Vistafjord Gallery
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Show Picture Full Size Formed in 1910 to provide a national shipping line at a time of increasing emmigration to the American continent, Norwegian America Line had quickly adapted following the First World War and began what it would become most famous for - luxury cruising.

But the 1950's were also the heyday of the "Atlantic Ferry" and with its ships Stavangerfjord, Oslofjord and Bergensfjord, NAL established an enviable reputation. Following the entry into service of Sagafjord in 1965 (see also the Sagafjord Gallery >>) and the retirement of its older ships, the next new ship for Norwegian America Line would turn out to be its last.

Vistafjord (1973)
24,292 grt; length 627ft; 660 passengers

Similar in styling to NAL's previous ships, Vistafjord was built by Swan Hunter on Tyneside and was adapted from the design of Sagafjord but with an extra deck and slightly more angular lines.

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An official NAL postcard of Vistafjord as she originally looked
While the layout of her public lounges was almost identical to that of Sagafjord, her single-sitting restaurant occupied only one deck, freeing-up space for more passenger cabins. As a result, Vistafjord was able to carry more than 100 more passengers than her sister.

Like her sister, she was designed for cruising out of New York, but by 1975 although marketed in America, she was based in Europe most of the year, becoming very popular with the Germans.

By this time, Norwegian America Line had just 2 ships but these two "Cruise-Liners" established an enviable reputation for luxury and service. However, with rising fuel costs it became increasingly difficult for them to make a profit and with competition from the new ships of Royal Viking Line, it was inevitable the two Lines would discuss their merger in 1979. Show Picture Full Size

But the merger with Royal Viking Line failed and in 1980, Sagafjord was given a refit increasing her passenger capacity and "Norwegian American Cruises" was formed to operate both ships.

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The stunningly beautiful yacht-lines of Vistafjord, leaving Southampton in 1983, still in Norwegian American colours.

Meanwhile, ailing rival Cunard Line had been bought by Trafalgar House Investments who, wanting to expand into the luxury cruise market, made an offer for both ships that NAC's owners could not refuse. In 1983, both ships were given refits and new profiles.

(Above) As built & (Below) After her 1983 refit

Show Picture Full Size However, the alterations were controversial; gone were the old Club Viking Lounge, her sheltered Sports Deck and beautifully stepped stern, in favour of 22 new suites and balcony cabins aft of the funnel, while a rather ungainly glass extension formed a new 2-tier Club Viking. Further increasing her capacity, a number of single cabins were also now designated as twins.

Vistafjord (1983)
24,492 grt; length 627ft; 736 passengers

Her public rooms were also remodelled and given "modern" furnishings and her Dining Room was extended to accommodate all her 736 passengers, while still maintaining her luxury hallmark, single-sitting dining.

Initially, the economies introduced by Cunard resulted in some critcism, mostly from loyal ex-NAC passengers. But although never quite beating her elder sister Sagafjord, she still achieved a coveted "5-star plus" rating from Berlitz, which she held for the next 13 years.
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Vistafjord at anchor off Ibiza, sporting her new Cunard look

This was the Vistafjord on which I would travel
almost 16,000 miles over the next few years.

Western Europe & Africa "The Love Boat Cruise"
25th May - 5th June 1985

View the complete Log of this cruise >>
Most of Vistafjord's bars and lounges were located on "Verandah Deck", from the beautifully panoramic Garden Lounge >> all the way aft to the Lido Cafe >>

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North Cape Bar
(Verandah Deck)
(Verandah Deck)
Norse Lounge
(Verandah Deck)
Card Room
(Verandah Deck)

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Fwd Lobby
(Verandah Deck)
Me John

Situated amidships, the 8,500 sq ft Ballroom was originally designed to accommodate nearly all her passengers and although now a little more crowded, it still had a large sprung dance-floor. This lovely room was the location for her white-gloved service "High Tea" in the afternoons and for the evening's main after-dinner entertainment.

But Vistafjord's proudest asset was her Vista Dining Room, in which the standard of cuisine was almost gastronomic and the standard of service was impeccable.
Souvenir Menus: Welcome Dinner >> Culinary Dinner >> Chef's Dinner >>
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Another tradition; the Repeaters' Cocktail Party, and a chance for us to shake hands with Captain Kai Julsen.
<< Enlarge Picture Also see our Table Group Photo >>
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The "modernised" Vista Dining Room

Aft of the Ballroom, was the (rather small) Lido Cafe, popular for casual breakfasts and light buffet lunches. Above this was the "new" 2-tier relocated Club Viking, the ship's Cabaret/Night Club and one of the alterations made by Cunard following the takeover of Norwegian American Cruises.

