The Ugly Ships of Today

Kyle Johnstone

Former Member
>It's all about the marketing. Even these days, >people don't always like to be reminded that >they're going out on the ocean onboard a ship. >At the very least, thy like to know that even >the trip itself will be half the fun and not >just transportation between tropical islands.

True. And a result of this is that whenever the seas get heavey the line is hit with a slew of lawsuits by 'guests' claiming that the cruiseline ruined their vacation.

Heck, it's always been about the marketing, hasn't it?

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member

At the very least, thy like to know that even the trip itself will be half the fun and not just transportation between tropical islands.

Absolutely true, Mike. Cunard's motto is "Getting there is half the fun", so they are not just promoting a crossing or a cruise; but the on board activities as well. That's all part of the marketing.​
>>Thank God! Imagine travelling with a staff who hated anything Irish, Jewish, Eastern European, American, newly rich, or non-white. In a small cabin with limited deckspace and no activities whatsover.<<

Naaaaaahhhhh...I don't even want to think about going there! That would not be a very pleasant trip!

>>Heck, it's always been about the marketing, hasn't it?<<

When you get right down to it, yep. A shipping line that doesn't cater to what the fare paying passengers want doesn't remain in business for very long.
>Thank God! Imagine travelling with a staff who hated anything Irish, Jewish, Eastern European, American, newly rich, or non-white. In a small cabin with limited deckspace and no activities whatsover

For an example- the best I've found- about why I don't long for 'the easy grace' of the old days on board ship, check out this 1937 review of the Oriente- sister ship of the Morro Castle- for an illuminating illustration of how one's 'graceful' companions in first class would view one if one was of the NOKD set:


On A Good “Average’ Cruise to Havana. The Four Handsome Airedales Wanted Girls; the Girls Wanted Husbands; the Tourists Wanted a Hot Time Ashore; The Cuban Boys Wanted Transportation. The Cubans Got What They Wanted.


Force of habit awakened elderly Mr. And Mrs. B. early and they were strolling the long decks hand in hand a half-hour before the dining saloon opened at eight. Two heavy women in new house dresses helped each other up the stairs, their lungs laboring. They were Mrs. C. and her feeble sister. They and the B’s nodded and smiled and said what a lovely morning it was and moved on in opposite directions. Mr. B. replaced his alpaca cap and told his gentle, pretty, wife how fine the sea air was and what an appetite it gave a fellow. The sun stood bright on the clean, already warm decks, the blue water enlarged quietly without whitening and sang along the flanks of the ship like seltzer.

Miss Cox appeared with her aunt Miss Box a frugal and sweet smiling spinster. Miss Box wore a simple print and a shining black straw garlanded with cloth flowers; Miss Cox was in severely informal new sports attire. Like most of the other young women, low salaried office workers upon whom the self sufficiency, the independence of city work and city living had narrowed their inestimable pressures of loneliness and of spiritual fear, she set a greater value of anticipation upon this cruise than she could dare tell herself. For this short leisure among new faces she had invested heavily in costume, in fear, in hope; and like her colleagues she searched among the men as for steamer smoke from an uncharted atoll.

Small and very lonesome in a great space of glassed in deck, an aging Jew in a light flannel suit gazed sorrowfully at the Atlantic Ocean. A blond young man who resembled an Airedale sufficiently intelligent to count to ten, dance fox trots and graduate from a gentleman’s university came briskly into the dining room in sharp pressed slacks and a navy blue sports shirt, read the sigh, dashed away and soon reappeared plus a checkered coat and a plaid tie. The dining saloon opened. Among big white tables glistening with institutional silverware all the white-coated stewards stood in sunlight with nothing yet to do. They were polite but by no means obsequious; like the room stewards and the rank and file of the crew they had a good stiff draught of the C.I.O. The headwaiter, a prim Arthur Treacher type convoyed his guests to their tables with the gestures of an Eton-trained sand hill crane in flight. His snobbishness rather flattered a number of the passengers.

