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History of Cruising

Sailing away from everyday life on-board a 'floating city' towards a variety of exotic destinations is a dream escape for most of us.

Cruises today are affordable to all, and luxurious. They offer an unbelievable variety of on-board activities, from fine dining, casinos, entertainment, rock climbing, swimming, golf simulators, spa treatments and well equipped gyms to name a few.

You can choose to do as little or as much as you like, and only have to unpack once!

History of Cruising

So how did this all begin?

Passenger Cruising can be traced back to the 1800's, when ships were still mainly used for transporting cargo and mail. The Black Ball Line, New York, was the first shipping line to provide a regular and comfortable passenger service between England and North America.

Steam Ships were introduced by the 1830s, and dominated the transatlantic passenger market. The British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet (now Cunard) took passenger comfort to a new level - taking a cow on board to supply fresh milk during the 14 day transatlantic crossing!

In 1884 the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company (now P&O Cruises) became the first dedicated leisure cruise line, transporting passengers purely for their pleasure. This began with cruises to the Mediterranean, quickly expanding to include India, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

In 1897 The British Medical Journal reported that a cruise to the West Indies provided "Opportunities for recovering health" and that "the most delightful days of peace and leisure may be passed doing nothing" therefore opening the floodgates for wealthy passengers to book cruises to convalesce.

SS Berengaria

Immigrants then began to travel to America in Steerage Class. The Immigrants were left to fend for themselves, finding their own sleeping places in the hold and providing their own food.

By the 1900s Cruise Ships became the epitome of glamour and sophistication as they were designed to resemble luxurious 5* hotels, in an attempt to mask the discomfort of sea travel. The tradition of dressing for dinner was introduced to add to the romantic image of sailing.


World War I stopped leisure cruising, with many ships commandeered for the war effort.

When World War II ended, ocean travel resumed. However the Great Depression impacted on this, and resulted in a sharp decrease in passenger levels.

In 1934 Cunard bought out The White Star Line, who had produced the most luxurious passenger ships ever seen, The Olympic and The Titanic - which famously sank on its maiden voyage in 1912.

Passenger cruising continued to decline, not helped by the introduction of the first commercial transatlantic flights in 1958. Many cruise lines went bankrupt.

Cruising Rediscovered

In the 1960s, Cruise Lines re-emerged, with ships fitted out with entertainment and other amenities. Cruises were then marketed to the general public as an overall holiday package – with the voyage being as enjoyable as the destination.

This type of Cruise became immortalised in the 1970s television series "The Love Boat" which featured the Pacific Princess, from Princess Cruises. Many Cruise Lines reported a boom in business as a direct result of the popularity of this show!

Today the cruising experience is unrecognisable from its beginnings in the 1800s.

Cruises just keep growing in popularity, and the variety of Cruises now available is amazing - from short 2 day cruises to Round the World Cruises, with every variation in between.

The choice is yours!