(Your Editor chanced upon the following in the library of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich last winter and it is reprinted here by kind permission of Stephen Rabson, Group Information Manager of P&O.
The document is in the form of a quasi-official report, written by one of P&O's traveling inspectors on two voyages in 1902, one from Southampton to New York, the other from Vancouver to Yokohama.
The writer (whose signature is, alas, indecipherable) was clearly more than a passenger, he was a benevolent spy, assessing conditions aboard the competition, though in fact, the two services were scarcely competitive. But his is a marvelously cogent evaluation of two rival vessels.)
I have the honor to report my arrival here yesterday. The following details of the steamers in which I have traveled may interest you.
S.S. St Louis
Left Southampton on 20th September, called at Cherbourg the same evening and embarked about thirty cabin and nearly a hundred steerage passengers, her total passenger list being:
1st Class--362 adults, 5 children
2d Class--156 adults, 8 children
Steerage--477 in all.
The ship has 351 berths 1st Class, 206 berths 2d class and is licensed to carry 649 persons in the steerage. The crew consists of 6 officers, 8 quarter masters, 43 deck hands, 30 Engineers Etc. 66 firemen, 21 oilmen, 48 stokers, and 125 in the purser's department. The ship's daily runs were respectively 300, 406, 398, 437,431,400, 444, and 236 miles. Arrived at New York on Sunday, 28th September, at 9 a.m.
Cabins: of the 170 staterooms, 1st Class, no less than 88 are inner ones, but all are well ventilated by an airtrunk passing through with an opening in each cabin, the air begin exhausted in the usual way by fans. The majority of the cabins are four- berthed. On the promenade deck, there are 14 suites of bed-and-sitting rooms with bath and W.C. attached; the fares for these cabins vary, according to size and position from 80 to 115 pounds in the slack season and from 130 to 180 pounds in the full season.
(The 1904 dollar/pound exchange rate was five to the pound. Hence, cheapest first class fare on the St Louis in the off-season amounted to $400; for the period, quite pricey--Editor)
I was told by the purser that they are always in great demand. The outer 95 O cabins are generally small, the inner ones being more roomy; no door curtains to any of the cabins, so that the doors must be invariably kept closed, which in hot weather would be very trying. The cabins were poorly supplied with cloak hooks, no chests of drawers or whatnots, but a small wardrobe in each.
The bunks are old-fashioned wooden ones, with wooden bottom- boards provided with an air bed only, no mattress. These are most uncomfortable for, after a time, the weight of the body forces the air to the sides and feet and one is lying with nothing but the bed tick over the hard boards! The switch of the electric light is so placed that one is within easy reach of every bunk, so that a passenger can turn the light on or off without rising.
A notice is posted in each cabin that the company is not responsible for money or valuables unless deposited with the purser; this is the only notice of any kind in the ship.
Enameled plates are affixed to the bulkheads at the foot of each companion, and in the alleyways, with the cabin numbers and arrows point ing in the direction. This is a very convenient direction and looks better than the cardboard notices used in our vessels. Saloon is large and plainly decorated in white and gold. It seats 370 people, double meals are un known. !
Drink Consumption Enormous
Library, forward of saloon, furnished with six writing tables and comfortable lounges, well supplied with stationary. Smoking Room is very large. In the center there are tables with seats for four persons each, and settees all around, accommodating altogether 100 people with seats. The Bar is closed at 11 o'clock, lights extinguished at midnight. All transactions at the Smoking Room bar are in cash, the consumption of drinks enormous. Mineral waters are sup plied in "splits" as well as the ordinary sized bottles. Two stewards are always 95 S in attendance in the Smoking Room. The Saloon, Smoking Room and passageways were all heated with steam-pipes.
Passengers are not allowed to use their own deck chairs, a stock of common folding chairs is kept on board and can be hired at one dollar for the voyage.
Baths etc: all on spar deck against the stoke-hold bulkhead, none on the ship's side. There are 10 ladies WC's and 16 for gentlemen; only 8 bath rooms, which are used indiscriminately by either sex. They are excessively cramped, hot and cold water is laid on but no shower, spray of another adjunct. Fresh water is not obtainable in bathrooms.
Servants were of all nationalities, mostly German, Swiss and Irish,. At table, one waiter is allowed for six passengers, all wore a numbered badge. The attendance was not particularly smart; the men were all very civil, but frequently engaged in conversation with the people they were waiting on; this appeared not to be considered improper. There were 8 stewardess's on the ship, of whom 2 were specially to look after ladies on deck; taking meals on deck was a very common practice.
Baggage: The American Line have a very good arrangement with the London Parcels Delivery Company for collecting baggage and forward- ing to Southampton very similar to our own. The Baggage Master also attends at the railway station and takes delivery there of any package brought down by passengers the day previous to sailing. The ship (under American Law) is liable for loss or damage to baggage up to a limit of 20 pounds. All heavy packages and those not marked cabin are stowed in the hold, and cannot be got at on the voyage under any circumstances. (Weekly visit to the baggage room as the climate changed were a fixed routine on all P&O steamers of the period. Ed.) The trip being of such short duration there is no difficulty in passengers 96 O taking everything required in their cabin.
On arrival at New York, the Customs official came on board at the Quarantine Station, bringing declaration forms, which have to be filled in, signed, and sworn in their presence.
