Left, the rising vessel nears ready for launch.  Right, smashing bottle meets hull, commencing the movement of the ship down the launch way.  Images from the "303 Book" by Philippe Conquer- used by permission.
The Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, fondly known as Transat, but more commonly referred to simply as the French Line, can trace its roots as far as back as the early days of steam. In fact, the French even operated sailing vessels until 1873. The Line flourished for the next 50 years until finally becoming a serious contender to the likes of the British and Germans with the introduction of the four stacker S.S. FRANCE of 1912, followed by the opulent S.S. PARIS, and then somewhat later by the splendid ILE DE FRANCE. Far and away, however, their most highly regarded vessel was the illustrious NORMANDIE of 1935- surely the most world renowned ocean liner ever to sail the ocean blue. This 1,019 foot liner was the by-product of the 'Golden Age of Ocean Liner' travel, the whereabouts of sheer size, prestige, art, decor and importance of the transatlantic ocean liner reached its very zenith. She was ultimately a culmination of planning and basis for two of their most outstanding ships that preceded, namely the art deco ILE DE FRANCE and the South American based masterpiece- L'ATLANTIQUE. By combining the best of both ships, the French Line secured the basis for what surely is a 'Grand Luxe' vessel where axial planning, the best art and decor that the country could muster, revolutionary hull design, massive funnels, clean and uncluttered decks, surely made one of the most magnificent ocean liner profiles ever to come about. If the Second World War had not intervened, the ship would have seen not just longer service but possibly a sister ship. Unfortunately, when Hitlers forces slammed into Poland in 1939, the ship found herself in American waters by the time the country declared war. By this token, the neutral based liner was later seized and preparations were made for conversion into a troopship transport. Carelessness in its highest form doomed the vessel during that transformation, as fire sparked in one of her large public rooms and spread quickly, engulfing the ship and its surrounding city with a cloud of smoke. Firefighting efforts from the fireboats and the outpouring of water from the Hudson caused her to keel over at her berth. What ultimately followed was one of the largest salvage jobs ever undertaken, as thousands of gallons were pumped back into the Hudson and help righten the ship once more. She was later scrapped a few miles from where she died and the NORMANDIE became perhaps the biggest tragedy of the 2nd World War.
Originally in American hands and declared unfit for American use, the former German-built EUROPA, was given to the French Line as repatriations for the loss of their company flagship. Partially decorated with NORMANDIE fittings, she proudly carried on the name sake as LIBERTE until by 1952 the French Line saw the need for new tonnage and preliminary plans were drawn for her ultimate replacement. Her fleet mate, the 1926-built ILE DE FRANCE by this time was past her prime and would in fact be gone within a few years. LIBERTE herself was showing signs of fatigue being nearly 30 years old. To complicate matters slightly, rumors were coming from the United Kingdom that the Cunard Line were considering replacing their venerable QUEEN MARY and QUEEN ELIZABETH, and the Americans were already succeeding with the UNITED STATES with whispers of a running mate. All were seen to force the hand of French Line board members to submit three plans to their chosen shipyard, Chantiers de Penhoet. By the time the third 'C-Type' plan was ultimately chosen, the yard had already underwent a merger becoming Chantiers de L'Atlantique. Charles de Gaulle saw the future ship as an ego booster to the war-ravaged country. Even before the time she entered service, she proved beyond a shadow of doubt to become a leading symbol to the entire French nation.
The contract to construct G19, the ship that would ultimately become the worthy successor to the NORMANDIE was signed on July 25th. Ironically on that same day, the revered ILE DE FRANCE took onboard 753 persons from the sinking Italian flagship, ANDREA DORIA, after she collided with the STOCKHOLM and returned to New York with those surviors the next day. On October 7th 1957, without special ceremony the keel of G19 was laid down on the very launch-way that was used to construct the most famous French Line express liner. NORMANDIE is considered from this point to almost haunt her successor for what prove many years to come.
To compare the FRANCE and NORMANDIE with one another is rather unfair for both liners, yet it is almost instinctive, and perhaps necessary.  The simple fact they were wrought at the very same slipway separated by nearly three decades is perhaps one of the most compelling reasons. Each creation, however, reflected very different social and economic times in which they were built. The NORMANDIE was built during the Golden Age of the Ocean Liner- when competition was fierce for building big and capturing speed records was highly prominent as air travel was still in its infancy. The French Line looked to their 1st Class clientele as their most regarded, hence the relative amount of public rooms and its elaborate grand luxe decor, not to mention the amount of 1st class Cabins outnumbered both Tourist and 3rd class as was the case in several of the large transatlantic liners built before the 2nd World War.
The S.S. FRANCE was surely a product of the jet age. A time, in fact, where the jet liner was the dominating and ever growing force over the North Atlantic. She was conceived during the early 1950s, also a time when ship builders were enduring prosperous times as a direct result of inadequate tonnage in numerous countries. Many of the firms in the aftermath of the second World War had to made due with aging liners that were built in most cases, before the war began. By the time the keel of the new flagship was laid in 1957, the sands of time where running out for the transatlantic liner. In the following decade this reality would inflict its fury on the very liner itself. Despite the fact that the airlines had taken over 70 percent of the transatlantic traffic by the time of her launch, the expense that went into her construction and furnishings was of unprecedented quality, without the decorative excess of her 1930s Art Deco counterpart.  The machinery of the future liner closely followed that of the SS UNITED STATES, so arranged into two separate engine rooms with the boiler plant divided and the fuel tanks located amidships. So as not to repeat the deficiencies in the numerous NORMANDIE fireproof faults that impacted her doom, the FRANCE would adhere to the same Method 1 Fire Prevention that the S.S. UNITED STATES had been built with. Coupled with the great luxury of having been one of the first ocean liner to have carpeting fitted throughout the ship, the FRANCE was surely a 'Ship of State' that the French people could look towards with great pride. And this reality reached its culmination with the prominent speech that President Charles De Gaulle gave on the very same day the hull of the FRANCE slipped into the same waters that her great predecessor had meet 27 years earlier. That day was May 11, 1960, a momentous occasion for the yard threefold. It was the centary of Chantliers del Atlantique and the 15th year the city celebrated it independence, the last city to do so. Opposite to that of NORMANDIE baptism, christening of the bottle took place on G19's port side and blessing of the ship was performed by Monsignor Villepelet, bishop of Nantes, who delivered a sonorous blessing into the platform microphone. In fact, it was the same platform that the ships godmother, Madam de Gaulle, would cut the tricolor ribbon at exactly, 4:15 p.m. It was during this part of the day that the tide allowed the estuary in which she would take her first steps as a liner to be at its deepest levels. From the very same microphone in which G19 received her blessing was also the very same that President Charles de Gaulle shouted out "Viva La France" to the nearly 100,000-200,000 people that attended the launching ceremony, coming from all corners of Europe by train, plane and automobile.
The 1st set of sea trials were performed on the 21st and 22nd of November 1961 whereby the vessel achieved a speed of 34.13 knots at 144,00 SHP(Shaft Horse Power.) A few days later she made her very first port call at her home port of Le Havre. In was in the next month that she prepared for the second series of sea trials with performance this time achieving an impressive speed of 35.217 knots at 174, 784 SHP, without any serious report of vibration. This is somewhat in great contrast to the NORMANDIE which was said to have various reports of vibration during her first year of service. In fact, the FRANCE burned 60% less fuel than NORMANDIE. Delivery of the S.S. FRANCE was officially done at Le Harve on January 6 of 1963 with final trials completed by the time she entered Southampton waters for the first time on the next day.
A sort of silent passing of the French Line torch took place during the inaugural cruise to Madeira. Upon returning from Tenerife on the 26th of January an exchange of salutes and whistle blasts as the nearby LIBERTE was making her final voyage to the breakers in LaSpezia.
The magnificent new liner set off on her maiden voyage bound for the States on February 2. Despite encountering severe weather while traveling in mid-Atlantic, and the rather cold and winter afternoon arrival on February 8th did very little to hinder the sheer excitement and antipacation of her maiden arrival at the Port of New York. This was evident by the flotilla of tugs, fireboats and various craft that surrounded her as she made way to Pier 88, the official pier for the French Line. The last time a French Liner had received such a gala reception in the port was nearly twenty two years before with the debut of the NORMANDIE.
Later that same year the new ship took the honor of receiving a special lady passenger, Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa was that guest of honor and she arrived in New York in December. A few days later the ship embarked on the first cruise to the Caribbean returning at the beginning of 1963. Fleet mate FLANDRE was transferred out of the LeHarve- NY route leaving the FRANCE as the sole French transatlantic liner. So as to provide a weekly service across the Atlantic, an agreement between the United States Line and their speed champion the S.S. UNITED STATES was made to alternate their sailing so as not to compete directly. In July of 1964, the ship completed her 100 Atlantic crossing and earlier that year had two of the outer propellers replaced by new five bladed versions.
A record passenger voyage was achieved between round voyage number 73, which consisted of two crossings on August 28th and September 8, 1965. A total of 4,121 passengers in this round trip also resulted in the best French Line figure ever achieved under the flag. The following year the ship experienced a fire in Cabin U228 which had been caused by igniting a pot of artificial flowers by a cigarette.  Seven months later FRANCE made her first call in Boston, welcoming 3,000 visitors onboard.
In 1967, the first five years of service had been tallied, yielding a transport of 313,741 passengers, an occupancy rate of 80 percent, with the record figure reaching 83.70 percent four years before. From the cruises that were made, occupancy rate was an impressive 90% considering that she was not designed for serious cruising in mind as revealed in her overall layout. The downside was that while passenger loads on transatlantic passengers ship continued to fall, 1967 faired no better for liners like the FRANCE as it was soon prove to be the first year she would operate in the red. In order to combat the issue of profitability the ship traded off regular transatlantic crossing for more cruise voyages, not to mention plans for charter cruises. Two months into the year 1968 FLANDRE was sold out of the fleet to become CARLA C for Costa Cruises and refitted for full time cruising. This left ANTILLES in Caribbean service and the French Line with two vessels. During the next year, operations for cruises and crossings had ceased using the traditional Pier 88 in favor of sharing Pier 92 with the new QE2 in May when the last of the Cunard transatlantic liners' entered service.
The arrival at New York was meet with dual fireboat spray and  surrounded by craft of all shapes and sizes - February 9, 1962  From the "303" book by Philippe Conquer- used by permission.
For nearly five years, the ship lay idle alongside the Quai de l'Oubil - the "Pier of the Forgotten" (also referred as the Quay of Oblivion) until 1977 when interest came in the form of a Saudi Arabian man who purchased FRANCE for $24 million.  Akram Ojjeh had made plans to convert the idling vessel into a floating hotel somewhere off the Florida coast and went even so far as to purchase truckloads of antique furniture to furnish her public rooms. With financing falling short, the plan was abounded and the ship continued to lay idle. Thanks to the unyielding efforts of maintenance workers who remained on the ship during her languishing years, interiors and engine room would prevail in surprisingly good shape. This would in fact, prove to be her salvation as we shall soon see.
