It was with the recent maiden sailing of the current World's largest cruise ship, Freedom of the Seas, from Southampton docks that it dawned on me. Massive crowds flocked to see the huge Royal Caribbean ship set sail from Southampton for the first time and as we watched the ship from the little village of Hythe on the opposite side of Southampton Water, a friend said to me, "I bet people were stood here watching when the Titanic set sail."
It was true though. For the first time since the 1960's there seems to be a real enthusiasm about cruise ships again. It actually started about two years ago with the arrival in Southampton of the Queen Mary 2. Its classic Cunard lines brought back memories of the great ocean liners of yesteryear; the Queen Elizabeth, the original Queen Mary, the Canberra, the original Oriana and even the QE2, which, although still a regular visitor to Southampton docks, had become such a familiar sight that nobody really batted an eyelid at her anymore.
Over the last decade or so there has been a regular stream of new ships into Southampton such as the Arcadia, the Aurora and the new Oriana. Unfortunately, these P&O ships just didn't seem to whet the appetite of the old cruise ship fans. They would normally be greeted with comments such as, "It looks more like a ferry than a cruise liner!"
However, when the Queen Mary 2 arrived in Southampton you finally started to hear some approving comments. "Now that's what a cruise liner is supposed to look like," they'd say. Personally, I think I'd have to agree with them. The QM2 has the classic sleek lines and clipper bow that symbolizes Cunard liners and is really what you would picture if asked to describe a great cruise ship.
When the glory days of the ocean liners came to an end in the late 1960's, it was the jet airliners that killed them off. Suddenly, people didn't have to spend weeks on a ship with maybe only a couple of days' shore time thrown in. They could reach their destination within a matter of hours giving them more time to enjoy their holiday. As for the millionaires and movie stars that had made the great transatlantic ocean liners so glamorous, they no longer had the time to spare on ships. They now wanted to be members of the jet set. If you were anybody important then you had to be seen to be moving quickly.
Perhaps it's some weird twist of fate then that some terrible incidents involving airliners would give cruise ships new appeal. It's no secret that after the events of 9-11 in the US there was a massive drop in the number of people traveling by aero plane. The sights from that fateful day would be enough to put some people off flying for good. It seems quite understandable then that people would look for a more relaxed alternative. One that seems almost detached from the worries of the World.
There's not really a better place to do that than on a cruise ship. When you're out in the middle of the ocean, it seems like all the bad things in the World are a million miles away. Modern cruise ships like the Freedom of the Seas and the Queen Mary 2 boast all the luxuries of a top hotel together with shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres so keeping entertained is definitely not a problem. And, with the ship's staff there to wait on you hand and foot, it certainly seems a nice alternative to six hours cramped up in an airline seat followed by two weeks on an over-crowded beach surrounded by drunken hooligans.
I think we are on the brink of new glory days for cruise ships and I hope that in years to come people will look back on some of our current batch of ocean liners as classics. They're fabulous ships and they deserve it.
By Jason Webb
(c) 2006 Jason Webb - You're free to reprint this article but please include the following: Hi, I'm Jason Webb, the owner of Robots Travel Tips. For all the best travel information and advice visit http://www.avgr14.dsl.pipex.com/robots-travel-tips/