David's Dozen 

If there is one ship which deserves the title "Most Beautiful Ship in the World" it is Normandie. The first ship ever to exceed 1,000 feet in length, she was quite simply "France afloat." In an era which saw nationalism take to the waves, every country tried to out-do the other with their "ships of state." This was the "Golden Era" in which England boasted The Queens Mary & Elizabeth; the Germans Bremen & Europa; Italy's Rex & Conte di Savoie and even the U.S. boasted the Leviathan ( a WWI retrofit of a German war prize, but now nonetheless American). However, all the above paled next to the only passenger ship whose sleek design could be considered fit for any era, today's included. There never was, nor never will be again, a ship like Normandie . Her menu and adornments were in every way impeccable. Her three raked funnels were so designed to allow for a vast entry into the Dining Room, larger than the Great Hall of Versailles. On her maiden voyage, May 29, 1935 Le Havre to New York, she snatched the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing. Viva la France!

For the next three years, thousands would gather on both sides of the Atlantic to watch her graceful entrances and exits. However, like Garbo, Normandie was to retire - by force - at the height of her beauty and fame. On August 28, 1939 at the end of her 139 th crossing, Normandie entered New York Harbor, never to sail again. Three days later, the Nazis invaded Poland and the "Golden Era" of the Atlantic Ferry was over. When France was occupied in 1940, the Normandie was taken into custody by the U.S. Coast Guard.

On December 7, 1941, the World changed again, and Normandie was officially seized by the United States Navy . Renamed Lafayette ( a melancholic nod to her former, imprisoned birthright) , the greatest liner the world had ever seen was in the midst of conversion into a troopship when she was consumed by fire on February 9, 1942. The cause of the blaze was never fully explained, some at the time thinking it was the work of Nazi saboteurs. However, the result was clear: filled up like bath tub with millions of gallons of water used to fight the blaze, Normandie / Lafayette surrendered, like her tired, beaten homeland, capsizing into the mud of New York Harbor where she lay, defeated, for the world to see: a symbol of those dark, dark wartime days. In 1943 she was refloated and towed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and torn apart for scrap. By 1947, thee was nothing left. Today, because her glorious interiors were carefully removed prior to her wartime conversion, there are many "pieces" of Normandie still in museums and private collections around the world. Perhaps one of the greatest tributes to "The Ship of Light" as she was known can still be found afloat in Normandie - the elegant a la carte restaurant onboard the luxurious Celebrity Summit.