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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman


S/S Norway ~ Norwegian Cruise Line
April 7, 2001
Tribute & Cruise

by Steve Garrod 

To preface my review of the S/S Norway, I must state that this voyage was so much more to me than just a cruise to the Western Caribbean for 8 nights.  I have always had a deep passion for cruising and cruise ships and that has been what motivated me to pursue shipboard employment for the past two years.  The beauty and grace of the Norway have only fortified my love for the sea and ocean-going vessels, indeed.  The Norway is in a class of her own and she continues to ply the waters with strength, dignity, and grace even after her many modifications in her post-France years.  I have sailed on the Norway before and have been to the Caribbean countless times so I shall dedicate this review primarily to the ship herself and the many wonderful onboard experiences she continues to offer. 

We flew in to Miami one night prior to be refreshed for embarkation morning as I always prefer.  We stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami and had a view of the Port of Miami.  Upon awakening on Saturday, April 7th, my eyes were drawn immediately to the twin-funnel graceful lady S/S Norway among a line-up of newer cruise ships by Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean.  After a light breakfast, we caught a taxi to the Port of Miami.  Although the Explorer of the Seas did indeed dwarf the other vessels in port, my pride and emotions were drawn to the sleek lady two berths down.

The embarkation process left a little to be desired as we were in the “Latitudes” queue and were surpassed by the general boarding guests and also by others not following the signage.  Nonetheless, it was painless and it was time to embark the S/S Norway.  There were two gangway entrances provided and we proceeded to that further forward.  We walked onto the Norway after having customary photos taken with some of the Jean Ann Ryan cast in full costume.  Having a stateroom on Norway Deck (N 110), it was an effortless task to find it.

My first impressions of a ship are always very important to me and carry lasting significance. The carpeting in the embarkation lobby and cabin corridors appeared like new with very little wear.  My next observation was that of the recently installed sprinkler system.  This was eventually required for continuing service and was sped up by a push of the U.S. Coast Guard.  In some areas of the ship, the hardware is nearly concealed save for the actual sprinkler heads.  The fully visible hardware in the corridors and other public spaces makes it apparent that the addition was mandatory and speedy.  The amazing aspect of this addition is that it took place while the ship was cruising, closing one deck off at a time.

Embarkation day for me is always hasty in that I try to accomplish many things before actually setting sail, such as photos, phone calls, and even a quick bite to eat.  I did manage to fit all of the above in before the 3:45 p.m. lifeboat mustering.  I stood at station 20, port side aft with a view of Government Cut.  The S/S Norway commands attention for the drill with her whistle, intercom bells, and remote klaxon horns.  The mustering was very thorough and announced in several languages, much to my liking.  Shortly thereafter, it was time for one of my favourite events of the cruise – sailaway!

Cruise Director Rich Clesen, along with his staff, hosted the event on Pool Deck aft.  I always enjoy sail away from the upper decks and this day was no exception.  An exhilarating experience was being surprised by a blast of the ship’s whistle while standing directly beneath it.  On this day, the Norway set sail first leaving sister Norwegian Wind in the light wake.  There is nothing quite like sailing for open waters on the Grand Dame of the high seas.

Besides the shipboard experience itself, meeting new friends is certainly what cruising is all about.  I happened to meet another ship buff on board who was very knowledgeable on the Norway.  This was his 15th cruise on the Norway and I certainly learned a lot about the ship from him and for that, I am truly grateful.  It was fantastic to tour the ship, share ship industry knowledge, and enjoy the onboard atmosphere.  A group of us from the Cruise Critic also met on the first sea day in the Sports Bar on International Deck.  That was a delightful experience as we all have a great love for the Norway and they were also a very genuine and sociable group of people.  We then spotted each other throughout the voyage and exchanged greetings.


As of this date, the NCL fleet is working to incorporate the Freestyle cruising experience into the fleet.  The S/S Norway is an exception although she does sport some of the elements thereof.  Of the eight nights of dining, I only ate at my assigned table (Windward #4) five of them.  The dining room staff is wonderful and I particularly enjoyed the service of wine stewardess Shirlette Walker from Jamaica.  The other evenings of the voyage, my friend John and I ate in Le Bistro and also open seating in the Windward Dining Room.  I highly recommend Le Bistro as an alternate to traditional seating.  Waiter German was particularly attentive and has given service to NCL for many years.  Both the food and service in Le Bistro are highly commendable.

