Vistafjord

Vistafjord

In May 1983 Cunard Line announced the completion of negotiations to purchase the fleet of Norwegian American Line for $73 million. The two prizes gained were the magnificent Sagafjord and Vistafjord (the latter re-named Caronia in late 1999).

Sagafjord and Vistafjord worked together in the Cunard Fleet, consistently receiving 5-plus star ratings by cruise review specialists.

Vistafjord, completed in 1975, was treated to a $30 million refit in late 1994. During this refit, she was internally re-built, with the re-decorating of many rooms aboard. This refit also symbolized the changing passenger demands, resulting in the addition of two very large "owners suites" to her top decks.

Just after this refurbishment, the Trafalgar House Co. the owners of Cunard, slipped into deep financial trouble. Vistafjord's older sister, Sagafjord was due for retirement in late 1996, but a fire cut her life at Cunard short (she was later sold to Saga holidays and re-named Saga Rose).

The remaining Cunard fleet continued to sail on an altered schedule, to try and make as much money as possible for the line. In 1997 Cunard Countess and Dynasty were sold to Mediterranean shipping interests.

Vistafjord and the rest of the Cunard fleet (along with parent, Trafalgar House) were finally sold to Kvaerner Shipbuilders Co. in late 1996.

Vistafjord continued to cruise as a 5 star ship, but by early 1998, she and the rest of the fleet were in desperate need of a refit. Kvaerner would not commit to maintain the fleet and the question of selling or scrapping the fleet was brought up several times at Kvaerner board meetings. However, this option was less appealing than a resale of Cunard.

Finally in April 1998, the Carnival Corporation bought the Cunard Line. Carnival merged Cunard with their Seabourn Cruises to form "Cunard Line Ltd" and put the newly formed line under the direction of Larry Pimintel (as President of the newly founded line).

In early 1999 the decision was made to split the fleet, with the luxury liners to go to Cunard, while the luxury yachts were merged with the Seabourn operation. As a result of this, QE2 and Vistafjord were matched as fleet mates in the Cunard division of Cunard Line Limited, with Royal Viking Sun, and the Sea Goddess' going to Seabourn.

The plan was to rebuild the Cunard side as a 'British Luxury Cruise Line' and the Seabourn side as 'Luxury Norwegian style cruising'. As a result of this, the decision was made to re-name Vistafjord and after her late 1999 refit she emerged as Caronia and shortly after she joined the Loyds Register as a British Flagged liner. During the refit, all rooms were re-furnished and re-carpeted, along with a major refurbishment of her top grade penthouse accommodation, and the creation of the "White Star Bar".

As Cunard's Caronia, the ship enjoyed ongoing support from her loyal client base (many of whom had followed her from her days as Vistafjord) until, in 2003, it was announced she had been sold. Caronia departed from Cunard service in late 2004. She was originally intended to leave as the Queen Victoria was to enter service, but due to that ship's late arrival, there was a significant gap left by her departure. She was sold to Saga Cruises (UK) and joined Saga Rose (Ex. Sagafjord) to become the Saga Ruby.