The Titanic: Bon Voyage cover

The Titanic: Bon Voyage


All morning on Wednesday, April 10, 1912 an endless stream of passengers and crew walked up the gangways of RMS Titanic and disappeared into the bowels of the biggest ocean-going liner the world had ever seen.
The hustle and bustle of the final preparations were interrupted every so often by an ear-splitting blast from the ship’s enormous stern whistles reminding all and sundry that it was departure day.

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All Aboard!

All Aboard!

All morning on Wednesday, April 10, 1912 an endless stream of passengers and crew walked up the gangways of RMS Titanic and disappeared into the bowels of the biggest ocean-going liner the world had ever seen.

The hustle and bustle of the final preparations were interrupted every so often by an ear-splitting blast from the ship’s enormous stern whistles reminding all and sundry that it was departure day.

All Business

While hundreds lined Berth 44 at Southampton in the South of England to witness Titanic’s maiden voyage get under way, there were no bunting or brass bands. The launch of the Olympic, the first of the White Star Line’s new monster ship class, got the full flag-waving, speech-making bon voyage ten months earlier.

Titanic, her hull throwing a vast shadow across every other vessel in the harbor, may have been considered the jewel in the fleet’s crown, but the days and hours before the transatlantic journey began were all business.


The ship had arrived in Southampton under cover of darkness at midnight on April 4 after a 28-hour journey from the Belfast shipyard where it was built with just a skeleton crew on board and no passengers.

It was towed to the custom-built Berth 44 to await the arrival of her passengers and the remainder of her crew.

But first, a staggering amount of food and drink had to be loaded into the giant refrigerators and pantries below decks.

Pantry Stores

For the 5-day voyage to New York, the following provisions were ferried into her galleys:

Fresh meat–75,000 lbs; Potatoes–40 tons; Fresh fish–11,000 lbs; Onions–3,500 lbs; Poultry and game–25,000 lbs; Rice, dried beans–10,000 lbs; Salt and dried fish–4,000 lbs; Lettuce–7,000 heads; Bacon and ham–7,500 lbs; Tomatoes–2 3/4 tons; Sausages–2,500 lbs; Fresh green peas–2,250 lbs; Fresh eggs–40,000; Fresh asparagus–800 bundles; Flour–200 barrels; Oranges–180 boxes (36,000); Sugar–10,000 lbs; Lemons–50 boxes (16,000); Coffee–2,200 lbs; Grapefruit–50 boxes; Tea-800 lbs; Hot house grapes–1,000 lbs; Cereals–10,000 lbs; Fresh milk–1,500 gal; Fresh cream–1,200 qts; Condensed milk–600 gal; Ice cream–1,750 qts; Fresh butter–6,000 lbs; Sweetbreads–1,000; Jams and marmalade–1,120 lbs.

Planning Ahead

Planning Ahead

Titanic’s cellars were filled with 20,000 bottles of beer, ale, and stout; 1,500 bottles of wine; 15,000 bottles of mineral water; and 850 bottles of spirits.

Also stacked on board were 3,000 tea cups; 2,500 breakfast plates; 1,500 souffle dishes; 8,000 dinner forks; 2,500 water bottles; 2,000 wine glasses; 12,000 dinner plates; 300 claret jugs; 2,000 egg spoons; 400 toast racks; 1,000 oyster forks; 8,000 cut tumblers; and 100 grape scissors.

New Location

When the big day finally arrived on April 10, the passengers began to arrive from about 9.30am when the London and South Western Railway’s boat train from London’s Waterloo Station reached Southampton’s Terminus railway station right on the quayside alongside Titanic’s berth.

In the past, most of the big cross-Atlantic liners had sailed out of Liverpool to the north, but White Star’s new ‘Olympic’ ships were based in Southampton so they could pick up continental passengers across the channel in France on route to America.

Each In Turn

The larger number of Third Class passengers embarked first and were shown to their cabins further into the center of the ship. Each was inspected for sickness or any physical problems that could conceivably lead to them being refused entry into the United States, something White Star was keen to avoid because they would have little choice but to take them back to England.

Second Class was next – many of them employees of the VIP guests. Then First Class passengers ambled on board to be personally greeted by Captain Smith about an hour before departure.

Near Miss

In all, 922 passengers went aboard at Southampton. But just as they were settling in, many of them standing on the decks waving farewell to loved ones, Titanic almost suffered a crunching collision.

The emergency came just moments into the trip when the Titanic’s sheer size triggered a massive wave that caused a smaller liner, the SS City of New York, to snap from its moorings and veer into the bigger vessel’s path.

Titanic’s huge displacement caused the New York and another liner, the Oceanic, to be lifted by a bulge of water and the dropped into a huge trough.

Crisis Averted

Ripped from its moorings, the New York swung around stern-first towards Titanic.

While Captain Edward Smith was frantically trying to switch course, urging his officers to turn “full steam astern,” a tugboat, the Vulcan, came to the rescue and took the New York under tow.

The two ships missed one another by just four feet.

Crisis averted, Titanic set off for Cherbourg in northern France, as planned, just a few minutes late after its noon departure bound ultimately for New York.

Congratulations abounded on the bridge. The quick response by the captain and crew had prevented a costly and humiliating beginning to the heralded super ship’s oceangoing career.

Under Way

Under Way

Ironically, had the two ships bumped with the subsequent dent to Titanic’s new paintwork and Smith’s pride, the inevitable delay to the journey may well have avoided the much greater catastrophe that lay in wait.

There was also a minor fire in the engine room that kept the crew busy on that first morning but nobody was about to allow such relatively minor setbacks to spoil the big day.

