But what was life onboard the Titanic actually like? Not much like taking a cruise today.
Traveling on the Titanic was a voyage of purpose, primarily to transport mail, cargo and passengers, many of whom were emigrating, as steadily and safely as possible.
Designed to withstand harsh seas and cut through water, the Titanic was built with efficiency in mind. Ships today are capable of traveling at speeds similar to the Titanic’s but rarely do, as cruising is about pleasure, said John Maxtone-Graham, a maritime historian and author of the newly published book “Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost Liner.”
Eight professional musicians played for first-class (and occasionally second-class) passengers on the Titanic, but there was no other professional entertainment. There were also no shore excursions, and activities were limited to things like playing cards, reading, socializing and sitting or promenading on deck to get fresh air. “The average person today would be bored to tears on the Titanic,” said Charles Weeks, emeritus professor of marine transportation at the Maine Maritime Academy.
There was a library, a smoking room for men and a reading-and-writing room, used mostly by women. There were church services. But there were no shops onboard, and no pools, only a small “plunge bath,” according to Mr. Maxtone-Graham.
Today’s cruise ships boast movies, lectures, art and cooking classes, casinos, Broadway-style performances, magic shows, rock climbing, surfing, ice-skating rinks, comedy shows and well-known entertainers. On board the Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, currently the word’s largest cruise ship, there is a boardwalk, a zip-line ride with views over a 328-foot-long outdoor garden called Central Park (with real trees and plants), numerous swimming pools, extensive spa services and some 25 dining options, as well as the first Starbucks at sea.
On the Titanic, in first class, there was one dining room for all meals, using formal, white-glove service at assigned tables, and one à la carte restaurant.
Cabins today on average are larger, with private bathrooms, and balconies are more common. On the Titanic, there were only two staterooms with balcony-like private promenades.
The Titanic’s first-class cabins “were very luxurious for their time, but by today’s standards, were very small,” said Charles A. Haas, president of the Titanic International Society and a co-author of “Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy.” “They were not much larger than today’s tourist-grade motel rooms.”
Cruising today is more democratic. Cruise ships typically have one class of service, unlike the Titanic’s three, and provide more public spaces that are available to all passengers. The Titanic had about 18 percent public space, but the current average is about 35 to 40 percent, and on luxury ships “well above 50 to 70 percent,” said Douglas Ward, author of the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships 2012.” And modern cruising has introduced extensive advances for passengers with disabilities, he wrote, rendering it “one of the most hassle-free vacations possible.”
Pet lovers may have preferred to sail on the Titanic. There was a kennel onboard, located near the butcher, but today animals are not routinely permitted on cruise ships. But even some of the most ardent Titanic fans allow that most changes have been for the better.
Creating a replica ship has been discussed in Titanic circles in recent years. “But luckily, none of this has come to pass,” Mr. Haas said. “As good as the Titanic was in her day, it would be a practical and financial disaster.”