Early Cruisers Loved One Thing: The Booze

I set out for the Y this morning without the book I’m reading. So I found another book on my shelf and dove in…it’s called Devils and the Deep Blue Sea: The Dreams and Schemes and Showdowns that built America’s Cruise-ship Empires. It begins by recounting the last day on a cruise on 2005’s biggest cruise ship, the Voyager of the Seas. The book’s author is Kristoffer A. Garin.

As people gather on the decks with their luggage already whisked away into the central storeroom, called I-95, the author recounts the enormous effort it takes to resupply the massive vessel. The thousands of wine bottles, the tons of potatoes, the 3000 live lobsters. The amazing part is that this ship, at 142,000 tons, is dwarfed by an even more immense ship the Oasis of the Seas that was just launched this year. There’s even an ice-skating rink with a Zamboni on board!

But despite today’s money mint that is this industry (well times were a bit tough last last year but they are looking up) it wasn’t always such a goldmine. The original cruise ships were built to ferry immigrants from Europe to the US. But in 1924, after millions had come, the brakes were put on and a limit of 3% of current immigrants from each country was imposed. So there were all of these ships and far fewer passengers.

But in 1924, there was one thing that proved golden….prohibition. So if you wanted to legally have a gimlet or stinger, or a nice dry martini, you could take the cruise from New York to Halifax, as this advertising copy read: “as you sail away, far beyond the range of amendments and thou-shalt-nots, those dear little iced things begin to appear, sparkling aloft on their slender crystal stems….utterly French, utterly harmless–and oh so garglingly good.”