Classing on Ocean Liners


Gary.J Bell

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May 30, 2004
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Hi all!
Does anybody know when the class system was scrapped on ocean liners? I know in the 1950's/1960's Third class was transformed to Tourist class and first and second class remained.
But when did all forms of class dissapear? and replaced with just different room types?
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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According to John Brinnin, in The Sway of the Grand Saloon, one class ships became common on the Atlantic in the 1920s. At that time, cruising for pleasure was growing, partly because of Prohibition.

I have advertisements from 1912 that suggest one class coastal cruising was then already popular. One offers a cruise from New York to Savannah and back for $35, with no mention of different classes.

One other ships the class system persisted for many years. It's still around today, though not admitted to. Now it's presented as a choice of accommodation.

I stand to be corrected here, but I think that on Queen Mary 2 some facilities are not available to all passengers.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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The Coastal vessels (Clyde Line, Ward Line, Mallory Line, Merchants and Miner's Line) were two, and sometimes three, class vessels but the majority of passengers were carried in first- Using Ward Line's Havana of 1907 as an example: 210 First; 46 Second; 24 steerage. Using Clyde-Mallory's Cherokee (1925): 412 first, 25 second.
Second class on these vessels tended to disappear entirely on cruises, southbound voyages, and peak season trips when the cabins could just as easily be sold as bottom rung first class accomodations at slightly higher than second class rates. As late as 1930 (Morro Castle and Oriente) a nominal second class section of the ship was designated (430 first, 100 tourist) but from various scrapbooks I've collected I've learned that the passengers who booked into the supposed tourist class cabins had run of the ship access and ate in the first class dining room.

>but I think that on Queen Mary 2 some facilities are not available to all passengers.

Queens Grill has access to a small private deck aft, which has nothing to recommend it other than a sign that says "Queens Grill passengers only." It is actually inferior to the crew sun deck which surrounds the funnel. Queens Grill and Princess Grill share a lounge which is nice, in a subdued way. Both grill classes have their own dining rooms where one can order off menu: however; they are placed where most ships place their deck buffets, aft on the boat deck, and offer restricted sea views.
 

Jim Kalafus

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PS: I think the last liners to attempt the three class system were the Raffaelo and Michelangelo of 1965. This proved to be one of three nails in their commercial coffins: the third class cabins were miniscule, all inside, and could NEVER be successfully integrated into a one-class ship. I may be wrong, but I think that they were three class through the end of the 1972 season and returned for their final three years as two class ships.

>But when did all forms of class dissapear? and replaced with just different room types?

When airlines made same day transit possible and people didn't HAVE to settle for inferior food and accomodation as their only choice, and when people in Europe, the UK and the United States were reasonably affluent in enough numbers to not only resent the class system but eliminate it. Post 1955.
 
Apr 29, 2004
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Correct me if I'm wrong- it seems to me that Third Class was primarily useful for the immigrant trade- and thus catered mainly to a group of people whose sole interest in a given voyage was getting from Point A to Point B.

I can't imagine what use Third Class might have in an age where sea travel is mainly a recreational activity- unless it's to 'set the hook' in the minds of people who otherwise couldn't afford to go at all.

Personally, I'd like to see a separate class instituted that disallowed loudmouths, inconsiderate behavior, the dour and humorless, and those who are given to whining. :)
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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I have a soft spot for the Raffaello, Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci because my family used to travel on them.

I think my family is fairly typical of those who continued to travel by liner in the '60's and '70's. They were either moving from one continent to another and had all their possessions and cars with them (my parents), they were elderly and affluent and seeking to rekindle memories from another time (my grandparents), or they were lured by pretty sweet fares offered for third class (my father in his student days).

Your question, Bryan, is an interesting one because I recently asked it of my father. He took the Constitution to school in Europe in 1965. He's never been interested in liners, but described the chance to sail on a famous ship as "just something you wanted to do". And the attractive prices is evidenced by the fact that he was one of many students doing it. He is to this day friends with the other med students with whom he was assigned a stateroom below the water line. When I told him the Constitution had sank, he declared I was breaking his heart because of all the fun he had had on her.

It seems third class wasn't all bad. Another ocean liner family anecdote involves the great aunt who was traveling in Europe with her two teenaged children when WWII broke out. Naturally, people were desperately snatching up whatever passage back to the States they could get and my aunt managed to procure first class passage for herself and her daughter and a third class berth for her son. She arranged with the purser, however, that her son be allowed to come up and dine properly with them. But he apparently was having too much fun belowdecks (women and booze proved his ultimate undoing, so I think it's safe to guess what the draw was) and his mother barely saw him throughout the voyage.
 
Apr 29, 2004
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It sounds like the ideal trip for a teenaged boy!

Funny you should mention Michelangelo, I have a Borghini-wine-bottle ceramic model of her sitting right here. The cork is in her forward funnel.
 

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