For those remaining ocean liners that survived the transition to cruise ship throughout the 1970s, a reprieve as full time cruise ships had given rise to the ever growing cruise ship market. Since the 1950s, Americans households found more time in the 40 hour work week to take leisure in places like Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and even the Far-East. Cruising to these very places was seen as the simplest means to do so. New York had long been the ocean liner capital for nearly the better part of the century until it was discovered that weekly cruises can be done by means of moving the departing port further south to warmer waters. By 1978, the port of Miami had made serious strides as establishing itself as the cruise capital of the world. With the three quarters of a million passengers that passed through this port each year, nearly a third of these same passengers sailed with the Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Line. Up to that time they were hugely successful with the four "-ward"  prefix or  'White hull' ships being booked year round at over 100% capacity. The chairman of the firm that owned the Norwegian Caribbean Line, Knut Utstein Kloster, knew action was necessary as the cruise trade was facing an unprecedented upswing and additional tonnage was the obvious answer. When it comes to expanding the number of berths that a cruise line firm can provide, there are essentially four options: build new, stretch an existing ship, lease/buy from another line or simply convert something not is use. Building a new ship of the same size as the existing four ships would have taken nearly three years. Never mind stretching the existing ships since it requires that each one be removed from profitable service yielding only perhaps a few hundred additional berths. Buying a competing firms liner is rather prohibitive and risky in early market demands.
As already mentioned, the 1970s saw numerous idling ocean liners, most of them had been of the small to moderate size and easily converted to cruising for tropical waters. There were a few of such large size, however, that were seen as very costly to adopt to cruising - in not also for warmer weather - but also the shallower waters of Florida and the Caribbean. The two that bear directly to mind were of course: super liner SS UNITED STATES, and thourhbread S.S. FRANCE - both proud liners that share a common destiny in more ways than one. Indeed, both were taken out of service as rising labor disputes and surmounting fuel costs had been largely prevelant. In the long run, both experienced Government cut subsidies,  and most significantly the growing competition from the airline industry that became the deal breakers which forced them into retirement. Chairman Kloster and his firm were in any event, given a list of 20 laid up hulls, among the list were these two prospecting liners. These once proud symbols to their respective countries were largely fading, both derelict liners worthy of a reprieve - but were seen as too costly to bear for any one firm to undertake. With the exception to the five years that the S.S. FRANCE had endured at her Forgotten Pier, she been built almost a decade later than her American counterpart. Luckily, the FRANCE also received more regular maintenance, including a period of dry-docking from November 23- December 14 1976. The S.S. UNITED STATES had not received such attention (other than some humidifiers in a few areas) and would not see dry docking until, ironically, her French counterpart was back in service. Both ships had been nevertheless been constructed of the nearly the same high level of workmanship and material, but it was perhaps how much promise as a potential cruise ship both below and even above decks that ultimately lead to the $18 million purchase of the FRANCE. But before she would make the journey to undergo her transformation, the homeland that gave birth to her would show their resistance to her farewell. A resistance in fact that was, sadly, not duplicated and yet so critically needed in her life some 23 years later.
Bow views of the procedeing French Line legends,  ILE DE FRANCE(Above) and LIBERTE (Right) moored at New York during their respective careers.    Photos: Francis Palmer/Rob O'Brien collection
NORMANDIE presented a rather pleasing and balanced profile that would serve as the basis for FRANCE.                 Rob O'Brien collection
The SS UNITED STATES would serve as a modern day example for interior and engine room design for the new French superliner.  Rob O'Brien collection
A superb postcard view of SS FRANCE.  Rob O'Brien collection
There is no denying the likeness of these two legends as seen in the above two views at New York, both examined from the Pier 88/French Line berth. Echos of the NORMANDIE, left, are evident by the angle of the prow, the sheerline as it sweeps forward and the "whaleback" of the breakwater clearly reverberated twenty years later in this 1968 view of FRANCE, right.   Rob O'Brien collection
The idling SS FRANCE at the 'Pier of the Forgotton.'                   Rob O'Brien collection
Under the name of SS NORWAY, the ship is towed to Bremerhaven for a new life that would prove long lasting and far reaching.       Rob O'Brien collection
Many in the neighboring lands of Le Harve had personal ties linking them with the ship, a magnificent ship that proudly bore the name of the country she was built to serve. In a way, it was a realization to the French people, and perhaps the world, that the end had finally come to the heyday of the great liners; when the leading maritime nations were competing for world titles, the Blue Riband, and ultimately mistress of the seas. The drama came to a climax when it became clear that West Germanys Hapag-Llyod in Bremerhaven had won the highly prized contract for her monstrous refit. This was seen as a defying blow to the French shipbuilding industry in need of such work and an insult to the countryman who pored millions of labor man hours into her construction and general service. At some point, it also escalated into a political issue for the country and the status was bought to the attention of the president of France,  Valery Giscard d-Estaign. Specifically, it was the trade union and the remnants of the Compagnie General Transatlantique- absorbed into the state-owned Compagnie General Maritime in December 1973 who refused to accept the renaming of the ship. They claimed that they would prevent the liners departure from the pier in which she had become a local landmark. Resistance in its largest form rested with the union workers who did not wish to part ways with their FRANCE, and the potential work that the emerging new ship would provide. The president was unable to intervene as the contract and the terms of the sale had been air-tight and reality that she was in no longer in French hands began to set in. While tens of thousands of the general population made their way down to the dockside, French law enforcement quickly disbanded the crowds of gathering patriots and union workers, resulting in nothing drastic that had been feared or even hoped. When it came to cast off for the last time at six minutes pass seven on the morning on August 17, the farewell the S.S. FRANCE made was seen as an emotional departure filled with mixed feelings, including one of obvious sadness. Bitterness and even astonishment could be felt in the crowd as the nations once proud liner was not also sold to a small country like Norway but that the big job was going to France's arch rival in Germany. The crews of the French tugs of course refused to offer assistance as of way of boycotting the ship. Probably unnecessary as she was already under the care of two Dutch tugs. When the liner cleared the breakwater, she did not steam west for New York like she had done so many times before- those transatlantic days were largely over. Instead, a course was set due North towards Bremerhaven under her new name, NORWAY. She had actually been rechristened the name in a brief ceremony before Captain Hauge took command of the liner. While this surely meant the passing of an Atlantic legend, another legend was in the making that would forever change cruising as we know it today.
The daunting task of transforming closed French liner FRANCE into open cruise ship NORWAY was given to experienced Danish naval architect Tage Wandborg, his one hundred and sixty first commission, and working with the firm Knud E.  Hansen. While the sheer size of her 65,000 ton displacement, and 1035 foot hull length seemed daunting to most, Wandborg's approach was simple: ask the basic questions to form the basis of her new role. The plan was to carry 2000 passengers, in Caribbean waters at nearly half the speed made during her Atlantic crossings. From the keel to the funnels, a modernization plan of the ship was set forth by the time the ship arrived in Bremerhaven on August 22, 1979. Sharing a no doubt challenging role of transforming her interiors was New York designer Angelo Donghia. 
To meet fuel requirement and reduce the vessels speed, the two outboard propellers were removed and the forward engine room became a non-working space. The inboard pair of screws were also removed and replaced with a new five blade type which was all figured to result in half the fuel requirements. To meet the job of port maneuvering, bow and stern thrusters - small propellers housed in transverse tunnels built below the waterline - had been installed. Three thrusters at the bow and two at the stern would allow the new vessel to operate tug free from all but the strongest currents and tides (New York's Hudson River being a prominent example.)  Wandborg proposed removing the forward funnel as only the garbage incinerator would vent thru the Number 1 funnel, and even replacing the two with a different design altogether. Thankfully for many, this idea came to pass. There certainly could have been nothing more damaging than altering or removing the profile that had long conveyed an impact of strength and balance. Funnels are the probably the first thing the public notices from nearby and afar. They are an essentially a statement, much like a hat that covers ones head. The impact that they can portray cannot be overstated. NORMANDIE had one of the most prolific trio of funnels ever installed, so it is only befitting that her predecessor have what amounted to a pair that had an nearly equally long lasting and memorable effect. While her general profile remained intact, her profile forward of the wheelhouse did welcome two additions that were so uniquely original to NORWAY that they have not been duplicated since. In order to facilitate off shore anchorages of 2000 passengers, Little Norway 1 and Little Norway 2 each carried 400 passengers and measuring 88 feet. They amounted to being the largest boats launched from any cruise ship. At the stern, a more drastic change unfolded as the glass-enclosed Tourist-class swimming pool gave way to an extension of three decks with a diagonal steel slash uniting them and protruding in the same manner as the bridge wings do at the forward end. In the warmer climate of the Caribbean this alteration and extension of deck space would become much needed real estate for would-be passengers. Being a former North Atlantic liner outdoor space and outdoor pools were either bare minimum or non-existent. The accomplishment of opening up the closed FRANCE into the open NORWAY can be best seen from above but nevertheless, the ship gained two swimming pools and thousands of square feet of new teak in the form of Oregon Pine.
While worked progressed over the exterior, the first-cruise-ship-commission for Donghia had set out about the task of upgrading the largely dominated Tourist Class rooms that prevailed throughout the ship. Obvious to the cruise line, was its plan to covert those from Tourist to First class instead of the other way around.  During cruising duties as the FRANCE, the ship removed barriers and made it easier for passengers to mingle from deck to deck thanks in part from the 'sandwich' of its two class decks. Traditionally, the arrangement of class separation rested with 1st class amidships and the Second and Tourist configured elsewhere among dozens of transatlantic liners for in the preceding decades. The idea of separating the class horizatanly like a 'sandwich' had been pioneered by the ROTTERDAM of 1959- herself a departure from the rest of the ocean liners- but also thanks to her largely absent funnel and replacement of 'twin uptakes' which allowed engine exhaust to escape. The two dining rooms onboard NORWAY were among the first two receive the new treatment and in the end both possessed a staircase, offering both rooms the option to what the French called "la grande descente."  Although the Windward offered the original stairs to do so, the Leeward Room and its two levels made the spiral staircase the graceful and logical choice. Donghia employed distinctive color schemes in the carpeting that changed depending on the location in the ship to help orientate embarking passengers to their respective locations. The long corridor as seen on NORWAY seemed to go forever in the longest liner in the world.
Promenade decks have known to come into two basic forms; open and those semi-open spaces that include windows, both of which can trace back its origin at the turn of the century. SS FRANCE had two, one for each class, with the 1st class above its counterpart. Wandborg converted the Tourist class promenade into luxury cabins while retaining and redecorated the 1st class. Its emergence was legendary and the hub of nearly the entire ship located on International Deck. From there, one could access many public spaces including the new Club International, Trolland, and Saga Theater to mention just a few. A sort of renaming had taken place for each side of the former Promenade deck that added to its overall charm, the port side received the same name of a glittering Paris road called Champs Elysees and the starboard side received the name of its counterpart in American culture, 5th Avenue. In place of what would have been the deck chairs, instead became a boulevards of shops, bars, and cafes topped off by pursers office. Its was the sort of all encompassing venue that encircled the ship around her former Promenade deck and in turn became the precursor to the 'Atrium' of the mega cruise ships of today.  As already mentioned, Club International- in fact the former 1st Class Smoking Room-would retain much of its original decor including the light fixtures fixed atop her double height ceiling, the long bar, lamp-lit tables and sofas. The effect was an exquisite space, in effecting becoming one of the most intimate rooms onboard thanks to its two levels and beckoning decor of its North Atlantic days. The former First Class Lounge also received the Donghia touch becoming the rich red Checkers Cabaret. The Cinema forward of Checkers on the same deck received new lighting and sound systems becoming a perfect venue for the entertainment that would ensue onboard. The Tourist Class Smoking Room, one deck below, gave way to the Monte Carlo Casino, the ships central gambling area filled with slot machine, electronic gaming and black jack tables. Further aft of the Casino one could find the largest room on the ship in the form of the North Cape Lounge.  Unobstructed views of the Pool Deck were offered further aft and a spiral staircase on the starboard led the way for Viking Decks only public room, Dazzles. This would be Donghias touch of discotheque that was once the Tourist Class pool, and now would now provide passengers a dazzling effect with lights and port holed windows on the dance floor.
