Giant Ocean Liners of the North Atlantic - 1914
By Frank A.Munsey
THE March MUNSEY contained an article of mine on the giant hotels of New York, and while developing the subject it occurred to me that I might well say something about the giant liners of the North Atlantic by way of comparison, for these great new boats are as well great palace hotels, with all the luxuries and comforts of those ashore.
Of course the liners have no better rooms than the hotels of New York, but they have just as good rooms and they are much better ventilated. In my hotel article I made the statement that rooms on the lee side of a house, hotel or dwelling, though they had an outside window, were not properly ventilated and urged that they should be ventilated from the roof by means of pipes constantly bringing fresh air to them, as is the case with the inside rooms and those below the water-line on shipboard.
The outside rooms on a ship, those far enough above the water so that the ports, or windows, may remain open, are ventilated through these, and as a matter of fact they are not the best ventilated rooms on the shin. Those on the lee side of the boat get no better circulation of air than rooms on the lee side of any building on land, while the inside rooms and those below the water-line are constantly supplied with fresh air forced down through pipes from the hurricane deck.
The general impression is that inside rooms are bound to be stuffy places, but the fact is that they are the best ventilated rooms on the ship as rooms average. Of course the ventilation on the wind side of a ship is perfect, but unfortunately the wind does business on only one side of the ship at a time. Through meeting the necessity of ventilating interior rooms on shipboard marine architects have pointed the way for the intelligent ventilation of hotels and private houses.
In point of comforts and luxuries and spaciousness the best hotel ashore cannot equal the modern liner, with its lounges, its library, its palm garden, its tea room, its smoking room, its sun parlor, its sun deck, and its promenade decks. There is nothing on land in any sense comparable.
Hotels in New York or in any other big city at best are more or less hemmed in by other buildings and are set in an atmosphere surcharged with smoke and dust and impurities. The Atlantic liner on the other hand, has its setting in God's pure air. Moreover, the liner is in a sense a holiday craft, a great, vast playground where every one relaxes from care and takes on a holiday spirit.
A day at sea is a thing apart from a day on shore. A delicious salt bath on getting up in the morning in bathroom or swimrning pool. Then dress and a brisk constitutional on deck in the fresh sea air, and the day is launched.
It is always a lazy morning at sea, some passengers corning on deck with the getting up of the sun. others straggling along all the way to high noon. Early breakfast on shipboard is scantily attended, but by the time sandwiches and bouillon are served on deck at eleven o'clock a goodly number are in evidence and have their sea appetites with them.
With nothing to do at sea, every one is strangely busy, walking. idling, gossiping, reading, sleeping or playing games. A tiny sail piercing the horizon, a passing steamer, an iceberg, a spouting whale, or a school of porpoises racing with the ship —any one of these crowds the rail with passengers and brings a thrill of excitement on board.
The Atlantic Ocean, when you are out in the middle of it, a thousand or fifteen hundred miles from shore, is a mighty big place. How terrifically vast it seems and what a weary waste of water! Plowing along for days sometimes without seeing anything but an endless, boundless stretch of sea makes the heart jump at the sight of another boat. It makes the world you left behind you seem nearer and punctuates the monotony of an aimless ocean.
At midday the run is posted, and this is the big milestone of the day. Then luncheon, with a cuisine equal to the best restaurant ashore. After luncheon, coffee and cigars, and a snooze on deck or in cabin, and all too soon tea-time has rolled around, and after tea a brisk walk, and every one walks before dressing for dinner.
Dinner is an animated scene such as you would see in a fashionable New York or London hotel. The meal over. coffee and cigars again, then to the smoking room. where the pool on the run is auctioned off. Meanwhile. some are walking on deck. some writing, some reading, some dancing. others looking on, with groups scattered here and there at cards. chess or other games. Thus the day ends, and in its passing the giant liner has reeled off five or six hundred miles.