First Leg

The weather was windy, chilly and overcast in the channel but nothing unusual for the time of year.

Titanic completed the 77 nautical mile leg to Cherbourg at 6.30 pm on April 10.

Unused to a ship of this size, there was nowhere big enough for it to dock so the additional passengers were ferried on board by a number of tenders.

Another 274 people embarked at Cherbourg and 24 went ashore.

The toing and froing took less than two hours and at 8.10 pm Titanic weighed anchor and left for Queenstown in Ireland for the final stop before crossing the Atlantic.


The weather was warmer with a brisk wind the next morning at 11.30 am when the liner arrived at Cork Harbour on the south coast of Ireland.

Tenders were again needed to ferry the new passengers from the dockside – 113 Third Class and seven Second Class travellers came aboard and seven left, including a crewman, stoker John Coffey, who sneaked off the ship by hiding under mailbags transported to shore.

At 1.30 pm, Titanic weighed anchor for the last time on its journey west.

At last, the passengers settled down to relax for the longer trip ahead, leaving the fanfare Titanic inevitably caused when it was ashore behind.

Hot Ticket

The exact number of people aboard is not known, as not all of those who had booked tickets made it to the ship; about 50 people cancelled for various reasons, and not all of those who boarded stayed aboard for the entire journey.

As befitting the first transatlantic crossing of the world’s most celebrated ship, the guests on board included a disproportionate number of high-ranking officials, dignitaries, celebrities and wealthy industrialists. It was a hot ticket.


J.P. Morgan, whose International Mercantile Marine shipping trust controlled White Star, had to cancel at the last minute because of unforeseen business affairs, but White Star’s boss Bruce Ismay was at the top table, as was Thomas Andrews, the shipbuilder from Harland and Wolff.

The richest passenger was John Jacob Astor IV, who had scandalized society the previous year by marrying 18-year-old Madeleine Talmadge Force – who was 29 years his junior – soon after divorcing his wife.

Other millionaire passengers included industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim, who was accompanied by his chauffeur, valet and mistress, and Isidor Straus, the owner of Macy’s department store, with his wife, Ida.

Three Classes

Also travelling in the First Class cabins were Denver millionairess Margaret "Molly" Brown, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife, couturiere Lucy (Lady Duff-Gordon), cricketer and businessman John Borland Thayer with his wife Marian together with their son Jack, the Countess of Rothes, author and socialite Helen Churchill Candee, journalist and social reformer William Thomas Stead, author Jacques Futrelle with his wife May, and silent film actress Dorothy Gibson.

Second Class passengers included tourists, journalists and academics, as well as staff attending to their First Class employers, but Third Class comprised by far the largest group, with some paying as little as $20 for the crossing.

New Crew

New Crew

Although there was an 855-strong crew, Titanic didn’t have a full-time workforce. The vast majority were casual workers who only came aboard a few hours before the boat sailed from Southampton.


Captain Smith was already one of the world’s most experienced sea captains when he was asked to take command of the Olympic, the first in the new line of giant White Star liners.

He was at the helm of the Olympic during its first Atlantic crossing in June 1911 and although there was a mishap later that year when the ship collided with a British warship, HMS Hawke, the captain was sufficiently trusted by his bosses to be put in charge of Titanic’s fateful first trip.

Along with Captain Smith on the bridge was Chief Mate Henry Tingle and First and Second Officers William Murdoch and Charles Lighroller.

Engine Room

Engine Room

Of the crew, 97% were men – there were just 23 women, most of them stewardesses.

The rest represented engineers and a great variety of professions - bakers, chefs, butchers, fishmongers, dishwashers, stewards, gymnasium instructors, laundrymen, waiters, bed-makers, cleaners, and even a printer, who produced a daily newspaper for passengers called the Atlantic Daily Bulletin, with the latest news received by the ship's wireless operators.

Café Parisien

Image by Robert John Welch (1859-1936), official photographer for Harland & Wolff

Café Parisien

A few specialist staff included eight musicians, five postal workers and the staff of the First Class only A La Carte Restaurant and the Café Parisien.

Leisure Time

As the journey proper got under way, the guests had plenty of time to enjoy the leisure facilities that were provided for all three classes to pass the time.

It was customary for passengers to socialize on the open deck, promenading or relaxing in hired deck chairs or wooden benches.

Ambitious mothers plotted to use such a rare opportunity of being in close quarters with the wealthy to identify rich bachelors to whom they could introduce their marriageable daughters during the voyage.


Passengers could use an on-board telephone system, a lending library and a large barbershop. The First Class section had a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, a Turkish bath, an electric bath and a Verandah Cafe. First Class common rooms were adorned with ornate wood paneling, expensive furniture and other decorations,

Needless to say, the steerage class wasn’t nearly so grand, but the Third Class accommodations included their own dining rooms, as well as public gathering areas including adequate open deck space, which aboard Titanic included the Forecastle Deck forward, the Poop Deck aft, both well decks and a large open space on D Deck which could be used as a social hall.

First Class Smoking Room

First Class Smoking Room

There was also a smoking room for men and a reading room for women, not as fancy as the First Class equivalents but both far above average for the period.

Full Steam Ahead

The weather cleared as Titanic heaved away from Ireland under cloudy skies with a headwind.

Temperatures remained fairly mild on Saturday, April 13, but the following day Titanic crossed a cold weather front with strong winds and waves of up to 8 feet that died down as the day progressed.

On the night of Sunday April 14, the sea was flat calm, the sky clear and moonless, and the temperature was dropping towards freezing.

Captain Smith surveyed the horizon, enjoying the peace and quiet of the open sea. With Titanic’s teething troubles in the rear mirror, it was full steam ahead to the new world.