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Lido Cafe
(Verandah Deck)
Club Viking
(Gallery Level - Sun Deck)
(Verandah Deck)
Theatre Lobby
(Verandah Deck)

However, one of my favourite features was the large Cinema/Theatre; comfortable seating for 250 and a "proper" cinema-screen and film projection system!

Eastern Mediterranean & Holy Land
15th - 31st October 1986

View the complete Log of this cruise >>
For our second cruise aboard Vistafjord, John & I were joined by Andrew & Gerry and we began the trip with 2 days in Venice and a special Gala Dinner, all laid on by Cunard.

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Seen from our hotel facing the lagoon on Venice Lido
Vistafjord's makes a stunning stately arrival in the logoon at Venice

Show Picture Full Size The Vista Dining Room Show Picture Full Size Our Group at Dinner Open Welcome Dinner Menu Welcome Dinner Open Gastronautical Menu Gastronautical Dinner Open French Dinner Menu French Dinner Open Chef's Dinner Menu Chef's Dinner Open Farewell Dinner Menu Farewell Dinner

The Garden Lounge, located forward, had a wonderful panoramic view and was a refined alternative for the evening's entertainment; classical music recitals were a popular item on the programme.

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Garden Lounge
(Verandah Deck)
Restaurant Lobby
(Upper Deck Aft)
Purser's Lobby
(Upper Deck)
Indoor Pool
(Sauna & Gymnasium)

Another feature arising from the ship's design for the Atlantic was her indoor Spa and sea-water Swimming Pool. Swimming here was like swimming in your bath at home - except that the water sloshed about a lot more!

Show Picture Full Size Views of the Bridge
One of the things I enjoyed about cruising at this time was the traditional "open Bridge" on certain sea days. As ships grew larger, this was replaced by supervised tours but following a number of high-profile hi-jackings, the need for high security made the "open Bridge" a thing of the past.

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Main Bridge Navigator's Station Satellite Navigation
(State-of-the-Art 1985!)
Stabiliser Controls

Aegean & The Black Sea to Russia
17th September - 1st October 1988

View the complete Log of this cruise >>
This time, John, Andrew & I were joined by Mum & Dad on their first cruise.

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Mum and Dad
On the Bridge Wing
at Santorini
Formal Group Photo Vistafjord
in Valletta, Malta

Open the Breakfast Menu Show Picture Full Size Open the Lunch Menu Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Open the Dinner Menu
Open Menu >
Vistafjord's spacious
Lido Deck
Open Menu >
Mum & Me
On the Bridge
Towards the sunset Dinner
Open Menu >

Much of any sea day aboard Vistafjord was taken up with eating and Vistafjord's outstanding Breakfast Menu was always so tempting - my favourite weakness was the Lyonnaise Potatoes!

Caribbean & Transatlantic
23rd April - 12th May 1990

View the complete Log of this cruise >>

This was to be Mum & Dad's second cruise with us and it turned into a disaster, with Mum being taken ill and hospitalised in Barbados, where she died less than 3 weeks later. Vistafjord (and Barbados) would never be an attraction to us again.

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Passing Sagafjord
1st day in the Caribbean
Mum & Dad
My last photo of Mum
The Gala Buffet Vistafjord
tendering at St Maarten

In 1994, Cunard acquired Royal Viking Sun and the brand name of Royal Viking Line, which had been dissolved, having by this time suffered much the same problems as their once rivals, Norwegian America Line. Wishing to capitalise on the luxury brand they had acquired, Cunard advertised under the name Cunard-Royal Viking and set about bringing Vistafjord up to the standards to which Cunard now aspired.

The "New" Vistafjord (1995)
24,492 grt; length 627ft; 677 passengers

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The "New-look" Vistafjord - complete with "go-faster" stripes,
a racey-looking windbreak and 2 new "duplex" suites up top.

Vistafjord certainly emerged with a "new look". A pair of "Duplex" suites and 9 other suites had been built on Officers Deck and there was now a glass windbreak protecting the Sports Deck aft of her funnel. She even now had "go-faster" stripes!

The ship was also completely redecorated and refurnished in a light, bright but elegant style.

Even with the new suite accommodation up top, her passenger numbers were slightly reduced by reclassifying some lower-grade cabins as singles and this had the added benefit of easing congestion in her Dining Room, something of a problem ever since Cunard bought the ship in 1983.

In 1996, prompted by a crippling fire mid-voyage in the Far-East, Cunard withdrew Sagafjord (now the oldest ship in the fleet and already no longer considered viable); suddenly, Vistafjord was without her sister. To add to the turmoil, Cunard's owners, Trafalgar House Investments, were themselves taken-over by the Norwegian engineering giant, Kvaerner, and it was made clear that they were not interested in cruising! Cunard found itself up for sale and in 1998 became part of the empire of the vast Carnival Corporation. While this was good news for Cunard, it would not prove to be so good for Vistafjord.

