In the morning, when the city barely gets going, groups of people begin to appear, obediently, they follow a flag or an umbrella. With their colorful stickers stuck to their chests, they advance as one man from the end of the Rambla. Are the earliest cruisers, who have disembarked to get to know Barcelona.
Their presence is one of the indicators that pandemic restrictions have disappeared and global tourism re-appropriates public space. The return to pre-Covid normality is also the return to old dynamics summarized in news these days: the largest cruise ship in the world arrives in Barcelona for weekly routes. It is a ship with capacity for 7,000 passengers which will leave the Catalan capital to sail through the Mediterranean. The good thing is that being the base of operations, the city is not a simple one-day stopover and that makes cruise passengers extend their stay. Namely, increased business for the tourism sector. Another thing is how this economic movement affects the people of Barcelona, but we will leave that to the experts.
Cruise tourism is one of the fastest growing in recent years. In Barcelona, like almost everything that has to do with its international projection, the turning point began to occur after the global impact that the Games had 1992 Olympics. The city was put on the map and so was its port.
Traditionally, Mediterranean cruises were concentrated in Italy, where they began to sail in 1833. The pioneer was the ship ‘Francesco I’, which after setting sail from Naples made stops, among other places, in Malta, Corfu, Delphi, Athens and Izmir, before docking in Constantinople. During the journey, parties were held, exquisite meals were served and the most emblematic places were visited. The passage was made up of aristocrats and wealthy families, because only they could afford what we now call tourism.
In fact, this word is an evolution of the concept grand-touremerged in the eighteenth century and It consisted of traveling through the main points of the Old Continent. The English nobles began to practice it and, little by little, it was copied by the whole world. Both on land and at sea. That’s why two centuries ago there was only one exclusive ship for a few rich people, and now the waters are full of floating macro-complexes of the dimensions of a small town in inland Catalonia.
But these things do not happen overnight. It is an evolution that advances generation after generation. After the aristocrats came the bourgeoisie, who were able to cruise from 1844 thanks to the British company P&O. The company was in charge of managing the postal service between the islands and the Iberian Peninsula, but he saw that by moving tourists from Southampton to Gibraltar, Malta and Athens, he could also do business. The demand did not stop increasing and larger and more equipped ships were needed every time. In 1880 they built the first steel ship, and in 1889, the ‘Valette’ incorporated electric light to your facilities.
parallel increased traffic between Europe and the United States, and the transatlantic movement was increasingly important. Most passengers crossed the ocean to seek a better life in North America, but others simply did it for pleasure. For that reason they were becoming more luxurious, as all of us who have seen the movie ‘Titanic’ well know.
The sinking of that cruiser was the announcement of the end of an era which definitely came with the outbreak of the First World War, when the sea ceased to be a safe place. and although during the 1920s activity seemed to recover, did not have time to consolidate because the Second began.
Later, when the world was remade, ocean liners were overtaken by aviation, much faster and more efficient over long distances. Leisure cruisers sought new markets and during the 1960s in the US they discovered the Caribbean, which was the main destination of American mass tourism. It was a matter of time before that trend arrived here, as it has ended up happening.
an educational series
One of the elements that most helped to popularize cruise tourism among the American middle class was the popular series ‘The love boat’, known here as ‘Holidays at sea’. It remained on the air for nine seasons, between 1977 and 1986, and helped an entire generation build their own imaginary about what it was like to go on a cruise.