During that winter of 1979 and early 1980, Wandborg and Donghia instructed 2000 skilled workers to complete work that would involve 1,100,000 man hours. During the last week the ship was in Bremerhaven, its townspeople celebrated 'Norway Week' with the Shipyard inviting workers and their families to inspect the completed liner before being handed over to her new owners. There was much cause for celebration and honors, Hapag Lloyd has just completed one of the largest conversion ever undertaken, and all in record time. The culmination of the week was a ceremony that took place on Pool Deck with Hapag-Lloyd presenting a sailing ship model as a gift to Knut Kloster. For the better part of her career that model would have its place in the Windjammer Bar on International Deck. It would indeed be the first of many celebrations the ship would endure in her otherwise long career.
With her eight month month transformation finally complete, the ship was ready for sea and emerged complete with royal blue hull, new funnel livery, expansive open deck aft and two giant tenders nestled forward- just under the wheelhouse. But before N.C.L.'s newest flagship would make her return to American waters and her all familiar North Atlantic trek, Kloster made arrangements for the inaugural voyage to visit the country of her name sake, its king and countrymen. It was a midnight departure under her own power on April  29, 1980 and Kristiansand was the first state visit. Meanwhile, cardboard boxes, and roles of carpets were certainly a tell-tale sign that shipyard continued below decks as her cabin space was still being prepared for occupation. Among that preparation was the furnishing of television sets in every cabin, the first cruise ship to offer such a milestone. Newspaper and television reporters by the hundreds meet the ship at its anchorage on May 2nd for the overnight passage up to Oslofjord. The next morning, as the NORWAY majestically progressed up the port of Oslo, an ever growing armada of what seemed like everything that floated in Norway meet the ship; yachts, lifeboats, lighters, ferries, rowboats and the oldest passenger ship in the Norwegian merchant fleet, the coal fired S.S. BOROYSUND. This venerable 1907-built vessel was amongst the biggest craft afloat that morning, and certainly a welcoming gesture that made for what was indeed an historic encounter. Norwegians have a unrelenting devotion to their country and the sea which closely surrounds them. The sight of the towering vessel, not also the largest passenger vessel in the world but one that bore the name NORWAY, inaugurated what must have been the greatest sensation of patriotism.  Just before the vessel tied up along her dock at the capital of Norway, thousands of balloons in red, white and blue were released into the sunlight from her deck mounted pools. Coupled with the echoing concert of foghorns punctuated by NORWAY's own Supertyfon sirens, a serenade of brass bands both on deck and shore, culminated by Norwegian Prime Minster Nordli and King Olav attending the celebration with official tour and private luncheon. All, of course, made worthy front page news to nearly all corners of the globe.  For the first time since her maiden voyage under her original namesake, the ship was back in the headlines, and this time in a very positive aspect.
After three days of celebration, the ship was bound for Southampton signaling the end of her maiden voyage in European waters. Of course, more celebrations continued unabated as 800 more people embarked at the Oceanic Dock Terminal despite the ensuing disfunction's with her cabins and the so called numerous plumbing problems. What the passengers did not know at the time was the scheduled crossing westward almost never happened. The all-necessary certification by the American Bureau of Shipping was being revoked as it was revealed the ships fuel, Bunker C oil, had the consistency of asphalt in the ships bilge. The inspector had deemed this spillage as unseaworthy, and as a result, not also was the remainder of the maiden voyage in jeopardy but the countless hurdles her mastermind Knut Kloster achieved from dream into reality, was about to be spoiled. With a waste barge alongside the ship and a team of fifty clearing the bilges, disaster was thankfully avoided and the ship progressed for the maiden crossing towards New York. Despite the consistence changing of cabins due to many plumbing-deprived cabins, the same pride that ensued from the Oslo arrival remained with the passengers throughout the voyage, and even played out in the dining room echoing the sophistication of her French Line days with everyone participating the need to dress for the occasion. While the ship was not full, there was an urgency to get a proper head count for the U.S. Immigration- as they would certainly require it. In order to alleviate the confusion that resulted in many passengers switching cabins more than once or twice, a small group of volunteers set about knocking on every cabin to gather the census of passengers, even counting the stowaway that found his way onboard by mingling with the shipyard workers with a stolen boiler suit more than a week before. It was on May 15, 1980 that the NORWAY sailed into the all familiar waters of New York Harbor, complete with tugboat salutes and a Manhattan skyline that seemed to climb further skyward with the likes of the World Trade Center and various new midtown additions near her Pier 88 berth. Much like her maiden arrival as the FRANCE nearly two decades earlier, it was late in the day but the weather this time was under ideal conditions. The popular New York celebration Fleet Week was already underway and yet another interesting encounter like her Oslo arrival took place as tall ship CHRISTIAN RADICH greeted the glistening new blue liner. But it was nearly twenty four hours later when NORWAY cast off from Pier 88 that perhaps the most memorable encounter of all took place as she was approaching New York's Lower Bay. Inbound QE2 was returning from seaward after her normal five day crossing and making her way to the berth that her former transatlantic rival had just vacated. It was an almost auspicious passing of the two largest cruise ships in the world as the Masters of each liner exchanged whistle salutes. While they were no longer direct rivals as they had been in their heyday, it is interesting to understand that QE2 would continue to carry the Atlantic ferry torch and the NORWAY was about to inaugurate cruise service that would forever change cruising. In fact, the longest cruise ship in the world at the time would not just influence, but even have ties, to the very ship that would in decades to come replace the venerable QE2. In the early morning hours of May 20 her new home port of Miami bore her arrival for the very first time. While just outside the port however, she remained overnight until the gale weather conditions subsided later that evening. By June 1st, the career of the latest, the largest and the most extraordinary cruise ship commenced on the first seven day cruise. The first of this fully booked seven day excursion would be the beginning of what was to repeat for much of her long career- the 7 day circuit and an instant success that usually required a booking of at least a year in advance.
On August 19th, in fact her tenth cruise, witnessed what began as a series of teething problems that dwelled on the ship for a number of years. All power on NORWAY had been lost and was later restored on the 21st with the ship arrived back in Miami two days later. A boiler failure on the first of May, 1981 caused the ship to shut down the main engines while underway at sea. Fleet mates STARWARD and SUNWARD II disembarked their passengers off shore and made their way to assist the stricken liner. 24 hours elapsed and the ship made a slow progress back to Miami for general repairs causing the cancelation of the May 3rd cruise and restarting operations by May 10th. Within the first year of service as the NCL flagship, the occupancy rate equaled 95% carrying 86,200 total passengers with a quarter of that being repeat passengers and more than half making their first cruise on the NORWAY. A few days after Christmas of that year, yet another incident took place as fire broke out in the boiler room caused by the spillage of diesel fuel on a high pressure steam line. Thankfully, the ship was still tied up at her home port, but the blaze continued for four hours, requiring a crew of thirty five to extinguish.  It was not until January of 1982 did the ship return to normal service. N.C.L. made the announced that Nassau would be added to the itinerary, and once repairs were made to the ship, the January 30th voyage inaugurated what would continue to be a largely popular destination. While cruising Caribbean waters from Nassau to Great Stirrup Cay the NORWAY experienced a fire in her auxiliary boiler room on March 19 and the ship was subsequently withdrawn from service the next day. The first major refit was planned for May 8th, and it was decided to send NORWAY back across the Atlantic, once again returning to Bremerhaven, leaving on April 1, 1982. From the 13th of the same month until July 3, she remained at the shipyard while undergoing general repair work and refurbishment costing in the neighborhood of $15 US dollars. The result of this expense amounted to the addition of new diesel generators, three main boilers being retubed- and to reduce further fuel consumption, a set of new four bladed propellers were installed. The thirteen week process also witnessed all cabins and public rooms receiving refurbishment. The most benefical result of this refit was of course resolving the shortage of auxiliary power that the ship was experiencing. On July 17 the NORWAY was back in action on her scheduled weekly cruises.
In 1983, the United States was by most accounts experiencing a recession and naturally the majority of cruise ships were registering fewer bookings. With fire and teething problems largely behind her, the S.S. NORWAY however, saw occupancy factors of 93% further proving to be the most popular cruise ship in the 1980s. Never had a cruise line enjoyed such success as experienced by the sheer size of NORWAY. Her glamour and appeal was unparalleled and many continued to fall in love with her during the mid-1980s as she prospered, and nothing- at the moment- could compare with the first Caribbean mega-cruise ship.
To concede with the major refit to Blohm and Voss in Hamburg Germany, a program of  7 and 14-day cruises was planned in  the later half of 1984.  Following a short cruise to nowhere,  the NORWAY called at Philadelphia for the first time, departing that port on July 18th eastward bound for Southampton and arriving at England shores on the 26th where once again a meeting with the QE2 took place.
It was not uncommon for the NORWAY to draw 35 feet from keel to waterline. The original intention was actually to depart New York, and regrettably at the time would require unforeseen dredging in order to accommodate her. Philadelphia was logistically the next choice of departure, with her maiden call presenting a set of challenges its own right. In order to pass under the Walt Whitman Bridge, there was a need to chop off six feet from the top of the radar mast. The change to this port could explain why the ship attracted a passenger booking of just 60 %.  While making a total of four European cruises visiting the Norwegian Fjords and the North Cape taking place between July 28th to September 1st were the obvious highlights. The Blohm and Voss work began the next day while the ship was in dry dock yielding general hull repair work, and the last of remaining steam powered auxiliary machinery gave way to its diesel replacement. The westward track back to the states was made with a set departure from her European tour commecing on September 24, and making stops at Bermuda, Nassau and Miami. By October 6th it was back to the popular 7 day Caribbean grove that continued to maker her famous. Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Lines A/S changed names to Kloster Cruise A/S as a result of this acquisition. A voyage in January 1985 saw the addition of the port of St Marteen to NORWAY's itinerary. A departure from the normal port of calls was made for a special coastal cruise taking place on May 17th and lasting until the 23rd visiting; Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, and Freeport. The first NCL new building in 15 years was ordered in August of that year, eventually emerging as SEAWARD from Wartsila/FInland yards a few years later.
An out of the ordinary destination took place on one particular voyage in May of 1986. Instead of making steam for St Thomas, the unheard port of call at Wilmington, North Carolina was the chosen destination, anchoring offshore and ready to film NBCs The Today Show. The well established morning network program would in fact, be broadcasting from the decks of the NORWAY for the entire week as the ship paraded southward along the eastern seaboard eventually reaching Miami. While it is sketchy whether such  public relations outings ever possessed passengers to book the ship, it is almost transparent to see that the network choosing the largest cruise ship in the world only proved her popularity in the public minds; if not more so by end of that weeklong journey.
