>Do you think ships will ever truly be elegant again?
Except for a brief period of, say, 1950-1965, they never were truly elegant to begin with. Ile de France ( and, earlier, the George Washington) notwithstanding, ships never reflected advance design or elegance. What they reflected was what people expected to find when they checked in to a hotel:
(The very H&W-esque Prince George Hotel on 5th and
East 28th, NYC, being a prime example of this. It has the most "Ocean liner" of any interiors I've seen, and survives in pretty good repair)
and hotels were for people who were not... shall we say...of the "set" that had family, club, and university connections in all major cities, who would say "I'd never DREAM of letting you stay in a hotel" when they found out one was traveling.
John Jacob Astor's St Regis, in NYC, was about the first hotel expressly aimed at the crowd who didnt WANT pomp when they traveled. Quiet interiors and a price scale which excluded most casual travelers made it the first "First Class Only" establishment of its kind. And, even there, the designers played it safe; although the interiors whispered rather than shrieked, they were still retro.
I dont think ships will ever return to the level of formality, as opposed to elegance, that they once knew. That lifestyle was on the wane even before the Depression, and the two most successful liners of the 1930s (Manhattan and Washington) built their entire advertising campaign around the fact that they were casually conmmfortable and not formal in the Normandie sense. People apparently wanted A) large cabins, B) private bathrooms, and C) casually dressy dinners rather than formality, and patronised the ships which offered those things. The old tails and evening gown look has all but vanished on shore, and realistically, who would choose to revisit it while at sea and on vacation?
The loss of some aspects of formality are regretable. Husbands and wives should NEVER be seated at the same table (conversation flows better) and a table head SHOULD be present, to turn the table at various points in the evening. Food and wine should never be praised (it's an insult to the host or hostess, carrying as it does the implication of surprise. Of COURSE the food and wine are excellent- I'd not allow them to come to the table otherwise) nor should objects be commented upon. People under 18 have no place in a formal dining room (unless it is to enter to bid polite and simultaneous greetings and good nights to those present)and those in the 18-21 age group should keep their contributions to a minimum since, in truth, they have not yet experienced enough to actually be interesting within the framework of a formal conversation. Food does not come to the table on plates. It comes, properly, on serving trays, and is served from the left. It is crass to have your entire table service laid out at once; behavior suitable perhaps to a vulgarian whose husband struck it rich and who wanted to make a big show, but crass nevertheless. So, the basic minimal table service should be laid out, and the more specialized utensils brought by the servants with each successive course, and taken away upon completion...
Sounds like a barrel of laughs in a cruise/crossing setting, doesn't it?
In truth, it DOES make for a more relaxed meal when the above are observed. But, it would never fly in 2009. The shrieks of "Whaddya mean my wife is seated apart from me?" alone would be headache inducing in the extreme. Would that one COULD sit down to dinner completely assured that disordered bowels will never be brought up as a conversational gambit. But, how many people practice light conversation anymore? If you tried reverting to even basic formality, as opposed to "play dress-up," you'd end up with a very grumpy shipload of passengers.
PLUS, extreme snobbism is now rampant, so any effort at instilling a more formal tone would doubtlessly backslide into the "arrogant staff vs easily cowed customers" dynamic currently epidemic in Los Angeles and portions of NYC. I suspect that formality would be used as a bludgeon, by both the staff and the newly wealthy but newly wealthy marginally longer than YOU have been newly wealthy crowd. And that insttead of making things flow better, as intended, it would only lead to an aura of pretension and discomfort.
Whew, that was a lot. I guess what I really meant is will ships ever again have that same 'attention to detail' as they used too.
As for everything you mentioned above, I don't understand why it has to be like that. I believe people as a whole, by trying to be more down to earth, have just become equally stuck up. I completely agree on the fact that children shouldn't be allowed in formal dinning events, though. You have to watch what you say, even more so than you must in polite company, which can be very uncomfortable. And kids have a tendency to talk, theres nothing wrong with that, but the chances of them having the same interest as the adults at the table are slim to none.
> I guess what I really meant is will ships ever again have that same 'attention to detail' as they used too.
Well, in CERTAIN aspects of service, they are now better than they used to be. But, in others, not quite as good.
If you were to say "I will have my bags unpacked no later than three, and be back by six to draw my bath" to a cabin attendant these days, you'd most likely be met by a blank or indignant stare. Conversely, if your cabin attendant unpacked your bags for you and put your stuff away unbidden, you'd probably feel intruded upon. And if he offered to help you in your bath, you'd likely (and probably correctly) assume you were being hit on in a grossly inappropriate manner. We live in a FAR different world than existed pre-WW2, and much of what was once expected of staff now seems either intrusive or just plain weird. One can only imagine the reaction to "I will be in my bath for exactly ten minutes. Be back then to towel me off" in today's world.
