This is What Life Was Like Aboard the Titanic
Although pop culture tends to focus on the conditions for Titanic's first class passengers, it wasn't all glitz and glamour aboard the ill-fated luxury liner.
Dine in style
First class passengers aboard the Titanic were in the lap of luxury on the 883-foot ship. According to Ultimate Titanic, their dining room was an impressive 114-foot room and filled the width of the ship—it had to be lavish to seat a capacity of 532 passengers at one sitting. Menus that survived the wreckage showed dinners consisted of 10 courses.
See and be seen
The first-class restaurant’s grandiose reception room was a place where people could gather before convening for their evening meal, the perfect place for the social elite. Other public areas included a lounge, reading and writing room, smoking room, veranda cafes, palm courts and a Parisian-style cafe.
Cabins aboard the Titanic
If you take a commercial cruise today, you’re likely to find even the priciest of cabins are on the small side. That wasn’t the case on the Titanic, which boasted 39 private suites on the top decks of the ship, according to the BBC. The furniture and wood-panelled walls were ornate, carved with intricate detail and made from oak, mahogany and sycamore.
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No expense spared
Considering the Titanic cost $7.5 million to build way back in 1912 (that’s about $180 million today), a first-class ticket aboard the ship set passengers back a pretty penny (lots of them). Money.com reports these tickets cost $2,560 at the time, the modern equivalent of which would exceed $61,000. What did these expensive cabins include? Two bedrooms, a sitting room, two wardrobe rooms and a bathroom.
Bunking in third class
As to be expected, the Titanic’s third-class passengers weren’t treated nearly as well as those traveling on the first-class decks. Their small cabins, which often consisted of bunk beds and simple washbasins, were expected to hold up to 10 passengers. Much of the third-class level consisted of immigrants making their way to the United States, including families. The children would play games on the poop deck.
Back on the first class deck, the meals were full of rich foods. According to menus, passengers feasted on oysters, salmon, chicken, lamb, duck and squab. For steak lovers, there were filet mignon and sirloin options. Typically the evening didn’t end with dinner. The men generally took to the smoking room (women weren’t allowed there), while the wives headed to the lounge for a chat.
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They may not have been treated to all of the same luxuries as those traveling on the top decks, but second-class passengers did enjoy many amenities. They, too, had entertainment in the form of a live band, and their meals were similar to those served on the first-class deck, according to the National Museums NI website. Of the second-class passengers, Michel and Edmond Navratil (shown) who became known as the “Titanic Orphans” were likely the most famous.
There were only five children on the first class deck of the Titanic, according to the Irish Examiner. They were allowed to use the gym space but it’s believed that they also took over one of the deck’s veranda cafes and turned it into a playroom of sorts. The kids in second-class (there were 22) didn’t have the same dedicated space to run around, but were permitted to check out what was going on along the corridors and elsewhere on deck.
The band played on
Live entertainment was a major luxury on board. “One thing I have come to realize was the importance of the band during the voyage,” says Don Lynch, historian for the Titanic Historical Society. “People didn’t have radios, iPods, or any way of playing music during the day. Even in their own homes they either had to make their own music or repeatedly crank the Victrola. Having access to a small orchestra that would play requests was quite special. Third class, of course, still had to make its own.” They did have their own piano on which to do so, according to the BBC.
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One wouldn’t expect much by way of amenities in third class on the Titanic, but packing 10 people into each cabin wasn’t even the least of their troubles. If you can believe it, the 700 passengers on the bottom deck had to share just two bathtubs, according to Nat Geo Kids.
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While third class didn’t have the same riches as the upper decks, according to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, White Star Line’s accommodations in steerage were still better than on most ships at the time. Third class passengers socialized in a general room and also had access to a nursery and lounge. Food, though basic, was plentiful, a novelty of third class travel back in the day.
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There were passengers who brought their pets along for the journey. Ann Elizabeth Isham, one of only four female first-class passengers who perished in the sinking, died because she refused to abandon her Great Dane as the ship went down.
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It’s five o’clock somewhere
There was no shortage of alcohol on board the Titanic. According to the website TitanicFacts, the ship set sail stocked with 15,000 bottles of beer, 1,000 bottles of wine, and 850 bottles of liquor. And for the men who enjoyed lounging in the smoking room, there were reportedly 8,000 cigars.
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