Cool, slick and cosmopolitan, the intriguing capital of Finland is a Cunard favorite that’s well worth discovering.
In light of the Covid-19 situation, the recommendations and activities mentioned in this article are for the purpose of possible future cruise vacations. Please always refer to local government health advisories for travel.
For much of human history, the ocean was a fearsome place and sea voyages were a danger to be avoided. Sailing did not become a sport until Charles II popularized yachting in the 17th century. Even the craft that helped young aristocrats enjoy the “grand tour” of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries were dark, cramped and basic.
The idea of taking a voyage for the journey as well as the destination remained alien until the 19th century. “The first purpose-built cruise ship was a ship called St. Sunniva,” explains Australian maritime historian Chris Frame. “She was built in 1887, right at the dawn of passenger shipping. And what really sets her apart is that she was built to offer pleasure voyages, rather than line voyages.”
While small and cramped compared to modern-day cruise ships — the St. Sunniva was around one-fifth as long as Cunard’s Queen Mary 2— the ship captured the public imagination. “She was a topic of interest when she used to pull into ports,” Frame explains. “There are historical photographs with crowds of people standing there watching this ship, these people who were traveling for fun. Because for most people at the time, the question was: ‘Why would anybody do that? We’ve just had to go through rough seas and storms to immigrate.’”
In the aftermath of World War I, ocean liners began to offer a tourist class. Then, in the 1950s, a new generation of spacious, purpose-built cruise ships appeared. “Cunard used the phrase ‘Getting there is half the fun!’” says Frame.
“Ships like Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth came into their own with shopping promenades and cinemas, and basically passengers never looked back.” - Chris Frame
This article was produced for Cunard by BBC StoryWorks, the commercial content division of BBC Global News.
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