Cruise ships through history: From tragedy to glory


1st Jan 2015 Travel

Cruise ships through history: From tragedy to glory

Here are some notable cruise ships through history, and the stories behind them.

The cruise ship has always been a symbol of wealth and luxury, and you can often tell a lot about what certain eras were like due to the size and design of their ships. From the decadent first cruise ships of the early 20th century, to the mega-ships of today that are more like small villages on the sea, the cruise ship has gone through many different styles to keep up with the needs of holidaymakers.


Prinzessin Victoria Luise


Considered to be the first purpose built cruise ship, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise launched on June 29th 1900. Although many companies already offered 'pleasure voyages' where travellers could take long trips through the Mediterranean and Orient, these were run on regular passenger ships that didn't have much in the way of facilities. Shipping magnate Albert Ballin realised the potential of offering a more comfortable experience, with first class staterooms and spaces for entertaining and socialising. Unfortunately, the ship's exciting voyages came to an end five years later when it ran aground on some rocks in Jamaica. Although the passengers were rescued, the captain locked himself in his cabin and shot himself.

Queen Elizabeth 2


The Queen Elizabeth 2 set the standard for luxury cruising for nearly 40 years, from its launch in 1969, until its final journey from Southampton to Dubai in 2008. The 1960s saw cheaper and faster flights, which meant that travelling by boat was in decline, so luxurious cruises were seen as a way to lure people back. 

In its early days, the Queen Elizabeth 2 offered a comfortable way to journey from Southampton to New York, with the journey taking four days. During the Falklands War, the ship was converted for military service, with lounges turned into dorms, carpets covered in hardboard, and helicopter pads installed. It was then converted from steam power to diesel for the modern era, and was often refurbished to keep its luxury appeal. Since its final voyage, there have been many plans for this grand ship, such as the possibility of turning it into a luxurious hotel in Dubai.

MS Oasis of the Seas


Launched in December 2009, the MS Oasis of the Seas had the distinction of being the largest cruise ship ever built, 361.6 metres in length, although her sister ship the Allure of the Seas has since overtaken her by just two inches. The ship had to be carefully designed to keep it upright and stable, with a wide hull, but only a small percentage of the ship under the water. This makes it easy for the ship to snap back upright when hit by a wave, and because of the size of the ship it's a smooth ride for passengers. The sheer size of MS Oasis of the Seas means that it offers many exciting amenities, such as Central Park; a living park at sea, and its own boardwalk.

RMS Aquitania


Dating back to the golden age of cruising, the RMS Aquitania was in service from 1914 until 1950, and was often considered one of the most beautiful cruise ships on the seas at this time. It was built by Cunard to rival the luxury ships of the White Star line, such as the Titanic, with a slower, more luxurious ship for comfortable travelling. After the Titanic sank, the RMS Aquitania improved its safety measures, becoming the first ship to have enough lifeboats for all passengers. However, it was the stylish interior that wooed passengers, and using the same designers as those who decorated the Ritz Hotels in London allowed them to create a truly luxurious experience. 

Crystal Serenity


A small percentage of today's cruise market is dedicated to ultra-luxury cruises, and the Crystal Serenity holds the distinction of offering one of the world's most expensive cruises, with the 102 day world tour costing $199,370 per person when you stay in the Crystal Penthouse. Launched in July 2003, the ship is known for its grand world cruises, designer stores, and classic design.