What were the interiors like for first-class passengers aboard the Titanic?


Ever since the Titanic slipped beneath the freezing waters of the North Atlantic, we’ve been obsessed with everything about the fateful Belfast-built ocean liner. One area of ​​lingering interest is the sheer mess enjoyed by its first class passengers.

The first film about the disaster was released less than a month after the sinking, Saved from the Titanic, whose archived reels were lost in a curious workshop fire in the 1950s. Film star and Titanic survivor Dorothy Gibson rowed to the premiere in the same outfit she was rescued in, a white dress and long black evening gloves.

If you want to ride a new wave of outrage – Australia’s Blue Star Line must launch the Titanic II, which will sail the same ports and route as the original ship – this time arriving in New York. It should have all levels of accommodation from first to third class, additional lifeboats and will hopefully be a bit wider and more stable in the water. Hooray!

Even with today’s super-liners, including Royal Caribbean’s recently launched “Wonder of the Seas” with its 6,988 passengers and 2,300 crew, the elegant bubble in which these society stars top tier moved 110 years ago remains unmatched, and second-class ocean buffs haven’t fared too badly on the Titanic either (aside from the ship staring at an iceberg).

This indulgent human spectacle was possible because the aristocracy and wealthy classes were supported at every turn by a retinue of White Star servants and workers. Raised from childhood in their townhouses and country mansions, these toffs knew only indulgent splendor on land or sea, traveling everywhere with an entourage.

With tickets ranging from £30 for a standard cabin to £1,000 for one of four fabulous Parlor Suites, high expectations were expected. Comfort and fun have been given priority by the sumptuously decorated White Star Line. Compared to other liners, the interior design was relatively understated and intended to appeal to old money and titled poops filling the most expensive cabins rather than self-made bourgeois aspirants and out-of-sight commoners.

Domestic service was a meticulous bowing, crawling, 24/7 play for maids, butlers, valets and stewards – an obsequiousness not required of employees today. outside the palace of a despot. Etiquette and routine were vital.

You could get your master or mistress out of their bath, gossip for them on the boardwalk deck, or clean their jewelry that morning. Most nobles traveled with more intimate members of their own servants’ retinue to keep their routine and tastes uninterrupted.

French maids were all the rage among the ladies. Showing off the best included a best mate split displayed to your peers as you sweep across the boardwalk deck. To assist and augment the duties of personal servants, there were various roles spread across the ship, including bathroom stewards and bath stewards.

Room service other than sending your maid to get food for you was not provided after tea and sandwiches. As in society, you were expected to dress formally and make your way to the appropriate dining room depending on the time of the meal.

The B Deck Parlor suite on the Titanic with touches of French Rococo splendour, the kind of thing cooked up in every fashionable mansion in Ireland and England at the time. Photo: Wiki/Robert Welsh

If you wanted to ride the electric camel in the first-class gymnasium, you’d be wrapped in a silk robe to pad the decks – your personal servant trotting behind you. For a small fee of a shilling or two you can shoot, play tennis or dive in the pinch 9m saltwater pool (unpleasant omen there).

The ship included a fabulous gilded, fully tiled Turkish bath, with the rare treat of a temperate room, a cold room, a hot room, an electric bath (yikes), a steam room and two shampoo rooms for a good body. You can always find a place to read, write, sip champagne, gamble and smoke cigars (pet pastime), flirt, or blow up clay pigeons somewhere on the Titanic.

The ladies preferred the First Class Lounge, where they could prettily drink tea and socialize surrounded by the splendor of Versailles on which the room was modeled. Her brother’s first-class lounge, Olympic,
was salvaged and redeployed as a dining room at the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick
so we have a very good idea of ​​what the living room of the Titanic would have looked like.

Titanic’s staging and amenities might not include climbing walls, laser tag, drive-in theaters, and zip-lining, but it had everything a mustache tycoon would want. First-class accommodation occupied B and C decks, the forward sections on A, D and E decks and part of the boat decks.

The upper decks were quieter as they were farthest from the roar of the engines, but because the fulcrum of the ship rocked they were also the most susceptible to seasickness in heavy weather. Passengers could move around the ship in elevators separated by class.

A cabin on the Titanic with hand-woven carpets and a touch of comforting, familiar Jacobethan for its Edwardian passengers.  B and C decks benefited from en-suite bathrooms, which was not standard for first class where baths were time-shared.  Photo: Wiki/Robert Welsh
A cabin on the Titanic with hand-woven carpets and a touch of comforting, familiar Jacobethan for its Edwardian passengers. B and C decks benefited from en-suite bathrooms, which was not standard for first class where baths were time-shared. Photo: Wiki/Robert Welsh

As the price per stateroom increased, so did the lavish setting in 19 period styles. Paneling on the grounds, four-poster beds, architectural columns and sumptuous comfortable furnishings combined English Revival Jacobean with French Rococo. Remember Jack’s “French Girl” Scene on the Louis XV Convertible Sofa in Jim Cameron’s Uprising Titanic?

Interiors were flawless in the film, no matter what purple prose Cameron threw at the story, and the filmmaker recreated details to include fabulous carvings and exotic sycamore, mahogany and lemon tree veneers, gilt sconces, chandeliers in Aubusson tapestries, marble, mirrors and rich Axminster rugs.

Its replica of the grand William & Mary period style staircase is a marvel. The layout of the real Titanic was contracted out to various design firms, with engineered and detailed cabins, fireplaces, cabinetry, ornamentation and soft furnishings right on the ship rather than being lifted by crane into position as they are today – fully plumbed and accommodation ‘pods’ wired, complete and ready to go.

Decorative plaster friezes, as well as the use of stained glass panels and wrought iron grilles, were used to mask portholes, ventilation and heating elements.

Each stateroom and first-class cabin benefited from central heating and electric heating. The radiators were installed in a false chimney. Still (shock horror) with the exception of B and C decks, most bathrooms, including toilets, were shared in first class. Baths had to be reserved and the room disinfected between uses.

The suites included accommodation for your servants to keep them handy to peel a grape for you or iron a week-long copy of the Financial Times.

Wandering the ship, Titanic offered something never experienced on a cruise before – dining and cafe choices distinct from the first-class main dining room. This included the A La Carte and Café Parisian and the more casual, colonial-inspired Verandah Café on Deck A with its panoramic ocean view.

The Verandah Café on the Olympic, Titanic's sister ship.  Inspired by the laid-back life of colonial imperialism, it overlooked the promenade deck with its panoramic ocean view.
The Verandah Café on the Olympic, Titanic’s sister ship. Inspired by the laid-back life of colonial imperialism, it overlooked the promenade deck with its panoramic ocean view.

Eating off the main menu came at extra cost, and it was pretty revolutionary for those sticky old mud toffs, as you could order when you felt like it (the Dining Saloon closed promptly at 8:15 p.m.). The first class dining room proper was the largest room seen until 1912 of its type, at 1,000 m2 in a comforting Jacobean style familiar to Edwardian society.

The floor (surprisingly) was linoleum, a brilliant choice for its flexibility, ease of maintenance and relative extravagance for an early 20th century audience. With leaded glass, golden scrambled eggs all over the walls, and stationary table lamps save for the stomach-churning swell, doomed guests could have been sipping turtle soup at the finest address in London or Paris.

How could anything ruin the night?

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