Some 30 years before the current generation of megaships, there could have been another, even bigger ship. And the same visionary shipowner was concerned about the environment back then, before it became popular, and supported programs and activities to promote environmental awareness.
The shipowner was Norwegian Knut Utstein Kloster, now 85, who is credited with having launched the modern-day cruise industry. His foresight and idealism, as well as some of his many projects, are described in the book True North, by the late Stephanie Gallagher, published by iUniverse Books.
First presented in the mid-1980s, the first envisioned megaship by today’s standards would have been the Phoenix at 255,000 tons and able to accommodate 5,600 passengers. It featured a number of ideas and concepts that are still unique today and all of its designs were approved by the class society and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Originally intended to be part of Norwegian Cruise Line, the board rejected the giant ship as too risky, according to Gallagher, and Kloster took on the project on his own and established World City Corporation as the parent company.
The book traces the efforts that were made to build the ship (first in Germany and Japan) in the U.S., even creating the concept of a virtual shipyard. But the investment of $1.5 billion was considered too much for its time. Other cruise lines also lobbied against the project, and when MARAD loan guarantees were pursued, those were instead given to American Classic Voyages, which turned into a fiasco and basically shut the door on the Phoenix.
Kloster’s business model is described as “conscious capitalism,” taking all the stakeholders into account, including the environment and the global community at large. The Phoenix, for example, claimed to burn 50 percent less fuel per passenger (in 1988!).
Kloster started Norwegian Caribbean Lines in 1966, which grew into the then largest North American cruise company, which also owned Royal Cruise Line and Royal Viking Line, and eventually was publicly traded in Norway and the U.S., before being sold to Star Cruises.
Gallagher also focuses on Kloster’s many other engagements. He played an important role in the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway; he was the driving force behind the creation of the Norwegian pavilion at Epcot; and he sponsored a 15,000-mile voyage of a replica Viking ship, the Gaia, named after Mother Earth, to deliver messages from thousands of children around the world to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Kloster has also been the driver behind Gaiaship, intended to travel the world, representing all nations; its mission being to simply bring people together to search for solutions to humankind’s problems.
True North gives a glimpse into the life of Kloster, whose ideas and idealism were often ahead of their time and are very much relevant today and as we move forward.
This article ran as part of a special Legends and Leaders section of the 100th edition of Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2015. A PDF download is available here.