The golden age of transatlantic ocean shipping and travel began long after Columbus' trying to prove that the earth was round. After that time, ocean sailing vessels traveled to the new world on a rather infrequent schedule. It was not until the first ocean steamship, the paddle steamer "Savannah" crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1819 that a new era in travel heated up. Since that time, ocean cruises and ocean liners have become a thing of beauty and romance.
By the end of that century, and starting into the 20th century, ocean liners had established themselves as a status symbol for their companies and their countries on the ocean. A "battle" for ocean supremacy – Having the newest, largest most extravagant ocean liner afloat – had begun!
Cunard Lines had, in the early 1900's two fantastic liners named Mauritania and Lusitania sailing the ocean. In order to boost the White Star Line's (by this time owned by International Merchant Marine) ocean liner position to the top, director Bruce Ismay decided to build not two, but three fabulous liners. One of these monster liners became the most infamous ocean liner in the world. Titanic would enter the scene as the largest and most elegant ocean cruise liner. Her sister ship, the ocean liner Olympic actually entered service before Titanic. These two liners put White Star Line again on top of the ocean liner heap – albeit very short lived as we all know the fate of Titanic.
Ocean Liners to Cruise Liners
The age of the jet aircraft all but finished the era of trans-ocean cruise liners. As the pace of business got faster, so did the travel needs of passengers to cross the ocean. Transatlantic ocean crossings by plane mean hours instead of days by ocean liners. There became a need to find a new purpose for the existence of the liners. Enter the age of cruise ships.
The story of one particular ocean liner perhaps sums up this change. In the early part of the 20th century, the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. had an ocean crossing presence with a fleet of ocean liners. As late as the 1960's, the company had liners built. The "Empress of Canada" joined the fleet of ocean liners after being christened by the wife of then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. She joined two other "Empress" liners – "Empress of England" and "Empress of Britain".
The Empress of Canada quickly earned a very good reputation for ocean liners because of her stylish looks and amenities. She was a very modern ocean liner fitted with stabilizers and was air-conditioned through. During the summers, the liner made the transatlantic ocean run from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal where she made her turn around. In the winter, the transatlantic ocean crossing was stopped. The ocean liners were either terminated at Saint John, or became cruise liners sailing from New York to the Caribbean.
During the '60's, air travel became more and more popular. The ocean shipping companies had to find new duties for their liners. More time was spent doing cruises and by 1970, the "Empress of Canada" became the last ocean liner in service for Canadian Pacific. She was then only doing 13 transatlantic ocean crossings per year, and spent the rest of the time doing cruises. Canadian Pacific decided in 1971 that it could not retain its ocean crossing business and on November 23 of that year the ocean liner "Empress of Canada" arrived at Liverpool for the last time. After 68 years, the North Atlantic Ocean liner service had ended for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
Fortunately, great potential was still seen in the liner. A man named Ted Arison bought the ocean liner as the very first cruise ship for his newly founded company – Carnival Cruise Lines. The mighty ocean liner was renamed "Mardi Gras" and was refitted for her new cruise life. She kept her beautiful external profile, but the liner did not lose her cargo cranes that would no longer be required as a cruise liner. Carnival decided to even keep the general pattern of the Canadian Pacific ocean liner's funnel identification and reworked it to identify the cruise liner as the new Carnival cruise ship.
The cruise liner had a very shaky start with the company losing money in the early years. However, a couple of years later Carnival Cruise Lines progressively introduce the "Fun Ships" concept and spend a whopping (at that time) 10 million dollars in converting their ocean liner Mardi Gras. In order to maintain their business (having only one cruise ship), Carnival kept the liner operating while the renovations were being completed – closing off areas of construction and so having only about 60 percent cruise ship occupancy available while on the ocean and seas.
Things started to turn around for Carnival Cruise Lines and by the mid '70's they were having great success marketing the cruise liner in Canada and the US In December of 1975, Carnival purchased their second cruise ship – the ocean liner "Queen Anna Maria". Oddly enough, this liner had been originally named the "Empress of Britain". That's right, after many years, the two sister ocean liners from Canadian Pacific Railway were again in the same fleet cruising the oceans together. She was renamed "Carnivale" by the company and the two liners were very successful.
In 1977, a third cruise ship was bought for the fleet and named "Festivale". Carnival now had a "Golden Fleet" of 3 cruise liners sailing the oceans and was still growing in success.
Carnival ordered their first new-build cruise liner which entered service in 1982 and was named the cruise ship "Tropicale". From that time, Carnival Cruise Lines never looked back.
Thus the age of transatlantic ocean liners carrying travelers from one destination to another had transformed into an age of cruise liners transporting vacationers on exotic ocean itineraries. Ocean crossings still exist from the New World to the Old World, but now they are for relaxing vacations, and are quite often re-positioning cruises by the cruise lines.