Normandie Interiors Today


Jim Kalafus

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>She was certainly not a ghost ship

No, the 1200 crew men spread out between the 400 or so passengers must have created the illusion of life.
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>In 1920s Mauretania averaged around 800 passengers per crossing, Olympic around 950,

Hardly surprising. They were aging and, in many ways, offered inferior accomodation to the newbuilds~ particularly during the latter half of the decade. They were dealing with a sluggish ecomony through the first half of the 1920s, and were at a disadvantage in terms of competion during the boom years. So, comparing passenger figures between two moving into obsolescence liners facing stiff competetion towards the end of their lives, and a massively promoted brand new flagship is, once again, apples and oranges. Getting back to the point...you initially claimed that the Normandie was profitable, based on one quote from N.Q.o.t.S. I still don't see how a liner that was laid up for over half of her first 3 years, went through a massive internal rebuild (Oct 1935-May 1936), statistically NEVER had a voyage at more than 50% capacity, and carrying 1300 crewmen could be profitable.

>But she was still high on the list of liners in terms of passenger carryings.

Yes, but she was half empty. 3 crewmen per passenger is not a good thing. The smaller, factually profitable, vessels carried the same number of passengers but had the advantage of being full, or at least more than half booked, as they did. The fact, already mentioned, that two years into her career she was being used as a deal sweetener in peak season for the aging Paris does not speak well of her popularity.
 

Brent Holt

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>So, comparing passenger figures between two moving into obsolescence liners facing stiff competetion towards the end of their lives, and a massively promoted brand new flagship is, once again, apples and oranges.

Aquitania was certainly aging as well and offered "dated" accomodation by 1930. Her late 20s refit probably did help her, though.

>They were dealing with a sluggish econony through the first half of the 1920s,

Olympic averaged 1779 passengers in 1920; 1440 in 1921, & 987 in 1922. (The immigration restrictions went into effect in 1922)
I am not sure the economy was that sluggish, based on numbers from the early 20s. Berengaria averaged about 1350 per crossing in 1923. (This may be off a tad, the source material is a little confusing)Majestic & Leviathan also did very well.

>No, the 1200 crew men spread out between the 400 or so passengers must have created the illusion of life.

400 or so passengers? The Normandie averaged much better than that.

A most interesting discussion.

Brent
 

Jim Kalafus

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>400 or so passengers? The Normandie averaged much better than that.

And occasionally did far worse. And those were the voyages to which I was referring, of course.

>Olympic averaged 1779 passengers in 1920; 1440 in 1921, & 987 in 1922. (The immigration restrictions went into effect in 1922)
I am not sure the economy was that sluggish, based on numbers from the early 20s. Berengaria averaged about 1350 per crossing in 1923. (This may be off a tad, the source material is a little confusing)Majestic & Leviathan also did very well....

Interesting, but two things:

A) not germaine to the Normandie, since it is a case of apples and oranges, somewhat akin to introducing restaurants from the 1970s into a discusion about why a specific restaurant in the 1980s failed, and

B) Not really germaine to your original point, either. Let's refresh, shall we?

BH~Ships sailed half-full on a regular basis after the immigration quotas came into effect in the 1920s. The Olympic, Aquitania, Mauretania, and similar liners operated at only 50% capacity and still turned handsome profits.

JK~Well, no, they didn't. That is why "tourist third" "Three day cruises to nowhere" and the concepts of "vacation packages" and,in some cases, "reduced services" came into being. The idea being to get at least SOME backsides into the empty seats.

This was not about at what capacity the ships sailed, but WAS about their profitability. So, how handsome a profit did they turn? Berengaria was likely profitable, based on her passenger totals and the fact that she was a prize of war and not a newbuild. Same with Majestic. Mauretania entered her twentieth year during the 1920s, and so was likely "all paid up." So, even if they operated at 50% capacity they were not on the same playing field as the Normandie for they did not carry the burden of massive debt. Even if 2/3 of the Normandie's tab was subsidised, the remaining $20 million was a massive debt to be saddled with~ particularly since portions of the debt dated to 1929 and had been gathering interest for six years before the liner's long delayed introduction. Add to that passenger accomodations in just the WRONG proportions for uncertain 1935 (too many in First, too few in Third) a crew roster guaranteed to be a money drain (1300 for 1900 passengers- Conte di Savoia had 778 for 2060 passengers, Rex had 712 for 2032) and major service problems which kept her laid up for half of her first three years, and you are looking at a recipe for disaster not faced by the other ships. You've claimed that the Normandie was both popular and profitable, but I dont see any strong evidence for either.
 