No hotel on shore can reproduce a day like this. It isn't within the possibilities. The conditions are not the same. And at sea it is far more than a matter of conditions; it is the consciousness of escape from care and work and worry — something of the same spirit of the caged bird on gaining its freedom.
There is a psychological something that takes possession of a man when the boat pulls away from the pier and points her nose seaward. He finds himself actually and mentally cut loose from everything. It is as if he had passed out of the workaday world and into another — a great fairy world with life a mimic life of idleness and play.
This is recreation indeed, a letting go of every burden, a relaxation from the pace that kills. Nowhere on land can the overworked man so completely get away from himself and his cares as on old ocean.
And this psychological influence doesn't desert him the minute the boat docks on a foreign shore. It stays with him and possesses him to a degree that disqualifies him during his holiday for thinking or worrying about his interests at home. His interests fail to interest him. He is not in the mood for work or anything pertaining to work.
This isn't the experience of every business man, but it is the experience of the great preponderance of them who go abroad as regularly as the summer season comes around, to rest up and store up energy for the heavy work of the fall and winter. It is the only way they manage to do the measure of work they do and keep in good form.
Going abroad in the way to get the most out of it is both a habit and a matter of experience. The first time a mature man goes to Europe—the average man —he kicks at everything. He measures everything by American standards and American methods. In this constant state of mild or aggressive protest and in the more or less irksome task of sightseeing he gets little rest and benefit. To get rest, real rest, one must sag into a situation and accept it and like it.
What does it matter if one does have to tip and tip and tip till he wears out his change pocket if his bills are less by the extent of his gratuities?
The great thing is to accept Europe as we find it and not charge ourselves with the task of making it over.
I find, as a rule. that the active American business man must go to Europe half a dozen times before he squares himself to the life over there, and until he does this he does not get the full measure of benefit from his holiday.
It isn't that Europe is any better summer playground than America. but rather that Europe has three thousand miles of Atlantic Ocean between it and ourselves. and that in traversing this vast stretch of water we undergo a mental and psychological change that fits us to enter into rest and recreation to a degree that is difficult here at home.
Moreover, the human repair shops abroad do a world of good to our overworked, nerve-strained American men and women. At home we as yet have relatively few of these repair shops and those we have are in too close proximity to our counting rooms and the social centers.
There is just one right way of going to a " cure," and that is with the thought that you are literally putting yourself in the repair shop. Going into one of these human repair shops in this spirit, you relax in the hands of your doctor and yield gracefully to the regimen of the place. Europeans long ago learned the importance of the human repair shop to which they go or aim to go with annual regularity.
But to return to the ocean liner. There is another side to the picture of sojourning on the bounding deep. It is not one great unbroken calm at sea, one untrammeled joy and delight. There are the dull days and the rough days when time hangs heavy and discomfort makes the passengers sigh to be on land—ready to sell their souls, maybe, to be on land.
These are the days with fogs and storms and raging seas that rob the ocean of all its charm and delights. But bad as they are, they are in a sense worth while as a background to emphasize the glories of a bright sunny day.
There is nothing comparable to it in all the world, with the deep blue of the heavens and the deep blue of the ocean sparkling in the divine sunlight as the liner speeds onward, leaving its white trail stretching far astern. On such a day, with every one in holiday mood, and thrilled with the joy of living. we get such a picture as no other setting can furnish.
Our first giant steamship was the Great Eastern, launched in 1859. Unlike her predecessors she was not a growth from one size to a little bigger size but was the crystallization of an ambitious vision.
The Great Eastern was some boat for her day, iq.000 tons, with a length of approximately 70o feet. There was nothing in her class, nothing more than about half her size.
But whether due to faulty construction or the skepticism of the period. or that the world wasn't ready for so big a boat, with no docks able to accommodate her, or to some other cause, the Great Eastern was a colossal failure, and the failure of this first mammoth steamship doubtless retarded for many years the incoming of the giant liners of today.
Because of this set-back nothing very startling happened in the steamship world until 1894 when the new Lucania of the Cunard Line slashed the crossing record between New York and Queenstown to five days seven hours and twenty-three minutes.