Mr. And Mrs. B. studied them pretentious menu with admiration and ordered a whale of a breakfast. They may charge you aplenty, but they certainly do give you your money’s worth. Mr. L. a bearish Jew, and his wife, the hard glassy sort of blonde who should even sleep in jodhpurs tinkered at their fruit and exchanged monosyllables as if they were forced bargains. The Airedale pricked up his ears as two girls came in and as quickly drooped them worried his Rice Krispies, hoping that to the two girls already seated he had appeared to establish no relationship with the newcomers who were not at all his meat. Mr. and Mrs. L. in the manner of the average happily married couple, brightened immediately and genuinely as friends entered. The cool china noise and the chattering thickened in the cheerful room while, with the casualness of concealed excitement, studiously dressed and sharply anticipatory, singly and by twos and threes the shining breakfast faces assembled, looking each other over. The appraisals of clothes, of class, of race of temperament, and of opposite sexes met and crossed and flickered in a texture of glances as swift and keen as the leaping closures of electric arcs, and as essential irrelevant to mercy. These people had come aboard in New York late the evening before, and this was their first real glimpse of each other.

All told, there were about one hundred thirty two of them aboard. Perhaps twenty of them, mostly Cubans, were using the ship for the normal purpose of getting where they were going, namely, Havana. The others were creatures of a different order. They were representatives of the lower to middle brackets of American urban middle class and they were on a cruise. Forty of them would stop a week in Havana; they were on a thirteen- day cruise. Sixty- eight of them would spend only eighteen hours in that city. They were on the six- day cruise. Most of them were from the cities of the Eastern seaboard; many were from the New York City area. Roughly one in three of them was married, one in three was Jewish, one in three was middle aged. Most of the middle aged and married were aboard for a rest: most of the others were aboard for one degree or another of a hell of a big time. The unattached women and girls, who were aboard partly for a goodtime and partly for the more serious, not to say desperate, purpose of finding a husband, outnumbered the unattached men about four to one going down, and about six to one coming back. There were few children. It wasn’t a very expensive outing they were taking: most of them spent between $85 and $110 for passage but $70 was enough to cover every expense except tips for six days. There were bar expenses; and plenty of the passengers, particularly the younger ones, had invested pretty heavily in new clothes they could fee self-assured in; for most of them had never been on a cruise before and had rather glamorous ideas of what it would be like. Few of them could swing this expense lightly, and plenty of them knew they should never have afforded it at all. But they were of that vast race whose freedom falls in summer and is short. Leisure, being no part of their natural lives, was precious to them; and they were aboard this ship because they were convinced that this was going to be as pleasurable a way of spending that leisure as they could afford or imagine. What they made of it, of course, and what they failed to make, they made in a beautifully logical image of themselves: of their lifelong environment, of their social and economic class, of their mothers, of their civilization. And that includes their strongest and most sorrowful trait: their talent for self deceit. Already as their eyes darted and reflexed above the grapefruit and the coffee they were beginning to find out a little about all of that.

The ship these passengers were aboard was the turbo-electric liner Oriente, the property of the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Company, which is more tersely and less gently referred to as the Ward Line. The T.E.L. Oriente is fashioned in the image of her clientele: a sound, young, pleasant and somehow invincibly comic vessel, the seagoing analogy to a second-string summer resort, a low priced sedan or the newest and best hotel in a provincial city. She can accommodate some 400 passengers, and frequently enough carries half that many. She makes fifty voyages a year, New York-Havana-New York, carrying freight, mail and passengers, of whom a strong preponderance are cruising.


