Cruising has long been popular in my family.
My grandma loved them. She would board, find her room, join the bridge club and have half a dozen firm friends by the time the ship had reached open water. My parents enjoyed a cruise last year, too, and I took one around the Mediterranean about a decade ago.
They’re such a popular holiday these days, but it’s taken a long time to build up their reputation – they’re a bit of a newcomer to the scene. At least, for most of us. Until the 1970s and 80s, they were really the preserve of the very well-to-do.
In this week’s issue (February 16), I went digging into the history of the business, back to its roots in the the great mail ships that charged back and forth between Britain, the U.S. and other parts of the world. Originally it was a constant race to be the quickest service, but soon a series of disastrous crossings led to safety becoming paramount. For a while, safety rather than speed became the business’ key focus. As Sir Samuel Cunard famously said, “Your ship is loaded, take her; speed is nothing, follow your own road, deliver her safe, bring her back safe – safety is all that is required.”
Today’s cruise ships are behemoths compared to those early forerunners. Carrying in excess of 6,000 people up to a time, they’re floating towns, with cinemas, swimming pools, entertainment, shopping – everything you could want on board.
The drawback of the larger ships is reduced access to shallower ports, where smaller ships needn’t worry. Our Travel Team has organised a cruise holiday on the wonderful Magellan, a mid-sized ship that’s a small enough size to allow it to access the gorgeous Norwegian fjords. Have a look at the itinerary – it also takes in some of Scottish islands, too. Plus it leaves from Dundee, so you can combine a visit to the “Friend’s” home city in with your travels!
What really caught my imagination were the school cruises. With around 800 pupils on one ship, it must have taken a brave teacher to volunteer for one of these excursions in the 1960s. Refitted troop ships carried the children around either the Mediterranean or the Baltic, but it wasn’t something I was ever aware of where I grew up in the south-west. Was it for you?
We’d love to hear from you about your own experiences cruising, especially if you have any pics from your time at sea. And please do get in touch if you remember any of the school cruises!