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Copyright © 2004-Jeffrey R. Stern

All Rights Reserved

There are countless histories of cruising, found in numerous sources. Yet none, that I am aware of, tell the authentic ‘pre-history’ of the cruise industry, which occurred many mile from sea and high above sea leve, in the Catskill Mountains, of New York State, in the late 1930’s.

Just a few hours north of New York City, in one of those new motor cars that just about everyone was buying, the area offered a cool, quiet, country respite from the hot, noisy, summer city. The area spawned its own breed of hotels, the ‘all-inclusive resort.†Scores of city-weary families would drive, up on a Friday night, to spend a week-end, or a week, or two. Some visitors even spent the entire summer, with ‘dad’ departing for “The City†on Sunday night and retuning to the hotel on Friday night.

The mere mention of the names of these resorts , now long gone, evoke loving memories; The Concord; Grossinger’s; The Raleigh; The Nevele; Kutsher’s; Brown’s; on and on, not counting scores of smaller, less famous, hotels. The basic rate included your accommodations, and three meals a day. Meals were served at scheduled times, at assigned tables, with the same waiter and bus boy. What meals they were! The breakfast menu looked like that of a local Diner; with no prices! Order as much as you wanted; it was all included. Lunch was a multi-course repast, but, it was dinner that was the feast. Appetizer, soup, salad entrée, dessert, a cheese tray, fresh fruit. Try the lamb, or the steak, or both, or…

It also included the use of all of the amenities, the pool and nightly entertainment.

There were several ‘common rooms,’ such as as card rooms, a library, and a very large room called the “Casino.†I have never figured out why they called it that, since there was no gambling at the hotels, but the “Casino†it was.

The Casino was used as a show lounge, at night, and for bingo, and other entertainment, during the day.

The big attraction was always the pool. And, a common sight around the pool, all day, was the Social Director. In a large hotel, he would have one, or two, assistants. He would hang out at the pool area, talking to, and entertaining, the guests. In the afternoon, he would organize pool games. A good Social Director could run a mean Simon-Says!

At night, during the week, he would host various shows; none all that good. On rainy days, it was Bingo, in the Casino, and other activities.

The big shows were on the week-end, and Saturday brought same real, big name, talent.

Then after the Saturday night show was the big, complimentary, Midnight Buffet…

The similarities go on, and on, but you get the idea. So did a young man, named Aronson, who thought that if you put the pool on the hotel roof, and got the whole thing to float from island-to-island, you just might have something…..

These hotels were the origins of Carnival Cruise Lines, and, soon thereafter, NCL (which was then Norwegian Caribbean Lines); the floating Grossinger’s.

In the early seventies, when this occurred, the basic formula for cruising was very simple. Give your guests a chance to get away from it all. No telephones, television, newspapers, or any contact with the “real world.†Provide lots of entertainment, with a fantasy approach. And, feed them, feed them, feed them.

For the first decade, little changed, including the number of people who cruised. Despite mass marketing, and a push from “The Love Boat,†fewer than five-percent of Americans had been on a cruise.

Then, competition started to get fierce, and the cruise lines began to offer more and more. Bigger ships meant more options for passengers, from numerous entertainment venues to multiple eating choices.

Ships grew larger, and, soon, held several thousand passengers. Choices in dining became vital, and the “Personal Choice†of Princess joined NCL’s “Freestyle Cruising.â€Â

The Lido Buffet was soon joined by smaller stations, elsewhere on the ship, where you could get pizza, hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, and a variety of other food.

Ships began to offer more and more entertainment; rock-climbing, golf, ice skating, and I can’t imagine what next. Maybe skiing, on artificial snow, or skydiving, from the top of the funnel to the lido Deck; perhaps REAL horse racing around the pool; and, who knows, maybe a double loop roller coaster.

Yet, even with all these changes, the formula remained the same: Give your guests a chance to get away from it all. Provide lots of entertainment, with a fantasy approach. And, feed them, feed them, feed them.

And so, we wound up with “Dirty Dancing at sea.â€Â





(If you missed any of the preceding chapters, and wish to “catch up,†you can click on the links below….)

Part 1 – Introduction;


Part 2 – Onto The Ship; Out To Sea


Part 3 – First, there’s The Food


Part 4 – Shooting The Dice


Part 5 – Places To Visit; People To See


Part 6 – Catching Cruise Fever


Part 7 – A Love Affair at Sea


Part 8 – Apollo Wasn’t Just A Greek God


Part 9 – Bon Voyage To A Real Lady


Part 10 – Olympus, To Caribe I, To rgale Empress


Part 11 – Dirty Dancing At Sea


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Definitely my favorite chapter- hubby and I met at the Concord- and yes, every time we hear the name we have great memories. Who ever thought back then that eventually we 'd be enjoying the same concept on the high seas???

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