An aerial view of the ship while she was being converted at the  Bremerhaven drydock.     Rob O'Brien collection- courtesy of Rick Faber
Twenty years after founding the company that was the Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Line, Knut Kloster resigned his position as the chairman of the firm. In 1986, the torch was passed to his younger brother Einar and eventually his son, Knut Kloster III, would later take the helm. Despite the popularity that N.C.L. and its flagship had been experiencing, the board and the chairman were already at odds, and perhaps a bit estranged. The thousands of miles that separated the board at Miami and Kloster in Oslo were clearly symbolic as the vision of one man did not necessarily coincide with the money driven board members. Knut Kloster was ultimately getting a return of his investment by bringing the NORWAY into being and the mainstream success that followed. So much in fact, that Royal Viking Line was purchased the year before, owning its three liners and what was considered one of the most upscale cruise lines at the time. N.C.L. board members were at the same time enjoying the money being made by the likes of NORWAY and its four White fleet mates. Kloster dreams and focus on the, other hand, shifted and centered towards a project years ahead of its time. That dream was a sort of a NORWAY sequel, a monstrous literal city at sea displacing some 250,000 tons and accommodating some 5,200 passengers. PHOENIX, as it was initially called, entailed costs beyond staggering- projected to have several birthplaces as its sheer size was too overbearing for any one shipyard to handle. And like his previous accomplishment, Kloster persisted to turn his dream to turn into reality.  Funding such a project would obviously require capital that the board was not willing to hand over so easily- especially since it was considered more than risky. Henceforth the relinquishment of his position at N.C.L. to jump start operations of his own called World CIty Corporation, and prompting PHOENIX WORLD CITY to occupy his forthcoming agenda.  When Carnival Cruise Line IPO (Initial Public Offering) yielded a handsome $400 million stock value in 1987, the board inspired to do the same in October of that year. Due to its high risk to future investors, the PHOENIX WORLD CITY was largely absent for any proposals (NCL had 25 percent stock holdings in Klosters new firm.) 
The beginning of 1987 would bear witness to further change as the port of Nassau was bypassed in favor of the ports of St Maarten, St John, St Thomas, and Great Stirrup Cay, again on a weekly basis commencing on January 17th.  Between September 7 and 23rd of that same year, the NORWAY once again sailed back to Bremheraven for remodeling and careening of public spaces. Alterations included enlarging the balcony of the Cinema, adding extra cabins as well altering some of the onboard boutiques. Earlier that same year, with Kloster departing the company from the previous year, a cost-saving ploy was adopted as the flag of registry for NORWAY and its fleet was switched from Norwegian to the cheaper Bahamian flag. ( A common practice for nearly all cruise lines to follow this suit, even to this day.) No longer would the home port name Oslo be fastened proudly on her stern.
While the supremacy of NORWAY as the worlds largest cruise ship continued throughout the late 1980s, it was however the decade that saw the beginning of several challenges as  the cruise industry continued to boom and N.C.L. competition began to build bigger.  It was only a matter of time that the very cruise market that the NORWAY had such a pivotal role in establishing would spawn the building of future mega-cruise ships that would soon follow by her example. Carnival Cruise Line by this time was enjoying much success thanks to its original three ships, the MARDI GRAS, the CARNIVALE, and the FESTIVALE. A hint of the very same aforementioned competition burst on the scene with the trio of 'HOLIDAY' class ships that Carnival built at the 46,000 ton mark. The supremacy title for the best and the biggest became a more serious matter when the 74,000 ton SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS made her way up the Government Cut of Miami in January 1988. This St. Nazarie-built mega-cruise ship was in fact the first in a series of three innovative Royal Caribbean Cruise Line vessels that would debut in the following four years. Little did anyone know that when the NORWAY and the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS docked side by side in that January 1988 debut, SOVEREIGN would be the first to usher in the era of new-building mega-cruise ship programs that continue to this very day. Indeed, the mega cruise ships of the 21st Century far more than rival - they have even outnumber - those built during the Golden Age of the Ocean Liner as seen in the 1930s.  All three sister ships were innovative if not revolutionary, at this point in time, possessing features NORWAY simply did not have. The most telling of which was the Atrium, the central organization of interior spaces that actually rose the height of several decks (Royal Caribbean called it the Centrum.) These large public space were essentially NORWAY's central shopping corridors of Fifth Ave and Champs Elysees turned vertical. It was a genius way to create the general hub for the ever growing size of cruise ships- where shops and elevators yielded a central nervous system and at the same time also offering splendid views of the lingering seas.  In what would turn into the biggest selling point and money making drive for the cruise market in the world today, was the introduction of outside cabins with groups of individual balconies - private avenues that offered unobstructed views of the ocean. These private verandas were actually first seen in the second sister ship  MONARCH OF THE SEAS when she was inaugurated in 1991 -SOVEREIGN would later follow suit.  These private views of the departing seas where seen as far back in the such veteran Italian ocean liners, VULCANIA and SATURNIA, as well as the stupendous NORMANDIE of 1935, and more successfully in the 1965 Home Lines cruise ship S.S. OCEANIC. It was installed in more ernest, and later set more of a precedence in the Princess Cruise Line, 1984 -built ROYAL PRINCESS, and once again in Royal Viking Line's 1988-built ROYAL VIKING SUN.
The arrival of the SOVEREIGN-class cruise ship was somewhat rather bad timing for the SS NORWAY. Knut Kloster had departed the company barely two years and was no longer steering the company as CEO and therefore the ship itself in what feasibly considered the best of directions. The man most responsible, and perhaps most passionate about what the ship represented, was still focused on that dream, far bigger than NORWAY- PHOENIX WORLD CITY. The NORWAY was left in the hands of corporations that would be less concerned about the future and longevity of the liner, than with her ability to turn an immediate profit. The board and executives at N.C.L. were already in a cost saving mode when they switched registry flags, depriving the ship of her home port that bore proudly along her hull. Coupled with the SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS wrenching the title of largest cruise ship from the former French ocean liner, NORWAY began a slow downward spiral throughout the later portion of 1990s and into the remainder of her career. This was somewhat evident via the noticeable aroma of bad plumbing, worn carpets and overall detoriating conditions in various locations, including the engine room. The majesty, and the future of the ship can be best traced as receding from this point, with Kloster no longer actively involved with her future as perhaps the most damaging. Moreover, with the growing number of cruise ships to compete with through the next ten years, the ship would show signs of struggling to maintain dominance as executives in control of N.C.L. became all too preoccupied with how to make NORWAY profitable on a day to day, month to month basis. In contrast unfortunately on how to keep her in working order for the long term as defined by pleading engineers who recommended critical boiler maintain that would, with each passing season, suffer from severe neglect and in a matter of ten years be of catastrophic proportions. 
It was under the leadership of Knut Kloster III, that recommendations were put forth for NORWAY to make a fourth return to Bremerhaven and therefore remain competitive in the booming cruise market. Balconied ships would soon be the rage, and it was once again Tage Wandborg who would oversee the draftsmanship work to implement such changes. The ship made steam towards, what was then called Lloyd-Weft, to undergo the very same modernization and refitting on the 28th of August, 1990. Technicians and workers actually arrived in Miami before her departure and set about work while the liner would continue sailing towards Germany. In a market such as this one, days and weeks out of service are crucial time for both company and ship as the line loses revenue and bookings remain somewhat low even after the ship returns to service. It was during the mid-Atlantic journey that workers removed part of the deckhouses of the forward funnel and radar mast, also removing the large neon letters of the ships name between the two funnels.  By the time she was dockside on September 3, four gantries would install what would amount as additional deck space above her wheelhouse, all in just 56 hours. Prefabrication made for a speedy refit, requiring just one tenth of the 30 days that the ship would spend in the yard. 124 of the almost complete cabins- interiors including bathrooms, electrical fixtures, carpeting, curtains, and even furniture already installed- a juxtaposition of 21 modules, or cubes, would bring an overall displacement of some 1050 tons and extend the ship vertically nearly two additional decks. While the draft of the NORWAY was unaffected by these upper decks, 2,000 tons of special ballast was still used to preserve stability and pumped into unused water and fuel tanks in the double bottom.  The lowest and longest among the new additions, appearing directly over the bridge, was baptized Sky Deck and stretched 492 feet fore to aft, ending over the Great Outdoor Restaurant. Stacked upon the forward section of Sky Deck was the newly formed Sun Deck, whose roof evidently became Star Deck; the forward observing deck circling around the forward funnel and radar mast.  Situated non- balconied suites were given the treatment of what amounted to floor-to-ceiling outboard walls. But instead of installing glass, a new substitute called Lexan-Margard, actually weighed half as much as its glass counterpart. There were a total of 54 cabins with the so-called private balconies. Dividing these very spaces was also the same Lexan material used as a further means of saving weight. While doing very little to increase privacy between cabins they did increase what was called sociability.
In conjunction with the structural modifications, interior changes were planned as the ship next went into dry dock for these very same modifications and major careening. To offset the increased wind resistance due to the greater vertical height, the size of the rudder blade was increased. This amounted to essentially amplifying the surface area of the rudder, allowing more water to flow past it as forced by the movement of the propeller. This increasing NORWAYs maneuverability even with a greater "sail" due to aforementioned vertical rise and increased weight. Approximately 18 feet from the base of the aft funnel was sliced off, allowing the upper section to be bought on land. While being refurbished, general cleaning revealed the removal of over a thousand cubic feet of soot and ash. Public spaces also sought improvement with the return of a extra tariff restaurant on the former French liner, in the previous Lido Bar space. Le RendezVous offered service in the great tradition with seating up to 88 guests. The former First Class swimming pool on Dolphin Deck was given a somewhat Italian treatment, and subsequently renamed the Roman Spa complete with pompous decor and seawater. It was N.C.L.'s answer to competing cruise lines growing fascination with spas.    
What the ship gained in the process from this 82 million refit (originally slated for $45) was a new capacity boasting 2,560 passengers (an increase from the 2,181 passengers previous to the refit.) Not to mention the benefits of the additional grand luxe cabins that would soon command a premium price and at the same time boasting the prestige to those travelers seeking out such accommodations, including two owners suites. The biggest gain by far however was the new displacement of 76, 049 tons, two thousand more than her Royal Caribbean rivals and ensuing the NORWAY the largest cruise ship in the world. What she lost however, was not an aesthetic success, since its long considered that the vessel lost its elegant FRANCE profile, and looking somewhat top heavy with those rising decks. At the same time, those iconic funnels seemed to be nearly swallowed up with the sensation that she was now "thicker around the waist" (the same way QE2 appeared "thicker around the waist" when she emerged from her steam to diesel refit accompanied by additional balconied penthouses and wider funnel in 1987.)
Three years later, NORWAY was ready for another refit, this time around the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry dock Co in Newport News, VA (same yard that built the legendary SS UNITED STATES) would welcome the vessel.  Extensive repairs included work along the hull for general maintenance, redecoration of public rooms and cabins, encompassing a total of five weeks. A year later, Royal Viking Line, including the already mentioned ROYAL VIKING SUN was sold out of the fleet. The Cunard Line gained an additional vessel into their fleet, while N.C.L.'s financial situation detoriated and market vitality showed signs of receding. The former ROYAL VIKING SUN in fact, continues to sail as PRINSENDAM for Holland America Line. 
