January 16, 2011

Vintage 365: Vintage Cunard ocean liner ad stirs my desire to see the world by ship

Day 16 of Vintage 365

As lovers of the past we are on very familiar terms with the allure of a great many things from yesteryear, some of which we know we will never get the chance to experience firsthand ourselves. We may come close, but certain elements of life that were once commonplace are now relics of the past. Seeing the world by ocean liner is one such example of a once common practise that is now (virtually) extinct.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I've always had a burning desire to cross an ocean on a large ship. One might think that seeing James Cameron's Titanic as a youngster would have shaken this dream from my soul, but if anything the grandeur of that opulent liner on caused me to pine more strongly for something that could never be. Sure we have cruise ships today, but we don't use them to cross whole oceans; nowadays we have airplanes for that. To their credit, planes do get you from point A to point B on either side of the world tremendously quicker than even the most advanced vintage ocean liner ever did, but for me that is exactly why I find the idea of crossing the sea by ship so massively appealing.

If we look at old school ocean travel in a positive light, focusing on trips made for pleasure (as opposed to the hardships so many endured as they immigrated to north America or elsewhere by ship), there is something wildly romantic about the notion of packing a set of trunks, walking up a gangplank, following a porter or steward to your cabin, and then settling in for several days or even weeks spent at sea. As this jaunty vintage ad (which comes via What Makes the Pie Shops Tick’s Flickr stream) for the Cunard line of ocean vessels says, getting to one's eventual destination by ship was half the fun.

Though by the 1960s most ocean liners had stopped ferrying passengers across the seas, airplanes now taking over that job, ads like this still exist and serve as beautiful and poignant reminder of a time when travel wasn't just about how quickly you could arrive at your destination, but rather about enjoying every step of the journey - a message that ultimately rings true for life itself.

Technically there are still a very small number of ships on which passengers can take a multi-day journey across the ocean, though they’re almost all on what’s known as passenger freighters and working merchant ships (such as those trips offered by the Maris Freight Cruise service). To the best of my knowledge, boats such as those in the Cunard ad here (and the traveling experience one would have had on them) are truly, sadly, now just relics of the past.


  1. Oh, I love the idea of an ocean crossing by liner too! True, the golden age of cruise ships may be past, but Cunard are still going, doing 6/7 day-long trips from Southampton-New York and back. Their ships may not look like the classic 1930s designs, but they're still something else inside - particularly the new Queen Elizabeth (http://www.cunard.co.uk/Ships/Queen-Elizabeth/). It would be a dream come true to travel in such a fashion, but sadly just out of my reach at the moment...! ;-)

  2. Cunard still has a few ships that make the transatlantic run, but they are those huge hulking ugly things with no full deck promenades. The last traditional ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth II was retired a few years ago. Plans were to make her into a hotel, but I'm not sure if that has happened.