CRUISING THE PAST: LONDON IN 1913 – CROSSING THE POND ON THE RMS AQUITANIA AND STAYING AT THE LONDON RITZ
Cruise History: If you were doing the European Grand Tour in 1913 – this terrific Youtube video chronicles what England was like during that year. Trans-Atlantic passengers, sailing from New York to Europe, might have crossed the pond on the RMS Aquitania and stayed at the London Ritz.
THE LONDON RITZ
Famed Swiss hotelier César Ritz opened the London Ritz Hotel on May 24, 1906. The building is neoclassical in the Louis XVI manner, built during the Belle Époque to resemble a stylish Parisian block of flats, over arcades that consciously evoked the Rue de Rivoli.
Its architects were Charles Mewès, who had previously designed Ritz’s Hôtel Ritz Paris, and Arthur Davis, with engineering collaboration by the Swedish engineer Sven Bylander. It was the first substantial steel-frame structure in London.
Ritz personally managed much of the hotel’s operation for many years.
He hired world-famous chef Auguste Escoffier to provide cuisine to match the opulence of the hotel’s decorations; he placed a special bell in the entryway by which the doorman could notify the staff of the impending arrival of royalty.
The high standards to which he held his staff and the ultimate luxury which he provided his guests had been entirely foreign to Victorian Londoners, and the sensation he caused in the hotel industry precipitated a dramatic shift in that industry’s focus.
RMS Aquitania was a Cunard Line ocean liner that was built by the John Brown and Company shipyard near Clydebank, Scotland. She was launched on 21 April 1913 and sailed on her maiden voyage to New York on 30 May 1914.
Aquitania was the third in Cunard Line’s “grand trio” of express liners, preceded by the RMS Mauretania and RMS Lusitania. Widely considered one of the most attractive ships of her time, Aquitania earned the nickname “Ship Beautiful”. This despite criticism of her looks; having too many cowl ventilators and the forward funnel being as close to her bridge as it was.
In her 36 years of service, Aquitania survived military duty in both world wars and was returned to passenger service after each war. Aquitania’s record for the longest service career of any 20th century express liner stood until 2004, when the Queen Elizabeth 2 (ultimate career service of 40 years) became the longest-serving liner.