In November 1995, Princess Cruise Line took delivery of the 77,441 ton SUN PRINCESS, forcing the NORWAY to relinquish her title of largest cruise ship in the world for the second time (she held the title for a total of thirteen years.) While that record was never regained, being the worlds longest passenger ship continued to remained well into the next decade until the emergence of the 150,000-ton Cunard Line QUEEN MARY 2 in 2004.  NCL subsidiary, Royal Cruise Line and its four ships, including two former Royal Viking Line ships were sold out of the fleet, finding further employment, even sailing to this very day.  SOLAS 1997 regulations were looming for many veteran cruise ships sailing without the soon to be required sprinkler systems to combat fire prevention. While the NORWAY was built with many fire prevention means already in place, the need to meet these standards was set to take place at the illustrious King George V graving dry dock in Southampton. Before $4.8 million was spent on her next refit, a most historic transatlantic voyage eastward was set in place departing Miami on August 31st.  A few days later this also included a hurricane bound arrival at New York, the first in sixteen years, and sailing fully booked towards France with 1902 passengers. The crossing proved most thrilling as history was retold via various onboard lectures, and dinners courses complete with fine cuisine observed in the manner of heyday transatlantic travel.  Her arrival at Le Havre on the 10th of September 1996 was welcomed by more than 100,000 people along the beachfront and pier side. The mood of this celebrating day was reminiscent of her FRANCE maiden voyage into New York and Oslo arrival as NORWAY with the port filled with the appropriate spraying tugboats, and numerous fishing boats, yachts and helicopters buzzing overhead. Once again, there was a band welcome, not to mention reporters and TV crews documenting a very special occasion of the former FRANCE returning to its country of origin after nearly two decades. As NORWAY set a course North across the Channel by nightfall, her former home port lit up the sky with departing fireworks. The next morning, with the vessel high and dry in the graving dock at Southampton, work began as the entire hull was stripped down to its welded "France" letters and receiving new coats of "Norway" blue. Remodeling and shuffling of a few public rooms took place, the Casino was expanded ever so slightly, and Le Rendezvous was renamed Le Bistro.  Smoke normally existed the wings, designed for the purpose of  keeping exiting engine room exhaust(and its particulates) away from the decks below. The vertical rise of the ship with the aforementioned Sun and Sky decks actually created difficulty in ensuring that engine room soot did not fall on passengers. This necessitated the installation of pipes built within the body of the funnel, a less elegant change that made the original design purely decorative.  When the work was completed and the ship was afloat, NORWAY would soon lose the the long established color of her funnels, in place since 1980. In was superseded with a paint scheme that was distributed over exactly the same surface area as on the FRANCE, dark in the upper portion and lighter at the lower half. The repainting of blue above white was completed as the ship made her way back to Miami.  The Saturday October 19, 1996 cruise would resume normal Caribbean service where this paint scheme proved short lived. By 1997 the entire two smokestacks were repainted dark blue, and on either side of which the new gold NCL could be found. The buzz and success of the crossing from the previous year was repeated beginning on August 17 at Miami bound for New York, Halifax, St. Johns, Cobh, Southampton, Cherbourg and finally, Le Havre. Once again, it was here that NORWAY was received by another tremendous welcome, amounting to 6,000 visitors by days end. Fleet mate NORWEGIAN CROWN shared the French port and by evening both vessels sailed before midnight with a cheering crowd of some 100,000 people and departing fireworks.  
N.C.L. had acquired various ships over the years in order too meet market demand and remain competitive, in turn being the 3rd largest cruise line in the market. Two fleet mates, DREAMWARD and WINDWARD were lengthened in Bremerhaven and returning to service as the renamed NORWEGIAN WIND and NORWEGIAN DREAM - continuing the lines fascination to rename its ships with the "Norwegian" prefix. In fact, SEAWARD was renamed NORWEGIAN SEA the year before and the former ROYAL MAJESTY gave way to NORWEGIAN MAJESTY when she was purchased in 1997. Orient Lines and the former ALEKSANDR PUSHKIN, then sailing as their only ship the MARCO POLO was acquired in July of 1998. NORWAY in the meantime would repeat and embark on various European cruises as a result of the success that had been seen in 1996. In fact, it was her longest season away from Caribbean waters stretching from April to October and participating in Lisbon's Expo 98. Itineraries encompassed the Western Mediterranean, Western Europe coast, North Europe, the British Isles as well as  return to the Norwegian Fjords. A repositioning cruise from Barcelona on October 10th ended two weeks later rounded out the season before arriving back in Miami.
Just as the NORWAY was entering her fourth decade in service, future events would hasten the slow downward spiral the ship had been experiencing - predominately as  juggling company economics and rivaling tonnage burst on the scene. While it was certainly a great milestone to be sailing into the new millennium, these series of events would have a more negative effect on the future of this historic vessel.  Prior to repeating another voyage back to Barcelona the next year, the ship returned to Lloyd Weft in Germany for a $5.8 million refit that included dry docking, and overhauling accommodations and some machinery.  Things went astray, however, while entering Barcelona, as an engine fire broke out and the ship remained out of service for twenty one days. The subsequent cruise was therefore canceled and a return to service began by June 19th. This was the first mishap that had otherwise tarnished nearly two decades of uninterrupted service due to a fire or mechanical malfunction. While cruising in Norwegian waters, the ship became immobilized as a result of a break in the starboard propeller shaft, causing the ship to lay over in Bergen, Norway for two days. On a positive note, the year was highlighted during the seven days in July as the NORWAY made a visit to her homeport during the Havre 99 celebrations.
  By February of 2000, things took a turn for the worst when the financial holding company Arrasa Limited placed the second bid for ultimate control of the NCL fleet, including NORWAY. This operation was a joint venture between Carnival Cruises and Star Cruises of Malaysia. If years of perplexing and abatement on the part of former executives and board members was not enough, its new owners evidently wanted to distant themselves with the NORWAY.  Obvious to some, the new owners saw the ship as nothing more than an expensive liability,  gobbling up expensive fuel resulted by its reliance on turbine machinery. Even more to the point, was the possibility that perhaps the vessel did not fall in line with their forthcoming image. A October 9th announcement that the ship would be withdrawn from NCL service in September 2001, respositioning the ship to the Far East, could be viewed as an acknowledgment of this very fact. The bottom line, however, was that competition became even fiercer with the inauguration of, not one, but three 100,000 ton Destiny-class ships that were earning the title of largest cruise ship in the world for the Carnival Corporation. Royal Caribbean was pumping out even bigger cruise ships with their Voyager-class at over 130,000 gross tons, with plans to build additional fleet mates(eventually amounting for a total of five by the end of 2003.) The writing was on the wall that NORWAY would have difficulty competing with the latest and greatest cruise ships, justifying the need to transfer her to the Far East division of Star Cruises.
In early 2001, what had been originally planned for 2 and 5 night cruises, the NORWAY continued to operate her popular 7 day Western and Easter Caribbean itineraries. These began with the so called 'farewell cruises' departing on Sundays until the end of August. The month of May saw trouble with her sprinkler system as the U.S. Coast Guard issued an inspection failure of such SOLAS regulated installations. The May 27th cruise was subsequently canceled, and the repair work to pass inspection allowed the June 3rd departure to commence without incident. On September 2nd the most famous of her farewell voyages began for a Miami departure bound for New York, Halifax, St John (Newfoundland), Greenock (Glasgow), Le Havre, and the 17-day Farewell Transatlantic Crossing ended in Southampton. It would be the very last of the nostalgic cruises that the ship and her passengers would ever experience.  (A most excellent account of this voyage is documented at this website: http://www.thewaywewent.com/nor_1.html )
With seventeen years lapsing since her last farewell to New York as the S.S. FRANCE, she once again parted ways with this port, as the majestic NORWAY pulled away from the former French Line of Pier 88 on the 5th of September, 2001.  A sad occasion that took longer than normal as a result of the low tide and the vessels deep draft. Hard contact with the pier was almost a bad omen - resulting in slight damage to her stern and the Pool Deck overhang. The unsettling mood of the passengers on board an historic liner with an uncertain future was lessened to a degree by the tragic events of September 11. Passengers hearing about the unfolding events taking place hundreds of miles away, and leading to the collapse of the World Trade Center - viewed just days ago as she sailed down the Hudson for the very last time - became the centerpiece of what would prove to be an even more historic voyage. Disembarking passengers would return home to a somewhat less innocent world that was without one of the great towering symbols of American prosperity - greeting the NORWAY and her many cruise ship contemporaries on several occasions throughout their lifespans. The September 2001 events would prove to be another significant turning point that ensued further troubles for the future of NORWAY, not to mention those dozens of aging liners that were soldiering on as cruise ships in the new century. Confidence in travel following the terrorist attacks would soon become affected as many global traverlers, particularly in the United States, choose to avoid the use of airports. While the jet liner crippled the ocean liner, in the market of the new century, it was working in tandem with the cruise ship to the point that both prospered. There was, in fact, a great deal of dependence between the airline and cruise industry. This became more of problem when travel confidence further tumbled into a recession that was felt in nearly every corner of the globe. The cruise line market, of course, felt the brunt of this recession spelling the doom for dozens of classic ships that were employed in already struggling Mediterranean markets. Those in Caribbean service would soon have difficulty finding employment to keep afloat in such turbulent times. Coupled with the high price of  steel, this became one of the dominating reasons for selling off older cruise ships for their scrap metal value, beginning by 2001 and continuing to the present day - most commonly going to a shanty town in India called Alang.  The NORWAY would resist such a fate as she had plenty of life still left within her hull and thousands of would-be-travelers continued to flock to her rich history and sheer size. Contended folks who were, in fact, looking for a more traditional cruise ship, and since 1997, vintage ships like NORWAY were receiving slight boasts in passenger attendance thanks in part to the buzz the blockbuster movie Titanic had generated. Although it is worth mentioning the movie perhaps did not reflect the equal amount of influence that The Love Boat television series did for cruising in the early to mid 1980s. 
It was the preceding September 11 attacks (and what would be the slump in cruising everywhere) that caused N.C.L.-owned Star Cruises to rethink their future plans for NORWAY.  A hasty decision, nonetheless, as the ship sail empty (deadheaded) westbound back to resume her weekly cruises out of Miami. The monotony of the Caribbean settled once more into the life for NORWAY as she continued to sail month after month often booking with cabins at just $199 and in some cases sailing less than half full. While the first mega cruise ship was barely weathering the struggling economy like the rest of the competition, neglect was taking its tole as the final leg of her downward spiral settled in. Without the ship fully booked and earning needed profit, resources became scarce for comprehensive refits and the need to maintain public areas. Once again the need to maintain critical engineering components suffered badly. A November 19th arrival at Lloyd Werft would bear witness to the last general maintenance visits at dry-dock. On the 28th of the same month, the last of any forthcoming refit work was completed and encompassed removing and refitting the port and starboard evaporators, careening of the hull, repair work to the tail shaft and the addition of two rescue boats were added to their respective locations.
