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AndyE
09-20-2017, 05:52 PM
I'm writing a book set on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic in the early 1930s. The ship is a Cunard-style liner (think Mauretania, Aquitania etc). I've read a few books on the subject and found a wealth of information online, but there are a few niggling questions I haven't been able to answer. Any help appreciated!

Many First Class passengers brought their own valets and ladies maids with them (as evidenced by contemporary passenger lists). Would the servants share cabins with their employers or would they be placed elsewhere on the ship? If they did share First Class accommodation, would that mean they would also eat in the First Class dining rooms?

Would passengers pay for food and drink as they consumed it or would there be a tab/account which they would pay at the end of the trip?

Would the stewards expect gratuities or would such payments be included in the price of the ticket?

How would passengers in Second/Third/Tourist Class be prevented from using First Class facilities, and would a First Class passenger be able to visit people in Second/Third Class?

What procedures would be in place if a passenger dies? I know there were doctors on board, who would presumably examine the deceased and issue a death certificate, but presumably a post mortem/inquest would not take place until they reached the next port of call? What would happen to the body in the meantime? Would it be left in the cabin or removed from view / put on ice?

jclarkdawe
09-20-2017, 08:48 PM
I'm writing a book set on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic in the early 1930s. The ship is a Cunard-style liner (think Mauretania, Aquitania etc). I've read a few books on the subject and found a wealth of information online, but there are a few niggling questions I haven't been able to answer. Any help appreciated!

Many First Class passengers brought their own valets and ladies maids with them (as evidenced by contemporary passenger lists). Would the servants share cabins with their employers or would they be placed elsewhere on the ship? If they did share First Class accommodation, would that mean they would also eat in the First Class dining rooms? Depends upon the ship. A first class stateroom could have a room for servants, they could be housed in interior rooms on the first class deck, or they might be housed in a lower deck. It also probably depended upon the whims of the first class passenger. Clearly when the Titanic sank some of the servants were on the scene within seconds. If they ate in the first class dining room, it would be a separate seating. You wanted to careful to avoid the faux pas of someone sitting down to talk with someone and finding the person was a servant.

Would passengers pay for food and drink as they consumed it or would there be a tab/account which they would pay at the end of the trip? Most liners ran a tab for first class passengers. Clearing the purser was one of the requirements on entering port.

Would the stewards expect gratuities or would such payments be included in the price of the ticket? The stewards would receive a gratuity from the first class passengers.

How would passengers in Second/Third/Tourist Class be prevented from using First Class facilities, and would a First Class passenger be able to visit people in Second/Third Class? Access points were normally kept locked. Probably visiting between first and second class went on, as many affluent people sailed second class, as well as executives for businesses. In other words, first and second class passengers could know each other. They would not be likely to visit with third class.

What procedures would be in place if a passenger dies? I know there were doctors on board, who would presumably examine the deceased and issue a death certificate, but presumably a post mortem/inquest would not take place until they reached the next port of call? What would happen to the body in the meantime? Would it be left in the cabin or removed from view / put on ice? Dead passengers would be placed in the meat locker, either refrigerated or frozen. Crew would also frequently be placed in the same location, as funerals at sea weren't quite as popular as shuffle board. Some ships had a morgue (still do, not an advertised fact). Passengers dying is not an uncommon experience in a voyage. If murder was suspected, depending upon the cause, the ship's doctor could perform a post mortem. The ship's captain could and did hold inquests as needed. In the period you're talking about, the ship's captain would definitely radio the port of arrival and advise the port authority of the issue and the ship would be met prior to landing.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Bolero
09-21-2017, 12:57 AM
Try "Rose My Life in Service" by Rosina Harrison - lady's maid to Lady Astor. She travelled by transatlantic liner with her employer several times. On one occasion she and Lord Astor's valet were down in third class - they had a wonderful time partying - but their employers were underwhelmed by not having them on instant call, so the next voyage they were in First Class cabins next door to their employers (if I recall correctly). Definitely no sharing with servants at that era.

Cabin stewards and waiters in the dining room would both expect tips. Usually handed over in a sealed envelope at the end of the voyage - you would have the same steward and the same waiter for the whole voyage. If other tips were needed - barman for bringing drink - more likely to be handed out on the spot, or at the end of the evening.
My experience of going on a couple of cruises with my parents was that food was included in the ticket, alcoholic drinks were not. The dining room had a wine waiter and a head waiter. The food - P&O 1970s, 1980s was pretty lavish - full cooked breakfast in dining room/continental breakfast on buffet in a function room with a sea view (and nothing to stop you having both), three course lunch, afternoon tea with cream cakes, four or five course evening meal. Children's tea was separate and earlier. The adults got to choose whether kids were with them for dinner, or at kids tea. Kids tea was baked beans, chips and the like. This was in a "classless" ship - we were in a G deck cabin below the waterline, so in the old third class dining room, but to the best of my knowledge the food was the same.

