Immigration Act 1924 and Cruising

Up until 1921-1924, most cruise ships were about immigrants coming to the United States. In 1924, the US closed up its doors - and cruise ships changed forever.

If you look at the history of ships and the US, the ships primarily were about bringing new people to the US for very high rates. These were not pleasure cruises. The ships involved tiny rooms and awful food. The ships leaked, had no privacy, and would toss in storms. The only people who took the ships were the poor - who bet their life savings on the new world - and the ultra-rich who used this as a way to travel. The two classes were completely separate.

The cruise ships had based all of their revenue primarily on the immigrants. But in the 1920s, the US was having serious economic problems and had to put a halt to the flood of immigrants coming in seeking work. They put a cap of 150,000 on the annual immigrant load, and added caps by nation based on the current make-up of the US. Actual immigration rates were between 300,000 and 800,000 new immigrants each year during this time.

That was a HUGE income stream for cruise ships and, when the caps went in place, they scrambled to make that up. If they couldn't carry immigrants any more, they wanted to carry *someone*. Soon WWII came along, and there were thousands of soldiers and related personnel going back and forth between the US and Europe. The cruise lines began to work on doing "travel trips" - i.e. transporting people who were going to visit, not to stay. These new travellers did not want to carry their earthly belongings - and also did not want to pay a once-in-a-lifetime fee to move to a new home. They wanted to carry a small set of clothes, and to pay a reasonable cost for a short trip.

Note that there were still of course the ultra-rich cruise ships that millionaires rode on. But in addition, the former immigration ships were working on finding a new market.

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