The two men were not the first entrepreneurs to flirt with the idea of pleasure cruising in
the Caribbean, but they were the first to put it into action on a massive scale.
In fact, New York remained the passenger shipping capital of the world until 1972.
Pleasure cruising only became popular once airlines made ships as transportation obsolete. Jet planes gave people an hours-long alternative to spending many days at sea to get
across the pond.
Until then, the Caribbean acted as winter storage for ocean liners that ran the New
York-to-Europe route. But ocean liners were built for sailing the steely North Atlantic,
not the tropics. They were dark, had little outdoor space and no air conditioning. The
vessels carried goods and mail, along with passengers, to points around the world.
Companies like Holland America Line and Cunard Line offered luxurious accommodations to a minority of first-class passengers, but its bowels were full of steerage-class
folks and merchandise.
Holland America dabbled in vacation cruising a few times in the early part of its 135-
year history, but the majority of its passengers were moving, not cruising; the line carried
850,000 immigrants to North America around the turn of the 20th century. It suspended
its transatlantic passenger trade in 1971, and in 1973, sold its cargo shipping division.
Italian line Costa Cruises was one of the first lines to switch gears from the transatlantic sailings. In the 1960s, it renovated some of its ships for pleasure cruising in the
Arison and Kloster, followed by Edwin Stephan, began the industry as we know it today. (It was Stephan who convinced Norwegian shipping executives to build three, purpose-built “cruise ships” for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in 1970.)
Carnival Cruise Lines had a discomfiting start, running its first ship, the decade-old,
reconfigured ocean liner the Mardi Gras, into a sandbar near the Port of Miami on its
maiden voyage. But the line would go on to create the largest cruise company in the
And while cruising is now a year-round, global phenomenon, with billion-dollar mega-ships built for 5,000 passengers just over the horizon, it’s still a teenager, figuratively
It’s still in its growth spurt. — Johanna Jainchill
1) The Queen Elizabeth 2 was built in 1968 and became the largest ocean liner in 1974 when French Lines’ the France
retired. 2) In 1980, NCL’s the Norway, converted from the France, became the largest ship again at 70,202 tons. Its size
was increased to 76,049 tons in 1990. 3) Carnival Cruise Lines’ Destiny was the first to break the 100,000-ton mark.
4) Cunard raised the bar with the 151,400-ton Queen Mary 2. 5) Royal Caribbean in 2006 introduced the 160,000-ton
Freedom of the Seas. The line is set to introduce the 220,000-ton Project Genesis ships by 2009.
THE BIGGEST SHIPS
The biggest passenger ship at the time of Travel Weekly’s first issue was
Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Launched in the 1930s, at 83,637 tons it would
be the largest passenger ship afloat for more than 30 years. Built to accommodate
2,283 passengers, as a troop carrier in World War II it held many more. After the
war and an extensive refit, it left on its maiden transatlantic passenger voyage
in October 1946. In 1963, as the number of people crossing the Atlantic by ship
declined, Cunard began offering the QE for cruises. But the ship lacked many of
the essentials expected of a cruise ship. The QE made its final Atlantic crossing on
Nov. 5, 1968. Cunard sold the ship, and in January 1972, it was consumed by fire in
Hong Kong Harbor during a refit aimed at converting it into a floating university.
The Queen Elizabeth retires. French Line’s 6-year-old France, a 66,343-ton liner
accommodating 1,944 passengers and longer than Cunard’s QE,
becomes the largest ship by tonnage, as well.
Cunard’s 65,863-ton Queen Elizabeth 2, which was built in 1968, becomes the larg-
est passenger ship in service when the France retires.
Norwegian Cruise Line converts the laid-up France into the Norway, and the ship
regains its title as the largest cruise ship afloat at 70,202 tons.
Royal Caribbean International introduces the 73,192-ton Sovereign of the Seas, the
largest passenger ship on the seas.
NCL adds two passenger decks to the Norway, increasing its size to 76,049 tons and
its capacity to 2,565 passengers. The ship takes back its title for a third time.
Princess Cruises grabs the crown, introducing the 77,441-ton, 1,950-passenger
Carnival Cruise Lines introduces the 101,353-ton Destiny, the first ship to exceed
the Queen Elizabeth in size and the first to break the 100,000-ton mark.
Princess ups the ante with the 109,000-ton, 2,600-passenger Grand Princess.
Royal Caribbean gets back in the race with the introduction of the 142,000-ton,
3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas.
The Queen Mary 2 brings the title back to Cunard after 23 years when the line
debuts the 151,400-ton ocean liner.
Royal Caribbean introduces the 160,000-ton Freedom of the Seas but steals
the ship’s thunder before its debut by revealing that it will build the 220,000-ton
Project Genesis ships by 2009.
Sources: Peter Knego, co-editor of maritimematters.com; CLIA.net; CruiseServer.net