Life on Board: Recreation
Games and Activities Available to the Passengers of Titanic
Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland, Collection Harland and Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
There really was no excuse for boredom aboard the Titanic. To the contrary, there were so many diversions that a passenger would have been hard-pressed to try them all.
One major pastime on the Titanic was walking and admiring the view of the sea. The Titanic's designers sought to enhance that pleasure by creating an enclosed Promenade deck, which allowed passengers to walk even in inclement weather. The Promenade also was equipped with folding wooden deck chairs, which enabled the less energetic to sit and watch the other strollers and socialize. Passengers who paid for pricey parlor suites also were provided with their own private 50-foot-long private promenades.
For First Class passengers concerned with physical fitness, the Titanic also offered first-rate exercise facilities. These included a squash court where passengers could play for a fee of 50 cents per match. By some accounts, the court also could be outfitted with a net for tennis, though its dimensions—20 feet by 30 feet—wouldn't have allowed very vigorous rallies. The gymnasium was equipped with what were then state-of-the-art pieces of equipment, and a personal trainer was available to coach passengers through the workouts that included stationary bicycling, rowing, boxing, weight training, and a peculiar motorized device called the electric camel, which apparently simulated the exertion of riding an actual beast. Another luxurious fitness amenity was a nearly six-foot-deep heated salt-water swimming pool, which could be used for either swimming workouts or for spa-style relaxation. As passenger Archibald Gracie, who took a swim on the morning of the Titanic's final day, later recalled, "In no swimming bath had I ever enjoyed such pleasure before." (He added that his enjoyment might have been spoiled had he realized that within 24 hours, "I would be swimming for my life in mid-ocean, under water and on the surface, in a temperature of 28 degrees Fahrenheit.")
Gracie recalled that one of the most entertaining activities on the Titanic was conversing with the variety of accomplished, educated and artistically inclined passengers on board. Almost every evening, he visited the First Class Smoking Room, where one could engage in discussions about politics with Major Archibald Butt, a military aide to President Taft, or talk about art with painter and muralist Frank D. Millet. Some smoking room denizens who were betting men had another interesting pastime: They conducted a daily wagering pool on the speed that the ship would make in a particular day.
The recreation options for Second Class passengers weren't quite as extensive. The Titanic provided deck games such as shuffleboard and ring toss, and board games such as chess and backgammon. One of the nicest amenities was the Second Class Library, which was used by passengers not just for reading, but as a place to socialize as well. In a memoir, Titanic survivor Lawrence Beesley recalled the library, which he visited on the afternoon of the disaster, with wistful fondness. "I can look back and see every detail...the beautifully furnished room, with lounges, armchairs, and small writing or card tables scattered about, writing bureaus round the walls of the room, and the library in glass-cased shelves flanking one side—the whole finished in mahogany relieved with white fluted wooden columns that supported the deck above."
The Third Class passengers pretty much were left to find their own amusements in their living quarters or in the small area of the poop deck that they were allowed to use. Nevertheless, as Beesley recalled, "I often noticed how the Third Class passengers were enjoying every minute of their time." One of the passengers played the bagpipes for everyone's entertainment, and younger passengers enjoyed "uproarious" double jump-rope contests. Beesley also noticed a man who would climb the stairs leading from the Third Class section and talk through the gate to his wife, for whom he had purchased a Second Class ticket. After the disaster, Beesley saw the wife on the Carpathia, but guessed that the husband probably had perished with the Titanic.
For the spiritually minded, the Titanic had a Sunday morning church service, conducted in the First Class dining saloon. On the morning of the disaster, the congregation joined in singing a hymn, "Prayer for Those at Sea," which included the fateful lines:
O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home
As the ship evolved into a tragic legend, myths began to develop about the lavishness of its accoutrements. As Walter Lord wrote in his 1955 book A Night to Remember, some survivors recalled golf courses, regulation tennis courts "and other little touches that exceeded even the White Star Line's penchant for luxury."