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The Reluctant Travel Writer
Cruise Ships of the World Unite! And they did!
Thursday, November 24, 2016 - 00:00 Leonard Lea Frazer
Ever since 1840, when transatlantic steamships began carrying mail from England to New York, passengers started to book passage simply because these ships were fast. Then paying passengers began to expect superior treatment, more amenities, and better food than the crewmembers on mail-ships. That’s where the milk cow comes in.
Samuel Cunard of Nova Scotia teamed up with famous Scottish steamship designer and builder Robert Napier, and together they operated four pioneer paddle steamers under the name of “British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company”. As soon as they saw there was a profit to be made with all the paying customers, the on-board amenities got an overhaul, including the addition of a cow to provide fresh milk. Mr. Cunard formed the Cunard Steamship Company in 1879 and went on to be the main competitor of the “White Star” Line. That’s where the swimming pool comes in.
By 1912 competition between passenger line companies became fierce. Cunard went for ships that were faster and White Star concentrated on size and luxury. Both “Olympic” and her sister ship “Titanic,” commissioned by White Star, featured running hot water in some of its cabins, a la carte dining, a Turkish Bath, a Parisian café, and a shipboard swimming pool. Of course, after the Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, the word “swimming pool” took on a whole new meaning. However, the competition continued.
In 2006 Norwegian Cruise Lines installed a bowling alley on its “Norwegian Pearl” ship along with “sixteen dining options, fifteen bars and lounges, a dazzling casino, tranquil spa and spacious Garden Villas”. Since then, the sky seems to be the limit. Today’s cruise ships are getting taller, longer and more luxurious. Many ship owners have merged with their competition to stay active and afloat.
The world’s largest travel leisure company, Carnival Corporation, has a combined fleet of over 100 vessels across ten cruise line brands. The brands include: Carnival Cruise Line, Fathom, P & O Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seaborne Cruises, P & O Cruises Australia, Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises. The Carnival group controlled 49.2 % of the total worldwide cruise market in 2011.
Royal Caribbean International controlled 17% of the cruise ship market worldwide and in 2015 operated 23 ships with three additional ships on order.
An additional 40 cruise lines make up the balance of companies that are now operating in the world.
Cruise ship travel is a way to see and experience the cities and sights of the world. Tours of coastal Europe, the Caribbean and Mexican Riviera and, for those who can afford it, World Cruises, have become available and popular. For many, the “cruise ship” itself has become the destination.
Having already sailed around the world five times during my “Freighter Days” (1969 – 1972) I settled for a Caribbean Cruise (my second cruise) on board the “Ruby Princess,” with stops in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico and the Bahamas. I was fascinated by the luxurious décor of the ship, endless activities for the passengers onboard, and the use of the ship’s shuttles (life boats). Whenever berthing is not available cruise ships launch as many of the shuttle-craft as necessary to transport guests, from an anchorage position, ashore for day-trips of exploration. The highlight for me on my Caribbean Cruise was in Mexico where I visited the newly opened structures, which were set in the depths of the Yucatan jungle at the “Coba Mayan Ruins.”
At the end of a day’s exploration ashore passengers return to the comfort and safety of their cruise ship and sail off into another sunset.
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