History of Cruises. Part 3. Deja vu | CruiseBe
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History of Cruises. Part 3. Deja vu

13 minutes read • March 13th, 2017
We continue our journey through the

history of cruises

. In the previous articles, we’ve already talked about the

origin of the cruise industry

, its flourishing and very fast decay caused by the First World War.

Today we are going to cover the no less interesting period of time when the cruise industry rose from the ashes like a phoenix and again... the history decided differently.

Welcome to the virtual journey through the years.

Despite the devastating war, the cruise industry quickly began to come to life.

German cruise companies fell under reparations and were forced to send their ships to the American and British companies.

The fleet of the North German Lloyd a company actually ceased to exist. As we’ve discussed in the last article, most of the NGL’s ships came under the American military control even before the end of the war. As the result, the once powerful company had the flagship – 781-ton Grüß Gott – after the war.

The Hamburg America Line company, which, as we know, built three superliners before the war (Imperator, Vaterland, and Bismarck), also lost all its flagships. Imperator and Vaterland served as a military transport during the war. After it, however, the ships moved to already familiar companies.

SS Imperator was sold to the American Cunard company in 1919. The ship was a bit renovated. It was called RMS Berengaria and began to travel.

By the way, the Cunard company lost 22 ships during the war including famous Lusitania. RMS Berengaria had to return the company to its former glory. By the way, she succeeded in this. Moreover, RMS Aquitania, RMS Mauretania and RMS Berengaria became known worldwide as "The Big Three".

These ships became some of the most luxurious ships in the history of cruise industry.
Advertising of RMS Aquitania, 1920s

The ships were repaired. New chic restaurants appeared on board. The industry was slowly coming to life.

The White Star Line company had taken the knock which was difficult to cope with already before the war – the loss of the Titanic. During the war, another superliner sank the bottom – HMHS Britannic.

We should give proper credit to RMS Olympic. As we have said, the ship survived the war greatly and even sank the German military submarine (not every ship has that pride).

In August 1919, the ship returned from service in Belfast where she was repaired. The ship was switched from coal to oil. Lifeboats were added.

However, White Star Line being left with only one "leader" could not compete in the market. The company began to fight for the former German liners. Initially, the White Star company wanted to get SS Imperator, but she had already gone to Cunard.

As a result, White Star Line got two beautiful ships – Columbus (of the HDL company) and Bismark (Hamburg America Line).

35,000 ton Columbus was constructed before the war. She could become the company’s flagship but did not set any sail.

Moreover, the ship was fully completed only in 1920. Then she went to the White Star Line under the name of RMS Homeric. Looking a little ahead, we’d like to say that the ship operated on the Atlantic direction. However, Homeric was sent to the cruise itineraries in the Mediterranean Sea because of the construction of the company’s new ships and because of the new anti-immigrant US laws (the ship had many cabins of the third class).

Moreover, she is one of the first purely cruise ships.

It’s interesting to know that her sister, who was supposed to be called Hindenburg, was left in the HDL company (because she wasn’t completed) and began to carry the name of Columbus. The ship was completed in 1922 and she was one of the world’s first ships with an outdoor swimming pool on the top deck.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00383 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

56,000 ton SS Bismarck became the second large ship given to White Star Line. The ship hadn’t been completed before the war and spent the whole war at the shipyard. In 1920, the ship was completed on the request of White Star Line and she was renamed to RMS Majestic.

The first sail of the ship took place on May 12, 1922 from Southampton to New York. RMS Majestic became the new flagship of White Star Line. Moreover, she was the largest ship in the world!

We can say that the industry actually not only came to life in a few years but also began to develop at an unbelievable pace.

In 1922, Cunard’s RMS Laconia made the first ever circumnavigation cruise. From New York, via the Panama Canal, Japan and Asian countries, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic and back to New York.

All post-war ships were equipped with unprecedented luxury; interiors were more like the first-class hotels and the cabin sometimes – like the palace rooms. Leading architects and interior decorators were engaged in planning the ship interiors.

Prohibition (a ban on alcohol in the United States (1920-1933)) generated a boom in the industry. Cruises became a popular pastime among the affluent Americans. "Cruises to nowhere" were particularly popular – when the ships just left the port, for example, New York, and left the neutral waters. Then people could enjoy alcohol. These cruises were often called Prohibition-dodging cruises or Booze cruises (aka "cruise to nowhere" or "party cruise").

For example, RMS Berengaria took such cruises. Moreover, she got the popular name – "Bargain-area".

It seemed that Cunard and White Star Line were about to dominate the world again. Or at least the primacy of the British and American companies (moreover, as we remember, the blue riband still belonged to RMS Mauretania since 1909)... But it was not meant to happen.

Suddenly France represented by the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique company appeared on the cruise arena.

The company’s ships were already known in Europe. For example, 24,000 ton SS France (1910).

She set her first sail only 5 days after the Titanic. During the First World War, she served as a mode of transportation and a hospital ship. The ship got back in the game after the war...

Together with just finished "Paris" (the largest French liner), they created a wonderful tandem in 1921 beloved by the French bohemians. Liners spent summer on Transatlantic sailings, and in winter they went on cruises (in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean Sea).

By the way, these ships actively took part in Booze Cruises.

SS France became completely engaged in cruises after the SS Île de France construction.

