For the longest time, I didn’t realise exactly when this latent wanderlust that would dominate my life kicked in exactly. But recently I realised that I actually can put an exact date on it, after all. After all these years, it’s a bit like closing a circle.
Of course, I knew that it began with the SS.France, the ship I fell in love with as a nine year old kid. She was a ship that I never even dreamed that I’d set eyes on, let alone get to sail….
But life is a strange, quirky lady, and she often throws you a curve ball when you least expect it. For the SS.France, after a five year lay up in Le Havre, would return to service as the SS.Norway, the first true all singing, all dancing mega cruise ship.
At age 22, I made it my mission to sail on my dream ship. And yes, I did sail her. And she changed my life forever.
I found this couple of wonderful, almost sinfully evocative photos of the newly wrought SS.France arriving in New York on her maiden voyage on February 8th, 1962.
And that day, even though I was only two years old- and as clueless as any two year old should be- is the day that all of this began to take shape.
I mean, look at her; she’s proud, beautiful, so perfectly poised. A last, defiant burst of swagger in the face of the all conquering jet age. Typically, the New York press tagged her as ‘an eighty million dollar gamble’ on that cold February afternoon in 1962. Her owners, more sanguine, called her ‘the last refuge of the good life’.
Me? I call her magnificent, awe inspiring and exhilarating. She took me on a dance, and I folded like so much wet cardboard. ‘Smitten’ does not begin to cover it….
Now, I’m lucky enough to have been on many other ships. Famous ships. Bigger ships. Arguably more luxurious ships.
But- and this is a remark considered through the prism of almost four decades of sea travel all over the world- I will never sail on anything as spellbinding, mesmerising and damned, downright, drop dead gorgeous ever again.