AQUITANIA ‘DOWN THE YEARS’

Aquitania’s long life ensured that she had to adapt to keep up with the times. When she returned to service in 1920, after the war, Cunard took the opportunity to improve her accommodation to ensure her popularity; after immigration declined in the early 1920s, the focus switched to attracting passengers to the new ‘tourist third cabin’ accommodation provided in the second half of the decade. Several new public rooms for these passengers were provided in the 1929 refit. In the early 1930s, second class and tourist third cabin gave way to tourist class - a single designation - and then in 1936 the North Atlantic Conference renamed first class as ‘cabin class’ onboard Aquitania, as she recovered from the depression and Queen Mary arrived on the scene. These changing circumstances explain many alterations that were made over the years.

The purpose of this short article is to take a brief glance at several changes in the second and first class areas, by comparing them as they were in 1914 to their appearance in 1938, which was the final complete year before Aquitania was withdrawn from the express service to serve in the war. It is not intended to provide an exhaustive analysis of every change, in each passenger class, made during every single refit, as it is beyond the article’s scope to do so. An even more extensive use of images would render the download times intolerable - even for those with a fast internet connection.

Hopefully, the images will be worth the wait.

SECOND AND ‘TOURIST’ CLASS

rms aquitania C-deck aft 1914

 

Left: In 1914, aft on C-deck Aquitania’s second class entrance was surrounded by staterooms for second class passengers. (The Shipbuilder, 1914/Author’s Collection.)

Below: By the time this deckplan was issued in 1938, a number of changes had been made. Rather than use the expansive deckhouse for passenger staterooms, they had been removed and new public areas substituted. In 1929, Cunard had installed new public rooms to try and attract tourist third class passengers, and the new smoke room was one of the improvements in this area of the ship. Subsequently, the second class designation was removed entirely and tourist class replaced both second and tourist third cabin classes. From 1936, her first class accommodation was termed ‘cabin class’ by the North Atlantic Passenger Conference, and passenger numbers rose as she recovered from the depression in the late 1930s. It is also interesting to note that the staterooms between the two staircases, around the well above the original second class dining saloon, had been enlarged by this time. The deckplan’s colour-coding helped passengers understand each stateroom’s facilities: red designated double bedrooms; green designated single rooms; blue designated ‘rooms with upper and lower berths’ and the dull pink designated ‘rooms with three berths’. Brighter pink designated public rooms. (Author’s Collection.)

 

rms aquitania C-deck aft 1938

 

rms aquitania d-deck aft 1914

 

Left: When Aquitania entered service, the spacious second class dining saloon, second class gymnasium, third class entrance and third class promenade were situated aft on D-deck. (The Shipbuilder, 1914/Author’s Collection.)

 

Below: Twenty-four years later, a central area of the original dining saloon had been converted into a cinema and theatre, and was labelled a ‘theatre and concert hall’ in this deckplan. This alteration had been made during Aquitania’s 1932-33 refit. Another change was the removal of the original second class gymnasium, and the addition of a new winter garden for tourist third class passengers (added during the 1929 refit). Following the abolition of second class, which was renamed tourist, the winter garden was available for all tourist class passengers. (Author’s Collection.)

 

rms aquitania d-deck aft 1938

 

FIRST AND ‘CABIN’ CLASS

rms aquitania d-deck grill 1914

 

Left: Although creased, this deckplan shows the location of the original first class grill room. (The Shipbuilder, 1914/Author’s Collection.)

Below: The first class grill room was removed in 1936, providing additional space for new staterooms. Even after Queen Mary entered service, Aquitania’s recovery from the lean years of the early 1930s continued, and Cunard White Star installed the new staterooms to ensure that she had the capacity to take advantage of increasing passenger numbers. They calculated that the expense of the alterations would be more than offset by the increased revenues generated. Orange designated rooms with ‘a bed and upper berth’. (Author’s Collection.)

 

rms aquitania d deck grill 1938

 

rms aquitania d-deck restaurant 1914

 

Left: The first class restaurant, or dining saloon, and foyer as they were in 1914. (The Shipbuilder, 1914/Author’s Collection.)

Below: The first class restaurant did not change a great deal over the years, but this interesting deckplan shows that the captain’s table was situated in the forward starboard section of the room, while the staff captain’s table was opposite on the port side and other senior crewmen were strategically seated throughout the room. In the foyer, now labelled as the ‘reception room,’ additional chairs and tables are available, while the bank and information bureau - both fitted during the 1920 refit - can be seen on each side of the ship. (Author’s Collection.)

 

rms aquitania d-deck restaurant 1938

 

rms aquitania c-deck amidships 1914

 

Left: First class staterooms amidships on C-deck, 1914. (The Shipbuilder, 1914/Author’s Collection.)

Below: During the 1920 refit, it was reported that the first class staterooms amidships on C-deck were ‘practically rebuilt’. The changes - seen here, eighteen years later - were a considerable improvement upon the original accommodation. (Author’s Collection.)

 

rms aquitania c-deck amidships 1938

 

 

rms aquitania b-deck amidships 1913

 

Left: Some of Aquitania’s famous suites, seen in this view of B-deck. (The Shipbuilder, 1914/Author’s Collection.)

rms aquitania reynolds suite

 

Above right, and below: A number of improvements were made over the years. In 1926, for example, the raised portion of the promenade deck amidships was sacrificed when the staterooms amidships were increased in size and brought further out towards the sides of the ship. It is also interesting that some further changes had been made: compare the layout of the Reynolds Suite, forward on the port side, as it was in 1914 and then 1938. The eagle eye can spot many alterations. (Author’s Collection.)

 

rms aquitania b-deck amidships 1938

 

 


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