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Cruise Ships and Liners
Cruise Ship Pictures
For centuries ships traversed the world with a mix of cargo and passengers, but those travellers weren't there for their leisure. They were migrants escaping poverty or persecution, or commercial or military personnel off to new postings, or perhaps convicts off to Australia.
But with the advent of steam power maritime travel became quicker, more reliable and much safer; the first steam powered crossing of the Atlantic Ocean was in 1833. Whilst economic migrants still sought cheap passage to their new worlds, especially the USA (in steerage, the lowest decks of the ship), the better-off could afford to travel in luxury, and that needed a new kind of ship - the cruise liner.
The first vessel built specifically as a cruise ship was the Prinzessin Victoria Luise for the Hamburg-America line in 1900. The transatlantic crossing was the busiest and cruise lines competed to build the fastest and most luxurious liners. The inter-war years saw this traffic at its peak; the biggest and fastest liner was a source of national prestige - the major European countries (Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy especially) competed and this prompted striking Art Deco posters and advertisements from the studios of the greatest graphic artists.
The transatlantic shipping companies had created an award for the fastest crossing in the 1860s to publicise their services and called it the Blue Riband. The fastest ship flew a blue pennant from her topmast. The 1920s and 1930s saw great competition for the honour, with an actual trophy created and awarded in 1935. The French ship Normandie and the British Queen Mary alternated as holders in the late 1930s, with the latter ship holding the record from 1938 to 1952 with an amazing 31 knots average speed.
The 1920s and 1930s also saw the real growth of the cruise as an up-market holiday and the use of luxurious ships for pleasure rather than purely as a means of travel. The old lines, such as P & O (Peninsular and Orient) and Cunard, were joined by a host of newer ones set up mainly for this purpose, although often underwritten by contracts to deliver mail around the world, such as the Royal Mail Line.
The growth of air travel reduced the volumes traveling by sea, but until the debut of long-range jet aircraft passage by ship was the only realistic route to far-flung outposts of the Empire and Commonwealth - as late as the 1950s England cricket teams traveled to Australia by sea to contest the Ashes series. The advent of the jet age might have been expected to signal the end of the liner, but the industry has been reinvigorated and focused on pleasure, pure and simple.