Life Was Luxurious Aboard the Titanic — Before It Sank
When the RMS Titanic sank, more than half of the passengers and crew members on the highly esteemed ship died in the north Atlantic Ocean. Although the loss of life can never be minimized or forgotten, the experience of sailing on the Titanic offered an unmatched display of world-class hospitality.
For one of the first times in history, a ship focused on making sure passengers enjoyed their passage, rather than just ensuring they arrived at their destination. This inside peek into the details of the ship show that life was luxurious aboard the Titanic — right up until the moment it sank.
How the "Unsinkable" Ship Went Down
April 12, 1912, was an exciting day for thousands of people. More than 2,200 people had tickets for the maiden voyage of the Titanic, the famous "unsinkable" ship. The first sailing departed from Southampton, England, headed to New York, USA.
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
Historically, traveling by ship had always been an arduous experience with very few creature comforts. The Titanic was one of the first ships that offered amenities and comforts to passengers. Like many modern airplanes, it offered three different classes of tickets, based on cost and level of luxury. The most expensive tickets on the Titanic cost around $61,000 based on today's values.
Eating on the Ship
Rather than staying in cramped quarters, first-class passengers stayed in luxurious multi-room suites. Charlotte Drake Cardeza was one of the wealthy passengers who survived the sinking of the ship, and her accommodations included separate bedrooms for herself, her maid and her son.
Cruise Ship Recreation in the 1910s
The Titanic was the top ship in the White Star Line, an early version of a cruise ship company in the 1900s. Today, cruise ships are known for lavish buffets, but buffets were like potluck dinners and not nearly fancy enough for the top-tier passengers on the Titanic.
The Dining Room Had an Orchestra
The dining rooms on the Titanic were as fancy as the food. Thayer's book details passengers stopping the day's activities to get formally dressed for dinner in one of the onboard restaurants.
What Was the Food Like?
The word gourmet is actually a little bit of an understatement when it comes to describing the food served to the first-class passengers on the Titanic. Meals had 13 courses, complete with hor d'oeuvres, desserts and everything in between. Steak, lamb, foie gras, oysters, veal and sturgeon marrow were all served in a single meal.
Staying Fit on the Titanic
With all the lavish 13-course meals, passengers would have needed some exercise to keep them from gaining too much weight during their journey, which is why the Titanic boasted an early version of an onboard gym. Only one facility was available, so both genders worked out in the same area.
Relaxation in the Reading Room
In the early part of the 20th century, literacy rates were beginning to rise, but the lower classes rarely read for the fun of it. Wealthy people, on the other hand, were the driving force that helped the book and newspaper industries thrive and grow. To appeal to this hobby, the Titanic had a reading room.
Famous Ticket Holders Who Escaped Death
The entire world was watching and waiting for the Titanic to make its first journey across the Atlantic. International newspapers covered every aspect of the event in great detail, even before the ship’s tragic demise. It’s not surprising that some of the first-class passengers on the ship included celebrities and famous businessmen.
A Game Passengers Loved
Today, deck shuffleboard certainly couldn’t be considered a popular pastime. It's mainly played in retirement homes and elementary school gym classes. In 1912, it was an extremely en vogue game played by people of all ages. A dedicated shuffleboard deck was one of the many amenities that first-class guests got to enjoy on the Titanic.
What Were the Rooms Like?
The shuffleboard deck wasn't the only place guests could enjoy the ocean. Many of the first-class cabins were strategically placed to allow VIPs to enjoy scenic window views of the ocean in at least one of the bedrooms. Each cabin had multiple bedrooms, and personal maids and butlers were often given rooms of their own.
Enter the VIP Lounge
In addition to all the lavish accommodations, one of the best parts about being in first class was the exclusivity of it all. First-class passengers had their own premium lounge. Out of more than 2,000 people who were traveling on the Titanic, only a small number were allowed inside.
First-Class Guests Had to Pay for This Amenity
Back in the early 1900s, spas in their modern form didn’t exist yet, but rich people still found ways to relax. Of course, the Titanic pulled out all the stops when it came to offering relaxation. This ship included Turkish baths for first-class passengers to enjoy — at an additional cost, of course.
Even Second-Class Passage Required Wealth
There were three different ticket classes on the Titanic. Of course, first-class guests enjoyed the most luxurious amenities, but that doesn’t mean second-class and third-class passengers had it rough. They had plenty of amenities to be excited about as well.
