The Fascinating Story of the First Cruise Ship Ever Built


With more ships, more destinations and more luxuries than ever before, it’s safe to say that today’s cruise-goers are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the perfect sea-faring holiday. But, as you may well know, this hasn’t always been the case – and sailing the seas for pure pleasure is a relatively new phenomenon.

In the mid-19th century, ocean travel was reserved for trade ships, navies, and for transporting passengers from point A to point B, with little appetite for just-for-the-fun-of-it leisure travel. Or so the world’s big shipping companies thought. It wasn’t until a certain German businessman, Albert Ballin, pioneered the world’s first cruise ship that the idea of holidays at sea really took flight. The ship’s name? Prinzessin Victoria Luise.

Today, we’re telling the enthralling story of the first cruise ship ever built, from its development and early sailings, to its fateful final voyage. We’ll look at its history, features and extravagant luxuries, and explore the impact it had on the world of cruising we know and love today.

Prinzessin Victoria Luise and The Birth of Cruising

From P&O to Royal Caribbean, our favourite cruise lines owe much to Albert Ballin’s game-changing Prinzessin Victoria Luise – but its development was far from plain-sailing. Here, we chart the history of this momentous vessel from its embryonic stages to its inaugural voyage.

Where Did the World’s First Cruise Ship Travel?

It’s amazing to think that cruise ships have been carrying passengers to far-flung corners of the globe for over a century, but where did the world’s first cruise ship, Prinzessin Victoria Luise, actually travel?

Explore the route of this globe-trotting pioneer in our interactive map below.

Luxury At Sea: What Was Life Like On Board the World’s First Cruise Ship?

The reason why Albert Ballin made the decision to develop a purpose-built cruise ship was simple: other ships of the time simply weren’t luxurious or well-equipped enough to offer comfortable at-sea travel for any longer than was necessary – with a lack of space, facilities and home comforts making sailing a chore, rather than a luxury.

The Prinzessin Victoria Luise was different. It boasted 120 luxuriously-appointed cabins, all offering first-class accommodation and exceptional service. And its very profile was designed to look more yacht-like than your average passenger steamer, making it more elegant and desirable – and much like any other passenger vessel of the era.

As well as comfortable lodgings, guests could expect some truly pioneering features. The ship had its own gymnasium, library and a choice of dining venues, as well as a dark room where passengers could develop their photographs on the move. Such luxuries had never been seen on any commercial liner, perhaps explaining its success.

After Prinzessin Victoria Luise, sea travel would never be the same, and it’s almost impossible to overstate its impact and influence on modern cruising. From its elegant proportions to its exemplary comfort and luxuries, the ship set a new precedent in ocean travel – kick-starting a love affair with cruising that endures to this day.

While the days of passenger steamers may be long gone, the spirit of cruising lives on. Feel like experiencing the timeless joy of the cruise break? Visit the Cruise1st homepage for our latest deals or call our friendly team now on 0808 149 7089.

*Image credits: Oldimages, Scientific American, Detroit Publishing Company


About Author

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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