The History of Cruise Ships: Then and Now

January 10, 2019 | Ryan


ADVERTISEMENT

Nothing says “vacation” like a nice trip on a cruise ship. Millions of people every year spend a week or so traveling to tropical destinations around the world, enjoying luxury accommodations along the way. Cruising is a massive part of the tourism industry, responsible for over $30 billion annually. While the last couple decades have seen a surge in popularity, cruising has been around for centuries…

Cruising originated back in the 1800s, when it was a lot more exclusive than it is now. Only the richest people on the planet could afford to experience a cruise, and it would be that way for a while. At first, cruising existed to serve aristocracy and royalty with expensive food and drinks, as well as stately accommodation. Unfortunately, for the first century of cruising, this came with a price…

While the actual price tag was high for passengers, the cost of cruising had much more of an effect on the crew. But construction, engineering and transportation are all completely different now than they were then, and this article will give you an in-depth look at exactly how much has changed over the last two hundred years…

The Class Divide of Vintage Cruising

Modern cruising, which emerged in the 1960s, has very little in common with what it once was, especially considering the evolution of labour laws. The class divide was massive as the staff were forced to go as far out of their way as possible to make the guests comfortable and satisfied. Underpaid and overworked, employees were responsible for every single aspect of the cruising experience…

Cruise Habit

Stewards waited on the guests’ every beck and call, serving them in their quarters and even helping them dress and undress. Some had several rooms to attend to, while others juggled dozens of rooms all at once. And that’s nothing compared to the crew downstairs. For days on end, working in shifts, engineers and coal men shoveled coal constantly to make sure the ship sailed smoothly…

While the conditions were worse for certain crew members, almost all of them lived in cramped conditions and were served unhealthy food that didn’t make their lives any easier. This was even worse compared to the fancy, first-class meals enjoyed by the passengers. The overall treatment of the crews made cruising incredibly dangerous, but over the years, the industry has found a balance that makes the whole experience better for everyone…

Where It All Started: The P&O Company

Before we compare the crazy difference between past and present cruising, it’s important to look back at where it all started. The birth of leisure cruising began in 1822 with the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which started out as a shipping line with routes between England and the Iberian Peninsula. It was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1840 and after a few years…

Wikipedia

They first introduced passenger cruising services in 1844, advertising sea tours to destinations such as Gibraltar, Malta and Athens, sailing from Southampton. The forerunner of modern cruise holidays, these voyages were the first of their kind, and P&O is still recognized as the world’s oldest cruise line. They eventually expanded, commissioning larger and more luxurious ships to serve the steadily expanding market…

The ship above is a P&O steamer in Venice circa 1870. Notable ships of the era include the SS Ravenna, the first built with a total steel superstructure, and the SS Valetta, the first to use electric lights. Some say the very first cruise ship is the Francesco I, which was boarded by nobles, authorities, and royal princes who enjoyed excursions and guided tours, dancing, card tables on the deck and parties on board. By the turn of the century…

Cruising Starts to Evolve: The Prinzessin Victoria Luise

For several decades, cruising was restricted to the aristocracy of Europe and was not a commercial endeavor. But the cruise of the German ship Augusta Victoria in the Mediterranean and the Near East at the beginning of 1891 popularized cruising to a wider market. Less than 10 years later, the world saw the construction of first vessel built exclusively for luxury cruising…

Wikipedia

The Prinzessin Victoria Luise, seen above, was designed by Albert Ballin, general manager of Hamburg-America Line in Germany. The company’s successful early voyages, prior to the construction of the Prinzessin Victoria Luise, were extended cruises that included well-planned excursions ashore to ports-of-call along the routes. These were popular, but hard to plan with existing ships…

They were originally constructed as ocean liners that offered few amenities and restricted access to deck space, things that were a real hindrance during long stretches at sea. Ballin’s design for the Prinzessin Victoria Luise was revolutionary. It was targeted toward wealthy travelers and designed to look more like a private yacht than any of her commercial counterparts. She had a short career, only sailing for five years before crashing on a West Indian cruise. But it set the standard for all the cruise ships that followed…

Cruising Expands to Become a Luxury Enterprise

At the turn of the century, the practice of luxury cruising made steady inroads on the more established market for transatlantic crossings. In the competition for passengers, ocean liners added features like fine dining, luxury services, and staterooms with finer appointments. Soon, companies started sailing ships on long southern cruises through the North Atlantic, with some even occurring during the worst weather possible…

