In 1891, German Jewish magnate Albert Ballin had an idea. Ballin ran a shipping line that lost money during winter months, seeing how no one wanted to sail in frozen waters. Why not repurpose ships to go to warmer climates, Ballin thought.
But ships needed a reason to sail to warmer climates, so why not create... a floating hotel, where guests can get all the high society, culture, and dining, while visiting exotic ports?
Albert Ballin invented the cruise ship.
Germans initially balked at the idea of traveling for pleasure (what else would you expect from Germans), but after Ballin built a ship specifically for cruising, his idea took off. Travelers would cruise to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean while enjoying all the first-class amenities that could possibly be offered. (As well as lot of seasickness, natch.)
It didn't end well. Ballin's flagship ran ashore in Jamaica. The ship had to be destroyed; the captain shot himself. A few years later, it was Ballin's turn to take his own life. That, coupled with the sinking of the Titanic (you might have heard of it) and the outbreak of World War I, put the cruise industry on a rather lengthy pause.
Still, next time you find yourself on a cruise ship (And get food poisoning from shrimp cocktail? And get driven mad by children in a tiny windowless room? And drink yourself senseless in a hot tub?), thank Albert Ballin!