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Nicolas Roughol

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Although both the DVD and the book bear the same name (Onboard Normandie), be advised they do not share the same subject at all (well, of course they're both about Normandie). The book reproduces diaries of famous French writers of the time who crossed the Atlantic aboard her. The DVD is a TV show that aired in France last January and that shows color footage of Normandie during her final crossing in 1939...sadly I haven't seen this TV show so I'll probably end up buying this DVD as well. For those of you who do not live in Europe and want to order this DVD, be advised this DVD is Region 2, so you need an unlocked DVD player to read it...
 

Jim Kalafus

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>The DVD is a TV show that aired in France last January and that shows color footage of Normandie during her final crossing in 1939.

Might it be the footage shot for, but apparently not used in, Paris-New York? Footage with Von Stroheim was shot aboard the final crossing, but he does not appear in the credits for the film as it was released and I assume that, as happened so many times with him, he was dismissed and his work deleted. The only other color film I've seen of Normandie was "Normandie to Rio" and a badly deteriorated reel of home movie stock.
 

Brent Holt

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Actually I claimed that a book said she was profitable and that that burst the myth. Not exactly the same thing, or a poor choice of words on my part.
I am having a hard time understanding the attitude that Normandie was such a flop. I do not think the passenger data backs that up, although the QM certainly beat her. The question of profits is debatable because of the lack of data on it. There is more available for other ships.

<This was not about at what capacity the ships sailed, but WAS about their profitability. So, how handsome a profit did they turn? Berengaria was likely profitable, based on her passenger totals and the fact that she was a prize of war and not a newbuild. Same with Majestic.

In general, the big ships were profitable in the 20s and some into the very early 30s. Using Mark Chirnside's book on Olympic, I can say the following as far as profits were concerned regarding Olympic and Majestic: (in GBP)

1931
Olympic +79,835
Majestic +73,696

1932
Olympic +14,608
Majestic -37,124

You can infer from the data above that Olympic and Majestic earned good profits in the 20s when they carried higher passenger loads.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Easley South Carolina
Just a point of order, when assessing the profitabilty of a ship, you need to take a look at what it cost to build her in the first place then costs to operate,cost to maintain and overhaul, any assorted taxes, fees, duties and assessments that would have been charged to the vessel, food, fuel, and the like, then try to balance that all against the actual revenues taken in as well as any subsidies that the state may have offered. Don't forget fees for taking up dock space. Even when the ship went nowhere, the bills came in and had to be paid!

Normandie was, to my understanding, what would be called a Ship Of State and existed more for prestige value as anything else. Very few of these vessels ever turned a profit and most operated at a loss. The profitabilty was accomplished by lesser ships owned by the shipping lines which carried the bread and butter trade of cargo, cruising, and general passenger traffic to destinations all over the globe.

This is not something the general public knew a lot about and few ever really cared. Why should they? If they got from point A to point B, and managed to do it on the biggest, the fastest or both, and it won them some bragging rights, so much the better. Nor was fiscal science fiction in the name of prestige confined to the Great Liners. Anybody remember the Concorde? An enormously expensive aircraft to develop and operate which can be shown to have earned a profit.

How did this happen?

Simple, the British and French governments wrote off the costs of research, development, testing, and evaluation. The sky high ticket prices took care of the rest, and a substantial number of people gladly ponied up the cash!

