How Titanic Passengers Lived a Life of Luxury Before It Went Under
| LAST UPDATE 04/27/2023
In 1912, 2,240 passengers boarded The Titanic liner. What had begun as a joyous voyage around the Atlantic turned into a nightmare at sea. Yet, before disaster struck, passengers were living their best lives...
In 1911, the White Star Line launched the Titanic, a British passenger liner. One year after, passengers were welcomed aboard on April 10th to set sail from Southampton to New York, unaware of how their trip would end.
The streamliner carried over 2,000 passengers and was designed to perfection. But that was not enough to hold it together in one place. After 5 days at sea, the trip turned for the worst. The ship directly hit an iceberg, and within two hours, 1,500 were lost. But, just hours before the accident, passengers were blissfully happy.
High Class Passengers
The Titanic divided its passengers by class, setting separate ticket prices. This included first, second and third-class options. A first-class ticket cost somewhere between the thousands, which had value, offering these passengers high-quality luxury travel. So, third-class offered an alternative experience.
One passenger, in particular, Charlotte Drake Cardeza, was the perfect example of a first-class passenger. She was a game hunter, her family owned textile mills, and she enjoyed occasional yacht trips. Cardeza was used to living a lavish life, so she spent $2,600 for her ticket, which would have cost about $61,000+ today.
Life in First Class
For Cardeza, her first-class ticket provided her and her family with a 3-bedroom suite, her own bathroom, closet, and their own personal maid. Passengers like Cardeza, who paid for this treatment, were given only the best service and access to amenities that weren't available for those who paid for second and third-class.
First-class passengers could enjoy tea or a light snack in the Veranda Café. Aside from the luxury amenities, the Titanic was known to be one of the most luxurious ships at sea, and passengers were ecstatic to have been on board. One passenger, who was a survivor of the shipwreck, noted his experience in his published book.
Living To Tell the Tale
As one of the largest streamliners at the time, amenities were slightly different than what's available today. The clientele was very classy and structured. Unlike 24-hour buffets and kid's clubs, the passengers took part in games like shuffleboard to keep the fun going.
John B. Thayer was just 17 years old at the time and was on board with his mother. Together, they survived - but not by taking a seat on one of the lifeboats. Instead, the mother and son went below the ship into the freezing ocean and swam to safety.
Dinner & a Show
Thayer further elaborated about life on the boat, particularly their dining experience. He made a detailed note about that night before the event, “We went to our staterooms about 6:30 p.m. to dress for dinner. My father and mother were invited out to dinner that night, so I dined alone at our regular table.”
The first-class passengers dined elegantly, with a live orchestra playing music in the background and a room full of atmosphere. The dining room was decorated beautifully, making it obvious there was a high amount of detail put into the room. After all, first-class tickets needed to fulfill an expectation.
A Five-Star Menu
Thayer deemed the liner as "palatial." Alongside the exceptional dining and "delicious" food, first-class passengers were served 13 courses to satisfy their taste buds. The menu included gourmet dishes such as pâté de foie gras, peaches in chartreuse jelly, and Waldorf pudding, also known as vanilla, apple, walnut, and raisin pudding.
As far as five-star dining goes, each course was served with wine and could last up to five hours. Other menu options included lamb, oysters, veal, roast duck, creamed carrots, and sirloin steak. It was an experience like no other offered to these specific passengers.
Staying Fit on Board
When passengers weren't being graced with lavish meals, the men and women would enjoy a workout in the accessible gym to stay in shape. The men would want to look their best, puffing their chests, while the women wanted their corsets to fit perfectly when slipping into their evening gowns.
The gym included old-school machinery, such as bicycles, "circle racing machines," rowing machines, and saddles. Both men and women, first-class passengers, could access the gym for free use. They would arrive dressed in their best activewear, ready for a first-class workout.
When the passengers wanted a little downtime, the ship provided them with alternative amenities. Aside from the chaotic gymnasium and the extravagant dining, men, women, and families could enjoy peace and quiet in the reading room. The ship offered almost anything and everything, which was a whole new world for that era.
Still, reading time was considered more relaxing for the wealthier passengers and in general. The room was decorated with tranquility and comfortable seating to escape the cruise activities. The men would usually be found here with a newspaper, whereas the women would typically enjoy something similar.
The Celebrities That Got Away
There were some elite Edwardian celebrities - including Milton Snavely Hershey, the American chocolatier - who miraculously survived the horrific tragedy. Just as they were ready to set sail, it was due to last-minute cancellations that stopped them from becoming a victim.
Hershey and his wife made a last-minute change to board a different liner just days before they planned to check in on the Titanic. Old archives found an outdated $300 check as a deposit for their trip. Other stars who luckily escaped the tragedy included J.P. Morgan and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who chose other liners.
Catching Some Sun - & Shuffleboard
Shuffleboard is typically an activity that older people participate in, a simple way to relax and wind down. While the game was first introduced in the late 1800s, people became obsessed with it. And it was at the height of popularity by the 1950s.
