In our last issue, we included a small news item concerning the entry into service of the Norwegian America Line's new cruise vessel, VISTAFJORD, but your Editor feels that this ship is so outstanding as to merit more complete description in these pages. The following, then, is a personal view of the ship as we observed her on her maiden cruise from New York to Bermuda, June 7 through 11, 1973.
VISTAFJORD was built by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd., having been ordered on December 5, 1969. She was launched on May 15, 1972, and was completed four months ahead of schedule so that she might sail into Oslo, Norway, on May 17th, 1973, the anniversary of Norway's Independence. The vessel is basically very similar to SAGAFJORD, the line's earlier flagship, and measures 191.084 metres in overall length. Her Gross tonnage is 24,291.67. The most striking difference between VISTAFJORD and her earlier "sister" lies in the addition of one more deck of passenger accommodation in the later vessel.
VISTAFJORD, the most expensive passenger vessel ever built (estimates of her cost run in the area of $50-million, although the N.A.L. is non-committal), was originally to have been christened STAVANGERFJORD in honour of the N.A.L. vessel of that name which served from 1917 to 1963 and came to be known as the Grand Old Lady of the Atlantic. The name would have suited the new ship, but unfortunately her owners felt that this name would have been hard for the public to pronounce. For this reason, they named the ship for the hamlet of Viste which is located Stavangerfjord in Norway.
The VISTAFJORD has accommodation for 550 passengers, more than half of them in single occupancy cabins, a real innovation for cruising. The individual cabins are most tastefully and luxuriously appointed and even the minimum-rate cabins are pleasant and airy, with none of the bleak atmosphere which is possessed by the cabins in some newer vessels. Your Editor occupied cabin 121 on the Sun Deck (the top deck for passengers) and found a most beautiful cabin. With the deck covered in a shag carpet up to the ankles, the room contained a very long bed, convertible couch, two endtables (locking, too!), two chairs, a circular table, paintings on the walls, a large wardrobe and lots of storage space, a refrigerator (very handy for champagne), and, of all things, a wood-panelled bathroom. Everything in the cabin functioned well with the exception of a rather tricky door lock and the plumbing in the sink which was all the more fascinating in that the hot water came from the right-hand tap marked "cold"!
The VISTAFJORD has the greatest number of public rooms the writer has observed in any vessel of her size and the Verandah Deck is given over completely to this end, other public rooms being spaced throughout the ship. The Main Lounge is spectacular and is of a size sufficient to hold the entire ship's company at once. The Dining Saloon is beautifully decorated with an eye-catching foyer at its after end, but is somewhat spoiled by a rather spartan compartment in the middle of the forward end of the room which houses and hides the escalators down to the serving areas.
There is a multitude of bars on VISTAFJORD and prices are so low that they almost provoke disbelief in one accustomed to the practices of the L.C.B.O. here in Ontario. You can take your choice of, amongst others, the late night spot called the Viking Club, a wonderfully intimate and cosily decorated bar called the North Cape lounge, or what is in your editor's opinion the best room on the ship, the elegant Garden Lounge. The Cinema is large and brightly decorated and is located high in the ship, rather than well belowdecks as in most liners.
The VISTAFJORD has much open deck space and has a large swimming pool on the Lido as well as a pool, sauna and gymnasium belowdecks. The amount of open deck space is truly surprising after seeing the cramped "promenades" on some recent vessels such as CUNARD AMBASSADOR, a ship which reminds one of a floating broomcloset.
But the most startling thing about VISTAFJORD is that she is so traditional in design and appointment. She has a graceful raked bow, a gentle cruiser stern, a funnel that looks like a ship funnel rather than a piece of equipment lifted out of an oil refinery, and nowhere does she have observation galleries inside dummy masts or stacks. Inside, much of her public space is panelled in wood, properly protected so as to satisfy fire regulations, and this is a great surprise to one who has seen other recently-built cruise ships. The combination of the wood and a very interesting lighting scheme gives the vessel a very homey feeling, and she should be immensely popular.
On the first trip, she was plagued with troubles such as slow service in the Dining Room, but this sort of thing is to be expected on a shakedown-type cruise and we trust that by now the crew has gotten used to the ship. This is a must when the ship is intended to operate on lengthy cruises to the North Cape (the Norwegian, fjords, Iceland, etc.).
All in all, we have nothing but praise for VISTAFJORD and the N.A.L. Perhaps the best way of summing things up would be to say that we wish her a career as long as that enjoyed by STAVANGERFJORD herself.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.