This history was begun as part of my web project RCIfan.com. It is not intended to be a comprehensive history of Royal Caribbean, but does seek to lend some detail to the average reader's knowledge of the cruise line. The author undertook this project in the belief that knowing more about one's cruise vacation adds to the quality of the experience.
An introduction to the cruise industry. Taking to the sea as a means of recreation and pleasure dates back to shortly after the first human being fell into a river, lake, or ocean and managed to float to the surface. For as long as mankind has assembled vessels to travel on water, there have been examples of craft designed for the recreation of its passengers. So it should come to no one's surprise that an entire industry has evolved for no other purpose than to provide experiences unthinkable even twenty years ago.
Even as Purser's desks become Customer Service offices, the modern cruise industry retains roots which date back more than a hundred years. A truly comprehensive history of how the modern cruise industry evolved is best left to far more knowledgeable writers and scholarly works than this. Suffice to say that from the construction of modern cruise ships, to traditions subtle and gross, you enter a world far older than you know when taking a cruise.
The modern cruise industry has its roots primarily in the decline of traditional trans-Atlantic passenger travel. The rise of jet powered travel lead to the precipitous decline of ocean liners traveling between Europe and the United States. This was true globally, but as it pertains to the modern cruise industry, it was the growth of contrails in the skies over the Atlantic, which drove ship wakes to the Caribbean.
Pleasure cruises were not unheard of in the waters of the Caribbean even as far back as the 1800s. 20th century ocean liners traveled to warmer climate at first for reasons practical to the ship's owners as much as anything else. It was not long before ocean liners that were not scrapped for lack of trans-Atlantic passengers, were being routed to pleasure itinerary full time. Many, if not most cruise ships were owned by shipping companies, something that is true even today. Often, these ships were valued for their cargo capacity as much as passenger amenities. As travel by sea shifted from a focus on arriving at a destination, and in part became the destination, amenities seen to present day began to take shape. Casinos, pools, and modern cabin arrangements became standard features. The basic model of the modern cruise industry had taken shape.