The Great Outdoor Restaurant aft on International Deck is a fine example of casual dining by day or evening.  One may dine in either a covered area, under umbrellas, or in the open sun.  One particularly interesting feature here was a set of two to three large kettle grills that were used to serve up hamburgers, hot dogs, and bow-tied pasta.  There are four serving lines that are serviced by one large galley.  The traffic flow is efficient so long as guests properly follow the arrows and signage.  Another delightful feature on the starboard side is a fruit station where crew slice and dice to your specifications.  One other dining option is, of course, room service that I found to be timely and efficient.

I continue to uphold the Windward Dining Room as being one of the most beautiful dining rooms at sea today.  She is flanked with original paneling throughout and topped with a large, circular sky scape complete with a twinkling star effect.  Her grand staircase is easily one of the most elegant ways to make an entrance.


On this voyage in particular, I opted to not attend each show as diligently as usual.  I made a point, however, to see each of the Jean Ann Ryan performances in the Saga Theater and I was not disappointed.  With all of the large and impressive show lounges at sea today, it is hard for the Saga Theater to compete.  She delivers in her own classical and elegant fashion.  On the first of the two formal evenings, the cast performed “Sing, Sing, Sing”.  There was then a Broadway production of “Guys and Dolls” and then “Sea Legs Goes Hollywood” being performed throughout the cruise.  The cast is very talented and they certainly utilize their resources for all that they are worth. 

The only other show that I made a point of attending was singer Elvy Rose in the North Cape Lounge.  I highly recommend her performance for comic value and most certainly her vocal talent.  I found that the full complement of cruise director’s staff was always energetic, motivated, and on time for the numerous activities around the ship.  Patti, the assistant cruise director, was highly visible around the vessel and has a wonderful speaking voice for activities and regular shipboard announcements.

I spent a large amount of my time in Club Internationale and had the chance to enjoy some wonderful music there.  The Latin band Mangu and the classy Rob Ellis Trio headlined throughout the cruise.  My friend John and I enjoyed cocktails in Club Internationale in what has become to be known as “his corner” through his experiences on the Norway.  A very memorable event there was high tea that took place on sea days.  A strict dress code is enforced and delightfully enjoyed by all of the attendees.  Some guests walked in with shorts and sleeveless shirts and they stormed out after having been politely asked to observe the code.  Apparently the large brass signs were not enough! 

Ports of Call

On this 8-night voyage, we called at Grand Cayman, Cozumél (Mexico), Roatán (Honduras), and NCL’s private island Great Stirrup Cay.  We were required to tender at each port.  I was impressed, however, that at the first three calls the Norway did not utilize her anchors but rather positioned herself by means of her bow and stern thrusters.

I have previously visited all ports before with the exception of Roatán.  I tendered to Grand Cayman solely to take an array of ship photos.  Having never visited Roatán, I took the Roatán East End Discovery tour.  Winds and seas were a bit high and inhibited tendering service only minimally.  With this, the tender commute lasted at least 25 to 30 minutes each way.  Upon arriving at the island there was a group of native dancers performing for all of the arriving guests.

The excursion itself was very enlightening.  After having departed from the pier by air-conditioned coach, we proceeded through Coxen Hole and Dixons Cove on the way to Marble Hill.  Guests had the opportunity to sample an array of jellies and jams made from local fruits.  We then took the coach to Jonesville where we had the opportunity to climb in small boats and tour through natural mangrove tunnels.  Our last stop was to Las Palmas Resort where we saw a demonstration of music and dance by the Garifuna Indians who settled there in 1797.  I was one of the “victims” brought up to learn some of the dances and everyone seemed to get a kick out of that.

For rarely calling at Roatán, the tours and tender services were dispatched very efficiently.  With the large hiatus of ships to Alaska and Europe by this point, we saw only the Imagination, Jubilee, Crystal Harmony, Sea Princess, and Sovereign of the Seas throughout the voyage.

The Ship

The image of the Norway evokes feelings of the days gone by of cruising and all of the wonderful emotions associated therein.  She also demonstrates amazing strength and durability for being a ship of that age and that is very apparent throughout the vessel.  I would like to address some of my favourite areas that I feel accent the beauty and mystique of the S/S Norway.

As nearly all of the new ships on the market continuously try to outshine each other with their atria, the Norway retains an intimate embarkation lobby in beautiful classic, and nautical colours.  The aura of the Norway’s lobby gives you a welcoming feel and entices you to follow her corridors and discover everything that she has to offer.  Two of the most popular public areas on the Norway, her dining rooms, are located parallel of each other on lower decks on Norway and Atlantic Decks.  This is very convenient for the majority of the staterooms’ occupants on these decks.  As suggested earlier in this review, my favourite of the two dining rooms is certainly the Windward.  I had dined in the Leeward on my previous voyage on the Norway and certainly welcomed the change this time around.

