Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Anybody recognize the grand old lady of the seas above? It's February 1962. At the time of her construction, she was the longest passenger ship ever built, a record not surpassed until 2004.
She served transatlantic passengers from 1962 until 1974 when airline traffic across the Atlantic made her economically impractical. Who was she? The French Line flagship France in her inaugural arrival in New York Harbor.

By the time of her retirement, the France had completed 377 Atlantic crossings (588,o24 passengers), and 93 special cruises (113,662 passengers) and had sailed 1,860,000 nautical miles. To the dismay of a lot of Frenchman, the ship remained tied up for over five years.

It was an expensive ship to operate, especially in terms of oil prices at that time. But there was still life in the France and it was purchased by Norwegian Cruise Lines. Refurbished, and with an agreement that she would not go back to France, she went into Caribbean cruise service as the Norway in June of 1980 with a home port of Miami. That's where I first saw her and I thought she was huge and beautiful. In the Caribbean cruises we took from the mid-1980's to the early 2000's we saw the Norway frequently - sometimes underway at sea, and often anchored outside the harbor at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands (the Norway was too long and too big for the harbor and passengers ended up being brought to shore in large tenders carried on the forward deck of the ship)

I always had hoped to cruise on the Norway; never happened, though. It was one of those wonderful classic ships that are More and more frequently fading into the past. Maritime law is making it more and more difficult to keep classic ships afloat and it is sad to see them go. The Norway's death knell came in May 2003 when a boiler explosion ended it's cruise life. It was towed from Miami across the Atlantic and it was deemed impractical (too costly) to re-engine the ship and for five years negotiations went on to try to save her. Finally, in 2008 the 42 year old France/Norway was beached in India and little remains of her today. One of the real classics of maritime history had gone the way of other ships we've sailed on: the Universe, and the Universe Explorer among others. Meanwhile, the at-sea pictures above were ones I took of this grand old lady in happier days, anchored off St. Thomas.

If you are interested in the history of cruise ships and a lot of pictures (including sequences of
the end of the Norway), check webpage It is really interesting reading if you are interested in cruise ships, old and new, current and past.
About the title of this bit (razorblades) -- It came from a conversation I had with a friend some time ago. I casually asked him what had happened to a certain old ship we had sailed on and he replied, "Didn't you know? It was melted down and made into razorblades." I'd rather think the reclaimed metal went into a more modern cruise ship, but, hey, razorblades are made of steel and steel is recycled so.......

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