This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life Onboard Ship: Titanic's First Class

As the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic looms closer and closer, I am continuing in my posts about the ship. My first can be found here and is a "short" history on the Titanic. For this post I thought it would be fun to look at what life would have been like during the voyage for the lucky first class passengers. There are not many surviving pictures of the interior of the ship (the ones that are around were mostly taken by passenger Frank Browne) so I will use the ones I can find.

She had 1,343 passengers on board for her maiden voyage. 325 of them were in first class and resided in the most luxurious accommodations of the day, mostly in the upper decks, while the 706 in steerage (third class) were crammed into small rooms towards the very bottom and back of the ship. While Titanic wanted to cater to the fabulously rich, she actually carried more passengers in her second and third class areas (though you must remember that second class on Titanic was better than first on other ships, and third was equal to what second class was on other liners). I wish I had a good image of the Titanic's deck plans so you could see how the ship was sectioned off but I haven't been able to find anything online where the images are big enough for you to actually make out what's in them. First class passengers could pretty much go wherever they wanted to on the ship. Second class had basically the same freedom. Steerage passengers, however, were confined to their areas of the ship only and there actual locked gates to keep them in their place (these gates eventually caused significant problems the night of the sinking).

Titanic's interior was extremely lavish and White Star spared no expense in fitting her out with every luxury imaginable and every modern convenience (there were even flushing toilets on the ship, which was something most homes at the time still did not have). The most expensive staterooms a first class passenger could purchase for the voyage were the parlor suite rooms which ran about £870 ($69,600 today!). These suites (one on each side of the ship) had several rooms and their own private promenade deck (remember the scene in the movie the morning after Rose's character dances in third class with Jack?). They were called the "Millionaire Suites."In comparison, a third class ticket was £3 to £8 ($172 to $460 today) so you can see how very different the lives of these people were at the time. There were 67 other first class suites and staterooms available and they were all extremely luxurious and comfortable.

Picture of one of the Parlor Suite rooms

Besides their sumptuous rooms, first class passengers had many other marvelous and luxurious places to spend their time. Titanic was the first ship to have a swimming pool on board. There was also a Turkish Bath (like a sauna) next to the pool, which was considered one of the ship's most opulent areas. It was comprised of a steam room, hot room, and temperate room, shampooing rooms and toilets, and a cooling room. There was an extra charge to use the Bath and it was only available to first class passengers. Both of these were on F deck. Titanic also had a "state of the art" gymnasium on board, which was right off the Boat Deck. It had an electric camel, an electric horse, rowing machine, and cycles (I'm not entirely sure what those first two are!). There was an extra charge to use this as well. Besides the gym and pool there was also a Squash Court available for exercise, though I doubt many of the first class passengers actually used any of them.

Swimming Pool
Turkish Bath

Gymnasium

There were many rooms for just sitting back, relaxing, and chatting as well. The First Class Smoking room on A Deck was for men only while the Reading and Writing Room, also on A Deck, was for the ladies. There was also the First Class lounge (or library) on A Deck and the Reception Room just adjacent to the First Class Dining Saloon on D Deck. Passengers could retire to these rooms in the evening for a drink or a smoke or just to relax and gossip. Relaxing was what the first class passengers wanted to do while showing off all their finery. Women went through several clothing changes during a day, leading up to their fanciest attire being pulled out for dinner. Men probably spent a lot of their time drinking and smoking and discussing all the money they were making. It really was a charmed life on board for these elite passengers.

First Class Smoking Room

First Class Reading and Writing Room
Picture of the First Class Lounge/Library

When first class passengers were hungry they had several options. They could go down to D deck and dine in the First Class dining saloon (which spanned the width of the ship). If they wanted to stay closer to their cabins they could have a meal in the Verandah Cafe, on A Deck, or the Cafe Parisian (with authentic French waiters) which was adjacent to the A la Carte Restaurant on B Deck. Passengers most likely had to pay for their meals at the cafes and restaurant. You may remember scenes from the movie which feature some of these rooms (they are in the Verandah Cafe when Cal orders Rose the lamb and there are several scenes in the dining saloon).

First Class Dining Saloon

Cafe Parisian

Verandah Cafe

The variety of food served to the first class passengers blows my mind! And not just WHAT they ate but HOW MUCH they ate! I really don't know how the women ate anything in the clothing they wore! But what delicious looking meals they had! A few menus from the Titanic did survive the sinking and they show us what many passengers had for their last meal. Can you imagine a ten or eleven course dinner? While some of the menu items sound so very tasty there are a few that make me cringe a little bit! Baked apples, fresh fruit, Quaker Oats, Grilled ham, and omelets for breakfast sound great but I'm not too sure about mutton kidneys! I could dig in to a lunch of vegetable dumplings, potatoes, custard pudding, and Virginia ham but I just don't think I could stomach corned ox tongue. As for dinner, chicken, filet mignons, potatoes, peas, rice, eclairs, and ice cream would make me happy! Before any meal a bugler would go from deck to deck sounding the traditional meal call and passengers would make their way to their dining saloons.

First Class Breakfast Menu from April 11, 1912

First Class Luncheon Menu from April 14, 1912

First Class Dinner Menu from April 14, 1912 (the last meal for so many)

For the first class passengers, Titanic was as luxurious as a hotel in Paris or New York, a true floating palace. It is quite sad that all that fantastic work ended up at the bottom of the North Atlantic.

My next post will be about life on board Titanic for the second and third class passengers.


4 comments:

  1. I went to the Titanic exhibition when it was here a couple of years ago and thought the whole thing was fascinating. The differences in class was just one thing that was interesting!

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  2. I had done some research on the Titanic a few months ago and was blown away by how much a first class ticket could cost! OMG! Everything just sounds gorgeous and exotic. I also have no idea what an electric camel or horse is...

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