From Humble Beginnings to an Industry Leader, Online Vacation Center Celebrates 45 Years!

By: Carol R, Employee Since 1976

“Serving you since ’72” was our motto for several years, and it’s hard to believe that it is now 45 years later. Our company began as a traditional travel agency called McMichael’s Travel in Fort Lauderdale, where clients would stop by or call for assistance with their travel needs. This was before the computer age, fax machines, and cell phones. Airline reservations were made by phone, tickets were hand-written, and itineraries typed up on a manual typewriter.

Office Exterior
McMichael’s Travel Agency Office Exterior

Agencies competed to attract corporate accounts for their airline ticket needs. Our three or four travel agents took turns in the afternoon delivering airline tickets to those accounts. We wore uniforms which conveyed professionalism. Our marketing efforts consisted of cutting out black and white pictures to glue on a sheet of paper that we could copy for fliers. Our industry changed in the 1970s when a TV show called The Love Boat sailed in and gained popularity.

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Location, location, location… ours was a storefront along a busy boulevard!

There were already a couple cruise ships in existence, and some did double duty and carried cars and transported goods. Our clients actually had to inquire about cruising because it was so new, there were so few choices, and it wasn’t anything any travel agency was actively promoting. It’s safe to say that the cruise industry took hold as more ships appeared. Our marketing efforts soon included sponsoring cruise nights to spark interest.

Norwegian Caribbean Lines SS Norway
Aboard the SS Norway in 1980, which, at the time, was the world’s largest cruise ship. She was approximately 70,000 gross tons and accommodated less than 2,000 passengers. Compare this with today’s largest ship at over three times the tonnage and over 6,000 passengers!

Norwegian Cruise Line was Norwegian Caribbean Line, Carnival Cruise Line had only a few ships, compared to more than 25 today (along with several subsidiaries). Many of the most popular cruise lines we have today weren’t even on the drawing board yet. Back then, ships had more formal nights, and the entertainment during the day might have been watching others do the limbo and being amazed by ice-carving demonstrations. Friends and family were permitted on board to wish you bon voyage! We’ve certainly come a long way with hundreds of cruise ships circumnavigating the world to meet just about anyone’s interest and budget.

Travel Agent
Our agency always enjoyed a good solid reputation and earned the status of an American Express affiliate. Pictured Above: Carol R, Employee Since December 1977.

Our agency evolved with the industry, and in 2000, McMichael’s Travel became Online Vacation Center, a name more befitting the times. We celebrate 45 years in an ever-changing industry, and two of our employees with us today have been along for the ride almost from the beginning! They, perhaps more than anyone, can share in the excitement that cruise ships offer today: wonderful entertainment, diverse destinations, spacious accommodations, and amenities not even thought of in anyone’s wildest imagination when the agency got its start in 1972.