Less than two weeks ago I was in France, the hotel I was staying had a magazine called MAG, the official Le Havre tourist magazine, there was a special focus on the connection of the city with the superb SS FRANCE, Le havre was the port of registry for the French Liner since 1962 until 1974, the main reason for the special report was the commemoration of 50 years since the liner departed Le Havre on her maiden voyage to New york, the date was the 3rd of February of 1962. I have decided that I would have once again to write some words about this amazing passenger ship, my favourite of all time I must admit, after a very careful appreciation and as a result of nearly fifty years of reading books, taken thousands of photographs and travelling on board liners and cruise ships and of course sharing this passion with fellow friends and enthusiasts. So this is my tribute to one of the most remarkable liners ever to have sailed the world's oceans and an homage to fifty years since FRANCE started her life. Built by CHANTIERS DE L'ATLANTIQUE at Saint-Nazaire, FRANCE was delivered to COMPAGNIE GENERALE TRANSATLANTIQUE in 1962, she was at 316 meters the longest passenger ship ever built, a record she hold until the construction in the very same shipyard of the new 345 meters QUEEN MARY 2, she was propelled by Parsons turbines and could cruise at 30 knots, she had capacity for just over 2000 passengers in two classes. FRANCE was built with the intention of replacing the ILE DE FRANCE and the LIBERTE, her design and layout were the last word in up-to-date elegance, she was conceived to dazzle the public. It was believed that there was still sufficient demand for such glamour.
By the early 70's more than 90 percent of all passenger traffic across the North Atlantic was by air so the French Line was in trouble despite the sheer quality of the ship. In 1974 was announced that the regular Transatlantic service would be discontinued and SS FRANCE withdrawn, this would put an end to 110 years of regular service, the ship was to make her final crossing from New York on the 18th of October, however on the 17th of September when the ship was approaching her home port of Le Havre part of the crew entered the bridge and took over the ship, she was kept at sea for 11 days, after the supplies running low it was decided to continue the protest ashore but this was the end of FRANCE. She remained seized at Le Havre for five years, she was then bought by NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE, towed to Germany and refitted at LLOYDS WERFT, she was renamed NORWAY and was kept in service until 2004 with several major refits along her new career. SS NORWAY was sold for scrap in 2006, the process of dismantling the ship was completed by late 2008 at Alang in India. FRANCE was for some Historians the last "superliner" built solely with the North Atlantic service in mind, for others she was built with the dual purpose of liner voyages and cruising, she was without question one of the most beautiful liners and cruise ships ever to exist and I have fond memories of seeing her as the FRANCE and later the NORWAY.