It’s hard to believe when you look at some of the stunning, modern cruise ships of today that the idea of going on a ship for pleasure was an alien concept until the early 20th century. Until that point, getting on a passenger ship was generally so you could get from A to B. Before the coming of the jet airplane, crossing the Atlantic (for example) was only possible by boat and this was often a one-way journey for many as immigration increased.

1800s: Paving the way for Transatlantic cruising

Some companies did begin offering pleasure cruises in the 19th century. P&O cruises for example, claims that co-founder Arthur Anderson invented the idea of cruising when he placed a dummy ad to fill space in his newspaper, The Shetland Times, advertising an imaginary cruise of the Scottish isles. This was in 1835 and it wasn’t too long after this that companies began offering cruises to the public aboard ships that were primarily built for the transportation of mail. P&O then made the decision in 1881 to convert their liner Ceylon into what is regarded as the first cruise ship and embarked on a round-the-world cruise from Liverpool, heralding the real beginning of cruising as we know it.

Early 1900s: luxury cruising is introduced

The early 20th century saw the likes of Cunard and White Star becoming the big names in cruising as larger and more luxurious ships were launched. Journeys that had been purely functional were now marketed as being for pleasure as cruise companies introduced new facilities – the first swimming pool came in 1907 alongside à la carte restaurants and even lifts. In these days, ships were still very much divided on a class system, where great opulence in the interiors for those travelling in first class contrasted greatly with the facilities and conditions in the cheapest accommodation, or “steerage”. Back then, passengers in steerage were even expected to bring their own food and were certainly cruising from A to B rather than for pleasure!

A word about “P.O.S.H.”

Some people argue that cruising in these olden days even gave us the word “posh”. On long journeys, particularly those between the UK and India, wealthier passengers would demand cabins that were shadier in the afternoon so they would be cooler by bedtime, which would be the port side going out and the starboard side coming back, or Port Out Starboard Home, which was stamped on the ticket. It’s a great story but no one can actually find reliable evidence that these tickets ever existed!

1960s+70s: Something for everyone

Thankfully, between 1964 and 1972, the cruise industry expanded rapidly and welcomed the likes of Princess Cruises, Norwegian Caribbean, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises and although cruising was no longer just for the rich, it had definitely become all about pleasure. Although different types of rooms are still available, from stunning loft suites to well-appointed inside cabins, gone are the days when the ships were segregated and you definitely don’t have to bring your own food anymore!

2013: Bigger, brighter & better

As cruising has become more and more popular, larger and larger ships have appeared and in December 2010, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas was launched. With accommodation for more than 6,000 passengers, it is the largest passenger ship ever built. Spread over 16 floors, it features everything from swimming pools to mini-golf, climbing walls to the first aqua-theatre, plus more than 20 places to eat. It even boasts its own “Central Park” – a lush garden perfect for a stroll in the sunshine.

With facilities like this, even a visionary such as Arthur Anderson would not have predicted how far his pleasure cruises idea would come when he was desperately looking to fill his local newspaper back in the 19th century.

* Terms & Conditions apply

We are acting as an agent on behalf of travel suppliers and your booking will be subject to the supplier’s terms and conditions. Prices may be subject to very limited availability and are correct as at the date and time of writing. Prices may go up or down from time to time. Prices quoted are for the dates, accommodation, board basis, departure points and number of persons sharing specified only and cannot be combined with any other offer. We reserve the right to amend any quotes given if there is a genuine error as soon as we become aware of it. We reserve the right to withdraw any offers without notice.