Further thought based on cruises - there may well have been hired entertainers on board - I recall concerts by a classical harpist, or lecturers on an interesting subject. No idea if the case on transatlantic, but something to search for too. The cruise ships also had a cinema.

Bolero
09-21-2017, 12:19 PM
Further, further thought :)

Rough weather - the dining room tables would have fiddles added at each place setting See number 4 https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fiddle and in really heavy weather, the linen table cloths would be damped as well to increase friction with the plates. Number of diners would be reduced by sea sickness.

AndyE
09-21-2017, 03:16 PM
Thanks everyone. That's really helpful! I may have one or two more questions as things progress...

Bolero
09-21-2017, 04:08 PM
Another thought to check - on cruise ships there were two sittings for meals and you had a set table. So its not like a restaurant with turn up when you've booked. Don't know what 1st class on transatlantic did, but something you want to check.

AndyE
10-03-2017, 02:55 PM
A few more questions...

Would a passenger list be available to other passengers before/during the voyage, so that people could see who they would be traveling with (any friends etc.)?

Boarding the vessel: first class passengers would presumably board ahead of other classes. Would they have a dedicated gang plank and would this lead directly to the first class reception area, or would they have to make their way up/down a couple of decks (the first class reception on the Aquitania, for example, was on A Deck, which was near the top of the ship; would they have gone straight there)?

Would baggage be collected from the quayside or from the hotel?

Finally, for a departure from New York, which hotels would likely be recommended by the shipping companies for first class passengers before they depart? Would a particular company (say, Cunard) favour a particular hotel?

Many thanks!

waylander
10-03-2017, 03:04 PM
For the hotel - Google South Western Hotel, Southampton

jclarkdawe
10-04-2017, 07:03 AM
Remember that all ships had first class and steerage/third class. That doesn't mean that first class or steerage was the same on all lines, and that each route was the same as far as service. And even on the same route, White Star Line was into comfort while Cunard was into speed. Other lines were into low cost.

In other words, generic answers have some limitations.


A few more questions...

Would a passenger list be available to other passengers before/during the voyage, so that people could see who they would be traveling with (any friends etc.)? In the upper level, people knew who was traveling on what. A trans-Atlantic crossing was a big deal and a social event. Just like you knew when someone was going to Newport, you knew when someone else was going to Bar Harbor, so on and so forth. Official passenger list might not be finalized until very shortly before sailing, but people within the same circles knew what was happening.

Boarding the vessel: first class passengers would presumably board ahead of other classes. Would they have a dedicated gang plank and would this lead directly to the first class reception area, or would they have to make their way up/down a couple of decks (the first class reception on the Aquitania, for example, was on A Deck, which was near the top of the ship; would they have gone straight there)? Depended upon the ship, but the big liners would have a system so that the rich didn't have to mingle with the riff-raff. Elevators existed between decks and were usually dedicated to a specific class. Gang plank would not go directly to the first class decks.

Would baggage be collected from the quayside or from the hotel? This is called "drayage." Firms specialized in getting your property from your hotel to the ship. My guess is this was arranged by the hotel and/or ship for first class passengers. Definitely first class passengers would not know the details of this. Baggage would be in two groups. One would be going to the passenger's stateroom, while other bags would be going into the hold and not available until the voyage was concluded. Baggage going into the holds were placed in cargo nets and hoisted by crane and dropped into the hold. Meanwhile the baggage going to the rooms would be handled by hand with carts or hand trucks. Remember that much of the baggage would be steamer trucks.

Finally, for a departure from New York, which hotels would likely be recommended by the shipping companies for first class passengers before they depart? Would a particular company (say, Cunard) favour a particular hotel? For first class passengers, there would be the "in" hotels. For example, the Waldorf Astoria in New York. On the other hand, some places the first class passengers would take a train from a city to the port city, with the train delivering the passengers right to the pier.

Many thanks!

