A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are a part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way. Transportation is not the prime purpose, as cruise ships operate mostly on routes that return passengers to their originating port, so the ports of call are usually in a specified region of a continent. There are even "cruises to nowhere" or "nowhere voyages" where the ship makes 2-3 day round trips without any ports of call.
By contrast, dedicated transport oriented ocean liners do "line voyages" and typically transport passengers from one point to another, rather than on round trips. Traditionally, an ocean liner for the transoceanic trade will be built to a higher standard than a typical cruise ship, including high freeboard and stronger plating to withstand rough seas and adverse conditions encountered in the open ocean, such as the North Atlantic. Ocean liners also usually have larger capacities for fuel, victuals, and other stores for consumption on long voyages, compared to dedicated cruise ships.
Although often luxurious, ocean liners had characteristics that made them unsuitable for cruising, such as high fuel consumption, deep draught that prevented them from entering shallow ports, enclosed weatherproof decks that were not appropriate for tropical weather, and cabins designed to maximize passenger numbers rather than comfort (such as a high proportion of windowless suites). The gradual evolution of passenger ship design from ocean liners to cruise ships has seen passenger cabins shifted from inside the hull to the superstructure with private verandas. The modern cruise ships, while sacrificing qualities of seaworthiness, have added amenities to cater to water tourists, and recent vessels have been described as "balcony-laden floating condominiums"
The distinction between ocean liners and cruise ships has blurred, particularly with respect to deployment. Differences in construction remain. Larger cruise ships have also engaged in longer trips such as transoceanic voyages which may not return to the same port for months (longer round trips). Some former ocean liners operate as cruise ships, such as Marco Polo. This number is diminishing. The only dedicated transatlantic ocean liner in operation as a liner (as of December 2013) is the Queen Mary 2 of the Cunard fleet. She also has the amenities of contemporary cruise ships and sees significant service on cruises.
Cruising has become a major part of the tourism industry, accounting for U.S.$29.4 billion with over 19 million passengers carried worldwide in 2011. 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 ships. These are displaced by new ships in the high growth areas.
The world's largest cruise ships are Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas.
The birth of leisure cruising began with the formation of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company in 1822. The company started out as a shipping line with routes between England and the Iberian Peninsula, adopting the name Peninsular Steam Navigation Company. It won its first contract to deliver mail in 1837. In 1840, it began mail delivery to Alexandria, Egypt, via Gibraltar and Malta. The company was incorporated by Royal Charter the same year, becoming the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
P&O first introduced passenger cruising services in 1844, advertising sea tours to destinations such as Gibraltar, Malta and Athens, sailing from Southampton. The forerunner of modern cruise holidays, these voyages were the first of their kind, and P&O Cruises has been recognised as the world's oldest cruise line. The company later introduced round trips to destinations such as Alexandria and Constantinople. It underwent a period of rapid expansion in the latter half of the 19th century, commissioning larger and more luxurious ships to serve the steadily expanding market. Notable ships of the era include the SS Ravenna built in 1880, which became the first ship to be built with a total steel superstructure, and the SS Valetta built in 1889, which was the first ship to use electric lights.
Some sources mention the "Francesco I", flying the flag of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Italy), as the first cruise ship. It was built in 1831 and sailed from Naples in early June 1833, preceded by an advertising campaign. The cruise ship was boarded by nobles, authorities, and royal princes from all over Europe.In just over three months, the ship sailed to Taormina, Catania, Syracuse, Malta, Corfu, Patras, Delphi, Zante, Athens, Smyrna, Constantinople and delighting passengers with excursions and guided tours, dancing, card tables on the deck and parties on board. However, it was restricted to the aristocracy of Europe and was not a commercial endeavour.
The cruise of the German ship Augusta Victoria in the Mediterranean and the Near East from 22 January to 22 March 1891, with 241 passengers including Albert Ballin and wife, popularized the cruise to a wider market.[n 1] Christian Wilhelm Allers published an illustrated account of it as Backschisch (Baksheesh).
The first vessel built exclusively for luxury cruising, was the Prinzessin Victoria Luise of Germany, designed by Albert Ballin, general manager of Hamburg-America Line. The ship was completed in 1900.
The practice of luxury cruising made steady inroads on the more established market for transatlantic crossings. In the competition for passengers, ocean liners added luxuries —the Titanic being the most famous example — such as fine dining, luxury services, and staterooms with finer appointments. 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.
In 1896, there were three luxury liners for transportation, for the Europe to America trip. These were European-owned. In 1906, the number had increased to seven. The British Inman Line owned the City of Paris, the Cunard Line had the Compania and Lucania. The White Star Line owned the Majestic and Teutonic. La Lorraine and La Savoie were owned by the French Compagnie Générale Transatlantique.
