The modern cruise industry began in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the founding of Norwegian Cruise Line (1966), Royal Caribbean International (1968) and Carnival Cruise Lines (1972). At this time older passenger lines facing a dwindling transatlantic market, such as Cunard Line, Holland America Line and Norwegian America Line, also began positioning themselves as cruise operators. The initial goal of both types of cruise lines was to develop a mass US market, targeting cruise holidays to people other than the wealthy elite.
Broadcast advertising promised a logical way of reaching large numbers of potential middle class customers. Since most cruise lines had extremely limited marketing budgets still focused around newspaper and high-end magazine ads, jumping straight into national television advertising was out of the question. Radio advertising, on the other hand, offered the potential to reach a massive middle class audience at a relatively low cost.
With a 50,000-watt clear-channel signal, New York radio station WOR in the 1970s reached millions of listeners daily across the eastern half of the US—prime prospects for Bahamas and Caribbean cruises leaving either New York or Florida ports. Many cruise lines in the 1970s advertised heavily on WOR, particularly at night when the station’s signal carried farthest.
On the following pages are several 1970s-era cruise line commercials. The marketing message back then was fairly simple—sun, relaxation, food and affordability. There was no mention of verandahs, Wi-Fi service, Las Vegas-style shows, skating rinks, climbing walls, mascots or roller coasters. Such amenities would have to wait for a future generation.