It always strikes this tourist as a bit strange – sudden disparity between first and cabin-class and tourist class facilities on a ship flying the flag of the United States, which is supposedly a land without sharp class distinction of the old world. Paul Friedlander, New York Times, June 29, 1952.
Class segregation had not changed much since the Titanic; locked gates segregate each group. Each of the passenger classes had its won barbershop, beauty parlor, public rooms and children’s playroom.
In 1954, the minimum first class fare from New York to Southampton was $365 ($2,970 in 2012). For that price passengers sailed on a floating luxury resort offering the refinement, service and conveniences of the finest American hotels. They enjoyed expansive deck space and elegant public rooms. First class had the best location, amid ship, away from the vibration of churning propellers and the impact of waves slamming into the bow. It was a wonderful way to travel, civilized, luxurious, entertaining, relaxing, and friendly.
Cabin class was the “Happy Medium”, offering high standards of comfort and service at reasonable rates. Typical travelers included vacationing clerics, professors, seniors, and families. With more space, comfort, and amenities passengers lived between the luxury of first class and the tight accommodations of tourist. It was just the right mix for those who wanted more room and were put off by the perceived formality of First. Dressing up for dinner was optional, and a more informal atmosphere prevailed in the public rooms.
United States lines described tourist class as a “…Convenience to those who are economy-minded, and desire to obtain the best possible value in ocean travel, for a limited expenditure…” Value travelers frequently included students (Bill Clinton on his way to Oxford), immigrants on a limited budget and families returning to visit the homeland. The staterooms were small, simply furnished and lacked private facilities. Public rooms were comfortable and received the same care and talent that went into decorating all public rooms in the ship.
As for the food, it was good, and there was plenty of it. A typical menu featured fried chicken Southern style, cream sauce, boiled potatoes or round tips sirloin of beef and chocolate pudding for dessert.
The drawbacks of traveling tourist class were the lack of space and location. The cabins were in the less desirable bow, where the pitching motion was more pronounced. Outside, on the bow, passengers shared the limited windswept spaces with the cargo hatches. A small strolling area was provided aft of the forward funnel.