No plain sailing for residential liner as terror fears make it a ghost ship

It might come with the slogan "See the world, without leaving home" but the departure of the first liner built in Norway was far from smooth.

It might come with the slogan "See the world, without leaving home" but the departure of the first liner built in Norway was far from smooth.

The shipyard delivered it two or three months late. Then, having sold 80 of 110 apartments before it slid into the fjords for sea trials, sales stalled after the 11 September attacks. When I joined The World last week in Hamburg it seemed initially like a ghost ship. At the dock, I spotted a maid cleaning an apartment window; a few floors up, amiddle-aged woman, in leopard-print slacks, peered out.

There was hardly anyone in the public spaces. No one in the delicatessen or in the jewellery store on "The Street", as the ship's shopping thoroughfare is called, except staff.

The newspaper section of the delicatessen carried only faxed copies of international papers. There were so few people in the Marina restaurant that three of us were served by four waiters. The predominant background music seemed to be Enya. A solitary resident on the top deck was dozing, fully dressed, by the outdoor pool.

One of the few new residents is Peter Beckwith, a property developer and father of the socialite Tamara. He admitted to irritation about the delay in starting the maiden voyage.

But on boarding the ship in Oslo on 28 March with his wife, he said he had been genuinely moved. The staff and crew had clapped them aboard and welcomed them "home". I talked to him in his two-bedroom apartment after he had spent 10 days on board.

The couple had tried everything but the casino – the four restaurants, massages, the golf driving range, the full-size tennis court. They found an overhead serve had been impossible in the wind but otherwise it was all "beyond their wildest expectations".

They were amazed at how quiet and stable it was. A lot of effort has gone into muffling the engine noise, and stabilising the ship as it moves.

Another proud new flat-owner was Edward Morrison, 62, from Vermont. He had been in knitwear but had made his money buying a parcel of land in Aspen a few years back.

He and his wife, Donna, had just retired. They both loved travel and she loved "golf and golf". They were "just simple folk" who had been impressed to meet the ship's cultural ambassador, none other than Princess Michael of Kent.

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