On April 14, 2003, amid fears the SS United States would be sold for scrap, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it had purchased the SS United States and intends to return the ship to service as a state-of-the-art cruise ship as a part of the line's planned US flagged fleet. Norwegian has had their eye on the SS United States for over two decades. In the late 1970s, Norwegian Caribbean Cruise Lines was searching for a used liner for their expanding Caribbean cruise operations in Miami. At the time, the SS United States was still owned by the United States government. Due to regulations, the United States Maritime Administration was forced to reject their inquiries. The company instead purchased the SS France and returned her to service as the Norway, then the world's largest cruise liner. In 2003, amidst rumors of the SS United States possibly being sold for scrap in the not-too-distant future, Norwegian was forced to move to purchase the SS United States before the opportunity was lost.
The American maritime regulations which prevented the SS United States from being returned to service for over three decades actually came to the rescue in a big way for the SS United States. A ship must be registered in the United States to travel freely from one port to another in the country. To achieve this, Norwegian had two options. They could build new ships from scratch at United States shipyards or they could take existing qualified United States ships and convert them to service as cruise ships. Fortunately for the Big U, Norwegian chose the later alternative. Norwegian's new American line will be based in Miami, FL. Once restored as a cruise ship, the SS United States will have an American crew and will be able to travel from one American port to another freely, a luxury that no other foreign-owned cruise line has. This will help to carve out a new niche for Norwegian's American fleet and will help to ensure the success of the operation once it is up and running.
And the story of America's superliner goes on well into the 21st century...