Excellent column as always. It begins:
In what has the potential of being a historic announcement (but somehow the doubtful appearance of a belated April Fools' joke)
Ironically I wrote an April Fools' joke (faux news article) on just this very subject
Somehow, I managed not to post it here... But it appeared on several other forums and e-mailing list. Here we go:
MIAMI, 1 April 2002 - Star Cruises subsidiary Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., in light of the recent approval for them to operate three US-flag ships in Hawaii, today announced that the flagship of their new brand Norwegian Hawaiian Cruises will be the long-mothballed former US flagship, SS UNITED STATES.
The ship will retain her present name, and will get a blue hull and a livery similar to that of NCL's famed SS NORWAY. Industry experts speculate that the refurbishment of the ship will likely include the addition of new luxury suites and a new, fuel-efficient diesel-electric or gas turbine powerplant. Norwegian Hawaiian will introduce new funnel colors and a new logo and brand image capitalizing on the American and Hawaiian roots of the company. The "Norwegian" name will be retained to show the connection with the parent company. A high-ranking NCL official citied the NCL name's brand recognition as the reason for retaining the "Norwegian" brand.
In a press conference today unveiling the name of the new brand and that of their soon-to-be flagship, NCL CEO Colin Veitch said, "we at NCL and now Norwegian Hawaiian Cruises are extremely excited to be playing a role in returning the US merchant fleet to its former grandeur. We look forward to seeing the SS UNITED STATES back into service as the crown jewel of the NCL and Star Cruises fleet and as the flagship of this new operation which will surely mark a milestone in the history of American passenger shipping."
Sen. Daniel Inyoue (D-HI), also attending the press conference said, "Hawaii will be proud to become the home state of the most magnificent ship America has ever seen. We would like to thank NCL for their dedication to the tourism ndustry of our state and to the revival of US-flag passenger service in Hawaii."
Sen. Inyoue was instrumental in passing the act of Congress which would allow the foreign-owned NCL to own and operate US-flag ships in Hawaii.
NCL stated that major European yards are presently competing for the contract to rebuild SS UNITED STATES to NCL's specifications. The bill that was passed allowing NCL to star US-flag operations permitted the vessel to be built at a foreign shipyard. An NCL spokesperson said that further details of the new Hawaiian operation will be available shortly.
The operation will also include two ships partially built in Missisippi under the name "Project America", originally intended to revive US-flag passenger service. Their owner, American Classic Voyages, went bankrupt and ceased operations shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks. NCL will be the first foreign company to operate US-flag ships in US coastwise service. The vessels will be completed at Germany's Lloyd Werft shipyard, with which NCL has held a close relationship since they handled the converison of the ocean liner SS FRANCE to NCL's flagship Caribbean vessel SS NORWAY in 1980. It is expected that Lloyd Werft will win the contract for the UNITED STATES conversion.
Spokespeople for Lloyd Werft and for the present owners of the SS UNITED STATES declined an interview for the purpose of this story.
Yes, I actually wrote that on 1 April of this year. Now, some of my predictions will not likely come true - the brand will not be Norwegian Hawaiian Cruises and she will not be seeing service in Hawaii, and I would not be surprised if she retains her old United States Lines livery, rather than the blue one described above. She will also have the major part of her refitting (not the interior accomodation) done in the US and she will therefore not be one of the three ships covered by the Act of Congress - instead, she needs no special legislation to meet the Passenger Services Act. I still would not be surprised if her accomodation is installed by Lloyd Werft though...
And finally, people have asked me if I had some sort of insider information... Not at all. I just thought this up and thought it would be a good April Fools' joke (of course the April 14 announcement was not
one). I thought it would be impossible to happen, and I'm still shocked and stunned that in many ways, it it did, just two weeks later!
Moral of the story: nothing's impossible!