The history of the cruise

Travel, discover, experience - these terms have long been associated with cruises. The special form of travel addresses the basic needs of holidaymakers, which is not least demonstrated by the steadily increasing demand for cruises up until the beginning of the corona pandemic.

In 2019, the last year before Corona, more than 3,1 million people took a river or ocean cruise in Germany. This development was inconceivable two decades ago. In the following we outline the beginnings of a movement that has become an indispensable part of tourism today.

carnival magic fort lauderdaleCarnival Magic in Barcelona

Cruise today: from the plane to the ship

Famines such as those in Ireland in the first half of the 19th century, unemployment or persecution forced Europeans to start a new life, especially in North America. Since the middle of the 19th century, emigration ships have carried millions of emigrants to the "New World". The German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven and the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island in New York bear witness to the life stories of the emigrants. These cruises, almost always in the between decks of the steamers, were not pleasure trips. They cannot be compared to the cruises of our time.

The improvements that have been made since the early days of passenger shipping are significant and do not only extend to comfort, dining and entertainment on board ships, but also include access. There were no planes that take us to foreign countries to the ports of departure of the ships. “Adventurers” were forced to travel long distances inland to ports to board a ship. Today, holidaymakers in southern Germany, for example, park conveniently near Munich Airport in order to fly from there by plane to the embarkation port or in the vicinity.


Industrialization as a transmission belt

For millennia, shipping was dependent on the support of wind power and / or the muscle power of rowers. The speed of the ships was accordingly low, the travel time was uncertain due to the whims of the weather gods and a boat trip was - as we already know from Odysseus - extremely dangerous. Under such circumstances, it would never have occurred to anyone to travel the world on ships for sheer pleasure.

Bremerhaven German Emigration Center
Bremerhaven sight - German emigration center

It was not until the invention of steam power that the system changed. Coal was available to propel the ships, the ships were built to be more stable and safety on board increased. The steamships were faster than sailing ships and also independent of the adverse weather. It was irrelevant whether the high seas were calm or whether there was a storm: the steamship made its way through the vastness of the oceans regardless of the weather.

England is the motherland of cruises

England is considered the motherland of industrialization. Until the middle of the 19th century it supplied the agrarian mainland Europe with industrial goods. It is no coincidence that the first passenger voyages took place in England. The British "Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company" played a special role and began serving mail and passengers to Gibraltar from 1840 onwards. A little later these services were also offered for Alexandria in Egypt and for India. And it didn't take long after that before the company started offering the first cruises under the “P&O Cruises” brand. These trips remained isolated phenomena in England at first. That cruises had no effect on the masses was due to the puritanism of the English. What was good was what fueled the island's economic success; the “useless” pastime, the meandering, on the other hand, was perceived as a sin.


The start of cruises in Germany

What was it like in Germany? In the German Empire, Kaiser Wilhelm II's passion for shipping was well known. The annual cruise to the North Cape, on which the sun does not set in summer, was part of the emperor's holiday program. His example caught on with the wealthy population, and their children wore sailor suits as a matter of course.

north cape globoNorth Cape Globo

Albert Ballin popularized cruises

The Hamburg shipowner Albert Ballins is considered the father of cruises in Germany. He came to the realization that in winter transatlantic trips of his passenger ships were not in demand because of bad weather and choppy seas. The ships on the Hamburg-America Line lay up without employment. Why not offer the little-used fleet for educational and pleasure trips in winter? Thought and done. The first Mediterranean cruise of the “Augusta Victoria” between January and March XNUMX inspired exactly XNUMX participants to such an extent that more and more cruises with more participants were offered in the following years. During this time trend-setting trends were set. Albert Ballin's ideas for an on-board newspaper especially for the time of the cruise and the evening gala dinner became the standard of such trips.

The initially exciting day trips to Jerusalem, Cairo, Gibraltar, Athens and Istanbul were soon expanded to include new travel destinations. Preferred destinations were exotic countries, spectacular natural wonders, wonderful beaches and major cities.
Belfast Titanic Museum
Belfast landmark - Titanic Museum

RMS Titanic - the disaster in the North Atlantic

How close dream and tragedy are to one another was shown by the misfortune of the English cruise ship “RMS Titanic” of the White Star Line with a total of 1495 deaths. The RMS Titanic, a first class hotel at sea and the largest ship of its time, rammed an iceberg on her maiden voyage in April 1912 and sank a little later in the waters of the Atlantic. The memory of the Newfoundland disaster is kept alive at the Titanic Museum in Belfast.

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