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Ex-Norway Has Slight Hope for SalvationJuly 10, 2006 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
Even as the Blue Lady, formerly the Norwegian Cruise Line Norway and the liner France, was anchored off the Indian coastline awaiting an Indian Supreme Court-ordered environmental inspection, there was a glimmer of hope surfacing that the ship might not be beached and scrapped as planned. John Voet, a wealthy businessman from Wilmington, NC with connections to the United Arab Emirates, and several unidentified partners, reportedly have put up $20 million to save the ship. Voet's efforts are under the banner of a joint venture called Gulf Desert/Bleu Ribband, which hopes to convert the Blue Lady to a floating hotel and conference center in Dubai. Still, it's a long shot: NCL tried in the past few years to find just such a "floating hotel" solution with no success. The ship was eventually sold by Star Cruises to a ship demolition yard, and there is a $2 million penalty clause in the contract should the demolition yard sell rather than scrap the ship. That could prove sticky for the demolition company in considering a potential buyer. Meanwhile, environmental activists continue to hope that the Supreme Court ordered inspection would find the ship too toxic with asbestos to allow the "breaking." Voet says his firm will decontaminate the ship if it's successful in inking a deal. Launched in the early 1960s, the France was a showpiece for the French government, sailing 12 years on transatlantic voyages. Then it spent three decades in service for NCL until a tragic boiler accident in 2003 ended the ship's cruise career. Agents around the country are lamenting the possible loss of the historic ship, although in recent years, she had become a bit frayed around the edges, they say. Still, the ship was a grand ocean liner, and even today is one of the longest ships ever built. "My first impression was the grandeur and the size," says Marvin Davis, founder of Cruise Planners; "once you realize it is not the modern ship of current timers, but a grand old dame, you get a better prospective of what era she represented. Compare her to an old Rolls Royce."