People had a craving for the game. So, the liner provided it as a luxury for first-class guests. There was an entire space on the deck reserved for the game so travelers could enjoy playing even in the middle of the ocean. Though no one captured the shuffleboard on board the Titanic, the pictures above show something similar.
Ocean View Rooms
First-class passengers could access almost every room and take part in every activity on board. They were spoiled with luxuries. Considering how much they spent on their tickets, it was also not uncommon for these wealthy passengers to bring their maids on board for extra help. This way, they could feel right at home, at sea.
Due to additional passengers, first-class cabins had more room than others. This typically included more than one bedroom, with a living room area and an incredible ocean view. The rooms had a fireplace and a breakfast table for a relaxing environment. They also boasted comfortable furniture and Georgian/ French Louis XVI décor.
As well as the private, quiet library and tea room, the liner also offered first-class passengers access to a private lounge. The relaxation room was the point of silence on the ship, away from all the cruise chaos and only a space for Britain's elite.
Staff provided meals suitable for tea time and mid-day snacks. Though, passengers could ask for anything they wanted. The passengers would also dress in their best clothing to suit the environment. Although they were relaxing, live classical music softly played in the background.
The Turkish baths were a similar luxury to someone who could afford a first-class ticket. A Turkish bath is a cleansing and relaxation treatment, almost like a sauna, with massages to end the experience. This was their version of an onboard spa. The baths were enjoyed after the 13-course meal or a tiring gym session.
In addition to the expensive ticket price, passengers had to pay four shillings or $1 dollar to enter the spa-like room. This equivalates to at least $25 today. Once again, this room was only available for first-class passengers, validating the extreme lengths the liner went to provide a modern travel experience.
Amenities For The Children
It is terrifying to view pictures of children who were playing peacefully on the ship, unaware of the tragic events that were going to take place. There were at least 107 child passengers on the liner, and only the 50 who managed to secure a place on the lifeboats survived.
While the children were on board, they had plenty of entertainment. Children quickly made their own fun. Whether this was making friends with other kids from across the world, running their way through the ship, or playing on the saloon deck, they were never bored.
Second & Third Class Life
While first-class passengers had nearly everything handed to them, things were slightly different for the remaining two classes. When dining, amenities, and access limits came into consideration, second-class passengers had similar luxuries to first-class passengers. Yet, they did not have exclusivity to the 13-course meal.
Second-class passengers had access to the Veranda Café and lounges on the ship. However, their meals and dining experience were a little different. In contrast to the pricey first-class ticket, second-class was about $60 ($1,400 today). Their rooms had two single beds and a wardrobe, although not all had bathrooms or a sink.
(Almost) Fine Dining
The second and third-class passengers could participate in the same activities on board. However, there were still availability differences. When it came to food, the second-class dinner was slightly less extravagant - but still included beautiful menu options, including curried chicken and wine jelly.
The Titanic aimed to treat the passengers as fairly and equally as possible, despite the difference in ticket prices. The ship was not going to discriminate, but to an extent, each class was able to experience the same amenities but just to different extremes.
Second-class passengers were able to experience luxuries such as gaining access to the relaxing reading room and even the smoking room. Of course, they overlapped with first-class passengers, but they had exclusive access around the liner. Similar to airport accesses, just like the lounge, things were slightly divided.
Each class was subject to their personal spaces around the ship. It was not anything unique, but this was how the ship managed the different facilities and access rates. For example, first-class passengers had more privacy in lounges, tea rooms, and smoking rooms where there were no second-class passengers.
However it may be portrayed, third-class passengers were not just forgotten and left to walk the plank. The third-class tickets were still fairly expensive, costing at least $40 ($142-460 today). The prices were a reflection of wages earned during that era. This way, the passengers could still pay for the trip.
During the 1900s, third-class citizens, also known as the working class, would earn about $10 a week in wages. This meant they would have to start saving if they wanted their whole family to attend the same trip. As shown in the Titanicfilm, Jack's working-class character won his ticket, landing him a position on the cruise.
An Intimate Dinner
The third-class dining room was basic. The passengers happily gathered together in a large dining room with tables and chairs, waiting to be served their dishes. This usually included a hearty meal of roast beef, gravy, potatoes, and the beloved plum pudding.
Unlike the other classes on the ship, their menu was simple and portrayed how much they spent to board the liner. Still, they were served dinner and flavorsome dessert. While they were not served caviar and pâté de foie gras, the corn, boiled potatoes, and meat were more than filling.
Immigrants on Board
It is apparent that most of the third-class passengers were immigrants. In hopes of finding better opportunities elsewhere, they had planned to get off somewhere in America and seek a new life. They were usually from Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, and Finland and accounted for 29.5% of the passengers on board.
