Aboard the World’s Very First Cruise Ship
The SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise is a German passenger ship of the Hamburg-America Line that was launched during 1900. It was credited for being the first purpose-built cruise ship.
It had only been in service for six years prior to being grounded off accidentally at the coast of Jamaica. It was designed to look more stylish like a private yacht unlike any of her commercial counterparts, pure luxury with only 120 first-class cabins. The interior design of the ship was even authorized by the German emperor himself as well as the amenities including a library, a gymnasium, and also a darkroom for developing films by amateur photographers.
It was such an elegantly beautiful ship that the Kaiser was actually jealous as it was slightly better than his royal yacht.
Steadying at 15 knots (28 km/h), she might not have had the same fate as the Titanic (probably for the best. However, for a passenger-only ship, the SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise was a completely revolutionary vessel. Purposely built as the world’s cruise ship, this was a novel idea that emanated following an experiment by the German shipping magnate named Albert Ballin.
In 1888, he noticed that the SS Augusta Victoria (above), one of his company’s largest flagship ocean liners, was mostly just sitting around in port and quite useless during winter season, simply because travellers actually preferred making the North Atlantic journey in warmer climates.
So, he decided to let the Augusta Victoria sail on a 58-day “pleasure voyage” against everyone’s advice. From Germany through the Mediterranean then to the Orient, the cruise was well-planned with excursions ashore as well as ports-of-call along the route. The plan was a huge success and the concept of the “floating hotel” was then introduced.
Technically speaking, the SS Augusta Victoria was the very first vessel to sail on a cruise, but the SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise was the primary ship built exclusively for a cruise.
What’s the difference you say? Well, the SS Augusta Victoria (above) was initially constructed as an ocean liner, quite right, it didn’t have the same amenities expected of a floating hotel for lengthy stretches at sea.
With the SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise, Albert Ballin designed a real luxurious cruise ship for the pleasure-seeking market. Take a look at the gym aboard the Prinzessin.
It was a fateful night of December 16th when the SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise was trying to enter the harbor of Kingston, Jamaica. When the Captain muddled up his lighthouses but suddenly head for the wrong one at 14 knots, then hit and climbed the shallow rocks bow first at 9.30pm. Although the engines were put full astern, the ship cannot be dislodged. Thus, her last voyage.
The captain went back to his cabin and shot himself. Passengers on board were not rescued until the morning after and salvage operations dismally declared the magnificent SS Prinzessin Victoria Luise a total loss.