I had the opportunity to tour the galley that links both dining rooms one day with my friend John.  Much of the equipment in the galley is still original from her earliest days and still works like new and is very evident by the labeling in the French language.  One barely thinks of her age, however, as today’s crew bustle about in preparing the day’s meals.  This is the one area on the ship that extends the entire breadth of the ship.

As many of today’s cruise ships sport their beauty salon / spa facilities on upper decks, the Norway’s setup is located below on Dolphin Deck.  The modest staircase to the Roman Spa can be found right outside the Windward Dining Room and will lead you right to the facilities now operated by Mandara Spa.  I had the opportunity to enjoy a manicure early in the morning on the final sea day and I found the services to be of superior quality and comparable cost.  In walking past the previous beauty salon facilities on Viking Deck, you’ll now only notice a vacant space that once bustled with activity.  The current facilities are now located on Dolphin Deck.

Unlike modern cruise ships where cabin corridors are uniform and indistinguishable, no two are alike on the Norway.  Each turn takes you to more unique artwork, remarkable staircase design, and an array of signage.  Those who have sailed previously on the Norway may notice her various of forms of signage that exist throughout the ship.  Whether the signs indicate deck name/number or relay emergency information, I find that each one contributes to the overall personality of the Norway.  The current design of deck signage that is new since my previous sailing is done in a navy blue with sleek, white lettering that is indicative of NCL’s current image.

Completely aft on Viking Deck is the multi-purpose and colourful Dazzles disco, formerly known as “A Club Called Dazzles”.  I find it amazing that guest staterooms lie directly adjacent to the room but noticed that the sound level is nearly compressed in a compartment entering into the disco.  Restrooms are also located in this small compartment.  In her early years, this was the location of a swimming pool but is now home to presentations, group meetings, and the discotheque.  I was very pleased in there being a wide range of music including modern hits heard in popular city discotheques.  Deejay Ross had the ability to entertain a wide range of ages even through that the average was quite low this week.  Another clever entrance/exit to the disco is by means of a staircase accessible on Pool Deck near the aft pool.  In fact, windows into the aft pool are visible in Dazzles itself.

Pool Deck is home to many cruisers’ favourite hangout, the Monte Carlo Casino.  Also on this deck are Le Bistro and the North Cape Lounge.  As mentioned previously, the Saga Theatre spans two decks and was originally intended as a movie theater.  She does serve her purpose well as a show lounge/theater of today and her sightlines rival those of many new ships on the market today.  My friend John and I had a chance to look into the costume room of the Saga Theater and snap some photos.  This area was once the ship’s chapel and it still retains much of the same design.  Visible among the costumes were the altar and a holy water basin.

Taking guests from the lower to the upper level of the Saga Theater lobby is one of the most attractive staircases aboard, in my opinion.  The International Deck is the scene for many popular guest activities such as shopping, dining, strolling, and surfing the Internet.  It is also the location where some original public areas have been altered to make room for a more “modern” appeal but not necessarily beneficial.  Many former cruisers on the Norway tend to agree, and sometimes adamantly so.  The former Ibsen Library is now home to a perfume shop but still retains many of the same features including shelving and the ladder structuring.  A delightful area of many eras is Sven’s Ice Cream Parlour located on the starboard side of the ship.  Guests fortunate enough to catch the open hours of the parlour enjoy a wonderful treat.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the Norway’s “progress” is the reformation of the Checkers Cabaret.  It is now known as “The Sports Bar” and features neon lighting, sports action photos, and a less-than-appealing façade.  With a watchful eye, however, you’ll notice some of the original features which were untouched from the original layout such as ceiling structure and the tile flooring.  It is still a popular area for daytime activities, the Latin band, watching sport events on television, and enjoying a drink or two.

Alternately, I would now like to report on one of my favourite areas on board the Norway.  Understated elegance and appeal are the feelings that the Club Internationale tends to evoke.  Simply looking around at her graceful statues and draping curtains, you feel as if you are truly back in her days as the France.  It is so easy to sit back, relax, enjoy a drink, and watch the world go by and feel as if you are on top of it at the same time.  She is relatively untouched save for small modifications such as a darkening of her ceiling paint.  As mentioned above, high tea is one of the most elegant activities to take place in here along with her fabulous nightlife.  Club Internationale simply takes on a new aura in the evening with intimate lighting and beautiful music.  Looking around at my fellow shipmates, I could only get the feeling that we all knew as if we were someone special being there to experience it.  Lower key events also took place in Club Internationale such as Friends of Bill W. and Friends of Dorothy.