With the advent of large passenger jet aircraft in the 1960s, intercontinental travelers switched from ships to planes sending the ocean liner trade into a terminal decline. Certain characteristics of older ocean liners made them unsuitable for cruising duties, such as high fuel consumption, deep draught preventing them from entering shallow ports, and cabins (often windowless) designed to maximize passenger numbers rather than comfort.
Ocean liner services aimed at passengers ceased in 1986, with the notable exception of transatlantic crossings operated by the British shipping company Cunard Line, catering to a niche market of those who appreciated the several days at sea. In an attempt to shift the focus of the market from passenger travel to cruising with entertainment value, Cunard Line pioneered the luxury cruise transatlantic service on board the Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner. International celebrities were hired to perform cabaret acts onboard and the crossing was advertised as a vacation in itself.
The QE2 also inaugurated "one-class cruising" where all passengers received the same quality berthing and facilities. This revitalized the market as the appeal of luxury cruising began to catch on, on both sides of the Atlantic. The 1970s television series Love Boat, helped to popularize the concept as a romantic opportunity for couples. Another ship to make this transition was SS Norway, originally the ocean liner SS France and later converted to cruising duties as the Caribbean's first "super-ship".
Contemporary cruise ships built in the late 1980s and beyond, such as Sovereign-class which broke the size record held for decades by Norway, show characteristics of size and strength once reserved for ocean liners—some have undertaken regular scheduled transatlantic crossings. The Sovereigns were the first "megaships" to be built, they also were the first series of cruise ships to include a multi-story atrium with glass elevators. They also had a single deck devoted entirely to cabins with private balconies instead of oceanview cabins. Other cruise lines soon launched ships with similar attributes, such as the Fantasy class and Crown Princess. As the veranda suites were particularly lucrative for cruise lines, something which was lacking in older ocean liners, recent cruise ships have been designed to maximize such amenities and have been described as "balcony-laden floating condominiums".
Until 1975-1980, cruises offered shuffleboard, deck chairs, "drinks with umbrellas and little else for a few hundred passengers." After 1980, they offered increasing amenities. As of 2010, city-sized ships have dozens of amenities.
There have been nine or more new cruise ships added every year since 2001, all at 100,000 GT or greater. The only comparable ocean liner to be completed in recent years has been Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 in 2004. Following the retirement of her running mate the Queen Elizabeth 2 in November 2008, Queen Mary 2 is the only liner operating on transatlantic routes, though she also sees significant service on cruise routes.
Queen Mary 2 was for a time the largest passenger ship before being surpassed by Royal Caribbean International's Freedom-class vessels in 2006. The Freedoms were in turn overtaken by RCI's Oasis-class vessels which entered service in 2009 and 2010.
Operators of cruise ships are known as cruise lines. Cruise lines have a dual character; they are partly in the transportation business, and partly in the leisure entertainment business, a duality that carries down into the ships themselves, which have both a crew headed by the ship's captain, and a hospitality staff headed by the equivalent of a hotel manager. Among cruise lines, some are direct descendants of the traditional passenger shipping lines (such as Cunard), while others were founded from the 1960s specifically for cruising.
Historically, the cruise ship business has been volatile. The ships are large capital investments with high operating costs. A persistent decrease in bookings can put a company in financial jeopardy. Cruise lines have sold, renovated, or renamed their ships to keep up with travel trends. The cruise lines operate their ships virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. A ship which is out of service routine maintenance means the loss of tens of millions of dollars. If the maintenance is unscheduled, it can result, potentially, in thousands of dissatisfied customers.
A wave of failures and consolidation in the 1990s has led to many lines existing only as "brands" within larger corporations, much as a single automobile company produces several makes of cars. Brands exist partly because of repeat customer loyalty, and also to offer different levels of quality and service. For instance, Carnival Corporation owns both Carnival Cruise Lines, whose former image were vessels that had a reputation as "party ships" for younger travelers, but have become large, modern, and extremely elegant, yet still profitable, and Holland America Line, whose ships cultivate an image of classic elegance. In 2004, Carnival Corporation had merged Cunard's headquarters with that of Princess Cruises in Santa Clarita, California so that administrative, financial and technology services could be combined, ending Cunard's history where it had operated as a standalone company (subsidiary) regardless of parent ownership. However, Cunard did regain some independence in 2009 when its headquarters were moved to Carnival House in Southampton.
Some cruise lines have specialties; for example, Saga Cruises only allows passengers over 50 years old aboard their ships, and Star Clippers and formerly Windjammer Barefoot Cruises and Windstar Cruises only operate tall ships. Regent Seven Seas Cruises operates medium-sized vessels—smaller than the "megaships" of Carnival and Royal Caribbean—designed such that 90% of their suites are balconies. Several specialty lines offer "expedition cruising" or only operate small ships, visiting certain destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, or the Galápagos Islands.