The Lucania and her sister ship, the Campania, were thirteen thousand ton boats, with a length of 620 feet. They recorded an emphatic advance in marine architecture and showed that the hoodoo of the Great Eastern had been shaken off for good and all.
But these two ocean fliers of the Cunard Company had but a short reign as queens of the ocean for it was only a few years later when the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse of the North German Lloyd Company swept into the game and straightway grabbed all the ocean laurels.
She was the biggest and fastest and best passenger boat that up to that time the world had ever known, a boat that broke away from conventional types and initiated a new idea in ship construction, a a boat with some real comforts and real elegance. The Kaiser was a fourteen thousand ton boat with a length of 649 feet.
Following close on the heels of the Kaiser came the Deutschland, another German ship put out by the Hamburg - American Line. The Deutschland was slightly larger than the Kaiser and distinctly faster. She lost no time in annexing the speed record.
The Deutschland has since abandoned her fine old name and become the Victoria Luise and in giving up her former name she gave up all pretense to speed, her powerful engines having been replaced by a battery of less than half the power. Now this once proud queen of the Atlantic is a tame craft, humiliated, subdued —a mere pleasure yacht, making excursions to the land of the midnight sun in summer and to the land of the summer sun to the south of us in winter.
After the Deutschland the North German Lloyd Company brought out three more steamers of the general type of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The Kronprinz Wilhelm, the Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the Kronprinzessin Cecilie came out in the order named and together with the old Kaiser, form the North German Lloyd's fleet of express steamers sailing weekly between Bremen and New York.
The Kronprinz never distinguished itself for speed, but the Kaiser II was an emphatic improvement on the two previous ships of this line and lifted the record from the Deutschland. The Kronprinzessin Cecilie, almost an exact duplicate of the Kaiser H, is still faster.
Both of these boats marked a great step forward in the matter of comforts and luxuries. They introduced the private bath in considerable numbers, and the private bath is as much sought after to-day on shipboard as in our hotels on land. The next noteworthy development in ship construction took the shape of the palace hotel type, initiated in 1901 by the White Star Line in the Celtic, 20,904 tons. The Celtic was followed in quick succession by the Cedric, 21,035 tons; the Baltic, 23,876 tons, and the Adriatic, 24,541 tons.
And then another crystallization of an ambitious vision came in the great Olympic. As in the case of the Great Eastern which made so great a bound forward in doubling the size of any previous ship, the Olympic at a single bound doubled the size of the biggest liner of her day, her sister ship, the Adriatic.
But unlike the Great Eastern, and though more than twice her size, the Olympic at once demonstrated her practicability and great popularity. In her we got the first example of a perfect giant palace liner which was the equal of the giant palace hotels ashore.
While the White Star Line was developing the palace hotel steamship, the Hamburg-American Line contributed generously to this new idea with its two ships of a similar type, the Amerika and the Kaiser-in Auguste Victoria, respectively, boats of 22,000 and 24.000 tons.
The Ritz restaurant was introduced in these two liners, as well as many other attractive features. Now all the ships of the fifty thousand ton class have their à la carte restaurants in addition to the main dining saloon, and have copied as well some of the other innovations of these German ships.
In the way of fast ships, the Cunard Company came into its own again seven or eight years ago. when it gave us the Lusitania and Mauretania. These boats immediately got back the speed record from Germany and set a pace that paralyzes the ambition of rival lines.
These boats are great favorites with the public, and rightly so, because they not only have speed. but in their fittings and spaciousness and general scheme, allowing for the fact that they are of the racehound type, they are superb ships. They are not floating hotels in the sense of the fifty thousand ton boats, but they are the very finest examples of the strictly boat type liner.
The fifty thousand ton type, as a matter of fact, is more hotel than boat. It is a thorough boat, however, and is as fast as any on the ocean save the Mauretania and Lusitania. but its hotel side so overshadows the boat side that the boat side is incidental to the hotel.
