When this proud vessel gracefully sailed out of the River Tyne 45 years ago, little did watching crowds know it was the end of an era.
This was the luxury passenger cruise liner Vistafjord leaving after completing sea trials in April, 1973.
Built at Swan Hunter’s Neptune yard in Low Walker, the ship’s keel was laid in April 1971.
The vessel was launched in May 1972 four months ahead of schedule, with work being finally completed a year later.
What was significant about the Vistafjord was that she was the last cruise ship to be built on the Tyne – and in the UK.
The 24,292-ton vessel was constructed for the Norwegian America Line at a cost of £20m.
She was the last word in luxury – a floating five-star hotel destined to be a regular favourite of the well-heeled.
In May 1973 she set sail on her maiden voyage, a transatlantic crossing from Oslo to New York.
After this initial crossing she was used in cruise service from New York to the Bahamas.
The Vistafjord had six passenger decks, and carried 650 passengers and a crew of 380.
Once aboard, thousands of punters over the years would enjoy the attractions of a ballroom, health and beauty spa, gymnasium, hair salon, golf simulator, library and cinema.
The vessel was deemed to be one of the most luxurious cruise ships in the world, often appearing in the top five in the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising.
In 1983, the ship was bought by Cunard, and renamed Caronia in 1999.
In 2004, Saga bought the vessel and spent an estimated £17m on a refit carried out at Valletta, Malta. She was renamed again, this time as the Saga Ruby.
Based in Dover and Southampton, she transported cruise-goers to destinations in Norway, the Mediterranean and the Baltic.
In 2007, she returned to the River Tyne for the first time in 34 years for a cruise departing from Newcastle, leaving for a journey to Norway, including a stop-off at the Orkney Islands.
After undertaking 44 world cruises and sailing more than four million nautical miles, the Saga Ruby was retired in January 2014.
At the time, one Travel expert declared the ship belonged “to an age when ships looked like ships, not inner-city housing projects. Not for nothing has she been described as a mini QE2.”
There were plans to turn it into a floating hotel, but the vessel was finally broken up in India last year.
Source : Chroniclelive