CRUISING THE PAST is a historical and contemporary look at cruise ships, hotels, ocean liners and Pullman streamliners. From the 1930s through the 1960s and how it relates to the present. Examining the glamour of traveling prior to 747s and the “Love Boat” mentality. Looking at a “retro” period when there were no security checks, 24-hour buffets or baseball caps. An age when passengers didn’t have to be told how to dress for travel or at what cruise lines call a “formal night.” When “getting there was half the fun” in an era when travel was an event and not a nightmare.

We realize many aspects of modern day cruising are much more comfortable than these earlier ships. Cabins are larger and there is a much wider choice of accommodations and activities. But certain aspects of social interaction are absent. There is no longer a feeling of gentility on most cruise ships. Most of the time you think you’re stuck in some strip hotel in Vegas that’s been dropped down in the sea.

The cruise industry owes THE LOVE BOAT TV series for the dramatic popularity of cruising starting in the 1970s.

P&O Lines, the former owner of Princess Cruises, emphasized in a early 1990s financial press release that the LOVE BOAT had probably generated over a billion dollars in revenues for the cruise lines.

Robert J. Thompson, Professor of Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, owes his increasing stature as one of the country’s reigning experts on popular culture to The Love Boat, known in many circles as one of television’s silliest shows. As a graduate student at Northwestern University, earning a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in radio, television, and film, he wrote an article for The Journal of American Culture on “The Love Boat: High Art on the High Seas.” His premise was that television was a new, modernistic art form that people watched while doing something else—unlike novels or ballet, which demand full attention. Viewers could tune to The Love Boat at any point and follow its plot, which, he noted, “broke down into an algebraic equation.” Thompson recognizes that The Love Boat was a lightweight show, but says, “TV as an art form was at its best when it was at its silliest and frothiest.”

Travel by ship prior to the 1960s, was a more serious and demanding experience. You had to have social skills because much of the entertainment was based on the social-interactions of the passengers. There were large lounges where people met and conversed, passenger lists to see what friends were aboard, formal ballrooms, officers tables, the ship’s pool and ceremonies when you crossed the Equator.

Today, when you see a napkin-folding contest you know times have changed!


During the mid-80s, Michael Grace was a writer on the TV Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. It was a ten year info commercial reaching planet. Much of it was over-the-top fantasy but it has to be one of the greatest selling tools or all time. Without Love Boat, there would be no Carnival Corp or the endless large cruise lines. P&O Lines (owner of Princess Cruises until Carnival bought it) said “Love Boat” brought in over a billion dollars in business. Love Boat was the ultimate realization of a TV show turned into a brand name.

Love Boat contrasted with Grace’s own experience with ships and cruise liners. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in early 50s to early 70s. He had been a passenger aboard ships operated by Cunard Lines, Holland America Lines, US Lines, American President Lines, Matson Lines, Pacific Far East Lines, Grace Lines, Delta Lines, Moore-McCormick Lines, Swedish America Lines, Home Lines, Canadian Pacific Lines, Italian Lines, American Export Lines, P&O Lines, Orient Lines, Italian Lines, French Line, etc. He sailed on some of the great liners and passenger ships including the Kungsholm, President Hoover, Empress of Canada, America, Lurline, Medea, Mauritania, Homeric, Mariposa, Monterey, Matsonia, President Wilson, Dentledyke, Del Sud, Santa Rosa, Oriana, Prince George, Royal Viking Sky, etc. He experienced P&O Line’s Canberra going Around-the-Pacific in the late 60s and the next time he heard of this ship she was doing troop duty during the Falkland War. He sailed with his aunt on the Saturnia – the pre-war Italian Line ship was the first to have individual balconies or verandas for their first class staterooms. His last cruise voyage prior to 2000, was aboard Carras Line’s Daphne sailing to Havana, Cuba in 1978 from New Orleans. Thee have been no passenger ship services between the USA and Cuba since.

By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. You couldn’t travel trans-Atlantic except by the QE 2 (only in the summer) and there were no trans-Pacific voyages. There was no First, Cabin or Tourist Classes. No private grills or skeet shooting or playing the ship’s pool. Vanished. Just one big class. Vegas afloat.

The very successful Cruising The Past website has been an outgrowth of Grace’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Starting with his first ocean voyage when he was eight years old.

Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website.

Cruising the Past captures the moments in the time when passengers “crossed the pone” in style and “getting their was half the fun”!

The website is visited by thousands of people daily who search for a glimpse of the past and researching social history.

He has lectured and consults extensively on the social history of maritime travel.


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