A cruise ship is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where
the voyage itself and the amenities of the ship are considered an
essential part of the experience.
Cruising has become a major part of the tourism industry, with millions
of passengers each year as of 2006. The rapid growth of the industry
has seen nine or more new-build ships catering to a North American
clientele added every year since 2001.
The practice grew gradually out of the transatlantic crossing tradition,
which despite the best efforts of engineers and sailors into the
mid-20th century, rarely took less than about four days. In the
competition for passengers, ocean liners added many luxuries —
most famously seen in the Titanic, but also available in other ships
— fine dining, well-appointed staterooms, and so forth.
In the late 19th century, Albert Ballin, director of the Hamburg-America
Line, was the first to make a regular practice of sending his transatlantic
ships out on long southern cruises during the worst of the winter
season of the North Atlantic. Other companies followed suit. Some
of them built specialized ships which were made for easy transformation
between summer crossings and winter cruising.
With the advent of large passenger jet aircraft in the 1960s, the
vast majority of inter-continental travellers switched from ships
to planes. There were some, however, who actually enjoyed the few
days of enforced idleness, so while the ocean liner transport business
crashed, the cruising voyages never stopped altogether..