Back in July 1840, a fledging shipping line sailed its first ship Britannia out of the docks at Liverpool. Fully equipped with the very latest in catering innovations, Britannia had with her a cow on-board to provide passengers with fresh milk during the two week transatlantic voyage.
The company’s name was Cunard and the principle it wanted to establish was that the comfort of the passenger was paramount. Little did they know that this was to soon become the cornerstone upon which the whole of the cruise industry has been built…
Cruising – the early days
By the 1850’s, ships catering purely for passengers were firmly established but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that history saw a brand new concept to cruising, when Mauritania, Lusitania, Olympic and the ill-fated Titanic were introduced. These huge vessels were purpose built to not only provide comfort but to ensure stability during bad weather and to offer a wealth of elegance and style that previously could only be likened to an extravagant hotel. In keeping with the time, a class system on-board was set in place and passengers mainly travelled for business or immigration purposes.
Despite Titanic’s fate and the world war, cruising popularity still began to rise, reaching a glamorous peak in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but it was all due to come crashing down when the jet engine was introduced to travellers in the 1960’s. Giving passengers a chance to get to their destination in just a few hours compared to a few days, the choice seemed only logical and traveling via aircraft soared in popularity.
A brand new way of cruising
It wasn’t until Cunard revolutionised cruising yet again in 1974 with another courageous move that brought cruising back onto the map. With the introduction of cabaret acts, international celebrities, high-end production shows and fine-dining menus, Cunard had struck gold. The idea was to get people to their destination by offering plenty of fun along the way and they certainly achieved that. This was also the decade for Norwegian Caribbean Line to burst onto the scenes, now more commonly known as Norwegian Cruise Line. This innovative new line introduced the abolishment of the class system and offered the concept of ‘one class’, in which everyone, regardless of cabin size had use of all the facilities on-board. Understandably this took off in a big way and it wasn’t long before other cruise lines followed suit, offering cheaper equivalents to destinations closer to home including the Mediterranean. And with the popular introduction of the shore excursion– modern cruising finally set sail as people chose cruising as a holiday, rather than a way of getting from A to B.
As the fastest growing holiday in the travel industry, cruising has come a long way since the 63 passengers that sailed on the Britannia in 1840. In 2010, Royal Caribbean launched the biggest ship in the world, Allure of the Seas which holds a mightily impressive 6,000 guests. On-board you can expect a whole world of unimaginable features. From rock-climbing walls, surf simulators and ice-rinks, to countless dining venues, nightclubs and casinos, the facilities are truly unbelievable and a far cry from the very first cruise voyage in the 1800’s.
Plenty of cruise lines, plenty of choice
The great thing about cruising is that it really does cater for a person of any age. If family-friendly cruises with numerous decks and larger than life facilities are for you then Royal Caribbean; Carnival; NCL and Disney are perfect. If you’re a discerning traveller looking for a more home-from-home atmosphere then you could try Fred. Olsen or Cruise and Maritime. If you wanted to enjoy a personalised and intimate cruise experience on some of the most luxurious vessels afloat, the six star cruise lines such as Oceania, Crystal and Seabourn are ideal. Or if like many you wanted to enjoy incredible levels of luxury at a more affordable price, then Celebrity Cruises offers you just that.
The future of cruising
If the last 100 years are anything to go by, the cruise industry only looks set to boom. Just last year saw 16 million passengers from around the globe set sail on a cruise and this figure looks set to rise year on year. Some cruising experts have even suggested that future cruise ships will transform into real life floating cities with space for an entire aeroplane to land! Unfortunately we cannot predict the future, but one thing is for sure, travelling on a cruise ship truly is an experience like no other. What was once regarded as a way of travel for predominately older and wealthy travellers, has slowly become a holiday for all generations to enjoy.
By Ian Lewis