Voyages That Didnt Happen

Scott Mills

Jul 10, 2008
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Queen Mary wallowed in the roll, quite frighteningly,
Normandie vibrated. A letter sold on eBay described how the vibration had finally caused the author to vomit. She then scrawled I HATE THIS SHIP up the margin.
Lusitania vibrated.

Lusi. Winter 1915, Violent storm. The one planned event of the crossing- the charity concert- was literally kneecapped when one of the celebrities was hurled from his berth. The others were sick. In the end, singer Elsie Janis did a long set, and a well-travelled passenger imitated the whoops and cries of African and Indian fauna. Such was the glamourous world of belle epoque first class.

Liner letters tend to focus on I AM BORED. I HATE MY FELLOW PASSENGERS. I AM BORED. Somehow all the glamour and excitement nattered about 50 years later didnt make the jump to the page when the person was actually sitting on the ship.
Amenities would have been fairly low down on the list of reasons to choose a ship. The Titanic boasted no amenities worthy of altering one's plans over. The only contemporary review of the Turkish Bath was a negative one written on board by, I believe, Mrs Speddon.

If you check the NY and Boston newspapers, you'll see that The Big 4 continued to draw photo-worthy celebrity trade well into the 1920s. If the Cedric fit your schedule best then Cedric it was. No one, in 1912, would have viewed those nearly-new liners as a step backward,

Reaction in 1912 would not have been clutching the pearls while gasping "Oh NO. Crossing by lesser ship." It would have been "How badly is this going to throw off our schedule? Unless we get another seven day boat leaving on Saturday, there will be a mess waiting on the other side"

I get what you are saying, and I think there is some truth to it, but I can tell you for sure that in my family (during the 1920s) there were definitely favored ships, lines, and captains and that my 2nd great grandfather would schedule his trips around traveling on Aquitania--he took her on a dozen voyages, and Olympic on two; all of which says to me that:
  • He, certainly preferred Cunard;
  • He preferred Aquitania; and
  • For whatever reason, he preferred larger vessels to small ones.
And while it is certainly the case with a certain class of traveler either anything that would get me there would do, or for the business traveler, anything that would get me there on schedule would do, given:

  • The amount of money an ocean crossing cost;
  • The amount of time spent on an ocean liner; and
  • The amount of time, money, effort, and marketing that went into improving passenger amenities by the lines themselves...
Amenities mattered to passengers.

You are also correct in saying that Lusitania and Mauritania vibrated, but what did Cunard do about that? Did they throw their hands up and say, "well all ships have their quirks, and the passengers don't really care!" No. They slowed down the ships, reinforced and redesigned sections of the ships with excess vibrations, and when it came time to build Aquitania the Parsons Turbines were hooked to a triple expansion system for driving the shafts, and the whole propulsion system was overly designed--at the cost of speed--to reduce the vibrations felt by the passengers.

Not only that, but other ships like Imperator had their designs and interiors altered when it turned out something about them caused their seaworthiness to be palpably uncomfortable to her passengers.

Finally, while I have never been on a cruise ship (or ocean liner), I have found myself on two types of USN vessels (as a civilian) and numerous types of smaller craft, and because of my experience you will never be able to convince me that a ship like the Majestic (1899)--Titanic's 'temporary' replacement--handled in the open ocean with the same level of comfort for the passengers as an Olympic class liner, given the Olympic's 40,000 ton, 400 feet length, 40 foot in width, and 3 knot speed advantages over Teutonic class liners like Majestic.

While that might not have mattered to every passenger, it is almost certainly the case--totally leaving aside the issue of amenities, food, service, passenger spaces, etc--that it was going to matter to some of them, as the difference (given the speed of Majestic) would have been an extra day at sea, with a far greater chance that some passengers would suffer from seasickness.
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