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The father of the ocean cruise and the luxury ocean liner, Albert Ballin, general director of the Hamburg-America Line from 1899 until his suicide at the close of World War I, was born in Germany on this date in 1857. Ballin had inherited a small emigration business from his father that arranged passage for Germans to America. He was innovative at lowering fares and speeding passage, which got him hired by the Hamburg-America Line in 1886. Ballin eventually built it into the largest shipping company in the world. On January 22, 1891, he launched the world's first pleasure cruise, an 8-week Mediterranean excursion aboard the SS Auguste Victoria, and several years later, the company was commissioning construction of luxurious, hotel-like ships exclusively for cruising. The Hamburg-America Line lost many ships during World War I, however, and the company's flagships, the SS Imperator, SS Vaterland and SS Bismarck, were ceded to Great Britain and the U.S. as war prizes. Ballin, who had sought to avert the war and was considered a pacifist, took an overdose of sleeping pills two days before the armistice. The SS Albert Ballin was named in his honor in 1923, but the Nazis ordered the ship renamed to Hansa in 1935.
"Ballin’s guests enjoyed first-class cabins. There was also first-class cuisine to match and a daily newspaper printed on board. The cruise called at over a dozen ports, complete with shore excursions, beginning with Southampton, then sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar. The Mediterranean ports of call included Genoa, Alexandria, Jaffa, Beirut, Constantinople (now Istanbul), Athens, Malta, Naples and Lisbon." —Michael L. Grace