Early Ocean Liner Travel

Discover early ocean liner travel back in the early 1900’s

Before airline travel as we know it today, our ancestors that could afford it, took their dream vacation by railway and on ocean liners. This article that appeared in the Ogden Standard in 1914 will give you an idea of just what a “cruise ship” was like back in the day.

audio-hereListen to some period music to set the mood – By the Beautiful Sea – 1914

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Christopher Columbus, the first captain to cross the Atlantic, and all the men who sailed with him left their wives and children back In Spain. Ocean voyages were for men and women and children could not stand the rigors of the sea.

Today women and children do as much traveling as men. Among first-class passengers they out number the men. Children are taken more and more on ocean voyages. The ocean voyage Is not the thing it once was. While now and then some gigantic vessel goes down In the sea, yet the safety in travel Is nearly up to perfection. We do get seasick when we cross the water, but that is about all the difficulty.

Of old the poets sang of the beauties of the ocean. The entire charm of travel by water was in the water itself. Today there are other joys to be had. We have the best of music. We have the finest bath rooms In the world. We have every accommodation of the great hotels, and we have space for athletic sports. The ships are even being fitted up with playgroup day for children The ill-fated Empress of Ireland, which sank In the St. Lawrence River recently, had a complete equipment for children. There were sand piles and hobby horses, swings and see -saws.


Kids play in the sand pile aboard an ocean liner 1914

All is buried now beneath the waves, but there are many children who enjoyed their days of voyage on the children’s play deck. The liners which make no provision for the children are few Indeed and they are growing in unpopularity with the women who have children to care for Children soon tire of the monotony of the natural beauty aboard ship They want a change, and they get it In the sand pile best of all.


The music room aboard the liner

On land travel is never so comfortable as on sea – there is no space to move about. A passenger traveling from Boston to Seattle Is confined to a little coffin-like berth at night and a single unyielding seat by day. On board ship a passengers have the convenience of the whole deck. He can walk about and even run races aboard. On the Empress of Ireland there was a golf course. There was no chance to get weary of nothing to do on that ship.

The passengers pay for their conveniences, however. While the rail roads complain their passengers do not pay for the maintenance of passenger service, the passenger ships are glad to handle the business. On the larger liners their receipts for each trip are all the way from $126,000 to $200,000. Of that enormous outlay a large part goes for expenses of course. It costs a lot to propel those gigantic fortresses of the deep across the Atlantic. It costs a lot to board the passengers while on board. It costs a great deal to pay the help. Yet there Is usually a big sum left over to pay dividends on the original Investment and to handsomely reward the owners of the vessel.

Talk about, luxury: in New York they are building two-story bed steads to economize on space in the crowded flats of that city. On ship board, where the bullt-in-bedatead Is an old story, they are Installing detachable bedsteads. The ships of today are becoming so steady that the passengers eat all their meals sometimes.  Ed- I like how they say sometimes 🙂 Were they so sea-sick they had a hard time eating a whole meal?

Early Ocean Liner Travel

Cunard Liners – makers of the ill-fated Lusitania

Swinging Beds Frighten Some PassengersIn the eighties, the City of Berlin, then one of the leading steamers in trans-Atlantic business, tried out an unusual experiment of putting swinging beds in the state rooms. The theory was that they would be much steadier than the stationary ones because as the ship would swing the bed would remain perpendicular. That would prevent the sleeping passenger from being tossed about in the bed. But the passengers objected to the idea. The trouble was purely mental. As they lay in their beds the room seemed to whirl around. They could not stand that and sent for the steward to help them. They found themselves at all angles with the interior of the cabin.

In those days there were call bells Installed on the liners. The passengers all rang for the steward at the same time when they found themselves at an angle of 50 degrees with the walls of their staterooms. The City of Berlin was a pioneer in luxury. It also Installed arc lights to replace candles and kerosene lights. Ed – imagine candles and kerosene lamps being tossed around …. scary.

The ships of today are the most wonderful things of all. Rome in all her glory had nothing anywhere like the Pompeian baths on the modern-day ships. In one of these liners the pool of the Roman bath is deep enough to allow diving and swimming. A spirited game of water polo was played In the pool, while a large audience looked on from the galleries In a recent voyage. The bath measures sixty-five by forty-one feet, while the pool Is thirty-nine feet In length by twenty-one In width. Grouped around the pool are a variety of special baths. There are Turkish baths, needle baths, massage room and so on. In the first cabin there are 220 baths of the famous Pompeian Hall of the Louvre Museum, carried out in bronze and marble. The Ancient Romans built floating baths on scows. Just to tickle their Imagination and do something unusual. The swimming pools aboard the liners are made for the pleasure of the guests.

Provisioning a ship with food is an art in itself and here the managers of ocean going vessels do the best they can. A seasick crowd of passengers will not eat and money is saved, but a hungry passenger will eat and demands good fare. If he doesn’t get it he will go on another ship the next time. The menu from day to day must be noless elaborate than that of the best hotels anywhere and supplies taken on board are for a round trip.


Great White Fleet Line ad 1915

One item on one ship which left New York recently was for 45,000 pounds of fresh meat. It was care fully stored In the cooling room, in a single crossing the meat supply Includes 8,500 pounds of game and fowl, 8,000 pounds of fresh fish, lobsters, oysters and so on, 48,000 eggs, 25,000 pounds of fresh vegetables, 10,000 pounds of potatoes. 500 barrels of flour, 10,000 pounds of sugar, 6,000 pounds of coffee. 4,000 pounds of rice and other things.

Drinking water has to be supplied for, although there is water everywhere, the old poem says there is not a drop to drink. But water is only one of the drinkables. One well stocked ship advertises the fact It has on board 3,000 bottles of French and 2,100 bottles of German champagne, 2,200 bottles of liquors, 700 bottles of breakfast wines, 5,000 bottles of white wine, 4,500 bottles of red wines, 15,000 liters of Hamberg beer and 15,000 bottles of mineral water.

Luxury in suites has grown rapidly in the last twenty years. In 1897 the Kaiser Wilhelm de Grosse came out with a suite costing $1,000. It was the most elaborately fixed up suite in the world at that time. She has been far out distanced, however, for, since that time, a suite costing 11,500, then one costing 2,000, then one costing 5,000, have been successively installed.

Brewer Patronized Expensive Suite – The most extravagant traveler on the sea was the late Adolphus Busch, brewer. He always traveled In the best style and paid more than the Vanderbilts or Astors for his suites.

There are plenty of substitutes for an ocean Voyage these days and all are more or less fitted up in luxury. There is a fleet of steamers on the Great Lakes and they probably furnish as much enjoyment as any other form of water travel. On the Atlantic Ocean there is a delightful trip from New York to New Orleans. On the Pacific Ocean the most delightful trip is from San Francisco or Seattle to Alaska in summer.

It is hard to believe what travelers thought was luxury accommodations back in the early 1900’s. I wonder what they would think of a Disney cruise ship of today with its enclosed water ride that goes around the entire ship. Of course the biggest improvement that comes to my mind is the gyroscopic leveling that makes sea sickness only an issue for the most vulnerable to sea sickness. Not to mention the electric lighting and refrigeration 🙂

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