For the next few days we will take a look back at the first cruise ships for various cruise lines.
Today we will be looking at the first cruise ship of Norwegian Caribbean Line (which later became Norwegian Cruise Line) the Sunward. Built in 1966 as a car ferry the ship was originally designed to operate as a cruise/ferry in Northern Europe between Southampton England and Gibraltar, but political unrest in Gibraltar cut her employment short.
Kurt Kloster, teaming up with Ted Arison, joined forces to create Norwegian Caribbean Lines. The Sunward proved very popular on the 7-day cruise circuit from Miami. She departed on her maiden Christmas Cruise on December 20, 1966.
Compared to the large cruise ships of today the Sunward only weighed 8,666 tons. Almost 16 times smaller than Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic. The Sunward measured 443 feet long, carried 558 passengers and 200 crew.
The Sunward was such a immediate success that Norwegian Caribbean expanded to a four ship fleet with the addition of the Starward in 1968, Skyward in 1969 and Southward in1971.
The Sunward remained in the NCL fleet until 1976. She lived a varied carreer sailing as the Sunward, Ile de Beaute, Grand Flotel, Saudi Moon, Ocean Spirit, Scandinavian Song, Santiago de Cuba and The Empress. She was eventually scrapped in 2004 at Chittagong, Bangladesh.
The Sunward is frequently identified as the innovator in modern Caribbean cruises from Florida/Miami.