Another charming area on the Norway is the Windjammer Bar.  Being dimly lit and intimate, the Windjammer Bar is a perfect place to share good company and conversation with your fellow shipmates.  Pianist Tom Theobold performed in here nightly and always seemed to add a little comic value just when you least expected it.  Just beyond the Windjammer proceeding forward is the Internet Café/Library.  This is a relatively new feature for many cruise ships today and the NCL fleet is serviced by Digital Seas International.  One may check mail on an existing account, create a new account, or check mail from their “cruise mail” provided in the NCL boarding documents, all for seventy-five cents per minute.

The promenade itself around International Deck (Champs Elysées and Fifth Avenue) is a beautiful site itself.  Serving as street sidewalks, guests can window-shop or people-watch.  An even more striking appearance is by evening when the classic lighting reflects on the “street” just as the moon on the ocean.  Strolling the avenues by evening is a magnificent opportunity to admire (or disapprove of) others’ eveningwear.  I particularly enjoy hearing the mélange of music from each of the venues and deciding just what I may be in the mood for that evening.  Of course, I was normally lured to Club Internationale – and for good reasons!

Fitness buffs definitely find their way up to Olympic Deck which houses the Fitness Center and a wrap-around walking/jogging deck.  I have always said that the 360-degree deck is my favourite feature of a cruise ship.  To me, it is a great way to get exercise, enjoy the sea, and examine the ship’s outer workings as well.  Unfortunately, outside of “day hours” on Olympic Deck, a gate would close off the forward portion of the walking deck that would wrap around to the opposite side.  Friends and family mentioned that the Fitness Center was very well equipped and easy to use.  I, however, didn’t happen to make it in there this voyage!

Proceeding higher on the ship, you’ll begin to notice the architectural differences that took place upon the addition of her upper two decks.  Many critics claim that the new decks have destroyed her profile.  I believe that it has changed her image of being a taller ship with soaring funnels but, in my mind, she will never lose her image of class and tradition.  One of the best places to get an idea of her sheer size is by strolling along Star Deck and gazing up at her graceful mast and towering funnels.  I noticed that they have replaced her previous “Norway” lettering which was formerly internally lit.  She now sports new letters (same typeface) that are externally lit by floodlights.  No ship at sea truly can imitate the sight of seeing her beautiful letters lit up at night with a striking reflection on the water.


The final morning of a cruise vacation is always very solemn.  On this, the 15th of April, 2001, it was certainly hard-hitting.  At various points throughout the evening I would wake up and notice the bow thrusters generating and small glimpses of light approach, reminding me that Miami was just around the corner.  There wasn’t very much “night” for me to rest through considering that I always like to enjoy as much of the last evening as possible.  It was a glum experience walking around the ship the final morning and mentally preparing myself to disembark.  Walking around the ship and recalling all of the wonderful experiences from the week certainly added a bright spot to the moment.  Having my final breakfast aboard and looking aft toward the Voyager of the Seas, I realized how lucky I was to have sailed on the Norway this week and relish in her glory.

Having been quite tired from my last evening aboard ship, I took some rest in at the Hotel Intercontinental to prepare myself for the ships' departures beginning at around 4:00 PM.  Over the past many years, I have experimented with different locations from which to view the ships sailing out.  I originally started near the end of Government Cut where the ships turn in the basin but have now moved to the complete opposite end on Miami Beach on a small pier.  Among beach goers and young people diving off of the pier, I took my spot to bid farewell to the day's line-up.  It took longer than I had anticipated for even the first ship to set sail but it was the Paradise and she made a 180 turn prior to sailing out of Government Cut.  Perhaps of significance, the Norway was the final ship to set sail and was not until nearly 7:00 PM.  A very emotional and heartwarming gesture was that all of the ships in Miami that day saluted the Grand Dame Norway with the 3 blasts of the whistle followed by one more blast.  Despite the size and new age of today's standard of ships, they still realize what significance the Norway had in developing what cruising is all about.

As stated previously, this trip on the Norway turned out to be much more than just a cruise.  She served various purposes for me this time around : a wonderful reunion from December 1993, a time to meet valuable new friends, a chance to take in the beauty and history that the ship offers, and a reinforcement of my passion for cruising and cruise ships.  I owe much to the legendary Norway and can only hope that she will be handed over to respecting hands upon her departure from the NCL proper fleet.  Perhaps I shall see her again somewhere in the world wherever she may end up but, until then, she is going to have a part of my heart indefinitely.

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