I was recently thinking about one of our upcoming cruises – an overnight taster aboard the CMV ship Astoria – and thinking about its age in particular sent me to YouTube in search of old cruising videos. I picked the 1970s as my jumping off point as it’s one of the best decades (a lot of the very best people were born in that decade, don’t you know?) and fell down a rabbit hole of wonderful films of travelling in class at sea during a period when I was too young to know such a thing was possible and the closest we ever got to it was an overnight ferry from Wales to Ireland to visit family.
It’s absolutely fabulous to see what has changed and what is essentially still the same now that we’re a pretty experienced cruise couple. My general love for retro films and styles obviously plays a part too in finding these films fascinating and capable of triggering vicarious nostalgia. For some of these video-takers it’s possible to think of them as pioneers in what is now the cruise vlogging niche and although they’re not as thought-through, many don’t have any sound, and the quality is often appalling there’s a great honesty and innocence to these films (if you excuse the occasional lingering shot on women in bathing outfits on the cruise ship decks, that is).
The first video actually dates from the 1960s so probably shouldn’t feature here at all but I found this from a related video suggestion to something else I’d watched. This features a promotional film for the RMS Transvaal Castle, an experimental single-class, hotel-style mail ship cruising the route from Southampton to South Africa via the Canary Islands. The things that really stand out in this video are the rooms (rugs and fireplaces and distinctly not modern cruiseship-looking), the buffet arrangement, the “stewardettes” in the dining room, the smoking onboard (to be expected in this era but still odd to see), dogs and cats coming along for the cruise, the interesting gymnasium equipment, and the somewhat-reminiscent-of-The-Wicker-Man, pagan-looking ceremony to celebrate crossing the equator. On that last point it will be interesting to see the event for ourselves when we cross the equator on Star Princess next year but from the look of things it’s a marginally less disturbing though decidedly more messy affair if this video on Golden Princess is any guide.
I actually found the first film after seeing the next suggested video following a viewing of the one below which really is footage from a 1970s cruise. Not only that, it’s almost an identical route, this time starting in Germany and taking place on the TS Hamburg. The audio has obviously been added on afterwards and there are some questionable sound effects but it’s interesting to see a passenger’s view of the sort of long-distance cruising that was available. Passenger fashions are as excruciatingly excellent as you’d imagine, the equator-crossing ceremony takes place too, and you can even see some skeet-shooting taking place off the aft of the vessel. Cruise passengers with guns is a winning combination.
The following video from 1973 concentrates more on the cruise destinations than the ship itself but it’s of special interest to me because some of the stops – Athens, Mykonos, Corfu, and Crete – were all places we hit on our Eastern Mediterranean cruise on Royal Princess in 2016. It’s quite fascinating to look at old film like this and think that, yes, there are more tourists now but in many ways not a lot has changed.
Some film footage inside a cruise ship in the 1970s now with this short clip showcasing the kitchen staff’s skill at setting up the sort of buffet that could only have come from that decade. A very impressive ice sculpture of a swan is the standout item on show. The cruise ship here is the SS Doric in 1977, operated by the Italian cruise line Home Lines who would later merge into Holland America Line.
You know what we haven’t seen for very nearly three videos? A crossing-the-equator ceremony! There’s another one in this 1973 film shot aboard the RHMS Ellinis operated by the Greek line, Chandris, which also includes a transit of the Panama Canal locks as part of a 6-week journey from Fremantle to Southampton. I have to say that the ceremony here looks pretty violent. I sincerely doubt this sort of behaviour takes place on cruise ships these days. There’s a very similar design with all the cruise ships (really ocean liners serving as mail ships for the most part) featured in these videos with what looks to be a single swimming pool with a reasonably deep drop before the water level; I imagine that ocean swells were less easy to compensate for with these older vessels and this was to help keep as much water in the pool as possible but there are some obvious safety issues to such a design.
A very interesting fact is that David Bowie was aboard Ellinis in 1973 at some point and it was while on the ship that he wrote the song Aladdin Sane. Whether he was on this particular cruise it’s not clear but if you check this and part one of the trip carefully who knows who you might spot? Or not.
This home video footage was taken aboard Fred Olsen‘s Black Prince in 1977. At the time of this film Black Prince would have been sailing a ferry route during the summer months for a Norwegian company and cruise itineraries in the winter, this being a Canary Islands cruise in November/December of the year. This is not the first film in this post that includes people trying to knock one another off a pole suspended over the pool, an activity I don’t recall having seen on any of our cruises but which looks like an enormous amount of fun and a great way to settle any arguments or remove any tension generated by lounge-hoggers or queue-jumpers while on the ship.
And to finish off this brief look at what cruising videos are available on YouTube from the decade that brought us disco here’s an American TV advert for the Italian cruise line Costa, definitely targeting that young, partying demographic as opposed to more of the family and older generation cruise videos I’ve shared here. Quite how successful the advertising firms were at convincing the cool crowd from Cleveland to cruise with Costa will have to remain one of life’s conundrums.