Similarly, the popular "detail" of the bartender remembering what you drink, from day to day and voyage to voyage, is actually quite creepy and presumptuous when you think about it. Some of my liner queen pals might disagree with me on that, but...blecccccch... I like the illusion that the staff is not observing me and taking notes on my behavior patterns. Having the bartender, who I've not seen in six months, greet me with "I will have your White Russian for you right away" BEFORE I've ordered... bleccccch. "Good to see you on board again" will suffice; revealing that I knocked back enough White Russians last time to make a lasting impression.... not as charming as intended.
PRETENSION AS FORMALITY, aka "Sir, get your hand out of my lap" is rampant at sea, in the guise of Attention to Detail and needs to be eliminated. Your hand does NOT belong in my lap. Ever. I'm 43 and can place my own napkin, thank you. Similarly, I do not wish to have you pepper my soup BEFORE I've tasted it, or after, either, for that matter. I do not wish to sample the wine in your presense and proclaim it good with great fanfare- believe me, if it is bad I will let you know. If I am going to dress formal as a passenger, then so should you as a staff member and that means, Miss, your hair is worn UP, and not hanging loose where it can drop into my food or, worse, where you might be tempted to touch it. And, it means that although I might address you by your name, I prefer "sir" in return. Please, just get the food to the table while it is hot, clear the plates before the leftovers atrophy, and spare me the silly affectations of DeLuxe which...in truth... are the opposite.
The one place where actual elegance CAN be achieved in a way that does not seem archaic is in decor.
I've not been able to grasp why our cities, and even shopping malls, are full of excellent, in some cases classic, examples of post-modernism and minimalism. We shop on minimalist shops; sleep in minimalist hotels; eat in minimalist restaurants. Same with postmodern. Yet, for some reason, ship designers seem to think that creating just the sort of elegance we've embraced on shore will, somehow, create a loser of a ship. So, we have ugly homages to 1938, ugly homages to 1928, some truly ghastly homages to 1908, and a whole lot of Vegas garish. I dislike the faux-Deco more, BTW. If nothing else, at least Carnival is original. Just thinking aloud... it The Gap can somehow embrace postmodernism and create mall stores that are playful, airy, and have good customer flow, why do shipbuilders lag so far behind? Similarly, I was in a Wendys that utilized CUBISM. Wendys. Design sophistication. If THEY care enough, then why....
>>The boxy, building like ships? That all look the same? The modern, clean-cut interiors? Do you think ships will ever truly be elegant again?<<
As Jim has pointed out, claims for the elegance of ocean liners and cruise ships are a bit exaggerated and I think that this particular mythos owes more to nostalgia then any reality.
In any event, how do you even define elegant? Different peoples of different eras had different ideas and what would look sophisticated and classy to one might be seen as garish and pretentious to another.
>>And, what would your dream ship have? What would it look like?<<
She would be comfortable without piling on tons of what can only be called Eye Candy, and she would have a friendly staff and crew. I dislike pretentions and excessive formality for it's own sake. So long as the food is good, hot and plentiful and the atmousphere is relaxing, with some decent entertainment, I'd be a happy camper.
But that's just me. If you like The Ritz, wallow in it and enjoy yourself.
Duvets in storage for Caribbean cruises. Even with the AC blasting, no one wants to snuggle under a quilt as they cross the equator.
Soundproofing. I dont want to hear you having sex. Or vice versa. I dont want to hear you having gastric problems. (First morning of first voyage as an adult. Myself and date having breakfast in bed, watching the reflected sunlight dancing on the ceiling, and trying to keep a stiff upper lip about the... gastric incident... that was broadcasting thru our bathroom wall from next door) I dont want to hear your TV, your foul choice of music, or your child singing tonelessly at 7AM.
Elevators. QE2 aside, I've not been on a ship since 1990 with elevators that actually COME. You know they are there. But they never come. You never see them.
No Baked Alaska Parade.
Substantial deck space. Why dont they LEARN? As the passenger loads increase, the actual outdoor deckspace continues to shrink. Yet people do not seem to want to stay indoors - duh- while sailing thru a warm tropical paradise.
No Art Deco recreations. I hate them. Period.
No Baked Alaska Parade.
Public bathrooms in obvious places.
Kids only pool. With lifeguard.
No Baked Alaska Parade.
No Atrium. Every ship has one, yet no one seems to use them for any purpose other than to get from point A to point B.
No Baked Alaska Parade.
No synthetic wood. It's not classy. It's what you see in shoe stores.
Monochromatic carpeting. No Dalmation print. No Confetti print. No bars n squiggles print. No fleur de lis print. Monochrome.
No art auction, gold by the foot, watches 'At less than wholesale,' or Parfums de Europe.
No inside cabins.
No prerecorded orchestra in the showroom. Either hire a full band, or eliminate the band altogether and have a DJ.
