Cruising History

Last updated on 03/27/2023

History of CruisingCruising is a popular travel choice for many, but has it always been that way? It may surprise you to know that people have been cruising for hundreds of years – just not as we do now. We were curious about the origins of the cruise and how it evolved over time, so we dug 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 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 them 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 became the primary way to travel, steam ships became less important. That is, until the industry began looking at steam ship travel as an adventure experience rather than a means of transportation. The Prinzessin Victoria Luise, built in 1901 by the American-Hamburg Company, was the first ship designed specifically with cruising in mind. The Mauntania and Lusitania, around the same time, started the tradition of dressing for dinner on the ship and advertising the “romance” of the voyage.

The Other Titanic

The White Star line built three behemoth luxury ocean liners for trans-Atlantic voyages: the Titanic, the Olympic and the Britannic. While the Britannic was only as a British government ship during World War I, the other two became important parts of the history of cruising. We all know tragic story of the trans-Atlantic voyage of the Titanic, but it was the Olympic that paved the way for cruise ship amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts.

Cruising as You Have Come to Know It

The true modern-day cruise experience began in the 1960s. The industry turned far away from its Trans-Atlantic, passenger and cargo roots to indulge in luxury entertainment. Cruise ships became more casual, with the ability to dress up for dinner and relax in luxury. They began to tour the Caribbean Islands. Modern cruising didn’t becoming truly popular until after the airing of “The Love Boat” in 1977.

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. Also, river cruises seem to be taking the cruise industry by storm. If you are weary about cruising due to the swaying in rough seas, a river cruise could offer a more stable voyage with many of the amenities you’d find on the larger ships.

The 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 four months visiting 28 different destinations, all while enjoying a 1,000 square-foot private suite and top-notch service.