Special Treats on the Menu
Second-class diners on the Titanic possibly ate the most expensive meals of their lives on board the ship. Although it may not have taken a second-class passenger more than five hours to eat multiple scaled-down courses, the menu still included plenty of delicacies.
Differences Between First and Second Class
Beyond the similarities, what were the differences between first-class and second-class tickets? First-class passengers paid considerably more than their second-class counterparts, so they theoretically had options to help them get their money's worth. For example, second-class passengers had exclusive rights to certain reading rooms and lounges, while first-class passengers had rights to all the best lounges on the ship.
Third Class Wasn't Too Shabby
A third-class ticket on the Titanic would have cost about one month's worth of wages for the average person. Even though it was the lowest class on the ship, these ticket holders were not banished to the underbelly of the ship and fed table scraps, as some Hollywood depictions would make it seem.
What Did Third-Class Passengers Eat?
The third-class dining room was the least fancy. Instead of ornate tables and lots of space, this room was set up like a really big restaurant. Tables were positioned close together, with enough room for four to eight people at each table.
Lifestyles of Third-Class Passengers
The menu is partially impressive simply because it exists at all. It was normal in the early 1900s for third-class passengers to pack their own food for voyages. Although they were able to enjoy certain amenities, the third-class passengers on the Titanic did live below deck, and their personal accommodations were very bare bones. There were two third-class bathrooms for hundreds of passengers to share.
Understandably, third-class passengers had the smallest rooms on the ship, and their rooms did not include any kind of view. However, there was something very different about the Titanic. Third-class passengers were not treated as if they didn’t belong. During the day, they were allowed on the higher decks.
The Titanic Had a Rival Ship
Although various artifacts and first-person accounts from survivors help fill in the details, understanding daily life on the Titanic is difficult because the ship sank. Answers can also be found by examining similar ships that existed at the time. The White Star Line, builder of the Titanic, wasn't the only company trying to break into the cruise industry.
Smoking Lounges Were Social Centers
Smoking rooms were another perk that first-class and second-class passengers got to enjoy. Of course, smoking continues to decline in popularity every day, but it was something that most men did in the early 1900s.
You Could Train for the Olympics
Although the Titanic and the Mauretania were designed to compete with each other, the Titanic had a serious leg up in the pool department. One of its many decks was dedicated to an indoor, Olympic-sized swimming pool. Instead of just watching the waves in the ocean, passengers could make waves of their own in the pool.
Plenty of Drinks to Lift Your Spirits
Today, meals at fine dining establishments are often paired with a glass of wine or a cocktail. Passengers on the Titanic were able to drink alcohol in the ship's bar. Decades later, pieces of Moët and Heidsieck & Co champagne bottles have been found in the wreckage of the Titanic. The French companies still sell top of the line champagnes today.
What About the Kids?
Of course, there were children on the Titanic as well. (It's a sobering fact that only about 47% of the children that boarded the ship survived the sinking.) Children may not have been impressed with Turkish baths or private lounges, but they certainly enjoyed the ship's playgrounds for those few days.
Dogs Also Sailed
Although the ship sank more than a century ago, people then were not very different than people now when it comes to traveling with pets. Today, planes and ships allow passengers to travel with pets. On the Titanic, some passengers brought their beloved dogs along for the ride.
It only makes sense that some very famous people would have been on the Titanic. It was the most luxurious way to travel during its time, and it was following a route (England to America) that was very common for businessmen. Most famous people back in 1912 were not entertainers. Rather, they were well known because of how much money they had or because of the companies they operated.
Why Did the Ship Sink?
The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable. The hull of the ship was made of several compartments that were supposed to be watertight. The idea was that if there was a problem, the water would stay in one compartment and not spread to the rest of the ship.
No Way Around It
The Titanic was an incredibly large ship that hit an incredibly large iceberg. The iceberg could be seen above the surface of the water, but it was dark when the ship encountered it. By the time the mass of ice was identified, the ship was less than 2,000 feet away from it.
When the ship struck the iceberg, it ripped open a huge hole, and water began to rise in the lower levels of the ship. Passengers were forced to choose drowning on the ship or trying to survive in the frigid water — assuming they survived the jump. For 1,500 people, survival proved to be an impossible feat.