Currently the five largest cruise line operators in the world are Carnival Corporation & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Star Cruises (which owns 50% of Norwegian Cruise Line; NCL in its own right is the third largest line), MSC Cruises, and Louis Cruise Lines. Louis Cruises has largerly grown its fleet through purchasing older second- or third-hand ships, while the other four operators have largely constructed their own vessels and combined own the majority of the "megaships".
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.
Dining on almost all cruise ships is included in the cruise price, except on no-frills lines such as EasyCruise.
Traditionally, the ships' restaurants organize two dinner services per day, early dining and late dining, and passengers are allocated a set dining time for the entire cruise; a recent trend is to allow diners to dine whenever they want. Having two dinner times allows the ship to have enough time and space to accommodate all of their guests. Having two different dinner services can cause some conflicts with some of the ship's events (such as shows and performances) for the late diners, but this problem is usually fixed by having a shorter version of the event take place before late dinner. Cunard Line ships maintain the class tradition of ocean liners and have separate dining rooms for different types of suites, while Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises have a standard dining room and "upgrade" specialty restaurants that require pre-booking and cover charges. Many cruises schedule one or more "formal dining" nights. Guests dress "formally", however that is defined for the ship, often suits and ties or even tuxedos for men, and formal dresses for women. The menu is more upscale than usual.
Besides the dining room, modern cruise ships often contain one or more casual buffet-style eateries, which may be open 24 hours and with menus that vary throughout the day to provide meals ranging from breakfast to late-night snacks. Ships also feature numerous bars and nightclubs for passenger entertainment; the majority of cruise lines do not include alcoholic beverages in their fares and passengers are expected to pay for drinks as they consume them. Most cruise lines also prohibit passengers from bringing aboard and consuming their own beverages, including alcohol while aboard. Alcohol purchased duty-free is sealed and returned to passengers when they debark.
There is often a central galley responsible for serving all major restaurants aboard the ship, though specialty restaurants may have their own separate galleys.
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, 30,000 L of ice cream, and 18,000 slices of pizza in a week. Normally, a cruise ship stocks up at its home port. They also have special arrangements with designated suppliers at ports of call if required.
Other on-board facilities
Most modern cruise ships feature the following facilities:
Casino — Only open when the ship is at sea to avoid conflict with local laws
Shops — Only open when ship is at sea to avoid merchandising licensing and local taxes
Theatre with Broadway style shows
Indoor and/or outdoor swimming pool with water slides
Ping pong tables
Some ships have bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, miniature golf courses, video arcades, ziplines, surfing simulators, basketball courts, tennis courts, chain restaurants and/or ropes obstacle courses.
Crew is usually hired on three to eleven month contracts which may then be renewed as mutually agreed, which is based upon service ratings from passengers as well as the cyclical nature of the cruise line operator. Most staff work 77 hour work weeks for 10 months continuously followed by 2 months of vacation.
There are no paid vacations or pensions for service, non-management crew, depending on the level of the position and the type of the contract. Non-service and management crew members get paid vacation, medical, retirement options, and can participate in the company's group insurance plan.
The direct salary is low for North American standards, though restaurant staff have considerable earning potential from passenger tips. Crew members do not have any expenses while on board as food and accommodation, and transportation for most employees, are included. This makes a cruise ship career financially attractive enough to compensate for lack of employment benefits.
Living arrangements vary by cruise line, but mostly by shipboard position. In general two employees share a cabin with a shower, commode and a desk with a television set, while senior officers are assigned single cabins. There is a set of facilities for the crew separate from that of passengers, such as mess rooms and bars, recreation rooms, prayer rooms/mosques, and fitness center, with some larger ships even having a crew deck with a swimming pool and hot tubs.
For the largest cruise operators, most "hotel staff" are hired from under-industrialized countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and Central America. While several cruise lines are headquartered in the United States, the ships are registered in countries such as Bahamas, Panama, and Liberia, a practice known as “flags of convenience” to take advantage of less-stringent labour regulations. Collective action is difficult due to staff being from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The exception to this are the cruise routes around Hawaii, where operators are required to register their ships in the United States and the crew is unionized, so these cruises are typically much more expensive than Caribbean and Mediterranean.
The "luxury cruise lines" such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises provide "the most all-inclusive" cruises. Base fare on Regent Seven Seas ships includes most alcoholic beverages onboard ship and most shore excursions in ports of call, as well as all gratuities that would normally be paid to hotel staff on the ship. Fare also includes one night's hotel stay before boarding and airfare to and from the cruise's origin and destination ports.