A wonderful view of NORWAY's maiden arrival as she approaches Lower Manhattan.  Photo: Ernest Arroyo/Rob O'Brien collection
In this lovely May 1980 view, SS NORWAY arrives at Southampton for the first time. Notice the United Nations flag is just visible off the radar mast, as are the docks in the background.    Rob O'Brien collection
On the opposite side of the Atlantic, the new mega cruise ship arrives at the entrance to NY, May 16, 1980.  Photo: Ernest Arroyo/ Rob O'Brien collection
More than five years had passed since her departure as FRANCE and the skyline of the city welcomes the new NORWAY, while  CHRISTIAN RADICH follows her up the river.  Photo: Ernest Arroyo/Rob O'Brien collection
Looking every bit as striking in her blue hull form, NORWAY  during the 1980s was still in many ways FRANCE underneath the new facade.     Photo: Ernest Arroyo/ Rob O'Brien collection
No where on earth did NORWAY look better than against the Norwegian Fjords as seen in this 1984 view.    Rob O'Brien collection courtesy of Rick Faber.
Another view during the 1980s, and the sun is setting as the liner appraoches Nassau.    Rob O'Brien collection
NORWAY at Miami with one of her white  fleetmates looming behind.   Rob O'Brien collection
Precursor of things to come, the balcony infested ROYAL PRINCESS as seen in Canadian waters in the early 1980s.   Rob O'Brien collection, courtesy of Mark Piche.
The follow-up of what was seen a few years earlier, ROYAL VIKING SUN debuted on the market in 1988 as seen in this inaugural season view in English waters.  Rob O'Brien collection
Even with the 1990 addition below the funnels, NORWAY still projected a majestic profile second to none, as seen in this 1996 view at New York.   Photo: Andy Kilk
Even with her bow and stern thrusters at her disposal, NORWAY needed some help backing in or out of New York's Hudson River. Photo: Andy Kilk
An extraordinary hull, the likes of which we will never see again. Built with just the right amount of flare as seen in this September 2001 LeHavre view during her Farewell Crossing.  Photo: Andy Kilk
NORWAY at Miami at the start of the Farewell Transatlantic Crossing in September 2001.   Photo: Andy Kilk
Two more 1996 views from New York with the Manhattan skyline serving as one of the most perfect backgrounds. Photos: Andy Kilk
A splendid view at the end of the Farewell Crossing in Southampton and looking ready to take on another twenty years of service.  Photo: Andy Kilk 
In this view looking aft are two awesome funnels underneath which beat the heart of a true ocean liner!   Photo:  Andy Kilk
As if the decline in passenger bookings in worsening economic conditions that followed the September 11 attacks was not enough for the S.S. NORWAY, the events that followed a May 25, 2003 arrival in Miami would signal even more difficult times. In the aftermath, this very occurrence would indeed threaten her future, if not her very existence. It all began as rather ordinary return from a 7-day Caribbean cruise and at 5:29 AM, the bridge ordered 'finished with engines' signaling the ship was alongside and the engine room thus began the shutdown procedures in the machine spaces.  A half hour later, preparations were in full swing for the ship to prepare the in-port routines of gangway rigging, fueling, provisioning, off loading passenger baggage and disembarking passengers. At 0637 disaster struck suddenly, and without warning, as a boiler raptured in the aft boiler room(the forward boiler room was deactivated in the 1979 conversion in Germany.) Specifically, it was boiler number 23, located on the starboard side. The expanding steam, mixed with smoke, soot and debris swept through the engineers spaces, fatally injuring eight crew members that were in, and nearby, the boiler room. The boiler casing extended several decks and the very same smoke and soot found its way upward and exhausted through the aft smokestack. Footage of this very action was captured by a local couples personal video camera who coincidentally was vacationing that weekend and recording their early morning rise. Today, that video is a haunting portrayal of the very moment that signaled a sort of deafening blow for NORWAY.  Within minutes of the explosion, Miami-Dade County Rescue Fire Department dispatches a unit to the scene and 0647 emergency vehicles arrive at the scene. Shoreside agencies dispatch what amount to a total of 42 units and one rescue boat to the dramatic scene unfolding at the Miami Cruise Terminal. At 0651, the bridge watch signals the emergency alarm (a continuous ringing of ships whistles and general alarm for a period of ten seconds) and orders all crews to their emergency stations.  The Chief Engineer at this time also organizes a head count of injured crew members and a fire watch is set for the engine room. A minute later, the Master of the vessel announces over the PAS(Public Address System) that the fire is under a control and all passengers are directed to their lifeboats muster stations on International Deck(Deck 10.) Fire Department and Miami Fire-Rescue make a concurring agreement that the accident is officially a mass casualty incident and at 0654 three crew members are retrieved from the water.  At 0731, the first passenger count is made revealing 41 passengers missing, until about a half hour later the last tally reveals all passenger are accounted for. The Master then announces that all passengers can return to their staterooms at 0800 and the bridge further announces that all passengers to disembark. A moment later, the incident commander declares the condition under control. Sometime by 0900 the last passenger was ashore and according to the NTSB report the Master orders the abandon ship signal(more than 6 short blasts and one prolonged blast of the ships whistle and general alarm bell). It was not until 1045 that all crew members were accounted for. Newspaper and television broadcasts continue to report of the devasting news for the next few days.
In this early printed brochure, no image of the ship yet existed and the cruise line essentially used the FRANCE profile as evident by the absent of the tenders at the bow and the decks, or lack thereof, via those extensions made in Germany.     Rob O'Brien collection
With the new decks added, NORWAY once again retained the title of Worlds Largest Cruise Ship as seen here in this October 1990 view.    Rob O'Brien collection
A fine study in the chages made to the liner as seen in this stern view complete with new Sky and Sun decks. Notice the stern anchor in its housing at the fantail.   Rob O'Brien collection
Souvenir booklet issued by Lloyd/Werft to commemorate NORWAY's return to service as the largest cruise ship. Notice the view of the suite in the upper right hand corner. Rob O'Brien collection
Promotional brochure commemorating  the Newport News Drydock refit in 1993.    Rob O'Brien collection.
After two sea days, the first port of call was New York, as seen here for the last time at Pier 88. Most befitting as it was the same French Line pier NORMANDIE spent her last days before the woes of World War 2 would lead to her demise. Photo: Andy Kilk 
The NORWAY sails past the Manhattan skyline, never to return. Less than a week would pass when this photo taken,  and the skyline and indeed the city would be severly altered.   Photo: Robert  E. Carpenter III
In these side by side views, the same image at left has simply been airbrushed in blue and 'Norway' doctored over the 'France' letters between the two funnels. The conversion at Bremerhaven also saw the removal of  the forward crane kingposts.   Left image: Kurt Kaufmann collection.
The World Trade Center and the funnels of NORWAY, two outstaning symbols of their age, together for one last time. Not long after, events would soon mark a symbolic change for the future of all ocean liners.  Photo: William J. Donall
By the time both Cunard Queens had retired in 1968, the FRANCE became the largest ocean liner in service. The friendly agreement made between superliner S.S. UNITED STATES to operate on opposite transatlantic schedules all but came to an end by May 1969. The US Government funded subsidy became null and void by this time, leaving the United States Line's to pick up the tab of all future operating expenses. The high fuel costs of a 30+ knot liner and unionized crews were expenses that would prove to much to bear for the United States Lines. The Blue Riband speed champion was subsequently withdrawn from active service and forced into a period of languish that continues to this very day. While devoid of her rich interiors, and rusting away in Philidelphia, the beat of this amazing survivor still beats on as symbol of bygone era. For nearly the entire forty years the ship has remained idle, at no other time did her future look so promising than the recent news that a Conservancy group bought the liner, snatching her away from possible scrap merchants.
Trouble on the horizon for the French flagship came in the form of various newspapers in Paris reporting that FRANCE was soon to be retired and even scrapped. It did not help that just a few years later in the fall of 1970 that two voyages had to be canceled as a result of a strike by 150 waiters who demanded an extra thirty minutes of overtime each day. Waiters and busboys, in fact, blocked embarking gangways, leaving nearly five thousand future passengers seeking alternative transportation.
In January 1972, one of the most exciting chapters in the life of FRANCE began with the first around-the-world cruise, marketed as the 'most opulent world cruise in history.'  It would soon prove headline making as the voyage was planned on the ships tenth anniversary and the 100th for the popular Around the World in 80 days novel in which the theme of onboard festivities would be based upon. The 41,000 mile journey would carry 1,984 passengers on twenty seven ports of call and a possible 224 shore excursions. One of the most interesting of these offerings was a forty eight hour visit to Communist China. With President Nixon visiting Beijing the day before, it proved to be a shore excursion of historical proportions for the cruise and the passengers by the time they rejoined the ship at Singapore. FRANCE was already touted as 'the best French restaurant in the world' and passengers would soon enjoy mouth watering opportunities that also included a ton of caviar and 300,000 bottles of wine. Entertainment ranged from feature and vintage films in the theatre, fashion shows, lessons in cooking, painting and French language classes. Prices for cabins started at just over $5000 too just a shy under $100,000 for the regarded Ile de France suite. Since the vessel was not fully booked, extra cabins were paid for  to hold luggage and wardrobes. One passenger even went so far as having an extra cabin for her 250 dresses, while another couple paid an extra $900 so their family poodle can join them. The passenger list did not include celebrities, mostly loyalists of the FRANCE, with one woman reported to have sailed thirty times in ten years.
As the new decade wore on, the FRANCE was struggling like never before - largely due to passenger traffic taking to the skies. It was reported in 1973-74 that less than 2% of the travelers seeking passage over the Atlantic were aboard an actual ocean liner. With the price of oil jumping to $95 a ton, a fuel saving measure called for a reduction in speed to a maximium of 24-25 knots. This reduced speed imposed extending the crossing for an extra day as 5-day crossing became six, as 30 knot crossings became a thing of the past.
The second world cruise, this time dubbed The Ultimate Odyssey, was repeated in January of the next year. Despite a total of 2,536 passengers taking part, this voyage failed to provide the same enthusiasm of the previous cruise. Perhaps because it was announced in February (during the round the world cruise) that the French government was no longer prepared to subsidize operating losses of the transatlantic trade. Since before she was built, and from her first day in service, FRANCE was reliant on French subsidizies. And while there were times that the liner would book every berth in Tourist class, she still operated at something of a loss. Ironically, the allegiance of the government would switch from sea, to air, as that same money that went to FRANCE (and the entire maritime industry) would go to the new supersonic Concorde. Just as the air competition had caused a rather defeaning blow to transatlantic traffic across the globe, it left only Britain's QE2 to carry on the duties of ferry service between Europe and the States.
The tardy six day crossing scheduled for 1974 did not last long; the official confirmation had been delivered by July 8 of that same year. The government made their decision official, especially with the newly elected president taking office sometime after the sudden passing of President Pompidou.  The liners eventual withdrawl from active service would commence at the end of her transatlantic season which was slated for October 25th. Two farewell cruises were announced for that last year, they did not transpire since August 11, 1974 would commence the departure from Le Havre- a final westbound crossing for New York. The return eastward crossing on September 11, 1974 unfolded to headline making news as the crew had mutinied just before her arrival back in Le Havre. The seizure of the vessel by her crew forced Captain Pettre to anchor in the channel and the next day her 1,226 passenger compliment was offloaded by car ferry. Almost two weeks later FRANCE weighed anchor and was forced to move from her original position due to bad weather and took anchorage in the Cherbourg peninsula. By October 9, the crew mutiny came to an end, emphasized by discussions and negotiations centering around her lay up do very little before arriving back in Le Havre. FRANCE was subsequently towed from her previous position at the Joannes Couvert wharf and arrived at the back waters of the maritime channel.