One and a half bathrooms per cabin, at Disney, brilliant.
Tables for two and tables for eight ONLY in the dining room. Tables for six can be fun or awful, tables for four are courting disaster. Tables for eight, for whatever reason, are always genial.
>>Soundproofing. I dont want to hear you having sex. Or vice versa. I dont want to hear you having gastric problems.<<
Amen to that! If I want to hear that, I can stay in a Motel Six for the night and for signifigantly less money. (Something to think about if one would like to believe that the accomadations on a cruise ship would be much better.)
Baked Alaska Parade: Okay. As far back as the Collins Line, ships had ice rooms. So, the novelty of ice cream at sea had worn off by, say, the Civil War era.
And here we sit, 150 years after Collins, enduring a half hour long floor show involving sparklers, twirling napkins, rounds of applause, the introduction of every staff member in the room, a chorus or two of Auld Lang Syne, all meant to heighten the big moment at which you are served... ice cream.
Soundproofing: Mike and I were once blessed with a cabin on a ship with poor bathroom soundproofing. The next cabin featured an English couple who fought 24/7. At one point "You sweat like a pig. You sweat more than any woman I've ever seen" clearly broadcast into our cabin thru the bathroom wall. On another voyage, as we were getting dressed for dinner, Tim and I were treated to the couple in the next cabin...procreating...in the shower AND the wife singing "Loving You is Easy 'cause You're Beautiful." Which, believe me, was almost worse than the unwanted voyeurism of a few minutes prior. In retrospect, when she got to the "La-la-la-la-la" portion, we should have harmonized it in OUR bathroom, as a subtle way of saying "Hey. there's no soundproofing."
Rocky- Answering another part of your question, regarding what my dream ship should look like...
There is nothing inherently wrong with the square shape and, in fact, it is a wonderful manifestation of form following function. And, the very high superstructures give one an amazing perspective while ON them. However, it would be nice to see an attempt- ANY attempt- made to endow them with some STYLE. Even a cursory look at the architecture of the 1920s and 30s will show that something long and rigidly linear can still convey a sense of motion and lightness: the current ships are visually very static and, yes, heavy looking.
So, I'd hire an architect, tell him I want a box shape, but a box shape that leads the eyes along; flows; has sense of motion. I'd say "1961 Lincoln. It's nothing but a box. But an award winning box that influenced automotive design for 25 years beyond its introduction. I want you to, somehow, endow my floating box with the same sense of...elegance... and infinity that the '61 Lincoln possessed. It's a box that somehow manages to be sleek. Figure out how to do it."
And I keep going back to it, but EXCESSIVE DECKSPACE is a must. The majority of the new liners are only marginally less 'indoor' than the ships of the 1950s. Yet it seems like everyone wants to be outdoors, and has to jockey for space to do so. Yeah, I know the rationale is "everyone has their own balcony, so we dont NEED that much common deckspace." Yet, just from casual observation, one can see that simply doesn't apply in the real world. Your balcony doesn't have a pool, bar service, or any feeling of sociability at all. At sailaway you see 5000 people shoehorning into 10 square feet of common deck, and possibly 30 people waving from their balconies.
So, my dream ship would have at least one large terraced deck aft.
I guess what I mean by Elegant is just more attention to detail. All ships seem to have that same, cheesy, arcade feel. I like feeling that I'm in a nice hotel. And I like deck space. When we went on the Voyager of the Seas back in 07' it was so crowded! I wanted a space where I could walk and be in the sun. The Promenade, which no one seems to use, doesn't really allow much sun. And on the top decks they have those...um... safety shields? On the sides, which are annoying. Good entertainment too. I personally wish they would bring Vaudeville back... now that would be nice.
>>all meant to heighten the big moment at which you are served... ice cream. <<
(Snort) I'd just as soon get a pint of Hagaan Daaz out of the freezer, pop the top and call it solved. Hell, if I want food to be an event, I'll go on a hunt where the game we're trying to put on the dinner plate is just as eager to put me on it's dinner plate.
>I personally wish they would bring Vaudeville back... now that would be nice.
They have, my friend and it's called "America's Got Talent." Which beautifully recaptures the spirit of vaudeville. One REALLY impressive discovery per season, a few very good acts, a handful of tolerably mediocre talents and...the rest.
We just transcribed a letter from a final Lusitania crossing. Several celebrities on board. One is injured, two are seasick, and the ship's show consists of one big star singing, and then a professor imitating jungle animals.
Now, could you imagine the... mortification...of watching an older gentleman making elephant calls, bird squawks, and shrieking like a howler monkey, for a half hour? Suddenly being hurled out of a capsizing lifeboat from boat deck level doesnt seem half as bad...at least it's quick and ends in death.
>And on the top decks they have those...um... safety shields?
Tinted glass? Makes photographing other ships, and ports of call, really difficult? Those things? Yeah, I dont like them either.