Cruise ship

Cruise ship

A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience. Cruising has become a major part of the tourism industry, with millions of passengers each year. The industry's rapid growth has seen nine or more newly built ships catering to a North American clientele added every year since 2001, as well as others servicing European clientele. Smaller markets such as the Asia-Pacific region are generally serviced by older tonnage displaced by new ships introduced into the high growth areas.

Cruise ships operate mostly on routes that return passengers to their originating port. In contrast, ocean liners do "line voyages" and typically transport passengers from one point to another, rather than on round trips. Some liners also engage in longer trips which may not lead back to the same port for many months.

Traditionally, an ocean liner will be built to a higher standard than a cruise ship, including stronger plating to withstand ocean voyages, most commonly crossing the North Atlantic. The only traditional ocean liners in operation, as of August 2008, are Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth II (to be retired in November 2008), both part of the Cunard fleet. The liners RMS Queen Mary and SS United States are also extant, with long-standing plans to return the latter to service, although this appears increasingly unlikely given its age and condition.


Early years

The first vessel built exclusively for this purpose was the Prinzessin Victoria Luise, commissioned by Albert Ballin, general manager of Hamburg-America Line. The ship was completed in 1900.

The practice of cruising grew gradually out of the transatlantic crossing tradition, which never took less than four days. In the competition for passengers, ocean liners added many luxuries — the Titanic being the most famous example — such as fine dining and well-appointed staterooms.

In the late 19th century, Albert Ballin, director of the Hamburg-America Line, was the first to send his transatlantic ships out on long southern cruises during the worst of the winter season of the North Atlantic. Other companies followed suit. Some of them built specialized ships designed for easy transformation between summer crossings and winter cruising.

Jet age

With the advent of large passenger jet aircraft in the 1960s, intercontinental travellers largely switched from ships to planes, sending the ocean liner trade into a slow decline. Ocean liner services aimed at passengers ceased in 1986, with the notable exception of transatlantic crossings operated by the Cunard Line, catering to the niche market who enjoy the few days of luxury and enforced idleness that a liner voyage affords. In comparison to liner crossings, cruising voyages gained popularity; slowly at first but at an increased rate from the 1980s onwards. Initially the fledgling industry was serviced primarily by small redundant liners, and even the first purpose built cruise ships were small. This changed after the success of the SS Norway (originally the ocean liner SS France, which was converted to a cruise ship) as the Caribbean's first "super-ship". Since then the size of cruise ships has risen dramatically to become the largest passenger ships ever built.

Modern days

The 1970s television show The Love Boat, featuring Princess Cruises' since-sold ship Pacific Princess, did much to raise awareness of cruises as a vacation option for ordinary people in the United States. Initially this growth was centered around the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexico, but now encompasses all areas of the globe. Today, several hundred cruise ships, some carrying over 3,000 passengers and measuring over 120,000 gross tons, ply routes worldwide. And even larger vessels are on the horizon. Plans are set for at least two cruise ships that will be 220,000 gross tons and hold 5,400 passengers each. For certain destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, cruise ships are very nearly the only way to visit.


Cruise ships are organized much like floating hotels, with a complete hospitality staff in addition to the usual ship's crew. It is not uncommon for the most luxurious ships to have more crew and staff than passengers.

As with any vessel, adequate provisioning is crucial, especially on a cruise ship serving several thousand meals at each seating. For example, passengers and crew on the Royal Caribbean International ship Mariner of the Seas consume 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg) of beef, 28,000 eggs, 8,000 gallons (30,000 L) of ice cream, and 18,000 slices of pizza in a week.

Many older cruise ships have had multiple owners. Since each cruise line has its own livery and often a naming theme (for instance, ships of the Holland America Line have names ending in "-dam", e.g. MS Statendam, and Royal Caribbean's ships' names all end with "of the Seas", e.g. MS Freedom of the Seas), it is usual for the transfer of ownership to entail a refitting and a name change. Some ships have had a dozen or more identities.

Cruise ships and former liners often find employment in applications other than those for which they were built. A shortage of hotel accommodation for the 2004 Summer Olympics led to a plan to moor a number of cruise ships in Athens to provide tourist accommodation. On September 1, 2005, FEMA contracted three Carnival Cruise Lines vessels to house Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Regional industries

The number of cruise tourists worldwide in 2005 was estimated at some 14 million. The main region for cruising was North America (70% of cruises), where the Caribbean islands were the most popular destinations. Next was Continental Europe (13%). Most European routes were in the Mediterranean Sea but the fastest growing segment is cruises in the Baltic Sea . The most visited Baltic ports are Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki

Caribbean Cruising Industry

The first journeys across the Caribbean Sea were made by Amerindian canoeists who “settled the island chains, paddling north from the river systems of the Orinoco and the Amazon”. This resulted in the fight for control of the Caribbean, particularly for the Caribbean Sea between the European powers. The sea became an economic highway for “slavers, traders, buccaneers, and fishermen”. It also became a passageway for “escaped slaves, indentured labourers and settlers, and later still a watery flight path for emigrants and boat people”.