Second of the Sovereign Class, MONARCH OF THE SEAS  would help usher in numerous new buildings of the mega-cruise ship genre in the later 20th century.    Photo Copyright Rob O'Brien 2008
Two views of NORWAY at anchor in Philipsburg St Maarten in 1998. Photos: Andy Kilk
A most perfect example of the majesty and graceful lines that belonged to the NORWAY. At anchor in St. John Newfoundland during the 2001 crossing.  Photo: Bjørn Rønning collection
Also at St. John is this stern view, together with the Wandborg handy work of the after deck extension. Photo: Andy Kilk
Even in black and white, there is no disputing the NORWAY surely possessed elegant lines.  Photo: Bjørn Rønning collection
Sometime after the events that transpired on May 25th, the National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) conducted an investigation into the the accident, with June 6th of the same year commencing the on-site examination of boiler number 23. The conclusion was not officially adopted and released publicly until 2007. Any mention of the investigation above and below stem from the actual report so as to ensure the validity of the facts. In some cases, a direct quote will be listed so that no statements are called into question.
       The Safety Board determined that probable cause of the boiler rupture was due to "the deficient boiler operation, maintenance, and inspection practices of Norwegian Cruise Line, which allowed material deterioration and fatigue cracking to weaken the boiler. Inadequate boiler surveys by Bureau Veritas contributed to the cause of the accident."
       Consequently, the board also made the finding that the following factors contributed to the rupture of boiler number 23 on board NORWAY which are reflected word for word:
       •       Lack of adherence to water chemistry composition limits and procedures by both the water chemistry subcontractors and NCL during wet lay-up periods, leading to pitting from oxygen corrosion.
       •       Failure to take number of boiler cycles into account during maintenance.
       •       Severe thermal transients from heating and cooling the boilers too quickly and from constraints created by frozen boiler support feet.
       •       Use of questionable weld repair procedures.
       •       Lack of appropriate nondestructive testing by the BV surveyors and NCL inspectors to determine whether cracks were present.
       •       Inadequate survey guidance from BV to its surveyors.
       •       Failure to repair cracks into which copper had been inappropriately introduced.
Marine boilers have an estimated boiler life and their longevity is based upon how they are operated, how well they are maintained, and how well they are inspected and repaired. We will dive into all of these factors to reveal how they amounted to disaster in May of 2003. "The greatest contributors to the initiation and propagation of the fatigue cracking in boiler number 23 were the thermal and pressure stresses associated with the starting up and shutting down the boilers. All marine boilers are designed to resist thermal and  mechanical stresses, the report also states that "during start up and shut down of a steam boiler, pressure and temperature changes cause bending and alternating stresses in the various boiler components," most critically in the drums and headers(see image below.) Each boiler on NORWAY had a structural support in the foundation that allowed the boiler to expand as it heated up and contract as it cooled. Essentially, the foundation compromises of a 'sliding foot,' and "maintenance records indicate that the boilers had experienced with the condition of the sliding feet on at least two occasions before the accident." "A sliding foot that cannot move is termed a frozen foot and can cause high stresses on the boiler and the ships structure because it restricts boiler expansion." N.C.L. records show that maintenance was performed on non working feet of a unidentified boilers two weeks before the rupture. Engineers of board were supposed to adhere to the boiler manual which stated the "free movement of boiler feet should be checked periodically." "If necessary, introduce grease to through the oval holes." The U.S. Navy follows much stricter and less carelessness guidelines, stating that the "sliding feet should be inspected for free movement before each start up, during warmup and after a boiler comes online." The Navy's inspection manual further states that those feet "that cannot be verified as functional should be shut down for repair" and "frozen feet is a serious condition that can stress the boiler and that should be corrected immediately."
       Various classification societies, boiler manufacturers and the U.S. Navy have published instructions over the years that care must be taken during startup and shutdown to lesson thermal stresses on a boiler. For NORWAY's own boiler manufacturer, issued during her FRANCE days, startup would be about "3 hours" before the operating pressure was achieved.  The cool down period, would be more gradual, taking "about 48 hours" after the initiating shutdown. The Safety Board interviewed various engine officers and there was no consistency on the means and procedures taken, with some claiming to adhering to the manual instructions and others employing one or more measures to achieve the needed pressure in the boiler. A boiler monitoring system was employed on NORWAY and it recorded various boiler operating parameters, including steam pressure. The time for startup- zero pressure to full pressure- ranged anywhere from "1.5 hours to 5.5 hours- the average was 3.4 hours." The shutdown chart "showed a steadily decreasing curve, representative of a falling pressure rate over time- in  most cases, a reduction from full pressure to zero pressure in about 3 hours. The rate of pressure drop from full to zero pressure ranged between 45 minutes and 4 hours, with an average of 2.8 hours."
 "Between the late 1990s and 2002, several port engineers and chief engineers expressed concern about the effects on the boilers caused by the frequent light-offs and shutdowns required by the vessel’s operational schedule and route. In a 1998 e-mail to the NCL’s vice president of ship operations, an NCL port engineer stated:
"Since the S/S Norway started the itinerary to St. Maarten, St. John, St. Thomas, Great Stirrup Cay, the ship has been sailing on 2-3 boilers. This operation is causing a lot of stress to the boilers, because we are forced to shut them down frequently. After a few years of operating in this condition, and being the boiler shut down for more than 100 times, and light off every year, we can see that the steel is getting brittle and the reoccurrence of tube failures. If we want to continue the safe operations of the vessel with no mechanical interruptions, the retubing of all 4 boilers should be done soonest.During the last few years, we experienced numerous boiler tube failures, which caused shutting down the boilers for repairs. We must realize that we have reached a point where the operation of the vessel is not safe. Also we should take in consideration that the interior of the boilers [is] worn out due to sulfur-dioxide corrosion."
       The N.C.L. Miami port engineer at the time of the accident - differing from the one mentioned above - sent this email to N.C.L. management:
"The planned re-tubing of the superheaters [has] had some impact on the consumption; with only 3 boilers in operation, the chief engineer has been uncomfortable in shutting down the boiler on Saturdays, knowing he must light it up again before S. Martens. So three boilers have been in line until safe rest-speed to St. Martens has been obtained. Knowing how much stress this lighting up and shutting down has on the boiler, I support this when one boiler is out of service."
     "An essential maintenance task associated with steam boilers is ensuring that the water in the system is free of contaminants and has the appropriate chemical and oxygen levels to prevent scale formation and corrosion. "  During their lifetime, the boilers were found to have pitting and oxygen corrosion on multiple occasions, "the fatigue cracks found on the water wall header fracture surface appeared to have originated at the base of the corrosion pits." Drew Marine Division of Ashland Chemical was the outfit N.C.L. contracted to supply test and treatment chemicals for the boiler water and also provided technical services. A randomly selected year of 2000 was chosen to examine the data for water testing, revealing that hydrazine, which is necessary to reduce oxygen corrosion, resulted from excess oxygen in the system, was below the minimum standard. Safety Board investigators came across shipyard memoranda warning that action needed to be taken to address the suspected cause of active corrosion found in the boilers, including the maintenance of idle boilers. In a July 1991 shipyard memo:
"Please find enclosed the report of the boiler water analysis for the S/S Norway . . . No major trace elements have been found in the analysis results. So there is every indication to suppose that the increase in corrosions is nothing else but the effect of shutdown corrosion. We would suggest the following measures to solve this problem: Installation should be done of a connecting steamline from the atomizer steam groups on each boiler to the respective two lower drums in each case . . . The steam as nozzled this way will keep the boiler under pressure and maintain temperature . . . The overall situation about the problems with combustion air and corrosion should be discussed in detail between Siemens, Babcock, the Owner, and Lloyd Werft."
       This was one of several warnings owing to that "oxygen corrosion was a problem and was likely the result of incorrect water chemistry during operational and lay-up periods." "Investigators found no evidence the the shipyard's recommendations were followed." Hydrazine levels, used to combat the very problem, were to be increased during idle and lay-up periods, but some confusion lay in the fact that the Drew Marine recommendations "did to specify how many idle days had to pass before the boiler was considered in lay-up condition." It was not uncommon for the ship to experience boiler tube failures, occurring "because of direct pitting of the internal surfaces or  because of sludge buildup on the interior surfaces. " When these same deposits build up inside the boiler, heat transfer follows suit and the tubes therefore operate at high temperatures. This same high temperatures gives way to loss of material properties, including fracturing, forcing the tubes to placed out of service and the need for replacement. The deposits of course typically form because of improper water chemistry further leading to corrosion of the boiler and system and further leaving rust deposits.             
 It was obvious to the investigators at the NTSB that the "header on boiler No. 23 ruptured because of extensive fatigue cracking." The already mentioned improper maintenance of water chemistry, boiler stresses due to start up and shutdown, and frozen sliding feet all contributed to the initiation and propagation of the cracking. The original, or manufacturer, longitudinal welds in the water wall headers, water drums and steam drums were detected as far back as December 1970(the waterwall header consists of two long half cylinders welded together by the boiler maker). Records indicate that specific longitudinal welds for boiler No. 23 were last repaired in 1990. The boiler drums were periodically monitored by visual and nondestructive testing. Any detected cracks over the course of the life of NORWAY were removed by grinding. "When the cracks extended below the allowable wall thickness" as defined by the manufacturer "they were ground off and weld repairs built the walls back up" for thicker consistency.  "The engineering company Deutsche Babcock specified the welding procedure, which Bureau Veritas approved. Lloyd Werft or its subcontracted performed the wed repairs while the ship was in dry dock in Bremerhaven in 1987 and 1990."  Cracking followed just a few years later.  "These same weld repairs probably accelerated the pitting and cracking because of residual stresses on the weld repairs" themselves. "The cracks then grew to critical size, causing the header in boiler No. 23 to rupture". Since "there existed cracks extending to 40- 60 percent of the wall thickness, which was already reduced by grinding," it amounted to an "insufficient cross sectional area on the header to withstand the pressure" causing the "header to fail catastrophically." Examination of the boiler components detected fatigue cracking in both the original welds and the weld repairs. "This cracking stemmed at the base of corrosion pits on the inner surface of drums." " The presence of the pits localized at the surface and favored the initiation of fatigue.  The reduced wall thickness also contributed to fatigue initiation by concentrating local stresses. After the fatigue cracks initiated, they produced local stress concentrations at the crack tips, which most likely propagated with every firing cycle of the boiler."
       NTSB investigators examined the fracture surfaces along the longitudinal repair welds of boiler number 23 under high magnification and the results lead to the discovery that the "fractures were found to have began along the side of the weld repair region.  The fracture features indicated that fatigue cracking began at the base of large corrosion pits and then propagated alongside the weld repair. The header material next to welded areas is known as the heat-affected zone. Heat from welding operations and subsequent recooling causes changes in the microstructure and mechanical properties of the base metal in the heat-affected zone. The welding process can also create residual stresses in and next to the weld areas. Residual stresses can lead to accelerated corrosion and cracking. Controlled welding procedures approved by the classification society are used for welds in stress-critical structures such as boilers to minimize the effects of welding. Industry codes for boilers also use substantial safety factors in design to account for uncertainties such as residual stresses."