Caronia (1999)
24,492 grt; length 627ft; 677 passengers

Carnival Corporation had great plans for Cunard. At last there was serious talk of new ships, a new Atlantic Liner even, and a return to the days of elegant cruising aboard great ships with great names.

Nevertheless, the anouncement that Vistafjord would be renamed "Caronia" was met with some scepticism, not least by Vistafjord's loyal but ageing public! When she emerged though, at least on the outside, she looked the part.

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In Southampton - perhaps the new livery suits her after all!

It had been nearly 10 years since Mum had been taken ill on that last fateful voyage aboard Vistafjord in 1990, so I figured it was about time to dispell some of the misgivings and go back to take a look at the ship in her new guise.

Caronia - The Pre-Maiden Voyage
16th - 18th December 1999

View the complete Log of this cruise >>
Unfortunately, I was not impressed with Cunard's new look for Vistafjord. While externally she looked the part, internally it was a different story. Even fresh out of refit, much of the new wood trim in the corridors was scuffed and scratched; the decor seemed dark and sombre - more like an English Country Hotel; compared with the "old" Vistafjord, she now seemed slightly claustrophobic.

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A rough crossing! Cabin 663 Garden Lounge Franconia Dining Room

Cunard wanted to recreate the days of grand and elegant cruising but it seemed to me they couldn't make up their minds which ship they wanted her to be; the Franconia (as in the Dining Room); the first Caronia (as in the luggage labels and external colour-scheme; or the second Caronia (the famous "Green Goddess" - of which there was a splendid model in the lobby). It's true I had lost my love of Vistafjord in 1990 and she now barely resembled her but in a strange way, I would still have preferred her the way I remembered her.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Vistafjord's new identity lasted only 4 years before she was sold to Saga Cruises, to re-emerge as "Saga Ruby", sailing again alongside her life-time sister, Sagafjord.

Saga Ruby (2005)
24,492 grt; length 627ft; 655 passengers

As part of a 17m refit, her generators and boilers were overhauled and her fire supression system modernised and upgraded. But one of the most significant improvements was in the redesign of her aft lido-deck; here the existing pool was relocated further aft, enabling the enlargement of her Lido Cafe, long considered too small for today's cruise passenger needs.
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Show Picture Full Size Her interior too was completely redecorated and refurnished in a unified style described as "contemporary elegance" and her overall passenger numbers reduced by providing more single cabins - appropriate and popular with Saga and, ironically, returning to the concepts of luxury cruising favoured by her original designers, Norwegian America Line 35 years earlier.
(left) Resplendant following her refit, Saga Ruby at the Dover Cruise Terminal

Although Vistafjord lost her beautiful yacht-like lines and became somewhat "jumbled" up top, it is perhaps a measure of the quality of her original design that left her still looking far more attractive than many more modern ships. She was now an elegant lady and very much at home in her new identity, doing what she was designed for, luxury cruising.

Ocean Liner Society Visit
Dover, UK - August 2011

Having not been aboard since 1990, this was a bitter-sweet reunion for me and many of the ship's features brought back memories of "the old" Vistafjord but she also had something else; a fine and quietly elegant interior, both modern and yet traditional and one which, in today's cruising world, dominated by gimmicks, glitz and brashness, made her feel supremely comfortable and welcoming.

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The Lobby
The Library
and Card Room
The Garden Lounge Afternoon Tea
in the Ballroom

You can read my full write-up of this memorable visit to Saga Ruby, complete with photos, here on the Ocean Liner Society website >>

Her older sister-ship, Saga Rose (ex-Sagafjord 1965) had achieved 44 years at sea when she had been retired in 2009, so it came as a shock when Saga announced that Saga Ruby would be retired in 2014, after less than 42 years in service. However, her final 2013 Christmas & New Year Cruise was marred by mechanical problems and the itinerary had to be revised. In January 2014, she was sold for $14m to a Singapore company with plans to convert her into a floating hotel in Burma.

Show Picture Full Size She sailed in February 2014 from Gibraltar as Oasia. However, in February 2017, having undergone a $10 million overhaul, it was announced that she was being sold for scrap. So, having had $20 million invested in her, she arrived off Alang, India in April 2017 for scrapping, a truly sad and premature end for a once traditional and beautiful "cruise-liner".
(left) Vistafjord as I prefer to remember her, anchored off Corfu in 1986

Total Mileage travelled
aboard Vistafjord: 15,967 n miles

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