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Onboard Entertainment

Updated: Nov 25

Onboard entertainment was limited in all classes compared to todays standards, spending five days at sea with no modern forms of organised entertainment might sound hellish today but in 1912, entertainment wasn't as important and was more a novelty in everyday life. Edwardians would treat the theatre or a meal out as an occasion. On Titanic, getting dressed up for dinner every evening and living in a 5 star hotel for a week was entertainment in itself, especially for the lower classes.

Titanic, however did provide some organised entertainment, and passengers did have a variety of activities to do in all classes.


Promenading

Second class passengers promenading on Titanic's Boat deck


Promenading was a popular Edwardian pass time. Promenading was the act of taking a leisurely public walk usually on the waterfront, or in a park. Fresh air was very important to Edwardian's as it was thought to promote good health. Promenading was also of the upmost importance to Edwardian's for passengers to scout out who's who, check out peoples fashion and gossip. Passengers would want to be seen with certain people, and would want to showcase their newest fashions. Passengers would rent deck chairs in certain locations to get the best view to people watch or to catch someone they wanted to get the attention of. Titanic was built especially for this premise in both first and second class. Both having ample deck space to stroll around. Both classes were provided with enclosed areas so this can be done even in bad weather. Third class would use their deck space to get fresh air and play games rather than to promenade.


Deck Games

A boy playing deck games on Titanic



Passengers play deck quoits on Olympic


On any ship, deck games are a very important activity. Passengers would expect to play a few sports games outside if the weather was nice. Shuffleboard, cricket, deck quoits and bull board were all very popular games as well as beanbag toss/cornhole, tennis and other games. All classes would play games on deck, albeit separately, classes could not play or compete with each other. It was known however for other classes to watch other classes play games with how the decks were arranged. Even if passengers were not taking part in the activity, they would gather to watch and take bets on the winner.

First class children were provided with swings that hung from the aft mast on the promenade deck, and used the starboard Verandah cafe as a playroom.


Board Games

Indoor board games, like today, were also a popular pass time. Many games were provided to all classes to enjoy in their respective public rooms. Passengers could play Chess, Draughts/Checkers, Dominoes, and Backgammon, as well as card games, Bingo, and various parlour games.


Gymnasium

First class gymnasium on Titanic


First class passengers had the luxury of a gymnasium for passengers to use when they wanted. Keeping fit and athleticism was a new craze to Edwardians, and a relatively new amenity on a ship. Located on the Boat deck just off the Grand staircase, the gymnasium offered rowing, and cycling machines, as well as weights, boxing punch bag, and horse riding. A Gymnasium steward was provided to assist with the sports equipment, and children were allowed in between 13.00 - 1500hrs.


Squash/Racquet Ball

An artist impression of the Squash court with spectators


First class passengers were provided with a Squash court on G Deck with direct access from first class accommodations. Personal health was fashionable to Edwardians, and many people took up sports, and squash was a quick and fast paced game that could be played by oneself or up to four people. The court was a popular amenity for passengers to use with other passengers or the Racquet steward (instructor) that was provided. Tickets to book slots were 2 shillings for 30 minutes obtained from the pursers office.


Turkish Bath

First class passengers were provided with a Turkish bath facility, like a modern spa. This collective had various heated rooms for passengers to sweat out their impurities. The shampooing rooms provided passengers with a water massage and a full body scrub.

The electric bath, was a contraption that would bathe the body in electric light which was thought to have healing benefits.

The Turkish baths located on F deck was open from 06.00-09.00hrs for men and 10.00-12.00hrs for women. Tickets could be bought from the pursers office with free access to the pool.


The cooling room on Olympic



The electric bath


Swimming Baths

Or the swimming pool to us (The baths was an old term for pool) Titanic was one of the first ships to be built with a swimming pool and was an amazing technical achievement at the time. The pool was part of the Turkish baths complex and was filled with heated salt water. Passengers could come for a swim 06.00-09.00hrs for men and 10.00-12.00 for women. Sexes were separated and could not use the facility at the same time.

Fresh water showers were provided too, to wash after swimming.


An artists impression of the swimming baths


Barber

Gentlemen in first and second class were provided with barbers to assist with male grooming hygiene, haircuts, and facial hair cuts. Going to the barbers would be an enjoyable self grooming time, and also to feel good ready for the evening dinner.

Ladies would usually have maids and stewardesses to do their hair and beauty regimes in their cabins. Olympic was later fitted with a Ladies hairdressers salon.

The barbershop was also a place to buy trinkets, tobacco, and toys as well as aftershaves, ointments and grooming products.


Second class barber shop on Olympic



Marconigrams

Marconigrams were telegrams sent through the ships wireless Marconi telegraph. Not only for ship communication but passengers could use this service too. This new technology was still a novelty on a ship and for a small fee, allowed first class passengers to send and receive messages with people on land. This was a very popular service, and passengers found it fun to send and receive messages while at sea.


Reading / Writing

Reading and writing was a popular Edwardian pass time. Titanic provided rooms specifically for this like the first class Lounge, and Reading and Writing room. Second class Library, and the third class General room. Education was the basis of society and reading was essential to that. Passengers would bring books onboard and first and second class passengers could borrow books from Titanic. Passengers would write postcards and letters, as well as personal diaries.

