Cruise tourism traces its origin in 1822, thanks to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. It started as a shipping line, plying the Sea Ports of the United Kingdom to the Iberian Peninsula. By 1840, its services extended to Alexandria, Egypt, delivering mail via Malta and Gibraltar. The company opened its services to regular passengers in 1844, with sea tours to Athens, Malta, and Gibraltar from its base in Southampton.
As the market expanded, so did their routes, extending to Alexandria in Egypt and Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey). Throughout the 19th century, the business grew with more luxurious sea vessels and routes commissioned. Notable ships in this era included the SS Ravenna (1880) and SS Valetta (1889). Although the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company was the most notable player in the industry, the Francesco I was arguably the first cruise ship in 1831. However, analysts see it as a “Royal Show” since all its passengers were Nobles from all over Europe.
The growth in demand for tourism and exploration transformed sea transport from a logistics service to leisure cruising. Europe and the Mediterranean Sea were the most popular routes at that time. The first exclusive luxury cruising ship was the Germany-made Prinzessin Victoria Luise in 1900. Since then, the industry has grown to accommodate more people, amenities and routes worldwide.
The Allure of Cruise Ships
Besides being a floating machine, cruise ships have several features that make them unique. Cruisers enjoy on-land luxuries in the middle of the sea. Some of the features of cruise ships include:
- Integrated experience – cruisers enjoy multiple activities in one package: different cuisines, entertainment, educational sessions and sports. There are also physio activities such as fitness sessions, spas and pools on board. Ideally, it is fun on the move.
- Scenic sites – cruisers visit different places at a go. Once they prepare for the journey, the essentials cover everything needed for a breathtaking experience. They usually see several countries, various physical features and many coastal landscapes.
- Socialising – bigger cruise ships carry people in thousands, creating a community of people from different walks of life. They share ideas, experiences, insights and talents, which can last a lifetime.
To better understand the cruise experience, there are different types of cruise ships, each with pre-defined activity and passenger selection.
- Mainstream/Mega Cruise Ships are enormous cruise ships primarily for adventure. They can travel long distances and stay in the ocean for months. Planning for such cruises looks into time, seasons, types of passengers and duration. By design, cruisers in this voyage are in for luxury and adventure.
- Luxury Cruise Ships are technologically enabled to offer every imaginable comfort at the sea. They have high-standard infrastructure that provides luxury, just like a 5-star hotel. As the name suggests, they are reserved for comfort, luxury and exclusivity.
- Adventure/River Cruise Ships are smaller to enable navigation to remote areas. They can meander rivers and inland waterways to access remote scenes. Notably, they are primarily family-friendly and built for adventure and sightseeing.
Navigation and Itineraries
A lot goes into planning for a sea cruise owing to its complexities and customer experiences. It involves legal issues, international maritime protocols, operational costs and route maps. For a successful trip, the central planning team should factor in every component to make the journey predictable, assuring the customers of a successful expedition. Although every cruise has specifics, every plan should have the following as the basis of their itinerary.
The luxury cruise should have a route map, which presupposes every other element in the plan. It helps decide the adventure spots, legal confirmation and the ship tracker plan. All these lumped together inform the operational cost and other logistics decisions.
Luxury cruise ships that choose the Sea Ports of the United Kingdom as part of their itinerary can plan where to visit. They can even estimate the arrival and departure time, which makes the journey predictable. The whole idea revolves around sightseeing and memorable experiences.
Contemporary Navigation and Ship Tracking Technology
The naval engineering used in cruise shipbuilding is top-of-the-range, geared towards passenger safety. Navigation systems combine GPS, radar, auto-pilot and electronic charts that accurately estimate direction and coordinates. Modern cruise ships use the ECDIS (electronic chart display and information system), which coordinates all navigation data. The system houses the ship tracker, a digital route representation, the actual location and the surrounding environment.
Marine Traffic Management
ECDIS’s role is to gather information within a specific radius and share it with the Automatic Identification System (AIS). It allows ships within a particular radius to share information on course, speed and location, which helps prevent collision. The data is specifically essential in narrow waterways such as rivers, canals and busy ports, allowing safe docking, changing course and alerting other ships in case of any situation.
Besides the ECDIS, the gyrocompass is essential as it provides precise heading information. Unlike the traditional magnetic compass, the gyrocompass relies on the earth’s rotation to identify the true north, even in areas affected by magnetic variation.
Environmental and Safety Considerations
Most cruise ships have weather monitoring systems that guide the captain on environmental safety. They collect and collate data on weather and other environmental concerns such as wavelength and height, wind speed and water precipitation. Such data guides the captain on appropriate planning and adjustments in the cruise ship route. All these ensure passengers’ comfort and safety.
The 1912 Titanic disaster revolutionised passengers’ safety measures aboard sea vessels. Some of the safety measures enforced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which applies to cruise ships, include garbage disposal (MARPOL Annex V), sewage treatment (MARPOL Annex IV) and energy efficiency and air pollution (MARPOL Annex VI). Another equally important safety of life at sea (SOLAS) consideration is the cruise ship crew training, which handles crisis management and human behaviour in case of an emergency.
The cruise industry is a significant player in local and international tourism, with an estimated turnover of over $150 billion. It employs approximately 1.2 million people who earn $50 billion in wages and other indirect benefits.
It also impacts local economies where cruisers visit, for example, off-shore tours, local purchasing, hospitality and land transportation.
Future Trends in Cruise Tourism
As the world heals from the economic and social effects of the 2019/20 pandemic, more people are likely to enlist in cruise tourism. Cruise ship manufacturers are looking into creating eco-friendly vessels with reduced emissions to the environment.
Technology also opens up the world with new routes and destinations. The world is becoming a global village, with cruisers eager to witness beautiful sceneries and people.
All these create a state-of-the-art infrastructure, complete with a luxurious experience. Cruise ships are turning into an experience other than a journey. Beautiful sceneries and people might be the intended experience, but the luxury onboard these sea vessels is second to none. Try out cruising, and you will understand why Vito Dumas asserted that people are their authentic selves when they are out there in the sea.