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A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way. Transportation is not the prime purpose, as cruise ships operate mostly on routes that return passengers to their originating port, so the ports of call are usually in a specified region of a continent. There are even "cruises to nowhere" or "nowhere voyages" where the ship makes 2-3 day round trips without any ports of call.
By contrast, dedicated transport oriented ocean liners do "line voyages" and typically transport passengers from one point to another, rather than on round trips. Traditionally, an ocean liner for the transoceanic trade will be built to a higher standard than a typical cruise ship, including high freeboard and stronger plating to withstand rough seas and adverse conditions encountered in the open ocean, such as the North Atlantic. Ocean liners also usually have larger capacities for fuel, victuals, and other stores for consumption on long voyages, compared to dedicated cruise ships.
Although often luxurious, ocean liners had characteristics that made them unsuitable for cruising, such as high fuel consumption, deep draught that prevented them from entering shallow ports, enclosed weatherproof decks that were not appropriate for tropical weather, and cabins designed to maximize passenger numbers rather than comfort (such as a high proportion of windowless suites). The gradual evolution of passenger ship design from ocean liners to cruise ships has seen passenger cabins shifted from inside the hull to the superstructure with private verandas. The modern cruise ships, while sacrificing qualities of seaworthiness, have added amenities to cater to tourists, and recent vessels have been described as "balcony-laden floating condominiums".
The lines between ocean liners and cruise ships have blurred, particularly with respect to deployment, although the differences in construction remain. Larger cruise ships have also engaged in longer trips such as transocean voyages which may not lead back to the same port for months (longer round trips). Some former ocean liners operate as cruise ships, such as Marco Polo and Mona Lisa. This number is diminishing. The only dedicated transatlantic ocean liner in operation as a liner, as of February 2010, is the Queen Mary 2 of the Cunard fleet. She also has the amenities of contemporary cruise ships and sees significant service on cruises.
Cruising has become a major part of the tourism industry, accounting for U.S.$29.4 billion with over 19 million passengers carried worldwide in 2011. The industry's rapid growth has seen nine or more newly built ships catering to a North American clientele added every year since 2001, as well as others servicing European clientele. Smaller markets, such as the Asia-Pacific region, are generally serviced by older ships. These are displaced by new ships in the high growth areas.
The practice of cruising grew gradually out of the tradition of transatlantic crossings, which never took fewer than four days. In the competition for passengers, ocean liners added luxuries—the Titanic being the most famous example—such as fine dining and well-appointed staterooms.
In the late 19th century, Albert Ballin, director of the Hamburg-America Line, was the first to send 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 designed for easy transformation between summer crossings and winter cruising.
With the advent of large passenger jet aircraft in the 1960s, intercontinental travelers largely switched from ships to planes, sending the ocean liner trade into a slow decline. Certain characteristics of older ocean liners made them unsuitable for cruising duties, such as high fuel consumption, deep draught preventing them from entering shallow ports, and cabins (often windowless) designed to maximize passenger numbers rather than comfort. Ocean liner services aimed at passengers ceased in 1986, with the notable exception of transatlantic crossings operated by the Cunard Line, catering to the niche market who appreciated the several days at sea.
In comparison to liner crossings, cruising voyages gained popularity; slowly at first but at an increased rate from the 1980s onwards. Initially the fledgling industry was serviced primarily by small redundant liners, and even the first purpose built cruise ships were small. This changed after the success of the SS Norway (originally the ocean liner SS France, which was converted to cruising duties) as the Caribbean's first "super-ship".
Contemporary cruise ships built in the late 1980s and beyond, such as Sovereign-class which broke the size record held for decades by Norway, show characteristics of size and strength once reserved for ocean liners—some have undertaken regular scheduled transatlantic crossings. The Sovereigns were the first modern "megaships" to be built, they also were the first series of cruise ships to include a multi-story atrium with glass elevators. They also had a single deck devoted entirely to cabins with private balconies instead of oceanview cabins. Other cruise lines soon launched ships with similar attributes, such as the Fantasy class and Crown Princess. As the veranda suites were particularly lucrative for cruise lines, something which was lacking in older ocean liners, recent cruise ships have been designed to maximize such amenities and have been described as "balcony-laden floating condominiums".
