As OCEAN PEARL at Tilbury, days before departing for China. Photo © Peter Knego 2012
The founding ship of the second largest cruise line in the world has been sold for scrap. Built in 1970 for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, the SONG OF NORWAY was a phenomenally popular ship that helped usher in the modern era of cruising. As built the ship measured 18,853 gross tons when it emerged from the Wartsila shipbuilding yard in Helsinki, Finland. The demand for cruise berths on the SONG OF NORWAY and her sistership NORDIC PRINCE resulted in them both becoming among the first cruise vessels to be stretched. A third near-sister SUN VIKING was not expanded. After the operation, the SONG OF NORWAY re-emerged with a length of 637 feet and a beam of 79 feet. The gross tonnage increased to 22,945 tons. Although eclipsed by newer and much larger ships, Royal Caribbean continued to operate the vessel until 1996 when she was sold to AirTours. Her post-Royal Caribbean career followed the path of so many aging cruise ships with several name changes and a somewhat troubled existence in her later years. Over a long career spanning 43 years, she sailed under quite a few other names including SUNDREAM, DREAM PRINCESS, DREAM, CLIPPER PEARL, CLIPPER PACIFIC, FESTIVAL and OCEAN PEARL. Under the name FORMOSA QUEEN for Asia Star Cruises she spent her final active days as a gambling ship. She had been operated for several years by ISP on a charter basis. Of all the ships that Royal Caribbean has built over the years, she has the sad distinction of being the first to go to the scrap yard. The sale was confirmed in mid-November and she will be broken up in China during 2014.
It has been a very difficult year for pioneering cruise ships with the loss to breakers of the former SOUTHWARD, PACIFIC PRINCESS and now SONG OF NORWAY. Even ships of newer vintage were not immune, with the 1984-built former FAIRSKY being relegated to scrap. Many past passengers of Royal Caribbean and the SONG OF NORWAY and her sisters, will no doubt be sad to see her go. Time has finally caught up with the first sleek cruise ships from the 1970’s.