The idea of travelling to warm climates in the winter and cooler climates in the summer is not new; it has actually been around for centuries. Arthur Anderson, one of the founders of Peninsular Steam Navigation Company (now P&O Nedloyd), first suggested the idea of touring Scotland and Iceland in the summer and the Mediterranean in the winter. That was in the 1830’s. For the next seventy years Peninsular would build their company holdings with cargo and mail contracts, making the right decision in conflicts around the world where they had to take sides and building a reputation as an industry leader in the shipping business.
- Cruise Holidays
The Dawn of the Twentieth Century
Arthur’s idea didn’t become popular until after the turn of the century, and then only with the rich, but it did eventually catch on. In 1900, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise became the first ship built exclusively as a cruise ship and in 1904 Peninsular offered the first cruise holiday program on a first class only basis. By 1920, despite the loss of the Titanic in 1912, the cruise ship industry was going full steam. Transatlantic cruises were most popular but cruise holidays in the Mediterranean and Caribbean were available.
The Golden Years (1920’s and 30’s)
The roaring twenties and the decade immediately after which preceded World War II were the Golden Years for the luxury cruise industry. The Caribbean and Mediterranean were wide open and ports like Havana, Miami, and Beirut always had a cruise ship in port and passengers taking advantage of “cruise and stay” packages that were being offered by Peninsular, Cunnard and other lines that were coming into existence at the time. Competition was healthy but cruise holidays were still something only the rich could afford.
The Blue Riband Award
In the 1860’s, the transatlantic shipping industry created an award for the ship that could cross the Atlantic in the shortest time. The award became the sole property of the cruise ship industry in the 1930’s when it traded hands between the French ship Normandie and the British Queen Mary. The Queen Mary held it from 1938 to 1952 with a top speed of 31 knots per hour, an amazing accomplishment at the time. Speed was also a necessity for cruise ships, both for protection and because many of the new lines to come into being in the 1930’s doubled as mail carriers.
The 1950’s and Competing with Air Travel
Up until 1950, cruise ships were not only vacation options; they were the primary mode of transportation between continents. After World War II this began to change. The aeroplane had been tested in battle and was accepted by both commercial and private entities that needed a faster way to get to their destination. This growing popularity made aeroplanes a more affordable option also as increasing demand and competition drove prices down. Cruise ships became vacation destinations and the lines that offered cruise holidays became more creative with their vacation packages.
The 1960’s and the Founding of Royal Caribbean
The 1960’s saw two major events in the evolution of the cruise ship industry. The first happened in the middle of the decade when Peninsular Steam Navigation Company absorbed a company called Orient Steam Navigation Company, changing their name to P&O. P&O would later go on to merge with Carnival Cruises in 2003. The 1960’s also saw the founding of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 1968, the current owners of the world’s largest cruise ship Oasis of the Seas. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), owners of the ill-fated Achille Lauro, and Norwegian Cruise Lines also entered the cruise ship industry in the 1960’s.
Vacation Packages, Mass Media, and Cruise Holidays
After a decade that saw the end of conflict in Southeast Asia, long petrol lines, and economic uncertainty, the 1980’s were welcomed worldwide as a time when the world could change. The internet had just been developed but wasn’t available to the general public, but television was reaching every home and the cruise lines took full advantage. Putting together “vacation packages” and “cruise holidays” that were developed from the old “cruise and stay” deals of the 20’s and 30’s, all of the major players in the industry hit the airwaves with appeals to the common people for the first time.
The Modern Family Vacation
Cruise holidays are now one of the top choices for the modern family vacation. Cruise ships are available in all shapes and sizes and go to destinations around the world. The Caribbean is popular as is the Mediterranean, but cruises up north to Scandinavia and Alaska are also fully booked by passengers who have no fear anymore of ice or water hazards. The technology has improved, the ships are larger and sturdier, and the amenities on board will make anyone not want to go home. Arthur Anderson, if you’re out there somewhere, thanks for the idea. Cruise holidays are finally available to all.
About the author: Sarah Van Rensburg is an avid travel writer. She covers a wide range of travel-related topics but with a focus on cruise holidays.