Until 1975-1980, cruises offered shuffleboard, deck chairs, "drinks with umbrellas and little else for a few hundred passengers." After 1980, they offered increasing amenities. As of 2010, city-sized ships have dozens of amenities.
There have been nine or more newly-built cruise ships added every year since 2001, all at 100,000 tonnes or greater. The only comparable ocean liner to be completed in recent years has been Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 in 2004. Following the retirement of her running mate the Queen Elizabeth 2 in November 2008, Queen Mary 2 is the only liner operating on transatlantic routes, though she also sees significant service on cruise routes.
Queen Mary 2 was for a time the largest passenger ship before being surpassed by Royal Caribbean International's Freedom-class vessels in 2006. The Freedoms were in turn overtaken by RCI's Oasis-class vessels which entered service in 2009 and 2010.
Operators of cruise ships are known as cruise lines. Cruise lines have a dual character; they are partly in the transportation business, and partly in the leisure entertainment business, a duality that carries down into the ships themselves, which have both a crew headed by the ship's captain, and a hospitality staff headed by the equivalent of a hotel manager.
Among cruise lines, some are direct descendants of the traditional passenger shipping lines, while others were founded from the 1960s on specifically for cruising. The business is extremely volatile; the ships are massive capital expenditures with very high operating costs, and a slight dip in bookings can easily put a company out of business. Cruise lines frequently sell, renovate, or simply rename their ships just to keep up with travel trends.
A wave of failures and consolidation in the 1990s has led to many lines existing only as "brands" within larger corporations, much as a single automobile company produces several makes of cars. Brands exist partly because of repeat customer loyalty, and also to offer different levels of quality and service. For instance, Carnival Corporation owns both Carnival Cruise Lines, whose former image were vessels that had a reputation as "party ships" for younger travelers, but have become large, modern, and extremely elegant, yet still profitable, and Holland America Line, whose ships cultivate an image of classic elegance. In 2004, Carnival Corporation had merged Cunard's headquarters with that of Princess Cruises in Santa Clarita, California so that administrative, financial and technology services could be combined, ending Cunard's history where it had operated as a standalone company (subsidiary) regardless of parent ownership. However, Cunard did regain some independence in 2009 when its headquarters were moved to Carnival House in Southampton.
Some cruise lines have specialties; for example, Saga Cruises only allows passengers over 50 years old aboard their ships, and Windstar Cruises only operates tall ships. Regent Seven Seas Cruises operates medium-sized vessels—smaller than the "megaships" of Carnival and Royal Caribbean—designed such that 90% of their suites are balconies. Several specialty lines offer "expedition cruising" or only operate small ships, visiting certain destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, or the Galápagos Islands.
Currently the five largest cruise line operators in the world are Carnival Corporation & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Star Cruises (which owns 50% of Norwegian Cruise Line, NCL in its own right is the third largest line), MSC Cruises, and Louis Cruise Lines. Louis Cruises has largerly grown its fleet through purchasing older second- or third-hand ships, while the other four operators have largely constructed their own vessels and combined own the majority of the "megaships".
Cruise ships are organized much like floating hotels, with a complete hospitality staff in addition to the usual ship's crew. It is not uncommon for the most luxurious ships to have more crew and staff than passengers.
Dining on almost all cruise ships is included in the cruise price, except on no-frills lines such as EasyCruise. (EasyCruise ceased operations in 1999.)
Traditionally, the ships' restaurants organize two dinner services per day and passengers are allocated a set dining time for the entire cruise, but a recent trend is to allow diners to dine whenever they want. Cunard Line ships maintain the class tradition of ocean liners and have separate dining rooms for different types of suites, while Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises have a standard dining room and "upgrade" specialty restaurants that require pre-booking and cover charges.
Besides the dining room, modern cruise ships also usually feature one or more casual buffet-style eateries, often open 24 hours and with menus that vary throughout the day to provide meals ranging from breakfast to late-night snacks. Ships also feature numerous bars and nightclubs for passenger entertainment; the majority of cruise lines do not include alcoholic beverages in their fares and passengers are expected to pay for drinks as they consume them. Most cruise lines also prohibit passengers from bringing aboard and consuming their own alcohol (alcohol purchased duty-free is sealed and only returned to passengers when they disembark) while on board the ship.
There is often a central galley responsible for serving all major restaurants aboard the ship, though specialty restaurants may have their own separate galleys.