Voodoo economics! Ya gotta love it!
wink.gif
 

Brent Holt

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This is a valid point. The Rex, Conte De Savoia, Normandie, Bremen, and Europa were conceived as prestige vessels and profit was a secondary consideration.
On the other hand, some of the older ships were built without subsidies and expected to turn a profit. Looking at data from the Depression year, it is safe to say that Olympic made a profit from 1911-1932. She operated at a loss from 1933-1935. (Although her numbers were climbing in 1935-compared to 1934-when Olympic was laid up and retired.
The Imperator Class liners most certainly made $$$ in the 1920s. The Berengaria tended to lead the pack with higher revenues, with Majestic not too far behind. The Leviathan was very popular, contrary to what many believe, but her profitability is a difference question since she ran under government operation from 1923-1929. Using that info, she was profitable from the mid-20s until the Depression hit the big ships hard. The Imperator Class liners were very expensive to operate. Olympic had the lowest operating costs of them all. She could carry fewer passengers than them and yet make more $$$$.
I wish more info was available on the other ships, but it may have been lost.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I wish more info was available on the other ships, but it may have been lost.<<

So do I, but I'd be greatly surprised if any of the financial records from that time have survived to the present day. I think they'ed make some very interesting and revealing reading.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>>You've claimed that the Normandie was both popular and profitable, but I dont see any strong evidence for either.

>Actually I claimed that a book said she was profitable and that that burst the myth. Not exactly the same thing,

?????????????????????????????????????????

>I am having a hard time understanding the attitude that Normandie was such a flop. I do not think the passenger data backs that up,

Well, apart from the facts that the passenger totals started out weak (around 950- 1935) weakened (908) 1936, rallied a bit in 1937 (around 1050- and her best crossing that year, a summer sailing, had approx 1400 on board) slumped in 1938 back to the mid 900s; she was sailing half empty with a crew of 1300; she was out of service more than she was in service 1935-1938, and the portion of her debt NOT absorbed by the French Government could have built a large liner, she had all the hallmarks of a runaway success.

>You can infer from the data above that Olympic and Majestic earned good profits in the 20s when they carried higher passenger loads.

Well...no, you really can't. The introdcution of the Depression makes this, again, a case of apples and oranges. I'm not a fan of either ship and so can't answer this myself, but by 1932 (the depths of the depression~ 1933 would be equally bad)I'd be willing to guess that severe cost cutting measures were in effect. Were their crews reduced? How large a pay cut did the remaining crew take to keep their jobs? Were onboard services maintained at 1929 levels, or would passengers have noticed a new austerity? Did the ships maintain full seasons, or were they withdrawn during the off seasons to cut costs? Did they cruise? It was not impossible for a ship to turn a profit in the depression~ for most of the decade they remained the only way to cross, Zeppelin travel notwithstanding- but those that did, did so by extensive belt tightening.

What, or who, was the original source for the profit and loss figures given and why was this source created to begin with? Believe it or not, even internal documents are sometimes....creative.... particularly when a company is in trouble, which by 1933 White Star certainly was.

So, extrapolating from figures compiled in 1933 to assume profits were made pre-1929 can't really be done. The Depression, like WW2, created such a unique economy that its statistics stand alone and can't cross over to reenforce (or negate)points being made about pre depression or postwar profits and losses.

All of which has little or nothing to do with whether or not a brand new $60 million liner, sailing half empty- and only half of the time- with a large crew, and subject to a massive first season rebuild could possibly have generated a net profit as you originally claimed. You introduced the word "myth." Now, expand a bit on the hows and the whys.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>The Rex, Conte De Savoia, Normandie, Bremen, and Europa were conceived as prestige vessels and profit was a secondary consideration.

Well....no. the Rex, Conte di Savoia, Bremen, Europa, Normandie and Empress of Britain were all conceived in, and for, a boom economy. No company or goverment creates a ship simply for prestige. When they were conceived, there was a logical reason for their being. It was gone by the time they made their respective debuts, except in the case of the Bremen. They became "Ships of State" in the literal sense, because by the time the depression really started getting horrendous (ca 1931) there was no turning back for any of them, and State Subsidy was the only way that they could have survived.
 
Jun 23, 2006
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The DVD is really bright and beautifully restored. It deals with onboard life and you get to see Normandie in a way you have never seen before. I've watched it twice already. Really bizarre to see full colour images of the 1930's.
 