The Caribbean cruising industry is a large and growing market, and currently the most popular. Cruising has grown from “an estimated 900,850 passengers in 1983 to 2.3 million passengers in 1993”. Cruise lines operating in the Caribbean include Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, P&O, Cunard, and Norwegian Cruise Line. There are also smaller cruise lines that cater to a more intimate feeling among their guests. The three largest cruise operators are Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean International, and Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Many of the American cruise lines in the Caribbean depart from ports in the United States, “nearly one-third of the cruises sailed out of Miami”. Other cruise ships depart from Fort Lauderdale ("Port Everglades"),Port Canaveral, New York, Tampa, Galveston, and San Juan. Many UK cruise lines base their ships out of Barbados for the Caribbean season, operating direct charter flights out of the UK and avoiding the sometimes lengthy delays at US immigration.

Cruises sailing in the Caribbean travel on itineraries depending on the port of departure and the length of the cruise. The busiest port of call is the Bahamas with “1.8 million cruise-ship arrivals in 1994”. This is because its short distance from Florida is very convenient for both short and long cruises. The next most popular ports of call were “the US Virgin Islands (1.2 million), St. Maarten (718,553), Puerto Rico (680,195), the Cayman Islands (599,387), and Jamaica (595,036)”. Other ports of call include: Belize City, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Antigua, Aruba, Grand Turk and Key West. St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands is particularly popular with US passengers because they get a second Duty Free allowance to use on goods purchased there.

Many cruise lines also have stops at their own "private islands", more truthfully, a private section of a Caribbean island. These private resorts are reserved exclusively for passengers of the respective cruise line using the location, and frequently offer features such as an Aqua Park, kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing, music, and private reservable cabanas.


The market for cruise ships is dominated by three European companies:

A large number of cruise ships have been built by other shipyards, but no other individual yard has reached the large numbers of built ships achieved by the three above. A handful of old ocean liners also remain in service as cruise ships. Despite the dominance of United States-based cruise ship operators and American clients in the industry, only one ship built in the United States, the , is still sailing.

Infections on cruise ships


Norovirus infections continue to be a problem on cruise ships. In 2002, there were 25 reported outbreaks, with 2,648 passengers becoming ill from the virus. There have been a number of voyages where hundreds of passengers have become ill. Outbreak investigations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that transmission among cruise ship passengers is almost wholly person-to-person; water supplies have never been implicated.


Other pathogens which are known to be a problem on board cruise ships include Legionella, the bacteria which causes Legionnaires' disease. Legionella can colonise the domestic water systems and whirlpool spas as well as cooling systems used on board. Legionella, and in particular the most virulent strain, Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1, can cause infections when inhaled as an aerosol or aspirated. Infections are more common amongst the over 50s, with smokers and others with pre-existing respiratory disease being particularly vulnerable. The demographic most commonly using cruise ships can be particularly vulnerable. A number of cases of Legionnaires' disease have been associated with cruise ships.

Environmental impact

"Cruise ships generate a number of waste streams that can result in discharges to the marine environment, including sewage, graywater, hazardous wastes, oily bilge water, ballast water, and solid waste. They also emit air pollutants to the air and water. These wastes, if not properly treated and disposed of, can be a significant source of pathogens, nutrients, and toxic substances with the potential to threaten human health and damage aquatic life. It is important, however, to keep these discharges in some perspective, because cruise ships represent a small — although highly visible — portion of the entire international shipping industry, and the waste streams described here are not unique to cruise ships. However, particular types of wastes, such as sewage, graywater, and solid waste, may be of greater concern for cruise ships relative to other seagoing vessels, because of the large numbers of passengers and crew that cruise ships carry and the large volumes of wastes that they produce. Further, because cruise ships tend to concentrate their activities in specific coastal areas and visit the same ports repeatedly (especially Florida, California, New York, Galveston, Seattle, and the waters of Alaska), their cumulative impact on a local scale could be significant, as can impacts of individual large-volume releases (either accidental or intentional).

See also



  • Douglas Ward, Berlitz Ocean Cruising and Cruise Ships, published annually
  • Monarchs of the Sea: The Great Ocean Liners; Ulrich, Kurt; Tausir Parke; 1999; ISBN 1-86064-373-6

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