From the SS FRANCE to the SS NORWAY…
Bellboys with models aboard the SS France.

From the SS FRANCE to the SS NORWAY…

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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?

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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.
First Class restaurant on the SS France. Considered the finest French restaurant in the world.

First Class restaurant on the SS France. Considered the finest French restaurant in the world.

  • With no thought to ever have to cruise, she was too long and too wide to transit the Panama Canal.
Tourist Class swimming pool on the SS France...

Tourist Class swimming pool on the SS France…

  • 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 SS France...

The SS France…

  • 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...

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.
First Class restaurant on the SS France. Considered the finest French restaurant in the world.

First Class restaurant on the SS France. Considered the finest French restaurant in the world.

  • 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.”

 

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About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…