Brent Holt

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I assume this DVD is not for region 1? I would like to have it, regardless of what language it is in, but that would be pointless if it is not encoded for "my" part of the world.
 
Jun 23, 2006
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The DVD is for region 2 and totally in French. Since I am from The Netherlands my French is reasonably good, but the images are what is important. No subtitles unfortunately.
 

Brent Holt

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>You can infer from the data above that Olympic and Majestic earned good profits in the 20s when they carried higher passenger loads. (BH)

Well...no, you really can't. The introduction of the Depression makes this, again, a case of apples and oranges. Did the ships maintain full seasons, or were they withdrawn during the off seasons to cut costs? Did they cruise? (JK)

I think you can. Olympic made 16 round trips in 1931 and several cruises. (The cruises were not included in the figures.) That schedule was cut to 11 in 1932-although this was less than originally planned since Olympic was pulled from service 2 months earlier than expected for a planned overhaul of her reciprocating engines that had not had significant work done on them since built. It is not a leap of faith to say that Olympic must have been very profitable if she made money in 1932 at 430 passengers per crossing & made a lot more in the 1920s when she did much better than that. (BH)

>Were their crews reduced? How large a pay cut did the remaining crew take to keep their jobs? (JK)

I have no info from the WS side of this. I do know that Cunard reduced crew wages on several occasions according to Berengaria: Cunard’s Happy Ship. (BH)

>What, or who, was the original source for the profit and loss figures given and why was this source created to begin with? Believe it or not, even internal documents are sometimes....creative.... particularly when a company is in trouble, which by 1933 White Star certainly was. (JK)

The original source comes from White Star documents. (There are still a few left-contrary to what many believe.) WS kept financial records-that is why they were created. (BH)

>So, extrapolating from figures compiled in 1933 to assume profits were made pre-1929 can't really be done. The Depression, like WW2, created such a unique economy that its statistics stand alone and can't cross over to reinforce (or negate) points being made about pre depression or postwar profits and losses. (JK)

If that is true, than the whole discussion is mute. In much of history it is necessary to take the info available and estimate in the absence of complete data. (BH)

> All of which has little or nothing to do with whether or not a brand new $60 million liner, sailing half empty- and only half of the time- with a large crew, and subject to a massive first season rebuild could possibly have generated a net profit as you originally claimed. You introduced the word "myth." Now, expand a bit on the hows and the whys. (JK)

You are doing the same thing you said I was doing. You are making assumptions. This debate is becoming circular. I never said net profit. There is also gross profit to consider. (Net profit factors in overhead costs while gross looks at the ship as a unit in itself) I have only seen actual financial data on Normandie from one book. Therefore there is no more data currently available to answer the question. (BH)
 
Jul 9, 2004
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Perhaps what I've missed something - BUT here's a point that I think hasn't been brought to the discussion...

Normandie - in the months leading up to her maiden voyage and years afterward was WILDLY popular (Mr. Jim is shaking his head right now - hear me through.) Normandie certainly was a popular thing in her day - and the people I have spoken to who saw her firsthand testify it - my late Great Aunt (who interestingly served as a WAC member during WW2 - if its the right term) saw the ship when she was in NYC once and a few other people I've talked to remember her vividly - one lady watercolorist even remembering one of the (apparently many) instances that Normandie berthed herself without the use of any tugs or port assistance.

Normandie WAS popular - but here's where the difference is and explains how a ship could be so popular and spoken of on both sides of the Atlantic and not be able to be called anything financially resembling "profitable."

Normandie was popular on LAND and not at sea. People loved her, yes - but no one could afford to travel on her and hardly anyone had the money to even think about traveling on her. The numerous bars, hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants that were named after her during her period can testify to that fact. Of course the Avante-Garde couldn't stand the interiors - but apparently the general public didn't seem to mind.

Does this make any sense? I think it does - and it answers a couple questions that are being debated - not all mind you, but some. How a ship could be so talked about in her time and still be the financial Skidoo/Can't Stop the Music! of the French Line.

Perhaps someone disagrees?
 

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