S.S. FRANCE, docking at New York in 1963,
Martin Cox collection
Built at Penhoet, St. Nazaire as FRANCE
1,035 x 110.5 feet
geared CEM-Parsons geared turbines from builders
31, max 35.21 knots
160,000 shaft horsepower
407 First Class, 1,637
Tourist Class passengers
When the SS FRANCE was launched by Madame Charles De Gaulle on May
11 1960, the great era of transatlantic steamship travel was in its twilight years. Replacing two legendary prewar veterans,
the stylish ILE DE FRANCE and the much loved LIBERTE, the FRANCE had the distinction of being the longest liner in the world.
Her graceful hull was a modified version of the NORMANDIE's, with a similarly arced "whale back" bow (but with an updated
stern), however the FRANCE was perhaps most distinguished by her two unusual funnels, which dispensed exhaust through wings
on either side (This feature was quite revolutionary for the day, inspiring a line of much-sought-after ashtrays that incorporated
the same principal!). Indeed, in the early 1980's Carnival Cruise Lines "discovered" this concept, incorporating it with their
first newbuild, TROPCALE, and ultimately making it their architectural trademark with their fleet of "mega" and "super" liners
This last great French ship of state and final
purpose-built vessel for French Line (Compagnie Generale Transatlantique or "CGT") undertook her trials in November of 1961.
The $80 million liner embarked on a shakedown cruise on January 18, 1962 from Le Havre to the Canary Islands, before commencing
with a heralded maiden crossing on February 3, 1962 from Le Havre to New York.
S.S. FRANCE, departing Le Havre, Martin Cox collection
The FRANCE joined the Queens ELIZABETH and MARY and the UNITED STATES, all struggling
in the wake of jet fuel that now dominated the Atlantic. Despite the odds, FRANCE consistently sailed with a high capacity
of passengers (unlike the struggling Cunarders, which were likened to creaking ghost ships). FRANCE was a two class vessel,
eschewing the middle category, Cabin Class, in favor of a larger and more spacious First and Tourist (later dubbed "Left Bank")
accommodation. Her interiors were almost spartan, certainly sterile in comparison to the gilded and plush LIBERTE and ILE,
but the FRANCE was the product of a late 1950's/early 1960's vision. Spindly chandeliers and linoleum vied with formica and
chrome, while daring modern art, bold murals, and stark furnishings filled her public spaces.
Toward the mid 1960s, the FRANCE was teamed on Atlantic crossings with the even
more spartan UNITED STATES, as both French and US Lines consolidated efforts to keep their ships employed. After the UNITED
STATES was withdrawn, the FRANCE would later alternate with arch-rival QE2 in the "struggling" seventies. Kept afloat not
so much by her following, but by French government subsidies, the FRANCE was often sent cruising in the winter season, undertaking
two much-publicized world circumnavigations in 1973 and 1974.
Responding to soaring fuel prices, the French Goverment announced an end to financial
assistance to CGT in July of 1974. After a mere twelve years of service, the FRANCE was to be retired on October 25, 1974,
but in September, as the ship was arriving at Le Havre, French trade Unionists seized the liner and anchored her in the channel
to protest the loss of their jobs. Disgruntled passengers were finally off-loaded by tender. The strike ultimately failed,
ironically bringing a close to the FRANCE's career even earlier than planned, and inciting negative press before the ship
was docked on October 9.
S.S. FRANCE, laid up in Le Havre, Martin Cox collection
FRANCE was laid up south of Le Havre, next to a power station. Sealed up and fading
with the elements, she was the subject of many rumors, ranging from her use as a hospital ship, floating casino, or hotel,
to the most feared option of a premature dispatch to the shipbreakers. In October 1977, she was bought by Akkram Ojjeh, an
Arab billionaire, but remained laid up.
