Norway will be remembered as one of the most well-known liners of her day when she was the thirth France built for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique in 1960. Also, she will be remembered as the first mega-cruiseship sailing the Caribbean when she was rebuilt in 1980 as the Norway. And she will also be remembered as the biggest cruiseship that has ever been scrapped, sadly. But she has seen every part of the growth of cruisetravel and her role has simply been played.
As said, the ship was ordered by the CGT in 1956 and her keel was laid at the 7th of september 1957. At that moment, the great French Line sailed with well-known marvellous vessels like Ile de France and Liberté. But de Ile de France was built in 1927 and the Liberté was the former German Europa built in 1928. So both big French liners were around 30 years old then. They had built the Flandre in 1952, but this ship was no real match for other ships at the North Atlantic, like Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam, built in 1938. So the French Line had to act, to regain some of their pre-war status when they sailed with Normandie. The new ship was to be a great one and her name could only be that of the country she sailed for. At 315 meters, she would also be the longest passenership in history and she would keep this title untill 2004, when Cunards Queen Mary 2 was taken into service.
The ship was launched at may 11, 1960 by Yvonne de Gaulle, wife of Charles de Gaulle, the French Prime Minister at the time. But before this naming was done, the new ship was blessed by the Bishop of Nantes, Monseigneur Villepelet. Charles the Gaulle was always considered a big fan of the new French liner. The trials of France were in the last months of 1961, taking her first shakedown cruise to the Canaries at the 19th of january 1962. A few weeks later, at the 3rd of february, she made her first transatlantic crossing from Le Havre to New York. She was a luxurious masterpiece, but becaue of the tragedy with Normandie was still in everyone's mind, the ship was designed different. There was no use of wood or flamable materials. So she was a modern ship, very different from her earlier fleetmates. Not only was the ship very luxurious for people, even the passengers pets were pampered. The kennels on the ship were all carpeted and for the American dogs a New York City fire hydrant and for the French dogs a Parisian lamp-post were featured. In the wintermonths, the ship would sail cruises, but the giant ship was never built with cruises in mind. Although she was very popular, her costs were also very high and she never made money for her owners. The difference between her operating costs and her revenues was given as a subsidy from the government to the CGT. In 1973, this subsidy has risen that high, that the French government decided to stop this financial injection and put this money into the concorde-project together with the Brits. So the France was taken out of service at the end of the summerseason of 1974 and laid up at the backwaters of Le Havre. But before this could happen, the crew seized the ship on one of her last sailings as a desperate attempt to keep her in service. This happened at the night of the 11th and 12th of september 1974. Only at the 9th of october the ship finally docked.
She was bought by a Swiss company, Techniques d'Avant-Garde Finances Internationales S.A., that was backed by Saoudi Arabian interests. But nothing happened untill the ship was bought by Kloster Cruise of Norway in august 1979. This still relatively small Norwegian cruisecompany sailed with middlesized cruiseships in the Caribbean as Norwegian Caribbean Lines. They announced that the France would be rebuilt as a warm-weather cruiseliner for sailings in the Caribbean.
This rebuilding took 33 weeks and was done in Germany at the Lloyd werft at Bremerhaven. At april the 30th the ship emerged from the wharf as Norway, by far the largest ship in cruiseservice in the world. Her new homeport Oslo was added as port of call for her first trip to New York and Miami. Her new role was quite succesfull but with the ever growing and modernizing cruisefleet from the middle of the 1980's onwards, the ship really became outdated. So in september 1990, the ship was sent to Bremerhaven again for the addition of two new topdecks with luxury suites that had their own balconies. A lot of shiplovers will say these new decks are very ugly at a classic oceanliner like Norway but it became clear that this was the only way to lenghten her life. Otherwise she would certainly be scrapped earlier then she was.
In 1998 she was unofficially renamed France for some European cruises for French passengers but her age became more clear every year. In 1999 a big engineroomfire in Barcelona was one of the signs for this. Two years later, NCL announced that she would be transferred to their mothercompany Star Cruises and she sailed some farewell cruises from Le Havre (where the above picture was taken) where a lot of people watched her from the rainy and windy quaysides of the French port.
She was not transferred, however, and she kept sailing Caribbean cruises untill 2003 when a violent explosion in one of her boilers killed eight of her crewmembers. This was the true beginning of the end and she was laid-up in Bremerhaven awaiting her repair. But this repair never came. There were stories that the ship would become a hotelship in Holland. Several plans were there, from Amsterdam, Rotterdam as well as IJmuiden. Also, France wanted to preserve the ship as a hotel near Honfleur, a town close to Le Havre. But this also did not happen. In march 2004, NCL announced the ship would never again sail for them and Star Cruises would bring her over to Asia for the removal of the asbestos. She was laid up at Port Klang for a short while and renamed Blue Lady. A lot of problems and negative reactions arose when it seemed that Star Cruises just brought the ship over to Asia to get out of heavy European regulations for the asbestos-removal. She finally arrived at Alang, India to get scrapped at the 15th of august 2006 awaiting demolition. A true queen of the oceans, that has seen every aspect of passenger travel at sea, was laid to rest.