Last year the Hamburg-American Company gave us the wonderful Imperator. a palace hotel of the type of the Olympic. and in another week or so we shall see over here her sister ship, the Vaterland, of even larger size.
Meanwhile, the Cunard Company not content to rest on its speed laurels alone. has entered competition in the fifty thousand ton class with its new mammoth ship. the Aquitania. and the White Star Line now has under construction another boat of the fifty thousand ton class, the new Britannic.
All transatlantic lines are imbued with the spirit of progress. The Holland-America has some very good boats of the Rotterdam type, large, steady, and well appointed. In a general way they are in the class of the George Washington, of the North German Lloyd Line, the Caronia, of the Cunard .Company, and the Cleveland of the Hamburg-American Line.
And the French Line has two fine express steamers, the Provence and the France, the latter only two years in service. The French Line is fast coming into its own with its new boats — boats that speed with the best on the ocean, except for the Mauretania and Lusitania. And landing its passengers at Havre, so near to Paris has a strong appeal to the traveling public.
The fifty thousand ton boat makes possible a measure of comforts and luxuries that cannot be had in the smaller steamers. Moreover, the fifty thousand ton boat is the only insurance policy against seasickness that counts for much. And it isn't a dead sure guarantee, but it comes so close to it that no one need worry much about mal de mer on such a boat.
There are times when old ocean, in angry mood, has things pretty much its own way. But in its ordinary mood, or even in reasonably extraordinary mood, a boat of this size carries itself with becoming dignity.
But the fifty thousand ton boat isn't the end: it is the crowning achievement of the old type and the beginning of a new and greater type. A sweep from the twenty thousand ton to the fifty thousand ton boat in something like a down years is going some. And it doesn't require great vision to see in the comparatively near future the seventy-five thousand or even hundred thousand ton boat---a boat measuring fifteen hundred or two thousand feet in length.
Boats of this size may never come, but it is more probable that they will than that they will not. Anyway it is certain that the 5o,000 ton boat has come to stay and has already become a standard type.
These observations are gathered from many crossings over the Atlantic ferry. On my first crossing, twenty years ago, I was struck with the lack of consideration by marine architects for the comfort of passengers.
The boats were small, and their narrow decks were frequently awash. In bright sunny weather, and with a smooth sea, passengers got on very well. but when it was cold and stormy and rough there was practically nowhere to go. There was, to be sure, a dingy little smoking-room and a long, plain, barnlike dining saloon. Beyond these two rooms and the pinched little cabins there was nowhere to go but out, and the out " was often denied to passengers.
I remember very well, after sizing to things on that first voyage, saying that it I were building a ship to carry passengers across the more or less boisterous Atlantic I would first lay out a big comfortable lounging room in the center of the ship. and around that lounge I would build the ship.
This has all happened. and a vast deal more. The lounge is the lounge of my conception, but in addition the palace hotel liner now gives us dozens of other great public rooms, luxuriously and comfortably and temptingly furnished.
I want to refer again to what I said about going abroad to escape from work here at home. Of course, it doesn't hold true with every man that he cannot get away from his work taking his holiday in America. Some men get away from work naturally, have great aptitude for it, in fact, but this isn't characteristic of the American man of affairs and achievements. His trouble is overwork, rather than under-work. And it is these men I have in mind in accentuating the difficulties of dissociating themselves from their business while remaining here at home.
Personally, I have never found myself able to get out of the atmosphere of my editorial and counting rooms. The will,- of the printing press never stills while I am on American soil. But strange though it may seem, I am as indifferent to work, once out on the ocean and with the ocean between myself and my work, as if I were entirely out of business.
I can't tell you why this is so; I only know it is so. Going abroad, with me, isn't because of a lack of patriotism, but is to preserve patriotism, preserve it in the sense of saving myself, and in the sense that a trip abroad never fails to quicken my admiration for my own country, with its vast resources, its many climates, and its incomparable opportunities for human development and human achievement.