Unlike other liners, the Titanic stood out for actually providing food and similar amenities for the third-class passengers. Other ships encouraged the same type of traveler to bring their own food on board and assign them to rooms in the busier areas of the boat, sharing two bathrooms.
Worth Every Penny
Despite the different access to lounges and amenities, the third-class passengers were still entertained. They ensured having a good time, even without a lounge to relax in or even a tea room. While one of the era's largest ships, passengers would explore around the liner, meet new people, and go to the gym.
Though the third-class passengers were given one small room to accommodate themselves, they were not going to be shut out to the rest of the liner. They took full advantage of every activity and space, even if a first-class experience was out of reach.
Demanding A Luxury Life
The Titanic was the only voyage at the time. Therefore, travelers were eager to have a taste of luxury that had never been offered before: a trip on a giant cruise ship. Only one other boat could compare to the luxury life the Titanic offered, that being the R.M.S Olympic.
The other R.M.S boat was considered a type of elegance and luxury that no one had seen before. It was something out of a fairy tale designed by White Star Line's competition, Cunard. They yearned for the largest and most extravagant cruise liners to sail across the Atlantic waters. What one company would do, the other could do better.
The Titanic's Inspiration
It was a constant battle between White Star Line and Cunard. However, the heat between the two companies was why the Titanic was built in the first place, and its sister ships, R.M.S Olympic and R.M.S Britannic. Though the Titanic had a smoking lounge which Cunard could not compete with.
The smoking rooms were considered an amenity similar the something like shuffleboard. They were also a place for socialization, games, and daily interactivity. But Cunard's cruise liner, the R.M.S Mauretania, could not compare to the Titanic - no matter how hard they tried.
Swimming at Sea
One amenity in particular which stood out on the Titanic was the luxurious swimming pool. The pool was one of the largest pools that the boat had seen during this time. And eager passengers would understandably rush to visit at any chance they got.
Considering the Titanic also provided passengers with Turkish baths, which exerted serenity, it is still questioned who had access to the pool. While it was clear what first and second-class passengers had exclusive access to, it would be endearing to know third-class passengers could take a dip in the pool.
A Drink at The Bar
So after a dip in the pool and a trip to the Turkish baths, there was only one last thing a passenger needed to relax: a libation. There was nothing more perfect to end the 13-course meal with than having an evening drink with friends and family at the bar.
Any spritzed drink would have done the job. Whether this was Champagne, a Tom Collins, or even a scotch on the rocks, any drink could have ended their day perfectly. While a Tom Collins was gin-based with a maraschino cherry on top, others would opt for burning absinthe or bitter scotch.
Dogs on Board
Unfortunately, it was not just people's lives that were lost from the tragedy that struck the Titanic. People were permitted to bring their animals on the boat, though this ended up calling for even more devastation, considering the events that took place.
Dogs were assigned to the same class as their owners, so there were, in fact, first-class dogs on board. These pups received the same luxury treatment, from pampered kennels to private dog care. Unfortunately, 12 dogs were reportedly lost due to the incident - 3 survived and were saved by their owners.
Famous People On Board
Celebrities who were highly famous during the Edwardian times were also passengers on the voyage. Unsurprisingly, the first major luxury liner took on some well-known names, not faces. These celebrities were considered elite in society - but often not from television.
One elite passenger, in particular, was John Jacob Astor. Astor was a millionaire, as his family helped build the famous Waldorf-Astoria empire. However, some famous film stars were also on board, including Dorothy Gibson, who featured in silent films and survived, unlike Astor.
The Last Hurrah
Just before April 15th, 1912, iceberg warnings were sent out to those other cruise liners also sailing across the Northern Atlantic ocean. Still, the Titanic questionably continued in the direction at the same speed through the icy waters. But not for long.
Unfortunately, due to the boat's speed, the side of the Titanic scraped along the icebergs, which hit 5 of the boat's watertight compartments. These compartments were designed to stop water from entering the ship in an emergency. Still, evidence found in history shows it might have been weakened due to a burning coal fire.
A Tragic Oversight
Once the Titanic had hit the iceberg, there was no turning back. It was a disaster that struck, and they were all forced to face the consequences. Allegedly, if the captain had noticed the iceberg 30 seconds before, the tragedy could have been avoided as it was first spotted 1,500 feet away.
Despite steering the ship immediately, this was not enough to stop the damage that had already been done. According to The Telegraph, the first officer believed the boat had enough time to avoid the icy hazard. He proceeded to order the captain to go "hard on starboard."
The Story Lives On
Once the Titanic was destroyed, it only took as little as 3 hours for the entire boat to sink to the bottom of the ocean. And the ship was never seen again - that was, until 1985. Since the remains were found, filmmakers decided to commemorate the tragic loss of many lives by creating a box office film.
There was so much to the story, and James Cameron was determined to share it with future generations. It was a horrifying historical event, but the Titanic was also a luxurious milestone in its era. Since the film, many conversations have proceeded regarding where the ship would be today if the incident never happened...