Twitter – @CavalierStamps

In 1887, there were only three luxury liners for transportation, and all were European-owned. By 1906, three increased to seven, including the British Inman Line-owned City of Paris, the Cunard Line’s Compania and Lucania, the White Star Line-owned Majestic and Teutonic, and French Compagnie Générale Transatlantique-owned La Lorraine and La Savoie. Throughout the beginning of the 20th century…

Cruising evolved rapidly by essentially transforming the ships into boutique hotels. Unfortunately, as previously stated, this meant the staff would be subjected to overworking in horrible conditions to service the wealthy clientele. Now that we’ve covered cruising’s origins, let’s take a look at exactly how different cruises were 100 years ago, from the ships and the staff to the passengers and destinations, as well as how a popular television show reinvigorated cruising after World War II…

The Size of the Ships, Passengers and Crew: THEN

In the early 20th century, cruise ship passengers were from a completely different demographic than today, but we’ll get to specifics about the clientele soon. Beyond the individuals in this image, it’s also important to notice the size of the room they’re in. This is one of the aforementioned ballrooms, which were the main social locations for everyone on board…

Twitter – @TravelDepotPH

Because of how much smaller they were, there weren’t many public rooms. Some ships were pretty bare bones, with a select few actually featuring a library, lounge, restaurant and card room, but rarely all at the same time. Even the bigger spaces could only hold a small group. There were no en-suites, and shared ones were hallways away, even in first class…

But let’s be clear, vintage cruise ship were incredibly fancy and spared no expense. The size limited the space, but not the style and elegance. Due to the exclusivity, the original ships didn’t need a lot of room, as only a select percentage of the population could afford to enjoy them. But as cruising has evolved to become more accessible, so have the vessels. Back then, the ships were around 30,000 tonnes. Read ahead to learn how much bigger current cruise ship are…

The Size of the Ships, Passengers and Crew: NOW

Today, cruise ships average hundreds of thousands of tonnes, with much more room for a lot of guests and employees. Where vintage cruise ships housed hundreds, maybe thousands of people, current ships hold at least twice that. In two short decades between 1988 and 2009, the largest class cruise ships have grown a third longer, practically doubled their widths and tripled in weight…

Royal Caribbean

With the advent of large passenger jet aircraft in the 1960s, intercontinental travelers switched from ships to planes sending the ocean liner trade into a terminal decline. Certain characteristics of older ocean liners made them unsuitable for cruising duties, such as high fuel consumption, deep draught preventing them from entering shallow ports, and cabins, which were often windowless, designed to maximize passenger numbers rather than comfort…

Contemporary cruise ships built in the late 1980s and later showed characteristics of size and strength once reserved for ocean liners. Soon, megaships were being built for the mass cruising market, and were also the first to include a multi-story atrium with glass elevators. Also, where verandas were originally on a single deck, the expanded to all decks. Sometimes, there will be as many as six decks with hundreds of rooms, social spaces, dining/party halls and lots of outdoor areas. Back then…

The Type of Guests and Amenities: THEN

Vintage cruise customers included only the most famous and wealthy people on the planet. Royalty from all over the world and Hollywood celebrities were treated to a one of a kind, first class experience. The formal dinners and balls inspired glamorous wardrobe choices including gloves, heels and fancy hats for women, and swanky three-piece suits for men. A lot has changed…

Twitter – @BI_contributors

It’s hard to imagine that the people in this photo were enjoying essentially the same activity as cruise customers today. Currently, passengers wear flip flops and t shirts, which wouldn’t have been acceptable on vintage cruise ships. While modern cruise ships feature similar décor as before, the contrast between the style of the space and the kind of clientele has changed dramatically…

While safety was a major concern in early cruising, mainly due to constricted living spaces and poor working conditions, it has become much safer as ships were redesigned. The actual construction has helped, but the evolution of labour laws has really helped improve the lives of the staff. Today, these jobs are coveted and offer similar conditions to ones the vintage passengers enjoyed before. Although it’s much less exclusive and fancy, a more balanced experience amongst the staff and the crew has made cruising what it is today…

The Type of Guests and Amenities: NOW

Here’s what the passengers look like today. The vibe is much more casual, and people from every different level of society enjoy cruising. Where middle class individuals in the early part of the previous century couldn’t even imagine being able to afford this kind of vacation, advancements in the industry have allowed anyone willing to save a little money and plan time off to sail the world…

