Written & researched by Jane Archer & Raphael Giacardi
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Over the past 150 years, the shipping industry has had to reinvent itself several times. Ocean travel started as a means to service the needs of empire. By the early 20th century, it had captured the hearts of the rich and famous as shipping lines built ever more glamorous vessels. As they travelled in first-class luxury, below decks millions of immigrants were given the opportunity to start new lives in countries around the globe.
At the Cruise Lines International Association's UK & Ireland Selling Cruise Convention in Southampton in May, Larry Pimentel, Azamara Club Cruises, President and Chief Executive Officer, told the audience:
My Portuguese grandparents immigrated to the US via Hawaii and took a Cunard vessel for part of the passage. Many years later I became President and Chief Executive Officer of Cunard.
The heyday of the ocean liner ended in the 1950s, when air travel made it possible to fly around the world in a fraction of the time it took to travel by sea. Well, almost. Cunard, an early pioneer of transatlantic crossings, still sails between Southampton and New York, selling the glamorous image to reel in bookings.
Other shipping companies came up with the idea of a cruise holiday -- going on a ship for two weeks or more for pleasure rather than as a means of transport, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over time new companies launched to cash in on the craze, which appealed mainly to wealthy retirees with time on their hands.
But by 1992, cruising was still very much a niche holiday in the UK. Just 273,000 Britons went on a cruise, which was seen as expensive, boring and for old people.
By 2002, following the much-hyped launch of bigger ships with rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks, perceptions started to change, and the number of bookings crept up to 940,000. In 2012, the number was 1.701 million.
Mori/Mintel Research in 2012 suggested that 17.5 million people in the UK are considering cruising. That is 10 times the current market, so there is still huge potential for growth -- Nathan Philpot, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, Sales and Marketing Director
Over that same period,ships have mushroomed in size, from vessels that hold a few hundred passengers to those with capacity for several thousand. Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas, launched in 2009 (and was joined by sister ship Allure of the Seas in 2010), tops the charts as the world's biggest cruise ship with capacity for more than 6000 people.
Where are we now?
Worldwide passengers and capacity
Source: Cruise Market Watch
The top four cruise lines
Source: Cruise Market Watch
UK passengers and trends 2012
Globally, passenger numbers have increased to 21 million and are on track to hit 30 million within the next 12 years -- David Dingle, Carnival UK, CEO
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