Perhaps in part due to the renewed interest in cruising inspired by television's
LOVE BOAT series, Norwegian shipping magnate Lauritz Kloster bought her for a cool $18 million. As the shipping world cynically
looked on, Kloster spent some $80 million to convert the "cold weather" SS FRANCE into the "warm weather" SS NORWAY. His fleet
of 1960's/70's-built cruise ships (the 17,000 gross ton SOUTHWARD, the 16,000 gross ton STARWARD, and SKYWARD) were sailing
at or beyond capacity under the moniker of Norwegian Caribbean Lines (later Norwegian Cruise Lines), and Kloster intended
to more than double his share of the market with the NORWAY. She was towed to Bremerhaven in August of 1979 and completely
rebuilt with a huge new lido deck at her stern, and two outdoor pools. Two huge tenders, the "little NORWAY I and II", were
hoisted on her bow and special cranes were built to offload them at ports where NORWAY's deep draft prevented her from docking.
Her capacity was increased from 2044 to 2181 and her crew complement was decreased from 1100 to 800. Her once chic French
interiors were largely restyled and/or replaced with more comfortable and "tropical" fittings. More economic diesels replaced
her Turbo generators and in the summer of 1980 she sailed for the US to begin her new role - cruising.
The NORWAY was an absolute smash, sending the competition reeling. Aside from
the QE2, she was half again as large as any vessel sailing, offering an onboard experience the smaller ships simply could
not emulate. NCL's Vegas and Broadway-style shows ushered in a new era of glitz at sea, and special celebrity "theme" cruises
allowed eager passengers an opportunity to mingle with and see their favorite stars perform or lecture in the ship's cavernous
theater. With the NORWAY, the ship became a resort destination in itself, and her success inspired the competition into a
building frenzy that resulted in a fleet of mega passenger ships many thought had ended with the QE2 in 1968.
In 1984, she was sent to Hamburg, where all steam powered auxiliary machinery
was replaced with diesel instalations. In September 1990 she arrived in Bremerhaven for the addition of two prefabricated
passenger decks to increase capacity to 2,565 and her GRT to 76,049.
S.S. NORWAY, after additional decks were added, Martin Cox
While her good looks and maneuverability were somewhat compromised by these additions,
there is no doubt they were instrumental in keeping the NORWAY in profitable service. The ship has been continually upgraded
in recent years, often to the chagrin of ship purists who bemoan the conversion of her original First Class Library into a
perfume shop and the removal or redistribution of many of her signature FRANCE brass panels. Recently, her funnel wings were
"shut off", although they remain structurally intact. In keeping with the NCL newbuilds, her Checkers Cabaret was replaced
in 1998 with a fancy new Sports Bar.
The NORWAY's itineraries have ranged from her regular seven day Miami-based Caribbean
schedule to summertime cruises from Europe. A small fire in her aft turbo charger room while entering Barcelona, Spain, on
May 28 1999 resulted in the termination of her cruise and the cancellation of the following cruise. She was scheduled to return
to service, following repairs at Barcelona, on June 12, 1999.
UPDATE: Star Cruises the parent company for Norwegian Cruise Line announced in
October 2000 that NORWAY will be retired from her present role. After a series of farewell cruises including a transatlantic
from Miami to Southampton, she will be reclocated to the Asian market. Her departure is set for September 2, 2001.
UPDATE: Norwegian Cruise Line suprised the passengers onboard the "farewell transatlantic
crossing" that the ship would in fact be returning to resume its Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Following a refit in Germany
the liner would begin sailing from her home port of Miami on December 23, 2001.
UPDATE: February 14, 2002: Speculation that NORWAY would sail its last Caribbean
cruise under NCL December 29, 2002, then go to sister company Orient Lines was strongly denied by Susan Robison, Director
of Public Relations for Norwegian Cruise Line and Orient Lines. NORWAY will be deployed in the Caribbean through April 2003.
UPDATE: December 25, 2002: In an article on Star Cruises, parent company of Norwegian
Cruise Line, published in Cruise Business Review, it was revealed in an interview of Star Executive VP of Marine Operations
& Newbuilding, Nils G. Nordh that Star has prepared a study on the viability of extending the life of the SS NORWAY beyond
the post-2010 SOLAS limit. Nordh was reported as saying that he believed it is not only technically possible, but was commercial
UPDATE: May 25, 2003: A boiler room explosion aboard S/S NORWAY killed four crew
and injured up to 17 crew members while the ship was docked in Miami. The NORWAY arrived at the Port of Miami around 5 AM,
the blast which occured around 6:30 AM and apprears to be an accident. None of the ship's 3,400 passengers was injured. Miami-Dade
Fire Rescue workers responded and the fire was put out in less than an hour.
