The Floating Palace

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Strange as it may seem, when pondering the luxury built into the Titanic, I find it to be a contradiction. White Star Lines wanted new larger ships to take maximum advantage of the profit generated by the flow of immigrants heading to America. As one who has studied the Titanic saga from all angles, I conclude that the need for luxury had more to do with satisfying the ego of J. Bruce Ismay than any need to build a floating palace. Yet, the loss of life that terrible night in 1912 can be tied directly to the luxurious appointments demanded by Ismay. It was his directive to remove 32 lifeboats so that his ultra-rich passengers would have more space to stroll on the first class promenade deck. Boats that could have saved 2080 souls were missing when 1512 people died as Titanic sank.

Suites for first class passengers cost as much as $5,000 in 1912, about $270,000 in today’s dollars. Those suites were multi-room apartments complete with separate accommodations for servants and attendants. The level of luxury was better than the finest European lodging. Appointments in the suites included fine wooden furniture, soft comfortable beds, tasteful wall decors, and museum quality artwork. If they chose to remain indoors a passenger occupying these suites would be unaware they were on a ship at sea.

Ismay wanted nothing but the finest for his ‘best’ passengers because that is what he expected for himself. Chefs from top restaurants were recruited, and the finest food available stocked Titanic’s pantries and refrigerators. Fresh cut flowers were placed on each table in the first class dining room. Carpets were ankle deep in softness. The grand staircase was said to rival that found in the palace at Versailles. (The one pictured here is from the Olympic) Dog walkers took pampered pets to the third class deck to relieve themselves. Great care was taken to ensure that first class passengers were not inconvenienced by the sight of the rabble traveling in steerage.

To give some credit to White Star Lines, the accommodations provided for third class steerage passengers, although many notches below first and second class where the best available. These passengers were served good food in their own dining room, had their own clean bathroom facilities, and had their own deck to stroll about the ship. One assumes they didn’t mind sharing it with a few dogs.

In subsequent articles I will begin to explore the many individuals who were significant to Titanic’s creation and operation. Prepare to be surprised by some of what you’ll read.

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