First class reading and writing room



Second class Library



Gambling

Passengers were advised to not gamble with money onboard as it wasn't uncommon for professional gamblers to use the liners to swindle wealthy passengers. Despite this, gentlemen would usually put a wager on a card game in the smoking rooms. Card games were a very popular pass time to all passengers in all classes. It wasn't uncommon to bet with objects like sugar cubes or hairpins.

Passengers would also bet among themselves on the ships daily progress (speed and distance)

Gentlemen in the first class smoke room from the 1997 movie Titanic



Socialising

Meeting new people was a big part of the entertainment onboard ships of this time. It was essential to make new acquaintances or business connections, as well as shipmates. First class passengers would scope who's who, and try to get themselves into the right crowds. Being social was far easier than being reclusive, as meals and daily activities required you to interact with other people. Edwardian's loved to socialise, and meet new people. Often in similar circles, people would already know each other, and new friendship groups would form that way.

General chit chat would pass the day by quickly, as well as gossiping and drinking.


First class ladies enjoying the Lounge, Olympic


Music Concerts

Titanic provided a band to be enjoyed by first and second class passengers. The band was not employees of the white star line but instead hired. Passengers would usually arrange a collection for the musicians. The band played at different times in different areas.

  • Second class concerts, in the aft C deck reception room, 10.00-11.00hrs, 17.00-18.00hrs and 21.15-22.15hrs

  • First class, Grand staircase boat deck, 11.00-12.00hrs

  • First class, D Deck Reception room, 16.00-17.00hrs and 20.00-21.15hrs

  • First class, A Deck lounge, 14.00-15.00hrs

The band playing a concert in the second class aft reception room




Playing Music

All classes were provided with pianos, not just for the band but for anyone that wanted to play, and it was encouraged. Pianos were a popular Edwardian pass time, with many people having them in their homes for household entertainment, many people knew how to play. Passengers could play the piano for entertainment and people could crowd around, sing and dance. Passengers were also encouraged to play their own instruments that they've brought onboard. As third class were not provided with a band, the piano in the general room and personal instruments became the focus of entertainment where passengers could sing, dance and listen.

An artist impression of the third class general room


A piano provided for first class, Boat deck Grand staircase


Meal Times

All meals in all classes were the highlight of everyones voyage. The food was the best quality of chefs worked in many famous hotels and restaurants around the world.

Breakfast was served between 08.00-10.00hrs

Luncheon was served at 13.00hrs

Dinner was at 19.00hrs, with lights turned off at 23.00hrs

Dinner was the spectacle event, a bugler would walk the decks playing his horn to announce the dress call, for passengers to be advised that they had 30 minutes until dinner was served and to dress for dinner. Dinner in first class was an exclusively formal event, passengers could be turned away if not appropriately dressed.

Dressing for dinner was too apart of the event. Passengers would wear their best clothes for dinner, often wearing their brand new garments bought from the best designers of London or Paris.

First class passengers would be treated to a 10 course meal of different variations, followed with wines, champagnes, confectionaries and sweets, all dressed and decorated to perfection.

First class also had the option to dine in the A la Carte Restaurant, separate from the main dining room, and was an extra cost to eat there.

Second class passengers would be served from the same kitchens as first class and would also dress for dinner. They too would be served a spectacle of foods and have up to 8 courses.

Third class dinner was served in a 3 course arrangement with sometimes having different sittings.

Dinner was more about having civilised fun, socialising and showing off. Many peoples reputations were destroyed by their failure of etiquette, dress, and vulgar personas.


First class passengers, depending for dinner on Olympic

First class dining room



Second class dining room



Tea Time

Afternoon tea is usually in the mid-afternoon, around 4pm. Passengers could gather with new friends and socialise with tea/coffee and light refreshments. This could be taken in most public ares in both first and second class. Tea time was an important event where passengers would discuss ship events, gossip, or make future onboard plans. First class had specific areas for tea, like the Verandah cafes, the cafe Parisien, the lounge, or the D deck reception room. Tea could also be taken on deck, weather permitting, and in your room. Second class could take tea in the Library. Third class were also served tea and coffee in their public rooms. All classes had tea and coffee options with every meal too.

Parisien Cafe on Titanic


Alcohol

Social drinking was a good way to pass the time, many people would have drank especially at meal times. Alcohol was provided to all classes as part of the ticket price. The more expensive wines and champagnes were charged extra, and any alcohol in the restaurant were added to the bill. Gentlemen would drink alcohol in the smoking rooms, and while playing card games. Ladies would drink alcohol after dinner, either in the reception room or in the lounge.

Third class were also provided with beer and ales on an evening.

Gentlemen drinking in the first class smoke room on Olympic



Private Parties

First class passengers would host private parties back in their cabins after most of the public rooms had closed. Especially passengers with the millionaire suites, or Parlour suites with the private promenades and sitting rooms. These rooms were designed for private parties. Passengers would host tea, dinner, or luncheons. or a just a few drinks and a card game.

Second and third class passengers were not allowed to host private parties, but they would chat in their cabins with their travel companions or newly aquanted cabin mates, until the early hours.

Regency style private Sitting room on C deck parlour suite



B Deck private promenade deck of parlour suite on Titanic


Cinema

With the new era of film and movies, peoples past times were changing towards the cinema/movie theatres. To keep up with the times, Olympic was installed with cinemas in both first and second class. Screens were installed in the first class lounge and second class library so that the room could be easily rearranged for a film showing.

First class lounge cinema, Olympic


Second class/tourist class library cinema, Olympic


What activity did you find most interesting? Let me know in the comments below


Written by Chris Walker of RMSTitanic.Design

















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