Olympic and RMS Titanic
their merger, there was considerable rivalry between the Cunard and
White Star Lines. So when Cunard introduced the Lusitania and Mauretania
on their transatlantic route, White Star followed almost
immediately with their Olympic and Titanic counterparts.
were designed to provide the ultimate in luxury travel and both had
virtually identical swimming pools with adjacent Turkish baths
suites. The midsummer issue of The Shipbuilder was a special number
devoted to these sister ships which were, at the time, considered to be the peak of
British shipbuilding achievement. The description of the Turkish baths
in the article applied in all but the smallest detail to both ships,
though most of the photographs of the baths which survive were actually
of the Olympic.
other hand, a booklet published in
May detailing charges, accommodation, etc, on the Olympic, includes a plan of Deck F
(Middle Deck), which seems to have been reprinted from an earlier booklet
relating to the Titanic.
The Swimming Bath was located on the starboardside
of F Deck, just forward of the Turkish Bath which conveniently adjoined the main companion-way.
In addition to the hot, temperate, and cooling-rooms, there were two
shampooing rooms, a steam room and, more unusually, an electric bath.
accounts, the cooling-room was one of the most extraordinary rooms in
the ship and was decorated in the Arabian style of the seventeenth
century. For once, perhaps, the publicity material did justice to its
The portholes are concealed by an elaborately carved
Cairo curtain, through which the light fitfully reveals something of the
grandeur of the mysterious East. The walls from the dado to the cornice are
completely tiled in large panels of blue and green, surrounded by a broad band
of tiles in a bolder and deeper hue. The ceiling cornice and beams are gilt,
with the intervening panels picked out in dull red. From the panels are
suspended bronze Arab lamps. A warm coloured teak has been adopted for the dado,
doors, and panelling, and forms a perfect setting to the gorgeous effect of the
tiles and ceiling. The stanchions, also cased in teak, are carved all over with
an intricate Moorish pattern, surmounted by a carved cap. Over the doors are
small gilt domes, semi-circular in plan, with their soffits carved in low relief
geometrical pattern. Low couches are placed around the walls with an inlaid
Damascus table between each, upon which coffee and cigarettes or books may be
placed. On one side is a handsome marble drinking fountain, set in a frame of
tiles. A teak dressing table and mirror, with all its accessories, and a locker
for valuables are also provided, while placed around the room are a number of
floors of many areas of the Olympic were tiled, each main area having
its own set of colours.
The facilities provided for First Class passengers
were perceived as
exemplifying the ultimate in luxury, and suppliers of goods to the liner
were not slow to advertise their products in its context, rather as
suppliers of goods to the royal family still boast their 'By
Appointment' logos. An advertisement for Vinolia Otto Toilet Soap
appeared in the Illustrated London news on 10 April, just days
before the fatal disaster.
the Turkish baths were adjacent to the swimming pool, which was
restricted to First Class passengers, it must be assumed that the
Turkish baths were similarly restricted. On the Olympic they were
reserved for the use of Ladies from 10 am to 1 pm, and for
Gentlemen from 2 to 7 pm at a charge of 4/- (or $1) per visit.
of the tragic history of the Titanic, almost anything to do with
the ship is avidly sought by collectors. Although quite a few of these tickets entitling a
passenger to a Turkish (or electric) bath seem to have survived, No.657
(similar to the one above) fetched £900 at Onslow's Auction sale on 11 April 1990.
paid their dollar, passengers on the Titanic were well looked
after by a team of five staff, three men (J B Crosbie, W Ennis, and L
Taylorónone of whom was to survive the voyage) and two women (Annie
Caton and Mrs Maud Slocombeóboth of whom were amongst those who were
spite of such care and attention, however, not all passengers enjoyed
their Turkish bath on board. Another survivor, Mrs Frederic Oakley
Spedden, wrote in her diary for 11 April:
I took a Turkish bath this morning. It was my first and will
be my last, I hope, for I never disliked anything in my life so before, though I
enjoyed the final plunge in the pool.
it is fair to say that most passengers who took Turkish baths in these
liners enjoyed them. In the facilities provided, and in the high
standard of decoration apparent throughout the suites, these baths were
a great improvement on those to be found on the Berengaria. Their
success later led to the inclusion of similar suites on both the Queen
Mary and the Queen Elizabeth.
H Coleman III for permission to use the quotation from Daisy Spedden's
Coleman/Spedden Family Archives
Parks Stephenson for
permission to use his fine illustration of the tiles in the Olympic
which he rendered from original pictures from the liner. Other tiles
from the liner, and much else of interest, can be found on his website
called SS401: Curious facts for Titanic historians
The original page
and thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
All the enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.
Advertisement for Vinolia Otto
cooling-room of the
tiles in the Turkish bath suite
part of Deck F
Ticket for Turkish bath on
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