If you're looking at a specific ship and route, your best sources would be letters and diaries written by the people. Further, many lines commissioned histories at various points. The wrecks can also provide a lot of information. For example, the Germans, prior to the sailing of the Lusitania, published an advertisement warning of the dangers of sailing on the ship. Think about how that would work with an airline and you can see the fundamental differences between transportation then and now.

Jim Clark-Dawe

AndyE
10-04-2017, 02:38 PM
Thanks Jim (and others). I'm using RMS Aquitania as a guide for a fictional Cunard liner and have found a wealth of information in various books (Mark Chirnside, Lorriane Coons etc). I've even managed to track down deck plans, personal accounts and original promotional literature. It's just the little details sometimes that aren't quite there, so your help is much appreciated.

Bolero
10-04-2017, 05:54 PM
Also - the servants would be dealing with the baggage, not the passengers. The maid and valet would have had to do the packing to separate out what to pack for cabin onboard and in the hold.

Cunard - had a policy of ending their ships names in "ia". Take that into account with your invented ship's name.

I have a faint memory that it can vary with port but there just might be a direct entry from a building - as in a horizontal passageway, rather than everyone from the quay - but could be wrong on that. Also the ship may well be taking on stores as well as baggage - swinging that on board too. If boarding from the quay there are the embedded metal "train tracks" that the big cranes run on to watch out for underfoot. You might want to look up and see if that era laid some sort of smooth flooring or even a red carpet for the first class passengers to get on board. I'd expect a band playing on the quay. There will also be friends and relations up in the concrete terminal building (or further out on the quay if no building) waving goodbye.
Certainly these days there was passport control - can't remember if it was the case for boarding as well as docking.
Likely to be a ship's officer (maybe junior) at the top of the gangplank at least checking on passengers if not greeting them - and probably the latter.
If near to departure, then tugs will be turning up and hanging around ready to pull the ship from the quay. Big ropes with loops on end to moor the liner to the jetty, dropped over metal bollards. On departure tend to remove most of the ropes (as in the dockers will) and be down to a couple while just finishing getting ready - this is as or just after the gangplanks are removed. Then when all is ready with the tugs, the engineroom and the pilot the last couple of ropes are dropped. They often splash into the sea between the ship and the jetty and are reeled up as she is leaving.
She will be flying the "blue peter" flag to indicate she is about to leave harbour - this will be lowered when she leaves. Also likely to blast the horn a few times. First blast maybe a few minutes before the gangplanks are removed - "last warning" as it were. Then a good long blast as she gets underway. It is deep, it vibrates, it kills all other sound, you really, really feel it.
The engines will have been running for a while - make sure everything heated through - but you can feel the difference once the propellers start. You can see the water being churned. The tugs will be heaving and the water at their sterns churning. It really is quite action packed and lots to watch.
As you leave through the harbour there will be all sorts of other vessels around - including the Isle of Wight ferries - and naval vessels at Portsmouth naval base.
You might, or might not, have people on the ferries and on shore waving to the beautiful big ship leaving.

waylander
10-04-2017, 10:38 PM
As you leave through the harbour there will be all sorts of other vessels around - including the Isle of Wight ferries - and naval vessels at Portsmouth naval base.
You might, or might not, have people on the ferries and on shore waving to the beautiful big ship leaving.

True. You might also pass the seaplane depot depending on exactly when you are in the 30s. There's the little Hythe ferry that crosses Southampton Water. The deep channel goes eastward around the Isle of Wight and the ship would pass Calshot Castle and the old forts at Spitbank and Horse Sand https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_Sand_Fort

Bolero
10-05-2017, 12:12 AM
The ship's motion changes as she gets more out to sea, from the relatively sheltered waters in Southampton water and round the Wight out into the English channel. More roll or pitch, depending on the weather.

Also check on yachts and dinghies - these days lots scooting around and some will come stupidly close to a big ship. No idea how many in your period. Will also depend on time of year as probably not many in winter.

No idea if first class passengers would consider it vulgar to be leaning on the rail waving to people on shore or not. There is also a lot of bustle on board as the ship is leaving, people getting bags down to cabins, people coming back out from cabins.

frimble3
10-05-2017, 05:40 AM
I don't know if there's the same effect on a big liner, but on ferries and smaller, when the engines are starting to pull away from the dock, but before the sensation of movement kicks in (noise, vibration, etc) there's a feeling that the dock is pulling away from the ship. Because you are feeling perfectly stable.
I don't know if the upper crust would consider it 'vulgar' to wave, but it must be sad to see what looks like 'everyone' waving, and no-one waving for you. 'You' can fake it and wave to a stranger, or just in the direction of the pier, but you'd still know the deceit. And possibly feel even more pathetic.

jclarkdawe
10-05-2017, 07:53 AM
This video is well worth watching -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qcvez1Bglc

It shows passengers boarding (would be first and/or second class as third class is not newsworthy). It also shows the conveyor bringing on board the personal baggage of the passengers. It would appear that the entry point for the first and second class passengers would have been in the front third of the superstructure, with it being two decks down from the boat deck.

