The magnificent French-built liner 66.348grt Norway began life as the CGT (French Line) France (III) sailing from Le Havre to New York from 1962 until she was withdrawn from service in 1974 when government subsidies dried up.  A regular sight in Southampton during those years, it was a sad day when she sailed for the final time, her future uncertain.  After being laid-up for three years, she was bought by Arab billionaire Akkram Ojjeh but nothing happened.  Norwegian shipping magnate Lauritz Kloster of Norwegian Caribbean Lines (later Norwegian Cruise Line) surprised everyone by purchasing her in 1979. After completely refurbishing her, she was relaunched as Norway in 1980.  Despite initial scorn she would be unpopular while he had been landed with an $18 million white elephant, she was a roaring success.  So much so that in 1990 she had two passenger decks added, taking her tonnage to 76,049.  She even made return visits to her old stomping ground of Southampton and a magnificent return to her former home of Le Havre.  But as the 1990s gave way to the new millennium, rumours abounded of her demise.  NCL's fleet was younger and more modern and Star Cruises of
Asia had taken over NCL.  They announced in 2000 she would be no longer cruising in her then market and would be relocated to Asia in 2001 after a series of farewell cruises.  Then they had a change of mind and announced that year she would continue in the Caribbean after all, starting just before Christmas from her home port of Miami.

The beginning of the end came for Norway in May 2003 when she suffered a boiler room explosion while docked in Miami, killing seven crew and injuring several more.  Subsequent cruises were cancelled.  After sailing to Bremerhaven, initially for repairs, NCL said she would be laid up to await repair evaluations but could return to cruising in spring 2004.  On the 17th March 2004 NCL announced she would not be returning to the US cruise market and replacing the boiler would cost too much.  Rumours began circulating again she would be scrapped.  A date was posted for her to leave Bremerhaven under tow to Port Klang, Malaysia in May 2005 but that was changed.  She was to sail a few days later on the 23rd, passing NCL's new US-flagged vessel, Pride of America which was returning from sea trials.  She was no longer part of NCL at this stage but the parent company was keeping any firm plans quiet.  What would become of her?  A floating casino in Asia either docked or anchored?  New ownership?  Scrapped?  Activists reported there were tons of asbestos aboard and accused Star Cruises of lying to get her out of Bremerhaven illegally for scrapping.  As the rumours grew stronger, still nothing from Star Cruises which helped fuel the anti-brigade.  After she had been sold for scrap at the end of 2005 her name was changed to Blue Lady, which was painted above her Norway name.  They had been trying to find a buyer for her since 2004 but failed.  However, that wasn't the end of the saga.  Far from it.  Due to all the furore over a French warship full of asbestos, the sale was cancelled early this year with the now Blue Lady back on the market, more rumours circulated that the only way Star Cruises would get of their now white and blue elephant will be to scuttle her in a martime 'accident'.  By now they had confirmed her sale but wouldn't say who the buyer was.  It was reported on the 8th May 2006 she sailed at 4pm for Alang where she arrived on the 29th June.  Although certain people started a ridiculous hate campaign against Star Cruises and NCL and insisted she was heading for Dubai after being saved, it turned out to be false information like so much they report.  It is terrible way for a grand old lady to end her days but sadly inevitable with passengers these days going more for the luxury of newbuilds rather than the nostalgia of classic ships.  Also older ships tend to start breaking down bit by bit and get too expensive to maintain.  That happened with Canberra and would have with Norway.  She had a longer career under NCL than CGT and we ship lovers are grateful for that.   

Sadly Norway arrived at Alang in the early morning on the 15th August 2006, but the saga rumbled on until the Supreme Court gave permission for dismantling on the 11th September 2007.  The majority of ship lovers accepted it was all over for this once great liner.  By January 2008 they had begun to dismantle her.  Her additional cabins were disappearing and her mast had gone.  This time next year she'll be nothing but scrap metal and memories, which a lot of us have got.  It's just a shame she became infamous over this, which is what a lot of journalists will keep mentioning, rather that her heritage and career.  So goodbye, grand old lady.  It's been a pleasure and you'll be much missed by all true ship lovers.

The photo on this page is when she did one of her few visits to Southampton on the 11th August 1998.  I was there as a child watching when she left Southampton for the final time in 1974, though my dad didn't get any photos himself despite being a ship lover too, and she started my interest in ships.  The weather in 1998 was misty and not ideal making me wish I'd gone another time or done a ferry trip past, but we all learn from our mistakes and regrets.

For video of her arriving and sailing a month earlier (with QE2), click

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© Patricia Dempsey 11th August 1998 & 30th March 2006
Not to be reproduced without permission
12th February 2008