As with any vessel, adequate provisioning is crucial, especially on a cruise ship serving several thousand meals at each seating. For example, passengers and crew on the Royal Caribbean International ship Mariner of the Seas consume 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg) of beef, 28,000 eggs, 8,000 gallons (30,000 L) of ice cream, and 18,000 slices of pizza in a week. Normally, a cruise ship stocks up at its home port. They also have special arrangements with designated suppliers at ports of call if required.
Most modern cruise ships feature the following facilities:
Some ships have bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls, miniature golf courses, video arcades, ziplines, surfing simulators, basketball courts, tennis courts, chain restaurants and/or ropes obstacle courses.
Crew is usually hired on three to eleven month contracts which may then be renewed as mutually agreed, which is based upon service ratings from passengers as well as the cyclical nature of the cruise line operator. Most staff work 77 hour workweeks for 10 months continuously followed by 2 months of vacation.
There are no paid vacations or pensions for service, non-management crew, depending on the level of the position and the type of the contract. Non-service and management crew members get paid vacation, medical, retirement options, and can participate in the company's group insurance plan.
The direct salary is low for North American standards , though restaurant staff have considerable earning potential from passenger tips. Crew members do not have any expenses while on board as food and accommodation, and transportation for most employees, are included. This makes a cruise ship career financially attractive enough to compensate for lack of employment benefits.
Living arrangements vary by cruise line, but mostly by shipboard position. In general two employees share a cabin with a shower, commode and a desk with a television set, while senior officers are assigned single cabins. There are a set of facilities for the crew separate from that of passengers, such as mess rooms and bars, recreation rooms, prayer rooms/mosques, and fitness center, with some larger ships even having a crew deck with a swimming pool and hot tubs. On some cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines, certain client-facing staff (entertainers and shopkeepers) have the privilege of eating in the same buffet as passengers, but only on port days.
For the largest cruise operators, most "hotel staff" are hired from under-industrialized countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and Central America. While several cruise lines are headquartered in the United States, the ships are registered in countries such as Bahamas, Panama, and Liberia, a practice known as “flags of convenience” to take advantage of less-stringent labour regulations. Collective action is difficult due to staff being from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The exception to this are the cruise routes around Hawaii, where operators are required to register their ships in the United States and the crew is unionized, so these cruises are typically much more expensive than Caribbean and Mediterranean.
There are "luxury cruise lines" such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Crystal Cruises provide "the most all-inclusive" cruises. Base fare on Regent Seven Seas ships includes most alcoholic beverages onboard ship and most shore excursions in ports of call, as well as all gratuities that would normally be paid to hotel staff on the ship. Fare also includes one night's hotel stay before boarding and airfare to and from the cruise's origin and destination ports.
Most cruise lines since the 2000s have priced the cruising experience, to some extent, a la carte, as passengers spending aboard generates significantly more from ticket sales. The passenger's ticket includes the stateroom accommodation, room service, unlimited meals in the main dining room and buffet, access to shows, and use of pool and gym facilities. However, there are extra charges for alcohol and soft drinks, official cruise photos, Internet and wi-fi access, and specialty restaurants; it has been reported that the casino and photos have high profit margins. Cruise lines earn significantly from selling onshore excursions (keeping 50 percent or more of what passengers spend for these tours) offered by local contractors. In addition, cruise ships earn significant commissions for sales from onshore stores that are promoted on board as “preferred” (as much as 40 percent of gross sales). Facilitating this practice are modern cruise terminals with establishments of duty-free shops inside a perimeter accessible only by passengers and not locals.
Travel to and from the port of departure are the passengers' responsibility, although purchasing a transfer pass from the cruise line for the trip between the airport and cruise terminal will guarantee that the ship will not leave until the passenger is aboard. Similarly, if the passenger books a shore excursion with the cruise line and the tour runs late, the ship is obligated to remain until the passenger returns.
Older cruise ships have had multiple owners. Since each cruise line has its own livery and often a naming theme (for instance, ships of the Holland America Line have names ending in "-dam", e.g. Statendam, and Royal Caribbean's ships' names all end with "of the Seas", e.g. Freedom of the Seas, ships of Cunard Line have the title of "Queen", e.g. RMS Queen Mary 2), it is usual for the transfer of ownership to entail a refitting and a name change. Some ships have had a dozen or more identities.
