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Up until the early 19th century many emigrants would travel on the ocean-going sailing ships, but when the steamships started transatlantic crossings in the early 1830s there was a greater interest by the shipping lines in carrying mail and passengers, including a steerage class which increased profits. Southampton-Maritime City looks at the history and development of the early ocean-going steamships, and the competition between shipping companies by the end of the 19th century to build liners that were extreme in luxury and aimed for the very wealthy.

The book traces the history of the ocean liner through the 1920s and 30s, the Golden Years of sea travel when Hollywood film stars, jazz groups and big bands made the ocean liners of the time so famous, through WorldWar Two when many of these ocean liners were requisitioned for war service. It chronicles the post-war years when the European shipping lines transported war refugees to America and Canada and returned to Europe with tourists and business travellers, and the competition in the 1950s from the arrival of the jet airliner which spelt disaster for transatlantic liner passenger traffic but gave some the opportunity to develop a cruise industry. More recently the book explores the arrival of the mega-cruise ship in the 1990s and the increase in the different kinds of cruises available.

Illustrated with 250 photos and illustrations, Southampton-Maritime City details the stories and anecdotes told by the crews and passengers who sailed in the 1950-60s and the experiences of the new cruisers from the 1970s onwards. In addition, the book studies the designs and developments of the cruise ships being built today, especially the Queen Mary 2, the only purpose-built ocean liner in the world today.

Finally, the book looks at the 2010 cruising season in the Port of Southampton with the naming ceremonies of the P&O Azura and Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Eclipse in April 2010 and the new Cunard Queen Elizabeth in October 2010.

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