I guess my Norway story is a bit long ... I'll deliver it in three parts just to be sure I don't go over the character limitation.
Part 1 of 3:
My feelings toward SS Norway
are perhaps a bit toward the romantic … not since Titanic
has any vessel captured my imagination and heart like SS France/Norway
I first became aware of ships at 4 years old when I was plagued for weeks by a recurring nightmare in which, in the dream, I was a grown man aboard a fantastic huge four-funneled vessel that would strike an iceberg and sink. In the dream I was always standing on the boat deck near the band when the boat deck went under and the sting of freezing cold water would engulf me … I would awaken screaming and crying in terror … and each time my parents would rush into the room to see what was wrong I’d ask them “Was there ever a ship called the Titanic
Eventually, my dad went to the library to find a book about Titanic
and he checked out Walter Lord’s “A Night To Remember” which contained several black & white photographs … and there it was! The very ship that haunted my dreams those past several weeks prior. My parents were amazed at how accurate my descriptions of the ship were (as best as a four year old can impart). Those dreams were the beginning of my deathly fear of water and, to this day at 59 years old, I’m still terrified of water if the depth is over my head.
Strangely enough, seeing the photos in the book had a profound impact on me. First of all, the terrible nightmares ceased. Second, my terror of the ship turned into fascination and I’ve been eaten up with Titanic
ever since. I became aware of ships like Queen Elizabeth
, Queen Mary
and United States
, but I was fascinated by only one vessel … Titanic
… until, in 1960, the news showed a brand new ocean liner, the world’s newest and largest .. the SS France
I was six years old when France
was launched, but I’ll never forget those first images of her … suddenly, I was all agog with this new ship … here was a vessel that, even at the tender age of six, I could appreciate the beauty of. Throughout my first 25 years, I could never get enough of Titanic
… they had captured my heart and interest like nothing else.
Eventually, my keen interest in Titanic
, and ships in general, faded as no one ever seemed to want to talk about them, and, I began to learn pedal steel guitar and my whole focus settled into that wonderful instrument. My interest in Titanic
was resurrected in 1985 with Dr. Robert Ballard’s discovery of Titanic
on the ocean floor.
Fast-forwarding to 1997, by this time I had been playing pedal steel guitar for country artist Ty Herndon for several years. Ty informed us one day with the happy news that we were going to co-headline a country-themed Caribbean cruise for Norwegian Cruise Lines … and, that we would be sailing on their flagship, SS Norway
. I had never heard of the Norway
and, for me, news of the upcoming cruise filled me with dreadful fear … the old nightmares from when I was four years old came screaming back to the surface and, for a couple of weeks, all I could think about was trying to come up with some valid excuse why I wouldn’t be able to go.
One day Ty called us all together with cruise details … we would be 7 days at sea (my heart sank with dread) and our co-headliners would be Confederate Railroad as well as the immortal George Jones. Then, Ty gave us each a video from NCL that was an SS Norway
promo video (I still have my copy). We threw one into the player and I was thunderstruck …it turned out the SS Norway
, upon which we’d be sailing, was originally the SS France
I was suddenly animated, grinning from ear to ear, the fear and trepidation I’d been feeling pushed aside with the idea that I was going to be seven days on this liner I’d loved life-long. My avatar, actually, is a photo that our bass player snapped of me when we watched the video and I realized what ship the Norway