…the cruise brochure says, adding “And you’ll find the Oriente lives up to the most exacting demands.” It must be suggested that the truth of such qualitatives as delightful, splendid, delicious is highly relative. In other words, a lot depends on the point of view. In that case, the following could quite as reasonably be said: people don’t become so very well acquainted: they are too shy, and afraid of getting stuck. Few of the passengers have a royal good time because they have never had a chance to learn how. The splendid orchestra is hard worked corn fed summer hotel. The delicious meals are indeed what a cruise passenger might order in a fine restaurant ashore. Even effervescence is relative; some people find enough in a bottle of club soda opened night before last. The passengers spent a good deal of time on their own resources. Those resources showed their inadequacy in proportion to the eagerness of the passengers reaction to any program of fun that was arranged for them. The eagerness in turn was in proportion to the juvenility of the program. Party hats and noise makers were sure fire; the moment of loudest and most general gayety during all six days was the close of a game of musical chairs: the most steadily popular collective diversion was the most solidly an irretrievably lower bourgeois: Bingo. There was a moderate amount of drinking but little drunkenness and almost no conviviality. Flirtation seldom reached either high temperature or seriousness. Much of the dancing was constrained; there was no cutting in. After the first three days the average passenger was bored with himself and whomever he knew and sank into depression. And yet that is not the whole truth. The same passenger was possessed of illusions to match those set up in the brochure, and their protection was ensured by the genius of his class and country for self deception. So amphibious was he between illusion and reality, and so swiftly capable of mending his own wounds that on the mot essentially literal plane those illusions were quite as true as the realities.

Up on the sports deck in bright sun a gay plump woman in white shied rubber rings at a numbered board and chattered with her somber companion. She admired Noel Coward almost fatuously and sat at the captain’s table. She was the godsend of the week to the captain, a Dickensian built Swede who enjoyed gallantry and wit, and whom even the stewards liked. A slender Jew made a few listless passes art shuffleboard and then settled down to obstacle putting. The Airedale and a duplicate appeared in naughty trunks, laid towels aside from their pretty shoulders, oiled themselves, and after a brief warm up began to play deck tennis furiously before the gradually assembling girls. Some of the girls wore brand new sports clothes, others brand new slacks or beach combinations. Some of them traveled in teams, most of the others teamed up as quickly as they could. They strolled against the wind, they stood at the white rail with the wind in their waved hair, they swung their new shoes from primly crossed knees, they layback with shaded eyes, their crisp white skirts tucked beneath them in the flippant air, they somewhat shyly lay their slacks back from their pale thighs, they lay supine, skull eyed in goggles; their cruel vermilion nails caught the sunlight. They examined each other quietly but sharply, and from behind dark white rimmed lenses affected to read drugstore fiction and watched those beautiful bouncing blond boys’ bodies and indulged in long thoughts of youth. The Airedales were fast and skillful, and explosive with such Anglo-Saxonisms as Sorry, Tough, Nice Work, Too Bad, Nice Going. Later they were joined by a couple of other bipeds who had the same somehow suspect unselfconsciousness about their torsos, and the exclamations of good sportsmanship came to resemble an endless string of firecrackers set off under a dishpan and the innocent childlike abandon of exhibitionism acquired almost Polynesian Proportions in everything except perhaps sincerity and results. To come to the quick of the ulcer, it is generously estimated that the sexual adventures of the entire cruise did not exceed two dozen in number and most nearly approached their crises not in staterooms but aboveboard: that in no case was the farthest north more extreme than a rumpling hand or teeth industriously forced open; that in 70% of these cases the gentleman felt it obligatory to fake or even to feel true love, and the lady murmured “Please” or “Please don’t” or “I like you very much but I don’t feel That Way about you” or all three: and that the man, in every case, took it bravely, sincerely adapted the attitude of Big Brother and went to his bunk tired but happy.

There were a number of shifts of table at lunch as new acquaintances got together. It was standard, sterile, turgid summer hotel type of food, turkey, duck, the sort of stuffing that tastes like kitchen soap, fancy U.S. salads and so on, and served with a pomp and circumstance that would have sufficed for the body and blood of Brillat-Savarin. The average passenger behaved a little as if this were his regular Thursday evening at the Tour’d Argent and staggered upstairs to digest at the horse racing.

