In 1978, Knut Kloster purchased the laid-up France for $18 million, and proceeded to spend over $80 million tranforming the transatlantic liner to a warm-weather cruise ship.
She dwarfed her fleetmates in the Norwegian Caribbean Line, who placed her on a plodding seven-night itinerary out of Miami. Her forward engine room was shut down, two of her four propellers removed and her crew reduced. Some of the duplicate facilities for the two-class liner were converted to shops or other new facilities; other spaces, including the tourist promenades, were filled in with additional cabins, boosting her capacity from 1,944 to 2,181. A large outdoor lido surrounded the aft pool, which was raised on level, and included an outdoor restaurant. A new disco in the stern called “Dazzles” had windows looking into the pool below the waterline.
Her success as a cruise ship far eclipsed that on the transatlantic trade, which was already waning when she arrived on the scene. In 1984, she had the first of three renovations, in which she was given diesel engines for auxiliary power. Then, in 1990, she had two additional decks added atop her superstructure, boosting capacity to 2,565. A small new pool was added midships between the two funnels, placed in what was once that novel “patio” Many argued that the addition was detrimental to the ship’s looks, and of course the public facilities all became that much more crowded.
In 1996, a further renovation converted several public spaces to shops, and the former First Class Main Lounge was changed from Checkers Cabaret, one of the more successful public spaces on Norway, to a Sports Illustrated-themed bar. All these changes were deemed necessary to keep the ship profitable, but by 2000, she was far eclipsed by the new tonnage that was appearing all around, sporting cabin balconies which only the newest cabins on Norway had. There were other complaints about slow elevators and small windows, and the maze of former tourist-class cabins on her lower decks were a hard sell. She was showing her age.
The Norway departed on what was expected to be her final voyage with NCL on 9th September, 2001, a nostalgic crossing ending to old home of Le Havre. The terrorist attacks on the US two days later, when she was in mid-Atlantic stood the travel industry on its ear, and NCL elected to place her back in service from Miami. albeit at rock-bottom prices. Only superficial cosmetic and infrastructure work was carried out, and on 25th October 2003, one of her aged boilers exploded, killing eight members of crew and injuring sixteen others.
NCL had the ship towed to Lloyd Werft yards in Bremerhaven, where she was used as accommodation for crew members training to serve aboard the line’s new ship Pride of America, then under construction in the same yeard. Meanwhile, an investigation revealed it was possible to repair the boiler, but the following year the company’s chairman announced she would not sail again. She was transferred to NCL’s Malaysian parent Star Cruises . Due to significant amounts of asbestos and other contaminants, European law forbade scrapping of the ship anywhere in the world without proper abatement procedures being followed. However — following a series of assurances to the German authorities — the ship was towed to Port Klang. Despite protests from Greenpeace and others, she was sold to shipbreakers.