Twitter – @Desireresorts

We’ve covered the luxurious, but limited, options offered on vintage cruises, but it’s impossible to compare without a thorough breakdown of what’s available in modern cruising. We’ll get to the difference in entertainment later, but for now, let’s look at the variety of facilities available on pretty much every current cruise ship…

Modern ships typically have multiple shops, selling clothes, toiletries and other essentials, as well as spas, gyms, fitness centers and of course, pools and hot tubs. There are also libraries, chain restaurants, and lounges to enjoy in between activities. Some ships have specialties like bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, sky-diving/surfing simulators, miniature golf courses, video arcades, ziplines, basketball courts, tennis courts, and obstacle courses. These things are necessary considering the amount of time modern passengers are on board…

Cruising Destinations and Itinerary: THEN

Vintage cruises offered few destination options, which is much different than today, when passengers can basically go anywhere in the world. It used to be incredibly difficult to build a ship that could safely operate in bad weather year round. In the early 1900’s companies began developing specialized ships designed for easy transformation between summer crossings and winter cruising, but they still could only go so far…

Wikipedia

Before modern cruising, basically prior to the 1980s, most of the ships couldn’t get to certain ports because of shallow waters. Other than New York to London, passengers weren’t seeing as much of world as those today. While current cruising is a vacation in itself, early cruises were often used as an alternative to air travel. Meaning, ships didn’t need to be equipped to make a bunch of different stops at tropical destinations, instead, they focused on making the journey from A to B as comfortable as possible…

Ships had been sailing the seven seas for centuries before cruising became a thing, so it was a logical first step to focus as much on the comfort of the clientele and making sure they were able to make it as safely as possible to the trips’ limited destinations. But today…

Cruising Destinations and Itinerary: NOW

Most cruise ships now sail the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. Others operate elsewhere in places like Alaska, the South Pacific, the Baltic Sea and New England. Expedition cruise lines, which usually operate small ships, visit certain more specialized destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, or the Galápagos Islands. Currently, the number of cruise tourists worldwide is between 10 to 20 million…

Twitter – @BroBible

70% of cruises take place in North America, where the Caribbean islands are the most popular destinations. The Caribbean cruising industry is one of the largest in the world, responsible for over $2 billion in direct revenue to the Caribbean islands in 2012. 13% of cruises happen in the second most popular region, continental Europe, where the fastest growing segment is cruises in the Baltic Sea.

According to 2010 CEMAR statistics the Mediterranean cruise market is going through a fast and fundamental change. Italy has won prime position as a destination for European cruises, and destination for the whole of the Mediterranean basin. The most visited ports in Mediterranean Sea are Barcelona, Spain, Civitavecchia, Italy), Palma, Spain and Venice, Italy. 2013 saw the entrance of the first Chinese company into the cruise market. And the industry continues to grow, but it hasn’t always been as successful…

The Love Boat Saves Cruising: THEN

As previously stated, cruising went through a difficult period in the middle of the 20th century, but was reinvigorated by a sitcom that came at just the right time. During World War II, most ships were used by the military to transport soldiers. When the war ended, the industry was in a steep decline, with many speculating that cruising might cease to exist as a popular vacation activity. But then…

NY Daily News

The Love Boat premiered on ABC in 1977 and was set on luxury passenger cruise ship S.S. Pacific Princess, seen above. The series revolves around the ship’s captain Merrill Stubing and a handful of its crew, with several passengers, played by various guest star actors for each episode, having romantic and humorous adventures. It was part of ABC’s popular Saturday-night lineup…

The way it depicted cruise life excited viewers who became interested and infatuated with vacation cruise all over again. Other ships used on the show were the Pacific Princess twin sister vessel Island Princess, along with other cruise liners. SS Stella Solaris was used for a Mediterranean Sea cruise, the MS Pearl of Scandinavia was used for a Chinese cruise, the Royal Viking Sky was used for European cruises and Royal Princess and Sun Princess were used for Caribbean Sea cruises. And the show itself deserves its own then to now comparison because…

Love Boat – The Next Wave: NOW

The original Love Boat aired from 1977 to 1986, and four three-hour long specials aired in 1986, 1987, and 1990. It was preceded by a few made-for-TV movies before it began its first season. Then, over a decade after the final episode, it was rebooted as Love Boat: The Next Wave. This version was set aboard the cruise liner Sun Princess, seen above…

David Latta

Love Boat’s original ship, Pacific Princess, was built for Flagship Cruises in 1971 by the company Nordseewerke in Emden, West Germany. She operated cruises between the United States and Bermuda between 1975 and 2002 for Princess Cruises. The ship was dismantled in 2013 following a fatal accident in which there was a flood in the compartment below the engines. Less than twenty years before in 1995…