Here's another video -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOtlDWyXT4c

It shows third class entry (all men) and patients being loaded on board during the Second World War. You can see that the entry point is lower down on the ship.

Understand that there would be several openings in the hull for loading materials and people. You needed a lot of food and fuel to get one of these ships across the Atlantic, as well as the passengers and their baggage.

Up until WWII, ship departures were often news. Just like now, many of the rich and famous wanted to be seen and to see. There's a fair amount of videos of departures showing the rich and famous waving good bye. I'm sure there were others who didn't do this. There was a ship wreck, I think in the Great Lakes, where all the passengers were on one side of the boat saying good bye and their collective weight caused the ship to capsize.

Motion on these ships was interesting. A fair amount of vibration and especially in the stern, actual movement of the ship. The fantail on many of these ships moved several feet from the force of the propellors. Lots of smoke which is noticeable in the films but was not noticed by the people of the time. The Lusitania was notorious for rolling, but they all rolled. Modern cruise ships are much more stable then these ships were.

The major ship lines had dedicated piers in New York.

Schedules changed throughout the year, with the most sailings from April through September. Winter in the North Atlantic is only for the hardy. Hurricane season is from August into October. Sailings also changed with the economy. The Depression caused many ships to be laid up. Also ships would go out of service for maintenance.

Sea sickness was a major issue even in calm weather, and some people suffered from it for the entire voyage. My mother-in-law, who did two trans-Atlantic crossings, brags about her strong stomach. Advice she remembers is that the higher in the ship you were, the better it would be for you. Actually there is probably more roll the higher you were in a ship, but probably the odors that also cause sea sickness were blown clear.

Ship motion is a very individual thing. I remember going from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Portland, Maine with my wife. I thought the ship very stable, my wife disagrees. For me, even the bow wasn't a problem, other then the feeling of being in an elevator as the bow dropped in the waves. I kept trying to convince my wife to come watch the dolphins. I wasn't holding on, while she was struggling to hold the contents of her stomach in. Moving was not much of an option for her.

There weren't a lot of pleasure craft until after WWII. However, before WWII there was a lot more boat and ship traffic in harbors then now. And a lot of the ferry captains insisted they had right-of-way, whether they did or not. Lots of ships' horns would be sounding.

A lot of the docks in New York had embedded railroad tracks and train cars would be on many of the docks. However, the cranes for the passenger liners up until WWII were mainly on the ships. It was only after WWII that we see a switch to dockside cranes. Shipboard cranes provide a lot more flexibility.

Jim Clark-Dawe

PeteMC
10-05-2017, 02:24 PM
I watched Jim's videos out of interest and found this one as well (sorry about the advert at the start) - the weather's a bit lively to say the least!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x7YtNViVm8

AndyE
10-05-2017, 02:48 PM
Thanks everyone. That's very helpful - the videos in particular.

Bolero
10-06-2017, 01:49 AM
Watched the first one (will watch the second one later - ie tomorrow) and noted
1. Oh yes, tugs also push - forgot that
2. Not a lot of the horn is picked up on the soundtrack. It is one of those deep vibrations that you feel as much as hear and a microphone doesn't begin to do it justice.
3. Oh yeah, conveyor belts, forgot those.

Seasickness being caused by odours - speaking from my experience, not so much. Some odours don't help but trust me it is the and up and wait a moment and all the way back down of a roll that did it for me. Not being too hot helps to stave it off. I find standing mid-ships - as in up between the funnels - and fixing my eyes on the horizon works the best. But not guaranteed. Heck, I've sicked up anti-sickness pills.
Choppy bouncing around like in a dinghy - no problem - it is the massive, inevitable, slow swing of a roll.

Oh and before you chuck up, check which way the wind is blowing before you throw up over the rail. If you chuck up to windward you may get it all back. Or if not you, the deck below.

