What It Was Like to Travel on the Titanic

Contributor
In time for Titanic’s much-buzzed re-release, a look back at life on the real Titanic
Titanic
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved

Titanic

Pre-1997, the Titanic was much more than a movie that made tweens’ hearts pitter-patter. Its fateful collision with an iceberg stunned everyone from the passengers on board to people on land, the incident killed more than 1,500 people, and it is still considered one of the worst maritime disasters in history. Titanic was the largest ship in the sea at the time of its departure from Belfast and, as was so astutely portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, carried passengers from an incredibly wide range of social classes. Ironically, the Titanic was known as the unsinkable ship.

So, with April's re-release of the epic drama starring Winslet and DiCaprio set to mark the 100-year anniversary of the ship’s sinking, we wanted to take a look back at what life was really like on board. Most importantly, what did passengers eat and what activities did they partake in?

We already know that the last supper served to first-class passengers on the Titanic was a sumptuous 10-course meal, with oysters, cream of barley, poached salmon with mousseline sauce, filet mignon, chicken Lyonnaise, lamb with mint sauce, a roast duckling with apple sauce, roasted squab and cress, pâté de foie gras, and chocolate and vanilla éclairs on offer. Each course was served with a different wine, and fruits and cheeses were served after the 10th course. Later, coffee and cigars were available to those who wanted them.

Of course, second-class dining rooms were served fewer and less extravagant courses and further below, third-class passengers ate a small and simple meal. The final lunch menu from the first-class dining room, served the day before the ship sank, was recently auctioned off in England, giving us a peek into yet another elaborate meal served on board. Offerings included eggs Argenteuil, chicken à la Maryland, grilled mutton chops, salmon, corned ox tongue, and a selection of cheeses. Lunches in second class consisted of tripe, roasted ribs, and baked potatoes, while third-class passengers were served simpler dishes like cheese and pickles with fresh bread, scones, rice soup, corned beef, and tea.

According to TitanicFacts.net, the food served on the Titanic amounted to roughly 25,000 pounds of poultry, 40 tons of potatoes, 13,000 grapefruits, 1,000 loaves of bread, 40,000 fresh eggs, 15,000 bottles of ale to just 1,000 bottles of wine, and 8,000 cigars.

Once satiated, first-class passengers on the Titanic were treated to an array of activities — a swimming pool, squash courts, Turkish baths, a private promenade and deck, and live music from the ship’s orchestra. Second-class passengers spent their days playing board games, shuffleboard, and backgammon, while the third-class passengers were largely left to their own devices. Both first- and second-class passengers could take their afternoon tea out on their class-specific decks. (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.)

Lastly, there are conflicting reports as to what the band, that continued to play despite being literally on a sinking ship, was playing, but it has been reported that it was either "Nearer, My God, to Thee" or "Autumn."  

If you want to get even closer to it all, pay a visit to one of the permanent Titanic attractions across the country — the RMS Titanic in Atlanta, the Titanic Museum in Branson, Mo., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. — or find one of the many temporary exhibitions opening this year to commemorate the 100-year anniversary. 

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