This is done before the vessel gets to the wharf. Immediately she is along side, the baggage is discharged into the sheds and sorted alphabetically (labels for the purpose are supplied with the passage ticket), every pack age has to be opened for examination, but the landing and examination is most expeditiously performed.
Messing: The meal hours are: Breakfast, 8-10 a.m.; Lunch 1 p.m.; Dinner, 7p.m.; Childrens' meals in the saloon an hour earlier. 2d class: Breakfast, 8:30 a.m.; dinner, 1 p.m.; Tea, 5 p.m.; Supper 9 p.m. At eleven o'clock each morning, trays of sandwiches are handed 'round. Sandwiches of various kinds are kept on a sideboard in the Smoking Room all day.
A lavish table was kept, the menus in the usual American style, a curious mixture of dishes. All meals were served a la carte. The cooking, as a rule, good. The quality of the provisions, good, the oilmen's stores etc supplied by well-known English firms, Crosse & Blackwell, Huntley & Palmer, Moir, etc. The meat was of best quality but on more than one occasion, had been cooked without being properly thawed. The bread was good, rolls and great variety of fancy breads excellent & pastry poor. Fruit plentifully supplied, but of poor quality and often unripe. Tea and coffee fair. Ice wastefully used at meals and all other times. I am sending (per dispatch box) copies of the daily menu cards for your Superintendent Purser's inspection. Glass finger bowls supplied. Second Class accommodations were nearly all four-berth ca bins, very plain and poorly furnished. Only three bathrooms. Seats at table for 200 persons. The officers's cabins were all on 96 O the bridge deck, they had a separate mess room and at no times mixed with the passengers. ^^!
Empress of India
Left Vancouver 6th October, 4 p.m. Arrived Yokohama on 21st idem. at daylight. The passage was a stormy one throughout. The daily runs were: 259, 348, 349, 317, 256, 276, 281, 349, 378, 359, 192, 351, 258 miles respectively. The vessel has accommodations for 176 first, 24 second cabin and is licensed to carry 906 steerage. On this voyage, the passage list comprised: 1st Class--112 adults and 5 children 2d Class--7 adults and 4 children Steerage--698 in all.
The accommodation is very similar in style to your own vessels, there are but few inner cabins and those very roomy. The cabins are well furnished with wardrobe, drawers under the sofa berth, an ample supply of cloak-hooks and a flap table. The WC's and Baths are all inside, the latter large with hot and cold water laid on, also fresh water showers. PP!
The Dining Saloon, Library, Smoking Room and Alleyways all are heated with steam pipe. The Library is comfortably furnished with lounges, easy chairs and writing tables; there is a good supply of stationary, and a well-assorted collection of books for the use of which no charge is made.
The Head and Second Stewards, Chef, and Stewardess are Europeans, the remainder of the servants and galley staff are Chinese. The attendance, both at tables and in the cabins, was smart, intelligent and quietly performed.
A varied and lavish table was kept, the meat however (taken in at Vancouver) was coarse and there is, to my mind, too great a use of "canned" provisions. Bread excellent, pastry and sweets fair, tea and coffee good, fruit plentiful and of fair quality. On the whole, the messing may be summed up in the phrase "rude plenty." The passengers seemed well satisfied. 96 S
The Bar was closed at 11 p.m. Lights were extinguished in the Saloon and on Deck at that hour, and in the Smoking room at midnight. The latter was rather small and inconveniently arranged.
The Dining Saloon seats 182 persons. A table plan is posted in the companion the first day out, as soon the as the seats have been allotted. This was a most convenient arrangement, enabling passengers to identify the names of their fellow travelers. It might be adopted with advantage in our steamers.
Hours of Meals: Breakfast 8:30 a.m. ; Lunch 1 p.m.; Dinner, 7 p.m. Beef-tea and sandwiches were carried around at 11 a.m. and afternoon tea at 4 o'clock. Finger bowls used at each meal. Deck chairs supplied free.
Baggage not wanted in the cabins was placed in the baggage room situated on the main deck forward where it was easily accessible. This was opened on Wednesday and Saturday mornings for passengers to get out anything required. The space allotted for the baggage was large but there was apparently no system of sorting or stowing it for different ports separately. I was told that over- carriage of packages seldom occurs.
Both in this ship and on the Atlantic liner, there were several instances of ladies losing articles of jewelry which were not subsequently traced.
The 2d Class is of a distinctly inferior type, indeed it is in reality an intermediate or improved steerage for Europeans.
The ship's officers messed in the saloon, and passed a good deal of their time with the passengers.
Both the steamers carried a printer.
I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant, signature illegible.
(It is doubtful that even if one had available sufficient ancillary material about the St Paul or the Empress of India--deck plans, passenger lists, 96 O brochures and perhaps a passenger diary--it would still not be possible to document as many details about the ships' interior service as are included above. The thoroughness and exactitude with which this inspector analyzes the vessels on which he is sailing is unique in your Editor's experience.
There are so many fascinating details--that the St Paul's officers never mixed with passengers, that there was no fresh water in the bathrooms, that the bar closed at 11 p.m. Apparently, some suggestions were adopted for within a short time, finger bowls were provided on all P&O vessels.
Our thanks to Frank Braynard for the handsome photograph of the 1895 St Louis. She and her sister St Paul of the American Line were the first American-built screw express steamers.)