Most cruise lines since the 2000s have priced the cruising experience, to some extent, a la carte, as passengers spending aboard generates significantly more from ticket sales. The passenger's ticket includes the stateroom accommodation, room service, unlimited meals in the main dining room and buffet, access to shows, and use of pool and gym facilities. However, there are extra charges for alcohol and soft drinks, official cruise photos, Internet and wi-fi access, and specialty restaurants; it has been reported that the casino and photos have high profit margins. Cruise lines earn significantly from selling onshore excursions (keeping 50 percent or more of what passengers spend for these tours) offered by local contractors. In addition, cruise ships earn significant commissions for sales from onshore stores that are promoted on board as "preferred" (as much as 40 percent of gross sales). Facilitating this practice are modern cruise terminals with establishments of duty-free shops inside a perimeter accessible only by passengers and not locals. Ports of call have often oriented their own businesses and facilities towards meeting the needs of visiting cruise ships. In one case, Icy Strait Point in Alaska, the entire destination was created explicitly and solely for cruise ship visitors.
Travel to and from the port of departure are the passengers' responsibility, although purchasing a transfer pass from the cruise line for the trip between the airport and cruise terminal will guarantee that the ship will not leave until the passenger is aboard. Similarly, if the passenger books a shore excursion with the cruise line and the tour runs late, the ship is obligated to remain until the passenger returns.
Older cruise ships have had multiple owners. 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.
Many cruise lines have a common naming scheme they use for their ships. Some lines use their name as a prefix or suffix in the ship name (such as the prefixes of "Carnival", "AIDA", "Disney", or "Norwegian" and the suffix of "Princess"). Other lines use a unique word or phrase (such as the prefix of "Pacific" for P&O Cruises Australia or the suffixes of "of the Seas" for Royal Caribbean International or "-dam" for ships of the Holland America Line). The addition of these prefixes and suffixes allows multiple cruise lines to use the same popular ship names while maintaining a unique identifier for each ship.
Cruise ships utilization
Due to slower speed and reduced seaworthiness, as well as being largely introduced after several major wars, cruise ships have never been used as troop transport vessels. By contrast, ocean liners were often seen as the pride of their country and used to rival liners of other nations, and have been requisitioned during both World Wars to transport soldiers and serve as hospital ships.
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 1 September 2005, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contracted three Carnival Cruise Lines vessels (Carnival Fantasy, the former Carnival Holiday, and the Carnival Sensation) to house Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
In 2010, in response to the shutdown of UK airspace due to the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, the newly completed Celebrity Eclipse was used to rescue 2000 British tourists stranded in Spain as an act of goodwill by the owners. The ship departed from Southampton for Bilbao on 21 April, and returned on 23 April.
Most cruise ships sail the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. Others operate elsewhere in places like Alaska, the South Pacific, the Baltic Sea and New England. A cruise ship that is moving from one of these regions to another will commonly operate a repositioning cruise while doing so. Expedition cruise lines, which usually operate small ships, visit certain more specialized destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, or the Galápagos Islands.
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%), where the fastest growing segment is cruises in the Baltic Sea. The most visited Baltic ports are Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki. The seaport of St. Petersburg, the main Baltic port of call, received 426,500 passengers during the 2009 cruise season.
According to 2010 CEMAR statistics the Mediterranean cruise market is going through a fast and fundamental change; Italy has won prime position as a destination for European cruises, and destination for the whole of the Mediterranean basin. The most visited ports in Mediterranean Sea are Barcelona (Spain), Civitavecchia (Italy), Palma (Spain) and Venice (Italy).
2013 saw the entrance of the first Chinese company into the cruise market. China's first luxury cruise ship, Henna, made her maiden voyage from Sanya Phoenix Island International Port in late January.
Caribbean cruising industry
Nearly 9,000 passengers from three Carnival ships visiting St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; from front to back: Carnival Liberty, Carnival Triumph and the Carnival Glory.
The Caribbean cruising industry is one of the largest in the world, responsible for over $2 billion in direct revenue to the Caribbean islands in 2012. Over 45,000 people from the Caribbean are directly employed in the cruise industry. 17,457,600 cruise passengers visited the islands in the 2011-2012 cruise year (May 2011 to April 2012.) 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, Crystal Cruises, Pullmantur Cruises 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.
Some 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 Port Everglades (in Fort Lauderdale), Port Canaveral (approximately 45 miles (72 km) east of Orlando), New York, Tampa, Galveston, New Orleans, Cape Liberty, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Charleston, Norfolk, Mobile, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some 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.
The busiest ports of call in the Caribbean for cruising in the 2013 year are listed below