, whilst in the port of Miami between two cruises, Norway suffered
an explosion in one of her boilers. 8 Crew members were killed in the accident, there were no casualties among passengers. At first, she was expected back in
service within a month or two, but repairing the boiler proved to be a lengthy
and costly affair as only a few companies have the skills to construct one.
Norway had built up quite an account concerning her “parking fee” in the Port of
Miami and it was decided to tow her to Europe to the yard that had given her a
new life as a cruise ship, Lloyd Werft in Germany.
Just before the summer of 2004, NCL decided that Norway would not return to
their fleet (indeed she was silently removed from NCL’s website), and Norway was used as a floating hotel for
construction workers and future crew members of the
brand new Pride of America which was delivered to NCL in June 2005. One of the reasons
NCL ended operating the Norway was that the reason why one of the boilers
exploded has never been discovered. So theoretically, one of the remaning ones could explode as
well and NCL is not willing to endanger their crew members on board.
May 2005, Norway at Lloyd Werft just days before she left
under tow to Malaysia (click on pictures to get a full size photograph)
In the mean time, several parties seemed to be interested to acquire
use in a static role, such as a floating hotel and convention center.
Amsterdam and Hamburg and Honfleur (France) were said to be three of these interested parties.
Werft has warned for high maintenance costs if Norway is used in a
As recently as June 2005, the magazine FEM Business Update announced that a Dutch
politician and his business partner, had definitely acquired the Norway for use as a hotel in
Amsterdam. This deal must have fallen through as Norway left Bremerhaven on May 25th to be towed to
Port Klang (Malaysia) where she has been at anchor for 6 months until January
2006. In August she was inspected by Indian and Bangladeshi breakers and renamed
Blue Lady. Again, rumours
circulated that she would be used as a gambling vessel, operating at slow speed
on two of her undamaged turbines, but she was sold to Bangladeshi breakers in
December 2005 and departed under tow to Chittagong. Before she reached her
final destination however, the sale was cancelled under pressure of Greenpeace
and other environmental organisations and Blue Lady returned to
Then, Australian maritime publicist Reuben Goossens started a campaign to
save this great vessel together with Blue Ribband/ Gulf Desert LLC and operate
her in Dubai as a hotel, restaurant and museum. Blue Lady now
headed under tow for Fujerah, UAE, where she remained until the deal fell
Blue Lady, once attracting crowds wherever she arrived, now
circled the Indian Ocean, as she was denied permission to dock anywhere.....
she had become an unwanted vessel.
At last in July she was allowed to enter Indian waters and was finally
beached off Alang, after being purchased by Indian shipbreaker Priya Blue.
Scrapping the vessel was not yet permitted however, because the Supreme Court of
India waited to give permission for this until the outcome of an investigation
related to the amount of asbestos on board which could
endanger the scrapyard personnel's health. The court ruled favourably in the
2007 and at the end of this year the actual scrapping started.
In the mean time, Blue Lady had been dragged closer to
shore and her fittings were already offered for sale on the web..... Autumn 2009 this once gracious vessel had almost vanished into memory as
she had been scrapped for 80%.
Norway deck plans