May 30, 2003: Norwegian Cruise Line reported the death of a seventh crew member
from the accident involving a boiler onboard the NORWAY. Nine more crew members remain hospitalized and two were discharged
while one was removed from the critical list and is now listed in serious but stable condition. One crew member remains on
the critical list. NCL has cancelled NORWAY's June 15 and June 22 sailings.
UPDATE: June 27, 2003: S/S NORWAY departed Miami under tow though no destination
was announced. After last-minute wrestling in court, Norwegian Cruise Line moved the crippled ship from the Port of Miami-Dade.
NCL said that to meet the repair schedule, the ship had to leave, even though no yard has finalized a repair contract. According
to reports, she is headed to Europe. The ship has been at the port since the boiler expolsion May 25 and has run up a nearly
$284,000 bill in dock fees. The National Transportation Safety Board finished its investigative work last week and turned
the ship back over to the cruise line. The NTSB has not reached any conclusions about what caused the blast. The seagoing
tug SMITWIJS ROTTERDAM is towing NORWAY with 85 of her crew onboard. The transatlantic crossing will take approximately three
weeks. NCL state that the ship is on schedule to begin cruising again on October 5th, 2003.
UPDATE: July 21, 2003: Norwegian Cruise Line announced laying up the S/S NORWAY
at Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven, Germany, until the process of evaluating bids from shipyards has been completed. The delivery
timeframe for the new replacement boiler is now estimated to be between seven and twelve months (significantly longer than
first indicated to NCL). Marine boilers are manufactured by specialized companies and then delivered to a shipyard for installation.
The detailed specification and bidding process has revealed that no boiler maker is able to meet the ambitious repair deadline
initially indicated to NCL by the shipyards. NCL now estimates that the earliest the ship could return to service is in the
spring of 2004.
UPDATE: September 25, 2003: S/S NORWAY remains laid up at Bremerhaven. NCL have
not indicted any further schedule for service. In mid-September rumours of an agreemant to use her as an hotel and attraction
in Amsterdam were circulated in the Dutch press.
UPDATE: March 17, 2004: Norwegian Cruise Line's announced via its website: "(Colin)
Veitch announced that regretfully the S/S NORWAY would not return to the North American cruise market. The company continues
to evaluate appropriate options for the vessel". It was decided not to re-engine the ship due to the expense. It is reported
that plans for her use as a static hotel ship are being examined but that she will not be docked in the US. The former FRANCE,
once the longest liner in the world, has been laid up at Bremerhaven, Germany since July following a fatal engine room explosion
in Miami, FL on May 25th, 2003.
UPDATE: January 9, 2004: Laid up S/S NORWAY remains laid up at Lloyd Werft in
Bremerhaven and will be used as temporary housing for workers aboard NCL's PRIDE OF AMERICA (currently under construction
and due this spring) and NORWEGIAN SKY (due to be reflagged to American registry and renamed PRIDE OF ALOHA).
UPDATE: June 28, 2005: SS NORWAY was observed in Cape Town today as her tug DE
DA refueled for the continuing voyage from Bremerhaven to Port Klang, Malaysia. Maritime Matters thanks Jan-Olav Storli, Chief
Officer Safety & SSO of CRYSTAL SYMPHONY, for the update.
UPDATE: August 10, 2005: SS NORWAY arrived under tow at Port Klang, Malaysia at
UPDATE: August 13, 2005: As the NORWAY (ex FRANCE) sits anchored in the haze off
Pt. Klang, Malaysia, rumors have begun to rumble once again about the 44 year old ship. Apparently, her turbines are still
dismantled, making her imminent use as an active, albeit slowed-down cruise or casino ship in the region unlikely. Further,
contacts in the region have reported inspections by 14 Indian scrap merchants had been undertaken and that there was a possibility
the ship could be towed to Goa, India in the next few weeks.
