Kick-starting cruise travel

By | Category: Travel news

Most of you will never have heard of Arne Wilhelmsen whose death at the age of 90 has recently been announced. Yet he will have had an impact on millions of holidaymakers – primarily those of you who have recently taken ocean cruises.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. Image – RCCI

He was a joint founder of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd way back in 1968 when he joined together with two other Norwegian shipping firms to kick-start the cruise industry. Today RCC also owns Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises and has stakes in TUI Cruises and Pullmantur Cruises. At one stage there was a joint venture with First Choice in a cruise company as well so Royal Caribbean’s influence in  the British holiday market has been strong.

Back in the 1960’s there were few cruises. Most passenger carrying ships plied between ports as a transport venture rather than bespoke cruising. Cunard, Shaw Savill and P&O operated some cruises but primarily passengers booked ocean voyages on a trading route.

With a strong sea-faring background, Wilhelmsen seemed to see more than other people in shipping. He saw the demand to link particular tourist destinations together package something more than a trip.

He also investigated making ships more appealing to passengers. Hitherto, passengers had some entertainment but meals and deck games plus other outdoor activities seemed to be the most on offer.

No longer.

The attractions on board ships equal or betters some offerings in land-based resorts.

Today Royal Caribbean operate the four largest ships afloat, making them city-sized in the number of people they carry.

All is not due to Wilhelmsen but he had the foresight to turn a method of travel with some passengers as a by-product into a tourist industry. Today, Royal Caribbean carries about 20% of all ocean cruise passengers in the world. That’s the man’s legacy.  

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