From October 14 until April 23, 2017 the Red Star Line Museum has chosen to draw attention to one of the Red Star shipping line’s lesser known activities, namely its cruise activity. The museum brings the cruise era back to life with an exhibition and a book. The emphasis is on the stories of cruise passengers and the ship crews. One of the eye-catching features in the exhibition is an original film, shot by an amateur filmmaker, during a cruise on the Belgenland in 1927-1928. This temporary exhibition takes place in the foyer of the museum and is called Cruise Away (Crusoe, you got it?)
From 1873 until 1934, the Red Star Line ferried migrants in search of a better life and the American dream from Europe to America. However, the shipping line also organized cruises and world trips in the Twenties and Thirties, often for wealthy British and American tourists and businessmen. “Cruise Away” zooms in on life on board of these cruise ships.
The exhibition was built around the experiences described in the diaries and travel reports of passengers and crew. And these include several Antwerp stories, as the crew on these cruise ships was largely recruited in Antwerp. The cruises were an amazing opportunity for Antwerp seamen to see the world. The exhibition also reflects on the zeitgeist of the years in between the two World Wars and the emergence of tourist destinations.
At the same time, the exhibition also takes a critical look at the cruise experience during the Roaring Twenties. The ships in many ways resembled gilded ages. Often the passengers lived in a bubble of excessive comfort and luxury on board these ships. Colonial prejudice and the great gap between the rich and the poor obviously rose to the fore when cruise tourists met with the local population in certain destination.
Besides all the rewards the Red Star Line Museum had received it was honored in October 2016 with the Vlaamse Cultuurprijs voor Cultureel Erfgoed (The Flemish Culture Prize for Cultural Inheritance).