UPDATE: December 28, 2005: Various industry sources in the U.S. and India have
indicated that a firm sale of SS NORWAY (ex FRANCE) to either Indian or Bangladeshi breakers has occurred this week. The vessel
has reportedly been withdrawn from the sales lists following this development. In the interim, the ship is still at anchor
off Port Klang, Malaysia.
UPDATE: January 6, 2006: Word from India is that SS NORWAY (ex FRANCE) may be
headed for Alang and not Chittagong, Bangladesh. It is common practice for scrap merchants to trade ships among themselves,
so nothing is firm until the venerable ship has been beached.
UPDATE: May 5, 2006: BLUE LADY is towed away from Port Klang, Malaysia, destination
appears to be Alang, India. Notes on tugs: 1976-built INTERSURF (ex BOA PRINCE) and SEAWAYS 5 (ex DEYMOS) are towing BLUE
LADY. (SEAWAYS 5 towed the 1953-built laker OAKGLEN and the 1959-built laker SEAWAY QUEEN together to Alang in 2004).
UPDATE: May 14, 2006: Gujarat Maritime Pollution Control Board bars the entry
of BLUE LADY to Indian waters.
UPDATE: May 17, 2006: Technical Experts Committee on Ship breaking invites the
buyer of the ship, Haryana Ship Demolitions Pvt Ltd, to submit his report.
UPDATE: May 31, 2006: The Interim Report on BLUE LADY is formerly filed
with India's Supreme Court.
UPDATE: May 24: While on board NCLA's new PRIDE OF HAWAI'I, Maritime Matters was
able to ask chairman Colin Veitch about the fate of NCL's former classic two stacked liner. Before the former SS FRANCE was
sold for scrap, the art from her two dining rooms, children's playroom, stairtower, and library were removed. These important
works are currently in storage and may be utilized on board a revitalized SS UNITED STATES or another ship in the NCL fleet.
UPDATE: June 5: India's Supreme Court lifts the ban on BLUE LADY, allowing her
to enter Indian waters, and clearing the way for the iconic ship to be scrapped. The ship will be brought to Alang in Gujarat.
The temporary ban on her delivery over issues raised by Greenpeace relating to the significant quantities of asbestos on board
has been lifted. The Alang Shipbreakers Association celebrated the decision. The Gujarat Maritime Board will be working with
a private company that will monitor potential pollution hazards and a plot of land adjacent to the yard will be used for containing
asbestos and the disposal of hazardous materials from BLUE LADY. All arrangements are to be inspected by two regulatory bodies
before the ship is beached. Currently, the ship remains outside India's territorial waters, under tow by the tugs INTERSURF
and SEAWAYS 5. Citing humanitarian grounds, Supreme Court of India allowed the to anchor in indian waters. The crew
of 22 are on board a vessel with no engine in monsoon season. Court states that Legal arguments will be heard in July. Additional
affidavits filed over possible illegal traffic of the ship regarding the obligation of the Malaysian Government to recall
UPDATE: June 13, 2006: BLUE LADY is towed toward Fujairah, UAE arriving June 14,
anchored shore, one of her tugs, SEAWAYS 5, put in for repair and supplies.
UPDATE: June 16, 2006: Accoring to several international sources, BLUE LADY expected
at Alang by end of June.
UPDATE: June 17, 2006: BLUE LADY leaves Fujairah, UAE, possibly headed towards
Alang. Meanwhile, rumours over a variety of last minute plans to save the ship from being scraped are hurtling across the
UPDATE: June 24, 2006: Press reports put BLUE LADY as arriving off Alang in a
few days time.
UPDATE: June 26: BLUE LADY was due at Alang this week, but the latest indicators
from India are that the tug is stalled again and that she will now arrive at the anchorage in two weeks time.
UPDATE: June 28: Gulf newspaper Khaleeji Times front page headline today, reads
"Dubai bid to save historic cruise liner". The story concerns a group of investors reportedly in a bid to save purchase BLUE
LADY( ex FRANCE, NORWAY), from her Indian breakers and spend US$100-120 million refitting the ship as a luxury floating hotel
and conference center moored in Dubai's harbour. The newspaper reports "Project Dubai" to be offering the breakers approximately
US$3 million profit for not scrapping the vessel. Meanwhile, the ship moves slowly towards the beach of doom.
