Former VISTAFJORD Sailing Into History?

OASIA photo courtesy SAL Copyright Rederi Swedish American Line AB. facebook: @SALCRUISES

From the Far East comes news that the OASIA is on the move, sailing again under her own power albeit very slowly.  In February it was reported that the 44 year old ship had been sold for scrap but no further details were given. This singularly beautiful ship was built in 1973 as the VISTAFJORD for Det Norske Amerikalinje A/S of Oslo, better known in English as the Norwegian America Line (NAL) .

The first Norwegian America Line postcard for the VISTAFJORD. Collection of Shawn J. Dake.
VISTAFJORD Preliminary brochure cover 1972
VISTAFJORD Preliminary brochure NAL
VISTAFJORD Preliminary brochure 1972 NAL
VISTFJORD ship’s bell on the bridge. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.

In appearance she was arguably the last traditional liner ever built and was definitely the last British-built passenger ship, beginning life at the Swan Hunter Shipbuilders at Wallsend on Tyne in England. She was laid down as yard number 39 and launched on May 15, 1972. The maiden voyage, a trans-Atlantic crossing from Oslo to New York, got underway a year later departing May 22, 1973.   The VISTAFJORD was 24,492 gross tons of design perfection with a strikingly similar appearance to her earlier near-sister SAGAFJORD. They both operated at the high-end of the cruise market as luxury vessels, while still offering an occasional trans-Atlantic crossing between long, worldwide cruise voyages. The dimensions of the VISTAFJORD gave her a length of 627 feet with 82 feet in beam.  The ship and her public rooms were originally planned for a maximum of 620 passengers, who enjoyed single-seating dining.  By 1980 the two-ship legacy company was in search of additional capital as it struggled to be profitable with the limited passenger capacity of the vessels and additional competition.  NAL found a willing partner in Leif Hoegh & Company A/S of Oslo which a few months later bought the entire line restyling the company as Norwegian American Cruises A/S (NAC).

Aerial view of the VISTAFJORD in the colors of Cunard/NAC. Collection of Shawn J. Dake.

The ships and the company were sold to Cunard Line in 1983 and retained their names. Their division within the parent company was known as Cunard/NAC.  As things frequently changed at Cunard in the 1990’s after the SAGAFJORD left the fleet, the VISTAFJORD was eventually renamed CARONIA in 1999.  It was the third ship to bear this famous name.

CARONIA anchored in Geirangerfjord, Norway on August 12, 2004. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
CARONIA Indoor Pool on C-Deck, Photo by Shawn J. Dake
CARONIA at Flam, Norway August 13, 2004, photo Shawn J. Dake

Repainted with a black hull, as opposed to the dove-grey she wore previously, the ship still presented a striking appearance, particularly topped by the Cunard orange and black funnel. Although a popular and revenue producing vessel, under the ownership of Carnival Corporation, Cunard Line decided to concentrate only on their much larger Queens, so in 2004 the CARONIA was sold to Saga Holidays.

SAGA RUBY in 2013, photo Wikimedia Commons
Saga expanded the aft Lido Restaurant late in the ship’s career. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
Comfortable staterooms trimmed with wood had an old-world feel to them. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
Throughout her long career the ship always had a proper library. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The circular forward lounge provided a relaxing venue to read, dance, enjoy a cocktail, or simply soak up the atmosphere of a classic ocean liner. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The curved forward staircase almost seemed to float between decks. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The single-level dining room while a beautiful space was not as spectacular as the domed restaurant found on the SAGAFJORD. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The terraced aft decks made of teak were immaculately maintained. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The redecorated Main Lounge facing aft aboard the SAGA RUBY was impressive in all of the ship’s incarnations. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The VISTAFJORD and SAGAFJORD both had comfortable cinemas tucked along the center line between the lounges. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The spectacular North Cape Bar area forward on the port side was a feature of both the SAGAFJORD and VISTAFJORD. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.

After an extensive but respectful refit in Malta she was renamed SAGA RUBY entering service for them early in 2005. Hugely popular the ship continued to cruise all over the world, now catering to 677 passengers, all above 50 years of age. The SAGA RUBY was retired from the Saga fleet on January 7, 2014.  By mid-February of that year she departed from Gibraltar under the new ownership of Millennium View Ltd., a Singapore-based company who reportedly paid $14 million for her.  Renamed OASIA, her intended use was to be a hotel ship in Myanmar (Burma). Those plans never materialized and she spent an uncertain three years laid up in Thailand. Other than the purchase of new furnishings intended for use as a hotel and conference center, and the name on her bow, nothing of the interior or exterior had been changed.  On March 5, 2017 she left the Thai port of Sattahip apparently bound for Singapore.  Her old twin Sulzer diesel engines have her moving inevitably toward whatever her final destination will be at an average speed of 8.3 knots, although a check on March 17th showed her progressing at less than one knot.  AIS details show her name for this voyage possibly revised to OASIS, with the ship now registered at the Caribbean islands of St. Kitts & Nevis.  Once at Singapore the future for this charming but aging ship is purely speculation.  Perhaps there is the slim hope for an extension of her career in either a stationary or active role.  Sadly, the much more likely scenario is a one-way voyage to China or Alang, India where one of the most beautiful ships in history will be reduced to scrap.

Thanks to Peter Knego, Martin Cox and SAL Copyright Rederi Swedish American Line AB.  facebook: @SALCRUISES

VISTAFJORD 1981-82 Brochure NAC

Related Posts from MaritimeMatters:

A Last Look Inside SAGA RUBY


SAGA RUBY To Be Retired

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake

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