I was in Southampton last week to give a talk, and while I was there, I dropped by the Southampton Maritime Museum to find out all about the area’s history as a passenger port.
Outside, I was faced with a view that brought Southampton’s maritime past right up to the present. A couple of hours earlier, P&O’s latest cruise ship, Azura, had docked nearby, ready for its inaugural cruise.
P&O was founded in 1840 as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, operating freight and mail services to Europe and Egypt. They later expanded to passengers. This print from our pictorial collection shows P&O’s 1880s chairman, Sir Thomas Sutherland:
By the twentieth century, travel on grand liners was an established luxury, with shipping lines competing to be biggest, fastest, or both.
The development of civil aviation posed a great challenge to maritime travel and, as I mentioned in a previous post, once pressurised airliners after 1945 made long-distance flying comfortable, days were numbered for regular liner services.
But the market for cruising seems more buoyant than ever, with new ships like Azura offering ever more luxury, facilities and destinations. When visiting maritime towns, it’s clear that Britain is still in love with the sea!
More on my Southampton excursion next time…