Cruising History

Cruising is a popular travel choice these days, but has it always been that way? We were curious about the origins of the cruise and how it evolved over time, so we decided to dig into some cruise-related history to learn more about this travel mainstay.

First steam-powered Atlantic crossing: The first “cruise” ship to cross the Atlantic from a U.S. port was the S.S. Savannah, in 1819. The Savannah took 29 days to reach its destination of Liverpool, England. While the voyage wasn’t a “cruise” in the same way we think of cruises today, it was the beginning of a new era of ocean travel, in which ships powered by steam could actually gather enough speed to be (somewhat) convenient for passengers.

First bona fide cruise ship: Once air travel was “in,” steam ships were “out.” That is, they were, until the industry began looking at steam ship travel as an adventure in and of itself – an experience that could be built around the love of travel, and not just a way to get from one destination to another. The Prinzessin Victoria Luise, built in 1901 by the American-Hamburg Company, was the first ship designed specifically with cruising in mind.

The other Titanic: The White Star Line built three behemoth luxury ocean liners for trans-Atlantic voyages: The Titanic, the Olympic, and the Britannic. Of the three ships, only the Olympic survived to be retired. The Britannic, originally the grandest of the ships, never sailed with paying passengers aboard; it was used instead by the British government during World War I as a hospital ship. In 1916, after less than a year of transporting wounded soldiers from Italy to England, the Britannic sank in the Mediterranean, killing 30 passengers.

Most expensive cruise to date: In a modern-day twist on the concept of luxury ocean liners, passage on the Silversea Cruises’ “Silver Whisper” could cost upwards of $1.5 million per couple. This full travel experience includes additional off-ship amenities such as a helicopter ride from your home or hotel to the airport, Beluga caviar, and a 10-course Michelin star meal while aboard a luxury private jet. Once on board, passengers will spend more than 4 months visiting 28 different destinations, all while enjoying a 1,000 square foot private suite and top-notch service.

Wave of the future: Eco-friendly cruising appears to be one of the next big things in cruise vacations. As travelers become more aware of the environmental impact cruise ships can have, the world’s top cruise lines have begun to develop practices that are more earth-friendly. To find out how your cruise line compares to others in eco-friendly practices, or to track down a cruise that meets your standards for environmental stewardship, check out the Friends of the Earth Cruise Report Card.

Written by on 1/24/14.
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