Part 2 of 3: Sailing Day:
Everything about it was, for me, a magical dream come true. As we were heading for her berth in the bus, I was smitten by her sheer size … although I knew her measurements, 1,035 feet long, 110.6 feet wide, a draft of some 35 feet, and gross tonnage in excess of 76,000, nothing had prepared me for the impressive sight that me eyes beheld. Of course, she was now two decks taller than she was as France
, and she now had an impressive after-deck extension, but her form and grace were unmistakable. Crowned with those two famous “winged” funnels, I could see her in my mind’s eye as she was in her glory days as a transatlantic liner. My fear of water totally pushed aside by my excitement, I couldn’t wait to board her.
My wife’s opinion was somewhat different than mine … she looked seasick and we hadn’t even boarded the ship yet. We did our check-in and were on board in less than two hours after our arrival at the ship. As part of the featured entertainment, we seemed to have the perk of being ushered on board pretty quick. We met our cruise director who gave us our entertainment schedule … our first night out to sea would be formal night, our second and third night out would be Confederate Railroad providing the main entertainment, the fourth and fifth night out would be George Jones and his band, then our group (Ty Herndon) would close out the cruise with our shows on the sixth and seventh nights. This meant, for us, five days/nights of uninterrupted play time and only having to work the final two nights.
The cruise director gave us each over to the charge of our stewards who led us to our cabins … my wife and I had an ocean view stateroom with two portholes. Wow, the luggage handlers were fast … our luggage was already in our room waiting for us. My wife, looking green as a clover, immediately began to dig for Dramamine and I couldn’t wait to take off exploring. I was worse than a kid in a candy store …my head literally swam and I thought I was going to swoon away in a dead faint of sheer delight!
Instead of the ship departing in the mid-afternoon as we were scheduled to, we had a delay (much to my wife’s relief as she gobbled down more Dramamine). Despite sitting in port, activities started anyway. By five, we were dressed for formal night and headed to the Captain’s greeting, photo shoot, and then to dinner.
At the Captain’s greeting we stood in line to meet the Captain … which I found out later, was one of two Captains aboard Norway
. One was actually in operational control of the ship while the other, fully ranked and with all respect and privileges, served as a PR
liaison with passengers & crew. The rest of the band hurried to shake his hand and get on down the line, but I took a moment as he welcomed me aboard to say, “Thank you, sir. I’d like to say it is a privilege and an honor to be aboard the Norway
, formerly SS France
. Last of the Grand Ladies of the Atlantic.”
The rest of the band, as well as my wife, looked at me a little funny when I said that, but the Captain happened to like it. In short order, one of the gentlemen assisting the Captain was by my side asking me my name and table number and stated that the Captain would like to send me and my wife a complimentary bottle of champagne. Wow, how nice is that?
We proceeded to the photo shoot area where individuals, couples and families were having their photo taken behind a ship’s rail in front of a backdrop. Hanging from the rail was a life preserver with “Norway” and “1998” on it. We then went to dinner in our assigned dining room. Soon, a waiter brought us a nice bottle of champagne with a card that was an invitation to dine at “the Captain’s table” the following evening.
After dinner we went up on deck. Night had fallen and we’d still not left. We had a nice stroll on the Star Deck (which we learned was called the Sun Deck during the day and the Star Deck at night) and felt the deck plates vibrate beneath our feet as Norway’s
powerful engines came to life. It was somewhere between 10:00 and 10:30 PM. My wife stayed on deck long enough to see us leaving Miami, but retired to our room for bed as we left port. I moved from the Star Deck to the after recreation deck and sat drinking excellent coffee while watching the lights of Miami move away and slowly grow smaller as the ship got into its rhythm.
It was amazing … literally nothing in the way of pitch or yaw movement … only a gentle slow roll from side to side that seemed to feel like the tender motion of a mother rocking a cradled infant in her arms. Norway
was brilliantly lit from stem to stern and it was clear that she surely was a true Queen Of The Ocean.
I was surprised at how long the glow from the lights of Miami stayed with us on the distant horizon and it was only when they were finally gone and all that was visible was the face of the ocean and Norway’s
long wake behind us. I turned in for the night and woke the next morning to the ship stationary. Looking out my window was incredible … the most beautiful aquamarine, turquoise blue water I’d ever seen and the island in the distance. We were at St. Maarten.
After breakfast, my wife and I boarded one of the tenders and went ashore … there we strolled around and finally ate at a place on the dock called Barefoot Terrace Grill & Restaurant. We talked with some off-duty Norway
crewmen, had a great hamburger & drink, then boarded the next tender headed back to the ship (my wife, because she wanted more Dramamine and to crawl back into her bunk …me, because I wanted to explore the ship).
And explore I did! Literally every corridor and area that wasn’t marked Crew Only or Authorized Personnel Only found my footsteps upon them and I never tired of looking around and throughout this great lady. Dinner at the Captain’s table that evening was quite nice and he seemed to get a real kick out of speaking about the ship so much. My wife retired early again for more Dramamine (the poor thing really had no constitution when it came to motion of any kind). One by one people at the table began to dwindle away and eventually it was only me and the Captain, each of us still going on about Norway
and her former life as France
. I have to say that my talk with him was one of the highlights of my cruise on her.