Due to slower speed and reduced seaworthiness, as well as being largely introduced after several major wars, cruise ships have never been used as troop transport vessels. By contrast, ocean liners were often seen as the pride of their country and used to rival liners of other nations, and have been requisitioned during both World Wars to transport soldiers and serve as hospital ships.
Cruise ships and former liners often find employment in applications other than those for which they were built. A shortage of hotel accommodation for the 2004 Summer Olympics led to a plan to moor a number of cruise ships in Athens to provide tourist accommodation.
On September 1, 2005, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contracted three Carnival Cruise Lines vessels (Carnival Fantasy, the former Carnival Holiday, and the Carnival Sensation to house Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
In response to the shutdown of UK airspace due to the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano, the newly completed Celebrity Eclipse was used to rescue 2000 British tourists stranded in Spain as "an act of goodwill" by the owners. The ship departed from Southampton for Bilbao on April 21, and returned on April 23.
Most cruise ships are centered around the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Others operate elsewhere in places like Alaska, the South Pacific, the Baltic Sea and New England. A cruise ship that is moving from one of these regions to another will commonly operate a repositioning cruise while doing so. Expedition cruise lines, which usually operate small ships, visit certain more specialised destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctica, or the Galápagos Islands.
The number of cruise tourists worldwide in 2005 was estimated at some 14 million. The main region for cruising was North America (70% of cruises), where the Caribbean islands were the most popular destinations.
Next was Continental Europe (13%), where the fastest growing segment is cruises in the Baltic Sea. The most visited Baltic ports are Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Stockholm and Helsinki. The seaport of St. Petersburg, the main Baltic port of call, received 426,500 passengers during the 2009 cruise season.
According to 2010 CEMAR statistics the Mediterranean cruise market is going through a fast and fundamental change; Italy has won prime position as a destination for European cruises, and destination for the whole of the Mediterranean basin. The most visited ports in Mediterranean Sea are Barcelona (Spain), Civitavecchia (Italy), Palma (Spain) and Venice (Italy).
The Caribbean cruising industry is a large and growing market, and the most popular. Cruising has grown from "an estimated 900,850 passengers in 1983 to 2.3 million passengers in 1993". Cruise lines operating in the Caribbean include Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, P&O, Cunard, Crystal Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line. There are also smaller cruise lines that cater to a more intimate feeling among their guests. The three largest cruise operators are Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean International, and Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Some of the American cruise lines in the Caribbean depart from ports in the United States, "nearly one-third of the cruises sailed out of Miami". Other cruise ships depart from Port Everglades (in Fort Lauderdale), Port Canaveral (approximately 45 miles (72 km) east of Orlando), New York, Tampa, Galveston, New Orleans, Cape Liberty, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Charleston, Norfolk, Mobile, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some UK cruise lines base their ships out of Barbados for the Caribbean season, operating direct charter flights out of the UK and avoiding the sometimes lengthy delays at US immigration.
Cruises sailing in the Caribbean travel on itineraries depending on the port of departure and the length of the cruise. The busiest port of call is The Bahamas with "1.8 million cruise-ship arrivals in 1994". This is because its short distance from Florida is very convenient for both short and long cruises. The next most popular ports of call were "the US Virgin Islands (1.2 million), St. Maarten (718,553), Puerto Rico (680,195), the Cayman Islands (599,387), and Jamaica (595,036)". Other ports of call include: Belize City, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Antigua, Aruba, Grand Turk, Honduras and Key West. It is also worthy to note that these figures are from 1994 and highly outdated, so although the same ports are at the forefront today, the figures are very different. St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands is particularly popular with US passengers because they get a second duty-free allowance to use on goods purchased there.
A large number of cruise ships have been built by other shipyards, but no other individual yard has reached the large numbers of built ships achieved by the four above. A handful of old ocean liners also remain in service as cruise ships.
As most of the passengers on a cruise are affluent and have considerable ransom potential, not to mention a considerable amount of cash and jewellery on board (casino and shops), there have been several high profile pirate attacks on cruise ships, such as on the Seabourn Spirit and MSC Melody.
