SS Norway: Let's share our memories of her legacy
It has been 5 years since the SS Norway was beached in Alang. In 2000, I was planning on booking a cruise onboard the ship when my mother discouraged me from doing so. I wanted my family to experience this wonderful oceanliner with the hope that one day it would be renovated back to the SS France. When the boiler explosion occurred, I was hoping that NCL would fix her up for the next cruise. It never happened. I was very sad that my dreams of visiting the ship never came to pass. Fate has spared the Big U while the SS Norway was sent to the scrapyard.
I still remember searching for information on the ship with the hope that someone would buy her before she was beached. Remember John Voet and his company Blue Ribband/Gulf Desert? Who would have imagine that we were keenly focused on a hoax while the opposite was true: A one way ticket to Alang. The surreal experience of the SS Norway at Alang stil haunts my mind til this day. Does anyone else have a similar experience about the ship?
Dan, the only memories I have are seeing her in port. Unfortunately, I never got to sail her. I did sail on the Seaward, Windward, and Skyward, but never the Norway. She was a beautiful ship.
I was one of the fortunate ones who cruised on SS Norway. This was in April 2001. I have a review on the SeaLetter site if anyone would care to Google it. (ss norway sealetter lisa brings it to the top.)
At the time of the supposed rescue plan, I was highly skeptical. I may have posted so in our classic SS Norway thread on this site. Yet, as I do have memories of being onboard, it is much easier for me to focus on those than her post-service period. I believe it was John Maxtone-Graham who wrote that liners and cruise ships tend to have tragic deaths, either at the hands of the breakers or the waters.
My own favorite memory: Walking around SS Norway with a deck plan of SS France so I could note the differences. It got even better when a couple asked for directions and was surprised to see that my "map" was in French.
Wonderful Memories of SS Norway
Hi, Dan ... I'm a bit late to the thread here, having only just joined, but I'd like to share my memories of Norway and hope that I can impart a little of what it was like to sail aboard this Grand Lady of the Atlantic.
I'm going to type my Norway experience in my word processor and then cut-&-paste in the thread here ... I sort of lost my first attempt as I was apparently timed out while typing it. It's a little long, but hopefully enjoyable to read ... will post as soon as I have it typed up.
I also have some photos of our trip that I'll share as well ... Norway was a wonderful, beautiful vessel and my memories of her are profound and deep. :)
Welcome Jim! Some of us here are fans of the classic ships. I only cruised once on Norway but it was memorable. I remember the seas were choppy for most of the voyage but we sliced right through them with little motion while other cruise ships were having quite a ride.
Thank you so much for the nice welcome, Dave! Sailing on Norway was a magical and memorable time for me as well. She was a wonderful vessel and hearing of her demise, being scrapped, literally broke my heart. I actually sat and cried real tears when I saw the photos of her beached and then being broken up for scrap. I'm still typing on my Norway experience, but I hope to post it soon and, though it may be a tad long, I'm hoping those who loved the Norway, or who have been curious about her, may enjoy reading it. :)
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 and France … they had captured my heart and interest like nothing else.
Eventually, my keen interest in Titanic and France, 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 and France 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 was.
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.
Part 3 of 3: The following day, Ty gathered up as many of us in the band who were up for a tour of the bridge and operational areas. You can bet I was first in line among the band … I got several great camera shots on the bridge and, for one brief instant, got to meet the operational Captain of the vessel. Throughout the entire cruise, every single officer and crewman I met was friendly, courteous and professional and the NCL staff on-board bent over backwards to see that every passenger had a good time and a good cruise.
There were a couple of days that the sea was choppy and rough, but other than the typical gentle rolling action of the vessel, she was smooth and stable … unlike the Carnival Cruise vessel we passed on our way … all I can say is that watching that ship pass by made me extremely glad I was on Norway and not on that one!
For the most part, when I wasn’t exploring the ship I was up on one of the decks attempting to sun tan. If I had to absolutely find anything negative about that cruise, it would have nothing to do with NCL or the ship ... it was the fact that I didn’t tan, or sunburn, or even get the slightest bit pink from the Caribbean sun; on at least four of the seven days we were out, I ran shirtless in only shorts or swim trunks from 6:AM to 6:PM with no tan oil, sunscreen or anything and never got a bit of color … yet I saw people all around me using sunscreen like there was no tomorrow and still turning lobster red.
When my wife and I would stroll by the funnels on the Sun/Star Deck, it was interesting to hear the sound coming from them … like the exhaust of a giant clothes dryer … and I never got tired of hearing it. I shot skeet from the very stern of the vessel. During the cruise we visited two islands, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We were supposed to visit a third place, but the seas were to rough for us to get in with our vessel’s deep draft, so the Captain declared a day at sea and it was great. We prowled around out into the Atlantic in no particular direction and Norway fitted herself to that environment for which she had been designed so well … ocean travel … for that brief day out in the open Atlantic for awhile I was able to see and get a feel for what transatlantic travel was all about and it was magical.
Our two nights of performance came and we had a wonderful time with our concerts. All too quickly our seven days and nights on Norway came to a close. When we pulled into port at Miami, it was with a sense of great sadness that I faced leaving the ship (though my wife was more than eager to feel solid ground under her feet again). She departed the vessel as quickly as possible, but I lingered and looked around for as long as I could and ended up being among the very last passengers to leave.
They can build these huge luxury mammoths like Oasis of the Seas and other cruise vessels of similar design … and these newer ships, I’m sure, have their allure … but … in my book, one has not truly experienced what shipping is all about until they’ve sailed at least once on one of the true transatlantic ocean liners. While I am sure that there is a certain appeal to these newer cruise ships (which have always reminded me of over-sized yachts for some reason), there was a magic and personality found in the classic ocean liners that, in my opinion, the newer vessels will never possess.
Suffice it to say that Norway, in a brief seven days, filled me with a lifetime of precious memories that I will always cherish. The movie called Titanic “the ship of dreams”, but I think the same could be said for ships like SS France/Norway.
Thanks for all of that, Jim. I enjoyed reading it.
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