Princess Cruises also built Sun Princess, a Sun-class cruise ship that, at the time of her construction, she was one of the largest in the world. She is the lead ship of her class that includes sister ships Sea Princess and the P&O ships Pacific Explorer and Oceana. She made the news in October, 2007 as the largest ship to ever cross beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge while entering the harbor for the first time. And these cruise ships weren’t the only to get a lot of pop culture attention. But before we look at the most popular cruise ship ever, let’s go back to another important then/now comparison…

Entertainment Options on a Cruise Ship: THEN

Falling in line with everything we’ve discussed about vintage cruising, the entertainment options were also much different than they are now. To pass the time, passengers played a lot of games, from shuffleboard and hoopla to egg and spoon races, which involved balancing an egg on a spoon and running without dropping it. Some cruises even had women boxing in dresses on the deck…

Cruise Bulletin

Dancing was also very popular, with lavish charity balls and all night parties, albeit with much fewer guests in attendance. During the events, and sometimes as the only focus, full orchestras would play amazing music as the perfect backdrop for these luxury experiences. With limited entertainment options, dining was a big activity on vintage cruises. But unfortunately, food options were limited too, unlike today…

Breakfast, lunch and especially dinner use to be much more formal, and despite the select menus, still offered great meals. And many guests weren’t afraid to just sit back, relax and watch the world turn. Plenty of people still do this today, but it’s a little bit more difficult to find the time with so many amazing options available. Modern cruising hasn’t necessarily reinvented the wheel, but it has taken from and improved upon every possible aspect…

Entertainment Options on a Cruise Ship: NOW

First of all, modern cruises offer 24/7 dining options of virtually every kind of cuisine imaginable. While dress codes were strictly enforced back in the day, now casually-dressed passengers enjoy five-star meals throughout their entire trip. And dining on almost all cruise ships is included in the cruise price. Of course, buffets are a defining aspect of the current cruise experience. But today, cruises offer so much more than just food, games and dancing…

Creativiva

Fun deck games have evolved into full-fledged onboard casinos, and due to technically being on international and different territorial waters, they aren’t subject to the same regulations as normal casinos. In addition, modern cruises are equipped with a theatre space that features Broadway-style shows, a movie theater, dance clubs, and basketball and tennis courts. Aside from all the athletic activities discussed earlier, some have waterslides, miniature golf, parades, roller skating and bumper cars…

And many cruise ships offer “all-inclusive” deals, which boast a base fare that includes most alcoholic beverages onboard the ship and most shore excursions in ports of call, as well as all gratuities that would normally be paid to the staff. The fare may also include a one-night hotel stay before boarding, and airfare to and from the cruise’s origin and destination ports. We’ve come so far. But before we look ahead into the future of cruising, we have to look back at the most famous cruise ship of all time then to now…

The Titanic and the Safety of Cruising: THEN

Undoubtedly the most famous passenger ship of all time, the RMS Titanic has inspired dozens of movies, documentaries, and television stories. It was a study in contrasts: a lavish floating hotel for first-class passengers and a restrictive yet inexpensive mode of reaching America for emigrants. Its passenger list juxtaposed some of the richest, most powerful people in the world with the teeming poor in steerage…

Goodreads

The “unsinkable” RMS Titanic was the largest passenger ship and man-made moving object in the history of the world when it entered service in 1912. It measured 883 feet long and 92 feet wide. Titanic’s collision with an iceberg on April 14, 1912, and its loss of nearly two-thirds of the people onboard was a tragedy that placed it in the realm of legend. The sinking of the Titanic was one of the deadliest shipwrecks in history…

The Titanic sank 2 hours and 40 minutes after hitting the iceberg, during which eight-man orchestra played on deck to soothe passengers and help keep them calm as they were loaded onto lifeboats during the disaster. It’s estimated that once Titanic dropped beneath the water’s surface, it probably took about 5 minutes for her to sink to her final resting place at the bottom of the ocean. This tragedy is a great example of how much safer modern cruises are…

So Exactly How Safe Has Cruising Become?

