When the Titanic set off on her maiden voyage in 1912, she was carrying a total of 1324 passengers – and almost half of these passengers boarded using Third Class tickets. Life in Third Class was far removed from the luxuries of First and Second Class, which we are used to seeing in the media and popular films and documentaries. But just how different was life in Steerage?
Legends of the North investigate life aboard the most infamous ship in history, outside of our Titanic tour.
Third Class tickets cost anywhere between £3 and £8. To put that into context, it was roughly one month’s salary for the poorest passengers – many of which used their life savings emigrating in the hope of a better life. Once tickets were purchased, Third Class passengers were checked over for lice and disease, to ensure their arrival in New York would go smoothly.
Life on the Sea
For the five days that it sailed – from Southampton to Cherbourg, France and Queenstown (Cobh) in Ireland before heading west across the Atlantic towards New York – many passengers in Steerage would have lived in much cleaner, sanitary conditions than they would have at home. Titanic was the first ship of its kind to offer such luxurious accommodation to Third Class passengers.
While they shared bunks in private cabins with 4-8 people to a room, and with two bathtubs between over 700 people, all passengers at least had access to electricity and running water. For many, this was the life of luxury indeed. It got better; on Titanic, three meals a day were provided, even for Third Class passengers. Dining saloons were tightly packed, but even then, meals were served in two sittings to ensure everyone got to eat.
Entertainment wise, Third Class passengers were prohibited from accessing the First Class quarters, containing swimming pools and gymnasiums. However, they were privy to their own smoking room, reading room and general room where they could drink, dance and sing – which they were more than happy to do.
Whilst the generous quarters aboard the RMS Titanic were a far cry from usual standards for many, the passengers were still subject to classism, bigotry and racism at every turn. At the time, this was not just commonplace but expected behaviour as par for the course. It is, of course, widely known that classism played a huge part in the survival rate of Third Class passengers.
Discourse and popular culture reiterate this fact – Third Class passengers were not told that the ship was sinking until it was almost too late, resulting in only 178 survivors from Steerage. As displayed in James Cameron’s Titanic blockbuster, many Third Class passengers were locked below deck because they were seen as lower class citizens and thought to be rife with disease.
The low 27% survival rate of Third Class passengers was only superseded by the fact that a mere 21% of staff and crew survived the sinking ship. By comparison, 61% of First Class passengers survived, and some even managed to save their dogs.
As you can imagine, whilst life aboard RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage will have been exciting, and full of hope for many Third Class passengers, the prevailing prejudices at the time were, for many, to be the cause of their demise.
If that has whet your whistle for learning more and exploring the world-famous Titanic ship in more depth, then book today for your chance to join our incredible Titanic tour in Ireland – right where the ship itself was built. Contact us for more information!