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Life on the Liners

Despite the reality of a decade of economic depression, the 1930s, perhaps more than any period, has come to epitomise the glamour, romance and golden age of life on the liners.

New ships like the Viceroy of India and the shiny white 'Straths' were larger, more comfortable and commodious than ever before. P&O boasted: 'no vessels in the world, of similar tonnage, will afford a higher standard of luxury or elegance.'

Light, spacious decks satisfied the current vogue for health, exercise and beauty. The latter included 'sunning' which many took to excess, forcing the Company to issue warnings about the dangers of excessive sunbathing, and particularly the use of oil!

Lazy days at sea were punctuated by organised deck sports - tennis tournaments and knock out competitions of quoits, bluff and cricket. In addition a daily digest of games, from sack races to scavenging competitions, tugs of war to threading needles, all were 'relentlessly devised' by the passengers themselves.

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By the late 1930s, formal entertainment was less reliant on 'the talents of kindly passengers' with the introduction of ships’ orchestras and the arrival on board of cinemas, complete with 'talkie apparatus' and the latest films.

But old habits died hard and the familiar fun of fancy dress balls, gala dinners and dancing never lost their appeal:

'…the rain cleared up and the dancing began, and continued till about 3.00 am. Everyone looked dead the next day but it was great fun all the same.'

Edith Starling, 1938

From the ridiculous to the romantic, life on the liners was all about fun.