UPDATE: June 29: BLUE LADY, ex FRANCE, NORWAY nears Gujarat Coastline. The owner
of Haryana ship demolition company is reported to have said that, "she is expected to reach Pipavav Port tonight or by early
morning tomorrow." The ex FRANCE has yet to receive permission to be beached at Alang and will be anchored at Pipavav port
of Amreli district. The BLUE LADY will be allowed into Alang only after the local authorities are given the green light by
the Supreme Court. The Court had previously permitted "safe anchorage" to the vessel but had directed that the ship cannot
be beached or dismantled until it is properly inspected by cout appointed experts.
UPDATE: June 30: BLUE LADY, ex FRANCE, NORWAY has arrived at Pipavav Port, some
65 km south west of Alang. She will remain at anchor while inspected by court appointed experts, who will report back to the
court on their findings.
UPDATE: July 4: BLUE LADY, ex FRANCE, NORWAY remains at the brink of destruction.
The liner sits at anchor off the coast near Pipavav Port, near Alang, while inspected for an inventory of asbestos and any
other hazardous materials is carried out, as required by India's Supreme Court. Ship breakers are rejoicing at her arrival
and look forward to beaching her as soon as possible. The court has determined that it will not allow the ship to dismantled
in India until the technical report has been filled and it has been determined that the materials can be safely handled. Filling
is expected possibly by July 7. Meanwhile, the Khaleej Times continues to report that a consortium of UAE and US companies
is making an effort to buy the liner from the ship breakers and take her to Dubai for use as a floating attraction renamed
SS FRANCE. "Project Dubai" claims that the ship will undergo a US$80-$100 million refit and re-emerge with as luxury hotel,
with restaurants, conference facilities, and French-style stores.
BLUE LADY Inspected
July 11: Reports from Ahmedabad, India, say
that the court ordered inspection of potential hazardous materials on BLUE LADY has been completed. The four day inspection
is said to have begun Friday July 8th, while the ship remains at anchor in the huge swells off the coast of Gujarat. No findings
have yet been released. The Supreme court ruled that the ship could not be scrapped at Alang until it was declared safe by
experts which included members of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Central Pollution,Control Board and National Institute
of Occupational Hazards.
Report submitted on BLUE LADY
July 14: The anxiously waited inspection
report, on hazardous materials, demanded by India's Supreme Court before BLUE LADY, ex FRANCE, NORWAY could be cleared for
demolition, has now been submitted by the court-appointed committee. The inspection team consisted of a 15-member team from
Central Pollution Control Board, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and National Institute of Occupational Health and
GMB. It took five days to compile while the ship remained at anchor off Pipavav Port and was completed July 12. News of the
reports contents remains sealed. It is reported that if the ship gets the go-ahead from the court, BLUE LADY will be beached
at Yard No V-4, owned by Rajiv Renival of Haryana Ship Demolitions Pvt Ltd, at Alang to be dismantled.
BLUE LADY Gets Green Light
August 1: Press from India states that
BLUE LADY (ex FRANCE, NORWAY) will be broken at Alang after the Supreme Court Technical Committee granted Gujarat Maritime
Board (GMB) permission to beach the ship tomorrow.
BLUE LADY Set To Beach
August 7: Sourses in Alang sugest the BLUE
LADY (ex FRANCE, NORWAY) will be beached on August 9.
August 14: From our contact: "I saw the lady
and waited for her beaching today in Alang. At last minute it was postponed to tomorrow morning (August 15) and she will be
at Alang beach at 7:30 AM.
"From a distance she is quite a sight: graceful and marvelous are the words that come to me. Sadly,
also tied up with two monstrous tugs for her last voyage, though."
Former FRANCE Beached
August 15: The Times of India confirms the
BLUE LADY (ex FRANCE, NORWAY) has been beached today at Alang.
BLUE LADY, (ex FRANCE, NORWAY) firmly aground at Alang, August 15, 2006.
Photo by Malviki Bogah, copyright PK Productions 2006.