Ocean Cruising in Bygone Days

Love, exciting and new 
Come Aboard. We’re expecting you. 
Love, life’s sweetest reward. 
Let it flow, it floats back to you. 

Love Boat soon will be making another run 
The Love Boat promises something for everyone 
Set a course for adventure, 
Your mind on a new romance. 

Raise your hand if you remember The Love Boat? Of course you do! Unless you are under thirty you have to recall that cheesy TV show of love on the high seas. I have no doubt that the sitcom, which aired from 1977 – 1986, boosted the cruise industry astronomically and secured the future of Princess Cruise Ship Lines for decades to come.

I have been on two cruises and they were honestly everything I imagined from watching nine years of The Love Boat. Well, I never saw the captain goofing off like Captain Stubing did, but considering I have also seen Titanic, I was fine with that. LOL! I can say that the cruise director was as perky as Julie McCoy though.

East India Company Ships, 1685 Image Credit : britishempire.co.uk

Passengers on ocean-going vessels have radically evolved since the days when Dr. George Darcy traveled from England to India. At the beginning of The Passions of Dr. Darcy, George travels to Bombay, India with the British East India Company (EIC) as a Company Physician. Initially, aside from knowing he probably had to sail there, I knew little else. Through research on the subject, I discovered that indeed sailing was the preferred way (really the only way since going overland was prohibitive) and that the average time from England to India was five months! And that was if they were very, very lucky.

The EIC was the dominant sailing company to the far east until the 1850s. There was no such thing as a dedicated passenger ship and all EIC ships were designed primarily for the transport of cargo and troops. Passengers were not as important so scant room was allowed for them, the berths were uncomfortable, and entertainments and special considerations were nonexistent. It was extremely rare to travel on an EIC ship if not connected to the Company in some way, either by employment or as a family member. If the latter category, passage would be purchased by the EIC employee. There were no free rides! George, for example, was not only contracted as an EIC physician but he was assigned to the ship as its surgeon. All ships had a doctor aboard by policy. They were also supposed to have a reverend, but they often worked around that one.

EIC ships sailed all year long and the only route available until 1830 was the long one via the Cape of Good Hope. During the 4 to 6 month voyage the ship would stop two or three times max for fresh water and supplies. They would never tarry in a port for long. Time was money to a merchant ship. So imagine months on a ship filled with dirty men, smelly livestock, bad food, little water, cramped quarters, and nothing but ocean to look at. Compare that with The Love Boat. Yikes!

RMS Britannia, 1840
The East Indiaman Repulse (1820) in the East India Dock Basin

It would not be until 1819 that the first ships were designed with passenger comfort in mind. That was when the Black Ball Line ran from New York to England. That was about it until the 1830s when steamships were introduced, thus cutting down on sailing times. Gradually passenger ships became the standard and in 1840 Cunard launched the Britannia– the first ship had a cow on board to provide fresh milk– and it was powered by steam as well as sail. By 1844 the pleasure cruise was a firmly established industry.

Indeed we have come a long way! Now share your thoughts on cruising, or anything else about this subject.

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Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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I remember watching Love Boat! If I could afford it I would like to cruise to Australia to see where my daughter and her family live. They are maybe reinstating ships from England to Australia so maybe I will win the lottery ? ?

Stephanie L

I do remember the Love Boat. My Gram watched it and Fantasy Island religiously. LOL I took my first cruise last fall and had a fabulous time. It’s a good thing that sailing has improved. I wouldn’t be so excited to travel with Dr. George on that EIC ship, as much as I adore him. LOL

Michele Stegman

Funny that as sailing time decreased, the comforts increased!


A cow on board to supply milk, can’t imagine. So funny. Yes, I do remember Love Boat. Still love the theme song.

Wendy Roberts

Very interesting. We are going on an Alaskan cruise this summer as a family. This is the first time that we have ever taken a large vacation like this so we are all looking forward to it.

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