Celebrity retro cruising aboard the legendary cruise/liner SS FRANCE from the 1960s to the 1970s. Glamor and elegance. No tank-tops please.
- From Cary Grant, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Liz Taylor to Tennessee Williams. Many attempts were made to save the France by transforming it into a hotel or a casino… but would this actually have “saved” it?
Andy Warhol and Tennessee Williams.
The French Line’s (C.G.T.) SS France was the final ocean liner built solely for transatlantic service, and the designers did not expect her to cruise.
- Built at Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France between 1957-1961, she had a gross tonnage of 66,348, a length of 1,035 feet, making her the longest passenger ship ever built, a beam of 110 feet and a deep draft of 34 feet.
- With no thought to ever have to cruise, she was too long and too wide to transit the Panama Canal.
- The steam turbines geared to quadruple screws gave her a service speed of 30 knots.
- Passenger capacity was 501 in First Class and 1,543 in Tourist (1961) with 250 berths interchangeable between the two, depending on the demand.
- The France, which became the SS Norway, was a legendary ship in the French imagination, and one that elicited both deep affection and considerable rancor?
- Many attempts were made to save it by transforming it into a hotel or a casino… but would this actually have “saved” it.
- Today, it is gone. However, the SS France’s legend remains intact and it will always be remembered as an inimitable and monumental ship.
First Class on the French Line…
- At the time of her construction in 1960, the 1,035 ft (315 m) vessel was the longest passenger ship ever built, a record that remained unchallenged until the construction of the 1,132 ft (345 m) RMS Queen Mary 2 in 2004.
Madame Charles de Gaulle launched the $80 million liner on May 11, 1960, and the first voyage with passengers went south to the Canary Islands.
Then on February 2, 1961, she sailed from Le Havre via Southampton on her maiden voyage for New York, arriving on February 8, 1962.
With a striking appearance and a fireboat welcome, she made her way up to her berth on the West Side.
For the first several years, she often sailed full, then transatlantic travel began to quickly erode especially during the winter months, and the France turned to off-season cruising.
In 1972, the France made a world cruise, and two years later with fuel prices almost tripling in cost, the French government decided to withdraw the subsidy in favor of the Concorde.
In September 1974, near the end of a voyage from New York crew members took over the ship off Le Havre, demanding that she remain in service and striking for higher wages. When the crew relented, the ship tied up and was immediately removed from service and laid up near Le Havre.
There she remained until Norwegian Caribbean Lines bought her for $18 million and spent $80 million refitting her at Hapag-Lloyd Shipyards in Bremerhaven, Germany. Renamed SS Norway, she carried both the Norwegian and United Nations flags, because of the several dozen nationalities amongst the new crew.
Some, like ship historian John Maxtone-Graham, believe that France was purposely built to serve as both a liner and a cruise ship, stating: “Once again, the company had cruise conversion in mind… for cruises, all baffle doors segregating staircases from taboo decks were opened to permit free circulation throughout the vessel.”
However, others, such as ship historian William Miller, have asserted thatFrance was the “last purposely designed year-round transatlantic super-ship.”