(Fortune Magazine, Sept, 1937)

Fairly appalling, isn't it? Hard to pick what is most offensive- the identfying of passengers as "Jews" is pretty bad, but so too are the implications that middle class people shouldn't wear nice clothing while at sea, and that NOKD people are too stupid to reaslise that they cant possibly be having a good time because they've never learned how. Amusing 'though is his nose-in-the air dismissal of popular activites that the Oriente passengers had the temerity to enjoy (horse races-party hats-noise makers)which were EXACTLY the same activites enjoyed by "our set" in First Class aboard the Queen Mary at the same time.

Give me the ships of today any time.....
This shot was snapped during a 1935 demo in the UK of what a good futurist ship should look like (left) as opposed to what a retro ship in futurist drag looks like (right)


Notice that as early as 1935, all of the basic elements of late twentieth century/ twenty-first century passenger ship design were already in place among those who believed that in good design form always follows function.

So, when tempted to call contemporary ships "ugly," simply think upon them as being 1930s design at its purest...
Sorry Jim, but eeww! Those funnels on the left look like uh.....uhmm.....yeah. Gimme "real" ships any day - I think the Normandie is about as far as I go into the future.
>>So, when tempted to call contemporary ships "ugly," simply think upon them as being 1930s design at its purest...<<

The hell of it is, the futurist design wasn't that far off the mark. I'm wondering if somebody must realized that at some point, cargo carrying capacity would not be a feature of any genuine relevance to future passenger vessels.
Pretty much hit the mark, except for the tacked-on looking bridge.

This is, in fact, fairly close to what Normandie's follow-up, the Bretagne, would have looked like.

The Normandie's retrograde design was not universally praised in 1935, especially among designers who, since at least the latter half of the previous decade, had been moving away from applied ornament towards a considerably more spare look. The third funnel, in that context, was panned by forward-looking critics who saw it as just another piece of applied ornament. The counter stern, and flaired bow sans bowsprit, also drew poor marks as pieces of retro frou-frou. The style of the first class interiors, the height of sophistication in 1925, was, by 1935, the stuff of apartment house lobbies and movie theaters. Third class, ironically enough, had the single best piece of design aboard the ship: the third class dining room.

The ultimate case of function following form would prove fatal to Normandie. Her much-lauded fire prevention system was rendered useless by her wind-tunnel like design. Had the fire doors been functioning in 1942, it would not have mattered. Her lounge, and smoking room, looked on to the promenade deck on two levels, and the promenade deck did not have fire doors. So, any blaze that took hold in either room would have burst out on TWO levels, into a perfect funnel. With the fire doors closed, the fire would have jumped around them via the promenade decks.

I'd like to deckplans for the ship of the future.
The perfect ship for me is an Andrea Doria funnel, long, open, aft decks. Theses decks would be pool decks, two promenade decks, a grand lobby, and things that would appeal to passengers of all ages.
From Cruise Critic:

New NCL Design Not So Epic? Readers Respond, Dub Ship "The Hat"

Usually, the first artistic renderings of a new cruise ship look far better than the real thing. You know: A vision of the vessel in its most perfect form, gliding in a crystal blue sea, absent of rough edges and real-world wear. But after checking out the newly revealed images of the 153,000-ton, 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic -- NCL's largest and most innovative new-build ever -- Cruise Critic members are hoping for quite the opposite.
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Comment: When you see the artist's rendering of this beast, you'll understand why I posted this piece in this thread. I wouldn't call it "wolf ugly" but it's close!​

Joe Russo

Just like it is wearing a pompadour.
It kind of looks like the Celebrity Solstice. Or the France/Norway when they added those extra decks.

Joe Russo

Norwegian Epic's Hull Artwork Revealed

Norwegian Cruise Line today unveiled the contemporary hull design which will adorn Norwegian Epic, the company’s largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date, scheduled for delivery in May 2010. In addition, the company will begin taking reservations for Norwegian Epic’s 2010/2011 inaugural season on Thursday, May 21, 2009, with a special preview day for Norwegian’s past guests (Latitudes members) on Wednesday, May 20, 2009.
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