By the way, Île de France marked a new milestone in the cruise world. The ship was completely decorated in a modern style at the time – the art deco. Actually, the appearance of the ship in 1927 became the end of the "luxury floating hotels" era.

Let's not forget about Germany!

Despite the fact that the German companies had almost completely lost their fleet, they did not give up.

The North German Lloyd company, as we’ve already said, saved and completed the SS Columbus ship that began to make regular sailings in 1924.

Around the same time, it was decided to construct new megaliners. New ships – SS Bremen and SS Europa – were laid down almost simultaneously.
Bremen while under construction.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-06403 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

These ships were to regain the former Germany’s supremacy in the Atlantic. And they succeeded!

In 1929, Bremen cracked the 20-year-old Mauretania’s record and became the owner of the Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic with the result of 27.83 knots (51.54 km/h).

In 1930, Europa cracked the Bremen’s record.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-09251 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

In 1933, Bremen became the owner of the prestigious award again.

By the way, standard cabins for passengers in a conservative style were first used in these ships. Other companies came to this only after the Second World War.

In addition, the rapid popularity of cruises in Europe, oddly enough, was inculcated by the Nazi regime. Cruises organized for the German workers became common in Germany.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-11081 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The German ship called MV Wilhelm Gustloff became another innovator in the sphere of cruises.

It became the first ship with passenger cabins placed along the sides, which provided natural light. Moreover, crew cabins were placed in the same way. The rest of the cruise companies have switched to this "standard" only in the 1980s.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27992 / Sönnke, Hans / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Historically, we can’t ignore the Italian companies, which also tried to participate in the competition and played an important role in the history of cruise liners.

The famous company Italia Line was founded in 1932.

The company immediately got several small ships that navigated in the Mediterranean. For example, SS Giulio Cesare.

However, the company became well-known in 1933, when it was awarded the blue ribbon of the Atlantic with a new 51,000-ton ship - SS Rex – just a year after the appearance.

At the same time, an unlucky streak began for White Star Line and Cunard.

In 1928, White Star Line ordered the new ship – Oceanic (III), and in 1930, Cunard ordered the 80,000-ton ship. All this was done in response to the “threats” of competitors. But .. In 1929, the US had a stock exchange crash on Wall Street, which greatly affected the cruise industry. Firstly, the companies lost the customers. Secondly, the investors.

As the result of the Great Depression, White Star Line didn’t manage to finish Oceanic (III), which was intended to save it from collapse...

Moreover, in 1934 the company merged with Cunard. White Star Line's contribution was about 10 ships.

This step enabled Cunard to finish its new giant – Hull 534 (which was soon named Queen Mary).

Unfortunately, this merger made two beautiful ships – RMS Olympic and RMS Mauretania – a thing of a past.
Olympic (left) and Mauretania (right) moored along the "new" Western Docks in Southampton in 1935, before her final voyage to the breaker's yard in Rosyth, Scotland

Maybe it was the right decision because the French did not only keep pace but also constructed the largest and the most luxurious ship in the world – SS Normandie.

Besides the fact that this ship became the largest one, she also immediately won the blue ribbon of the Atlantic in 1935.
Altair78/Wiki/CC BY 2.0

The ship was unique in many ways... For example, she was the first with a radar station set on board – the first one in the transportation fleet. The ship had inclined funnels that made an impression of speed. Two of the funnels were functional and one was fake.

The ship had a three-deck restaurant for 1000 people. She also had enameled bathtubs, showers, washbasins, which consumed up to 40 tons of hot and 100 tons cold water per hour.

In general, she was the ship of the future.

We’d like to make a small excursus at this point...

In addition to the European countries, Japan was also trying to prove itself in the cruise market in the cruise.
Asama Maru

The Nippon Yusen company was engaged in shipbuilding and had several large ships in its fleet. For example, Asama Maru.

The Japanese ships were extremely active in the Pacific market. The routes including the ports of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama, Honolulu, Los Angeles and San Francisco were very popular.

However, let's return to the European "theater".

Cunard, which had already "swallowed" the White Star Line company up, could not fall behind SS Normandie.

Resources received by the company after the merger helped it to complete RMS Queen Mary.

The giant ship at the time – with more than 80,000 tons – made her maiden voyage in 1936. The ship not only became the largest one in the world but immediately grabbed the blue riband.

A year later, SS Normandie won the blue riband back.
Altair78 (talk)/Wiki/CC BY 2.0

It took RMS Queen Mary less than a year to regain the title in 1938.

By the way, P & O – "the inventor of cruises" – was constantly developing.

The company did not hold the leading positions but had quite an impressive fleet of ships, which regularly made cruises around Europe and, in particular, around Norway.
Cunard decided to consolidate its supremacy. The splendid ship – RMS Queen Elizabeth – was floated out in 1938.

She was the largest ship of the time with the tonnage of 84 000 tons.

The liner was the most modern ship of her time!

The ship left the shipyard in March 1940. The ship was heading to Southampton. When the ship arrived, the city was being bombed by the Luftwaffe.

It was the 6th month of World War II.

The ship went to New York, where she joined RMS Queen Mary and «SS Normandie».

Three of the largest ships in the history of a mankind were ready to face the terrible war...

The war, which plunged the industry into the abyss again...

The war, which has claimed the lives of millions of people...

However, we’ll tell you about this period in the history of cruise ships in the next article.

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