As a result, cruise ships have implemented various security measures. While most merchant shipping firms have generally avoided arming crew or security guards for reasons of safety, liability and conformity with the laws of the countries where they dock, cruise ships have small arms (usually semi-automatic pistols) stored in a safe accessible only by the captain who distributes them to authorized personnel such as security or the master-at-arms. The ship's high-pressure fire hoses can be used to keep boarders at bay, and often the vessel itself can be maneuvered to ram pirate craft. A recent technology to deter pirates has been the LRAD or sonic cannon which was used in the successful defense of Seabourn Spirit.
Passengers entering the cruise ship are screened by metal detectors. Explosive detection machines used include X-ray machines and explosives trace-detection portal machines (a.k.a. "puffer machines"), to prevent weapons and contraband on board. Security has been considerably tightened since September 11, 2001, such that these measures are similar to airport security.
In addition to security checkpoints, passengers are often given a ship-specific identification card, which must be shown in order to get on or off the ship. This prevents people boarding who are not entitled to do so, and also ensures the ship's crew are aware of who is on the ship.
CCTV cameras are mounted frequently throughout the ship.
The design of cruise ships has changed dramatically during the past decades. One of the biggest changes has been moving the passenger cabins from inside the hull to the superstructure and adding individual balconies both due to customer demand and because, from a business standpoint, the cruise line can charge passengers much more than for inside staterooms. This has considerably increased the overall height of the ships, making them more susceptible to side wind and waves. As a result, there have been concerns about the stability of modern passenger ships especially in heavy weather because there is much more ship above the surface than beneath it — especially modern cruise ships may appear top-heavy to some.
Despite the large superstructure, the center of gravity of modern cruise ships is relatively low. This is due to large open spaces and the extensive use of aluminium, high-strength steel and other lightweight materials in the upper parts, and the fact that the heaviest components — engines, propellers, fuel tanks and such — are located in the lower parts of the ship. Thus, even though modern cruise ships may appear top-heavy, they are not. Furthermore, large cruise ships also tend to be very wide, which considerably increases their stability by increasing the metacentric height.
Although most passenger ships utilize stabilizers to reduce rolling in heavy weather, they are only used for crew and passenger comfort and do not contribute to the overall intact stability of the vessel. The ships must fulfill all stability requirements even with the stabilizer fins retracted.
For the Oasis-class cruise ships, currently the largest passenger ships ever built, the designers created a wide hull to keep the ship stable without excessively increasing the ship's draft. About 30 feet (9 m) of the ship sits beneath the water, a small percentage of the ship's overall height. Although wide, shallow ships such as the Oasis of the Seas tend to be "snappy", meaning that they have a short rolling period and thus will snap back upright after a wave has passed, this uncomfortable effect is mitigated by the size of the vessel. The cruise ship's officers were pleased with the ship's stability and performance during the transatlantic crossing, when the vessel, in order to allow finishing work to go on, slowed and changed course in the face of winds "almost up to hurricane force" and seas in excess of 40 feet (12 m). Despite this, the Oasis-class vessels have so far operated out of the relatively calm waters of the Caribbean, while only ocean liners such as the RMS Queen Mary 2 have been deployed on transatlantic service.
Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in developed countries and is so widespread that only the common cold is reported more frequently. Symptoms usually last between 1 and 3 days and generally resolve without treatment or long term consequences. The incubation period of the virus averages about 24 hours.
The estimated likelihood of contracting gastroenteritis from any cause on an average 7-day cruise is less than 1%. In 2009, during which more than 13 million people took a cruise, there were nine reported norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships. Outbreak investigations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that transmission among cruise ship passengers is primarily person-to-person; potable water supplies have not been implicated. In 2009, ships undergoing unannounced inspections in U.S. ports received an average CDC Vessel Sanitation Program score of approximately 97 out of a total possible 100 points. The minimum passing inspection score is 85. Collaboration with the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program and the development of Outbreak Prevention and Response Plans have helped to generally decrease the incidence of norovirus outbreaks on ships.
Other pathogens which can colonise pools and spas including those on cruise ships include Legionella, the bacteriium which causes Legionnaires' disease. Legionella, and in particular the most virulent strain, Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1, can cause infections when inhaled as an aerosol or aspirated. Individuals who are immunocompromised and those with pre-existing chronic respiratory and cardiac disease are more susceptible. Legionnaires' has been infrequently associated with cruise ships. The Cruise industry Vessel Sanitation Program has specific public health requirements to control and prevent Legionella.
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