Bolero
10-06-2017, 12:42 PM
Further thought - maybe steamers of that period didn't have the really deep blast of a horn - maybe you want to check that. I noticed four "whistles" on the video - as in brass things with steam passing through them attached to the funnel. So what I am rambling at, is was the noise on the film an accurate representation after all, or lacking all base notes due to limitations of microphones.......

Bolero
10-06-2017, 03:52 PM
I've got myself well obsessed about the sound of the ship's siren. So a bit of research turned up that what I heard was a fog horn.
Here is the modern Queen Mary sounding hers on leaving harbour
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzcDLwIYV3U

And here is a close up of a foghorn going off on the old Queen Mary
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFhqe-tdARg

And I also found a photo which showed the Aquitania had fog horns.
http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/990522/cat/520/title/vs-admin@verticalscope.com
Incidentally that site also says the Mauretania had all sorts of additional bells and whistles so to speak.

jclarkdawe
10-06-2017, 05:31 PM
The first video (departure video) appears to show the Aquitania leaving Pier 54 in New York City. My guess would be sometime between 1925 and 1930. Here's a picture of Pier 54 a bit earlier then that time period --

http://www.nypress.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=NP&Date=20150702&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=150709990&Ref=AR?q=100

This is the Carpathia discharging the Titanic passengers. Carpathia is a much smaller ship (550 feet) then the Aquitania (900 feet). Notice that the second floor of the building has windows, while the first floor does not. Second floor would have been the first and second class departure area and is where the other end of the gangplank in the video is located.

Video starts with the Aquitania having singled up to the spring lines. This means that the ship has dropped all of its lines except for a single spring line in the bow and another single line in the stern. Current of the Hudson is somewhat blocked by the other docks, but is pushing the Aquitania against the dock. The Captain is on the wing of the bridge nearest the building.

The commands are for tensioning the bow spring line and slacking off on the stern spring line, and going slow astern (probably only one propeller). This forces the stern away from the building and starting to angle the ship to turn. As the ship slowly starts going astern, it starts clearing the building. At that point, probably two or three tugs provide assistance, pushing the stern into the current and holding the Aquitania away from the building. The spring lines are dropped.

As the bow clears the building, another tug takes control of the bow, pushing the bow towards the center of the Hudson. The tug on the stern on the opposite side is also pushing the stern towards the center of the Hudson, causing the boat to pivot. The tug on the bow on the opposite side is controlling the momentum of the ship and preventing the bow from swinging too far.

Once the Aquitania is straight in the Hudson, the Captain would ring the engine room for slow ahead, probably with only two of the four propellers. The tugs would slightly shift their positions, and would be to assist the ship in not adversely effected by wind and current. The ship's ability to maintain course would be minimal, although most, if not all, of the forward motion would be provided by the ship. The tugs enable the ship to turn faster then it could otherwise, and until the ship reaches enough speed for steerageway, would be the primary means of turning the ship.

A lot of the bass in ships' horns disappear in recordings, especially as they get further back in time. As I think Bolero mentioned, you could feel these whistles if you were close. Steam ships also had to blow off excess steam pressure on occasion, resulting in a roar like a hundred avalanches according to sources I've seen.

I don't suffer from seasickness, so have to rely on others. I should have said odors can increase the likelihood of seasickness. Many of the older ships had a myriad of odors caused by way too many people, people having been seasick, diesel and/or coal, rotted food, rotting lines, trapped seaweed rotting, and probably others. In theory, the best place to be is midship along the centerline of the ship. Different motions of the ship can produce different effects in the people, and the worst is probably a corkscrew motion.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Bolero
10-06-2017, 08:42 PM
In terms of odours - stale cigarette smoke IS one that gets to me. Not in isolation of the ship's movement, but can be the final straw. So open a door, take two steps in out of the cold and get hit by that smell, spin on spot and get out of there fast. (The other one is someone else's vomit.)

@ JClarke - deeply interested by your description - thanks - I am enjoying this thread as a mix of good new information and a trip down memory lane.

Duncan J Macdonald
10-08-2017, 10:09 PM
The ship's whistle as heard in the clip is signalling in accordance with the Nautical Rules of the Road -- One prolonged blast followed by three short blasts. The prolonged blast indicates a change of situation, either from moored to underway, or from underway to moored. The three short blasts indicate that she is operating her propulsion in the astern direction.

Also, engines are designated port and starboard, and are operated as a single unit, regardless of the number of shafts and propellers on a side. So, a ship with four shafts/propellers has two to starboard and two to port with each side operated as a single shaft/propeller. The engine order telegraph (EOT) doesn't have a way of indicating an individual shaft.