Many advancement have been instituted to keep cruisers safe. One of the examples is that most of the doors in cruise ships don’t lock. That’s so that if there’s a fire or a flood, nobody gets trapped inside the ship. And for any passenger who gets out of hand, there are actual jails onboard. But rowdy guests aren’t the only people to worry about. Modern cruise take many precautions to deal with the threat of pirates and hostage situations…

Twitter – @TUIGroup

There are also clear ways to handle if you or someone else goes overboard. All essentially emphasize doing your best to stay visible so that by the time the ship turns around you still have a chance of being found. And where vintage ships struggled in certain weather conditions, especially during the winter season, this isn’t a problem now. Also…

Modern cruise ships are tall but remain stable due to their relatively low center of mass. This is due to large open spaces and the extensive use of aluminium, high-strength steel and other lightweight materials in the upper half, with the heaviest components like engines, propellers, and fuel tanks located at the bottom of the hull. And despite some of these modern safety issues that weren’t a problem back then, modern cruising has done its best to adapt with the times…

The Titanic II and the Future of Cruising…

As a perfect representation of the advancements modern cruising has made on its vintage version, there are actually plans to bring back the most famous ship of all time. But bigger and better than ever. Titanic II is a planned ocean liner intended to be a functional modern-day replica of the Olympic-class RMS Titanic.

Twitter – @bloggeratlarge

The project was announced by Australian millionaire Clive Palmer in April 2012 as the flagship of the proposed cruise company Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd. of Brisbane, Australia. The intended launch date was originally set in 2016, delayed to 2018, then 2022. As of October 2018, the development of the project was expected to resume in November 2018 after a hiatus which began in 2015, caused by a financial dispute.

Palmer’s project should not be confused with a Chinese Titanic replica ship which had its keel laying on November 29, 2016. Commissioned by Seven Star Energy Investment, it is to function as a part of Romandisea resort on the River Qi in Sichuan province. Unlike Palmer’s Titanic II, the all-Chinese replica is not intended to sail on any ocean but will be permanently docked within a reservoir. And there are other big companies working to join the cruising industry in the near future…

Virgin Voyages Coming Soon…

Virgin Group announced the establishment of Virgin Cruises, now Virgin Voyages, on December 4, 2014 with financial backing from Bain Capital. On June 23, 2015, Richard Branson announced that three new 110,000-ton ships, with an expected capacity of approximately 2700 passengers each, were intended to be built by Fincantieri, an Italian shipyard. The cruise line is scheduled to begin operations in 2020 out of Port of Miami with the delivery of its first ship…

Cruise Fever

According to cruise line CEO Tom McAlpin via USA Today, the three ships will be a premium product, with a high percentage of balcony staterooms. They would differ from other cruise vessels by their “design, size and program onboard” and be targeted to the “young at heart.” Virgin’s first ship will be home ported initially at PortMiami, Florida, and it will operate a range of seven-day Caribbean Sea itineraries departing each Sunday…

The Miami Herald reported that Virgin was the first major cruise line to purchase Climeon Ocean clean energy system for its ships that generates energy using heat from the ship engines to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. And apparently, a fourth ship was ordered for delivery in 2023 last October. Virgin isn’t the only company throwing their hat in the ring…

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection…

Last October, USA Today reported that, “Hotel chain Ritz-Carlton’s much-awaited expansion into cruising marked a major milestone on Wednesday as its first vessel touched water. The as-yet-unnamed, 298-passenger ship was launched stern-first down a slipway into the water at the Hijos De J. Barreras Shipyard in Vigo, Spain. The vessel has been under construction at the shipyard since January.”…

Varchev

The launching ceremony included a traditional maritime blessing, but as exciting as it was, the vessel still has to undergo some finishing work between now and when it enters service in 2020. The company will definitely be offering a competitive experience compared to all the modern cruising we’ve covered in this article…

The Ritz-Carlton website says, “Set sail on a journey of discovery with The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Designed to combine the luxury lifestyle of The Ritz-Carlton and the casual freedom of a yachting vacation, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will offer bespoke voyages on the first of three custom-built yachts in 2020. Most voyages range from seven to ten nights, offering many overnight calls and uniquely curated experiences ashore. Each yacht will feature 149 suites, each with its own private terrace, and accommodate up to 298 guests in a relaxed, casually elegant atmosphere. As with The Ritz-Carlton on land, each yacht will feature personalized service, elevated dining and luxury amenities. The yachts are also available for private charter. Reservations are now open for the 2020 inaugural season.”




Share
This Story
On Facebook





Ryan is a rabid consumer of content, from movies and television to podcasts and news. He lives in a hole underground with nothing but a computer and a strong internet connection. Ryan spends all of his waking moments online searching for the most interesting stories to share with the rest of the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *