Cost Of Early Ocean Liner Travel

Cost Of Early Ocean Liner Travel

Read about cost of early Ocean Liner Travel in the 1920’s, their operating costs and see the prices that passengers paid for regular and first class passage. Back then, first class travel on a ocean liner could be had for 14 – 38 dollars, depending on amenities. The following article was printed in the New York Tribune discussing the high cost of ocean travel in 1921.

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Large Ocean Liners Fail to Meet Expenses – Two factors mark ocean passenger travel at the present time – the increase in rates, which has almost doubled the expense of travel, and the passing of the large passenger liner, the crack four-stacker of pre-war days. Both are phases of the critical situation in which the shipping world is placed to-day. Both are results of the post-war condition of  high wages, high operating costs and resultant lowered profits. Even with passenger rates that are almost prohibitive to the average man, the big ship cannot be made to pay.

sir-ashly-sparks“There never was much money in big ships; there is none at all now,” said an official of one of the biggest lines here today. “Do you know that the money paid by the passenger for his ticket represents only from half to two thirds the actual money cost to the steamship company of getting the passenger across the ocean? This is particularly true of the present winter season, when travel is low. If the big ship carries her full capacity she can make money, but this rarely happens except in the height of the summer rush. A cargo liner arrived in England recently with 600 passengers. She carried a crew of 1,100 officers and men to care for the 600. It is a losing game. Under present conditions no more large ships will be built.”

Building Smaller Ships – This is undoubtedly the attitude of all the big shipping interests. The Cunard Steamship Company, which is now floating an issue of £4,000,000 7 per cent mortgage debenture stock, is carrying out a program of 18,000-ton to 20,000-ton vessels. Three ships of this class have been launched and nine more on the ways. But no big ships are contemplated. In the first place, the building costs are at present prohibitive. It is estimated that it would cost at least £3,000,000 to build a 40,000-ton vessel. Operating costs have also increased. Wages on deck and in the engineer division have gone up 300 and 400 per cent. The 200 per cent jump in rates does not meet the new cost of ship handling.

The Albania, the latest Cunarder, which enters into the London-Canada-New York service this month, is the type of vessel which is now being favored. She is a 12,000-ton oil burner, 540 feet long and carries 450 passengers. She will be a one class ship. The old first, second and third class system is gradually being abandoned as part of the program of reducing costs, and shipping men say that the future plan will doubtless be to use the older vessels for the second and third class travel.

cunard-ad-1915In the meantime the now existing big ships remain a problem. There is a certain class of traveler that wants the big ship. They are wealthy people, and want the swimming baths, gymnasiums, tea gardens and lounges, irrespective of cost. They form the big ship clientele, yet they alone are not numerous enough to pay for running the vessels. But although the big ships are not at present making their expenses, it is not entirely advisable to lay them up. The Leviathan, moored alongside a Hoboken pier, is gradually and inevitably deteriorating. Vessels of the big ship type are worth from $10,000,000 to $15,000, 000, and when idle are heavy financial liabilities. Now, in addition to the large vessels already afloat two new big liners are being built in Germany and will be turned over to the British government under the reparation claims. They are the Bismarck, 50,000 tons, and the Columbus, a somewhat smaller vessel. If they are placed in service they will further glut the big ship market.

High Fares Charged – The costs of running any passenger vessel are reflected in the high fares now being charged. The following schedule of rates of travel from Lon? don to various points, given both for 1914 and the present time, shows this increase:

Cost Of Early Ocean Liner Travel




These high fares will have the ultimate effect of restricting travel. The wealthy classes will always travel, irrespective of cost, but there will be less tourist travel on the part of the man of moderate means. Realizing this, steamship companies are making every effort to reduce operating costs and bring about a time of lower travel rates. Present indications, however, are that that time is still far distant.

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