Investigators also found copper fragments on the surface of the fatigue crack portion of the fracture. No theories as to how pure copper, similar to composition to copper refrigeration tubing, could explain the origin of this element in the boiler.  The conclusion was that the introduction of the copper into the cracked areas of the "waterwall header would have been to mask the cracks, making their detection more difficult during inspections."
Boiler side view and overhead view as seen in the NTSB report. http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/2007/MAB0703.htm
 The various industry-wide accepted testing and inspection of various boiler components(and the essential lack there of) round out the factors that contributed to the failure and ultimate rupture in NORWAY's engine room. Evidence points to the fact that "lack of proper internal inspections, lack or appropriate nondestructive inspections, poor guidelines, and poor training of its surveyors by Bureau Veritas may have caused the cracks in NORWAY's boiler to remain undetected." No doubt hindered by the introduction of copper to, again, mask the presence of these cracks. Furthermore, the temper bead welding was used to repair cracking and corrosion in the longitudinal welds of the header. It was an accepted technique since this kind of welding reduces the detrimental effects of exposure to the extreme temperatures associated with the welding process. Its main drawback is its reduced hardness and lower residual stresses compared with conventual welding processes. Again, Lloyd Weft performed the welding procedures, and it was called into question whether or not their welders were capable of the job. Even if the welds repairs had properties similar to the original weld, cracks would still have developed since "N.C.L. did not take the steps necessary to eliminate the conditions that had originally caused the cracking."  Despite employing the temper bead weld method, their existed residual stress. Coupled with the locations of the welds, and their revealing changes in geometry, grain size, and structure thus created conditions that allowed following cracks to initiate sooner and propagate faster than the original cracks.
       The immediate outcome of the tragic May 25th boiler explosion was the eight members that lost their lives. They included:
Ramil Bernal(Stoker), Richardo Rosal (3rd Engineer), Candido Valenzuela (Stoker), Rene Villanueva (Oiler), Mari John Bautista (1st Assistant Refrigertion Engineer), Ramon Villarais(Stoker), Rolando Tejero (Cook) and Winston Lewis(Second steward)
[source: http://www.captainsvoyage.com/captainsvoyage/The_fatal_destruction_and_final_chapter.html]

Of the 911 crew members onboard a further ten crew members suffered serious injuries and seven walked away with minor injuries. Of the 2,135 passengers aboard, luckily for N.C.L. there were no injuries or fatalities. The damage to NORWAY, however, was rather crippling. N.C.L. and Star Cruises saw the whole ordeal as a "bad omen" and lost any interest in the now tarnished image, of the ship. All announcements that seemed forthcoming to the future return of a forty two year old liner were pure lip service. The crippled liner was subsequently towed to Bremerhaven and arrived there on September 23, 2003. Sometime as the ship lay silent, the cruise line contracted Det Norske Veritas(DNV)- a classification society like Bureau Veritas, to evaluate the condition of the three boilers not involved in the accident. The various tests of the drums and headers of these very same boilers included the variety of: visual, plastic replica, hardness and magnetic particle inspection. They were performed to determine the severity of cracks and their condition for future use. Not surprisingly of course, these tests indicated the presence of cracks that would yield extensive repairs before the boilers could be returned to service. Several factors were now running against the future of NORWAY, including an age that was approaching forty three and a cruise line that probably had no interest in investing and recouping the image, the ship, and the line now carried.  History seemed to repeat itself, as the Bremerhaven banishment was a sort of repeat of her LeHavre days in the backwaters of the "pier of the forgotten." Except this time, she really was forgotten by her owners who did not see NORWAY fitting into their image as a cruise line competing with the likes of Carnival and Royal Caribbean to name just a few.  By March 2004 it was announced the ship would indeed not return to service. Almost a year later an N.C.L. spokesperson gave the explanation that NORWAY,  "does not fit into the company's well advanced fleet modernization program." From a business standpoint Star Cruises wanted to concentrate on new builds to compete with the ever growing market that, by this point, was in a fever pitch as almost a dozen cruise ships entering the market were larger than NORWAY (by gross tonnage.)  Since January of 2004, NORWAY was used to house shipyard workers for one of these alleged new builds called PRIDE OF AMERICA. Needless to say, how much thought the cruise line researched into either replacing aged boilers or dieseling the entire ship remains to be seen.  One thing remains, the degree of resources needed to return NORWAY, the ship that made N.C.L. and the cruise ship industry into what it is today, were more than what Star Cruises was willing to sacrifice.
       Not long after Little Norway 1 and Little Norway 2 was offloaded the ship in February 2005, some of her artwork, the builders plate and Captain's desk disappeared into mysterious places and have not resurfaced since. A few months later on May 23, 2005, NORWAY bid Bremerhaven, and in some way the world, farewell - under tow to an unknown destination with speculation centering on Singapore or Port Kelang, Malaysia. Sometime in August the ship indeed anchored off Port Kelang - with Indian scrap merchants allegedly onboard to evaluate the ship for her inevitable future. In January of 2006, the ship was sold to Bangladesh scrap merchants, but this sale failed to materialize as the Malaysian government blocked the sale from completing as the NORWAY was riddled with asbestos. Sometime in the spring of 2006, a third name change, to BLUE LADY and soon after rumors surfaced that she has been sold for scrap. It was by May, that the worst case scenario came to light as the ship was bound for the "Beach of Doom" of Alang, India. August 15, 2006, marks the tragic end of the ship as it symbolizes the beginning of Alang beaching procedures at plot number 1. While she was afloat a high tide, it was only a matter of time before she would be drawn closer inshore with cables and wires of all sorts. The next year would define a battle between Indian scrap merchants, Greenpeace and the Indian Supreme Court. Greenpeace made it known that asbestos onboard would be highly toxic to the workers at Alang. The Indian Supreme Court stepped in and blocked any dismantling work to procede. At the start of December, with the BLUE LADY pulled closer inland, the Supreme Court was to make a ruling in the case of scrapping the largest passenger ship that now lay resting off their shore. Instead, over a year had passed before their decision was handed down in September 2007, allowing the ship to succumb to the torch, nearly the same instrument that had such influence on her doom. Work began at the end of 2007, and due to the size of BLUE LADY, demolishing took nearly two years. By early 2009, history was undone and the last of FRANCE/NORWAY/BLUE LADY was no more. Internet pictures surfaced, bearing witness to all who can stomach the very sad end to a great ocean liner and incomparable cruise ship.   

       It is tragically ironic that the NORWAY fell victim to the same twist of fate that lead to the demise of NORMANDIE, in which carelessness, and the neglect of proper precautions are the very same factors that caused both ships to ultimately end their respective careers. In the case of the NORMANDIE, the carelessness of not removing flammable life preservers around an open flame from a oxygen-acetylene torch in a widely open are could have prevented the fire that engulfed the ship.  Never mind the Department of Navy ignoring the pleas of her designer, Vladimir Yourkevitch, to open the sea cocks so that the ship could have sunk straight down, instead of keeling over in the harbor as she did due to overzealous fireboats and the tons of water that caused the imbalance of her center of gravity.  Thus, sealing her fate of any potential future that could have been possible if she did not list so greatly.  The same can virtually be said for NORWAY as precautions for preventive maintenance and carelessness in welding practices, could have most likely prevented the catastrophic explosion that resulted in her eventual scrapping. If only N.C.L. offices had listened more earnestly to the pleas of the port engineer to replace neglected boilers. In fact, it was November 1997 this very same engineer told N.C.L. executive vice president, "The boilers on the S/S Norway have reached a state where a decision must be made."
       One wonders where the SS NORWAY would be today if Kloster had long stayed with the company he founded and the ship he made famous. More significantly, one can only imagine where she would be today if an greater amount of resources were spent on largely neglected boilers that eventually led to catastrophic events. The expertise of Tang Wandborg had on more than one occasion confirmed that the NORWAY's hull was built and meant to last some additional 40 years from her debut in 1980. The possibilities that this liner would still be sailing in 2020 - SOLAS regulations aside -  would have been more than favorable. Esepcially if the steam plant had been upgraded with new boilers or perhaps re-engined with diesels like her great consort the QE2 had been given in the mid-1980s. QE2 steam turbines were trouble from the start, and the transformation she experienced were all the more necessary for her survival well intt the 1990s, let alone into the new millennium. Much like QE2 has already experienced, NORWAY would perhaps feel a bit out of place in a world were balcony-apartment-ships dominate, including PHOENIX WORLD CITY-like OASIS and ALLURE OF THE SEAS. No doubt, if still in existence today, NORWAY would a testament to her builders, countrymen, and a refreshing contrast to those white boxed shape things called cruise ships that line the Miami Cruise Terminal.
       A great deal of gratitude is owed to the S.S. NORWAY and the pivoting role she played in the mega cruise ships that now follow in her wake. Needless to say, a great many Carnival Cruise ship funnels would look rather different without the inspiration that they have taken from those winged funnels of the legendary ocean liner. The world, and even the cruise industry, is a lesser place without this trend setting former ocean liner turned first mega cruise ship. Unmistakably, no better profile graced the port of Miami, and perhaps all of Norway.  With each passing year that follows from her disappearance into the sandy beach in which she last rested, her legend becomes all the more extraordinary as nothing like her will ever be built. Never again will the world bear witness to such a triumph naval architecture masterpiece who proudly, and successfully, filled in a great void left be her great predecessor, NORMANDIE - whose life on this world was rather short lived. The NORWAY was worthy of being preserved despite those points that a static role of a former ocean liner can play - including the ability of being deprived of its ability to move in the element in which it was built for. Unquestionably, any of these points fall short of what cannot be overstated, as the role of a most invaluable link to our past that countless others can relive for ages to come. Without the Classic Liners that we have among us, we lose part of ourselves, and the meaning of a more innocent time that undoubtedly serve as a valuable reference for future generations. While historic FRANCE and awe inspiring NORWAY are no longer with us; every time someone reads about her, every time someone looks at that brilliant profile, or makes contact with pieces of either legend, they help to keep the memory of this glorious ship alive. In the symbolic words of former President Charles de Gaulle, "Viva La France" and indeed, long live the S.S. NORWAY.
Line drawing made by the author from a paint program on a Apple McIntosh 4-8-1994 
Fans and proponents of this surely missed liner can agree, while she is now relegated to just a memory- photos and various pieces of her aside- a memory that nonetheless will forever live on in our hearts and minds. A memory that still lives on thanks to the such dedicated folks at :

A great source of many stories, facts, and images about the NORWAY and more:

Also check out the Facebook fanpage of the: "SS NORWAY", "THE UNFORGETTABLE SS.FRANCE", "Admirers of the ss France ss Norway" and this website companion group, "Classic Liners & Vintage Cruise Ships Unlimited"  https://www.facebook.com/groups/107714749279209/

*For a complete timeline of the life of FRANCE/NORWAY/BLUE LADY I recommend visiting:

A special thanks to Andy Kilk, Phillipe Conquer, Tom Cassidy, Bjørn Rønning, John Maxtone-Graham, William J. Donall, Jan-Olav Storli, Kurt Kaufmann and Veronica Salisbury.