Dining Titanic-Style

Of all the shipboard activities, passengers on the RMS Titanic enjoyed mealtimes the most. Even those traveling in first class, many of whom were accustomed to lavish dinners and excellent service on other Atlantic crossings, claimed the Titanic had outdone all other ships when it came to making her passengers feel extra-pampered. The food served was delicious, fresh, and plentiful for all three classes. But part of the excitement about the meals had to do with the dining rooms themselves. Those traveling in first class were signaled by a bugle when it was time to dress for dinner. The bugler played the tune, “Roast Beef of Old England”. Men and women would head for their cabins to dress in their finest, then gradually drift into the Grand Dining Saloon via the first class Reception Room, near the Grand Staircase. The word ‘saloon’ comes from the French word salon, meaning a spacious and elegant room.


Titanic's First Class Dining Saloon

The dining saloon was the largest of any room on any ship at the time and seated over 500. At 114 feet long and 92 feet wide, it extended across the center of the ship from port to starboard. The room had leaded glass windows, an elaborate molded plaster ceiling, plush carpet, and green leather chairs surrounding white linen-covered tables. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were each served on china in a different pattern, all bearing the red flag of the White Star Line in the center. Most dinners consisted of eleven courses and were served on silver platters by the attentive and gracious dining stewards. The eight-piece orchestra split up during dinner and played for first and second class passengers.

"Fancy strawberries in April and in mid-ocean. The whole thing is positively uncanny."

Lady Duff-Gordon, first class passenger

Those in second class were also alerted by the bugle. Their dining saloon was nearly as large as the one for first class, also extending across the width of the ship. When seeing the room for the first time, many second class passengers thought they had wandered into first class by mistake. The room was paneled in oak and had over 500 swivel chairs upholstered in red, bolted to the floor. Second class had their own white china, trimmed in blue and boasting the red WSL flag.


Second Class Dining Saloon

In third class, meals were served in two adjoining rooms at two seatings in order to accommodate over 700 passengers. Bright white enamel walls and plenty of windows overlooking the ocean made the rooms pleasant, but they were otherwise sparsely decorated. Passengers enjoyed hearty, multi-course meals served on simple White Star Line china. Fresh bread and fruit was available at every meal, a luxury to many traveling in third class.


Dining Room for Third Class


A Premonition - Titanic Honeymoons Part VII

Of all the newlyweds aboard the Titanic, Victor and Pepita Penasco of Spain took the longest and most lavish honeymoon, lasting nearly two years. Victor’s wealth came from his grandfather, who was the first minister to King Alfonso XIII. Pepita, whose uncle was Spain’s Premier, had enjoyed the good life as well. They spent their honeymoon visiting Vienna, Monte Carlo, London, Venice, and Paris, and Victor bought Pepita expensive jewelry in every city.

While staying at Maxim’s in Paris, the Penasco’s saw the advertisements for the Titanic’s upcoming maiden voyage to New York. But Victor’s mother had forbidden them from taking any ocean voyages, due to a premonition she’d had. But the couple sent Victor’s manservant, Eulogio, to purchase tickets for them and Pepita’s maid anyway. They wrote several postcards to their families about staying longer in Paris, with the plan for Eulogio to stay behind and mail one every week. They would sail to New York and back without anyone knowing they'd gone, including Victor’s mama.

Victor Penasco

Victor Penasco


Pepita Penasco

Pepita loved the ship and enjoyed showing off her fabulous jewelry, plus new gowns designed by fellow passenger and fashion designer, Lady Duff Gordon. The Penasco’s hardly spoke English, so they spent most of their time alone together or with first class passengers from Argentina and Uruguay.

After Victor felt the collision on the night of April 14, he asked a steward in halting English if there was a problem. Told there was none, he investigated nevertheless. Passengers had begun to gather on the boat deck, some with lifebelts. Victor hurried to get Pepita and her maid and brought them to the boat deck, where lifeboats were now being loaded. He helped them to board Lifeboat 8. Pepita didn’t understand the order for women and children only to board. She expected her husband to follow her onto the lifeboat, but he’d vanished from her sight, perhaps to keep her from climbing out after him. As the boat was lowered, Pepita and her maid screamed in Spanish for them to wait for Victor, but no one understood. The Countess of Rothe, also in Lifeboat 8, tried to comfort Pepita as they watched the great ship sink.

On April 15, Victor’s mother had a feeling something had happened to her son. She phoned Maxim’s in Paris and was told the couple had checked out. She phoned several embassies until one confirmed Pepita’s name was on a list of Titanic survivors, although Victor’s was not.

Victor’s body was not recovered. Under Spanish law at the time, a person could not be declared dead for 20 years if a body wasn’t found. Because Pepita was still a young woman, her family and Victor’s decided on the next best thing. Money changed hands, an unidentified body was “identified” by Pepita’s maid, and Victor’s death certificate was issued.

Pepita remarried 6 years later and had 3 children. Her maid continued to work for her until she retired. Pepita died in Madrid at the age of 83.

A Last Minute Passenger

Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon never planned to sail on Titanic. But with urgent business in New York, she needed the first ship available. With homes in London and Paris and a thriving fashion design business, she and her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France. They registered as Mr. and Mrs. Morgan and occupied two first class cabins.

Born Lucy Christiana Sutherland, she married James Wallace at age 18 and had a child. When they divorced, she began a dressmaking business in 1888 to support herself. Her talent for creating unique and fashionable dresses led to her shop, The Maison Lucile, becoming one of the great fashion houses of London by 1900. Well-known clientele included the Duchess of York, who later became Queen Mary. Madame Lucile opened another shop in New York in 1910 and one in Paris in 1912.


Madame Lucile's designs, 1912

Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon first became Lucy's business partner. They then married in 1900, giving her financial security as well as aristocratic connections.

In her autobiography, Discretions and Indiscretions, Lady Duff-Gordon remembered the last evening on the Titanic:

“We had a big vase of beautiful daffodils on the table, which were as fresh as if they had just been picked. Everyone was very gay, and at a neighbouring table people were making bets on the probable time of this record breaking run. Various opinions were put forward, but none dreamed that Titanic would make her harbour that night ...I had been in bed for about an hour and the lights were all out, when I was awakened by a funny, rumbling noise...”

She and Sir Cosmo boarded Lifeboat 1, along with her maid. The boat had a capacity of 40, but was lowered with only 12 people aboard, 7 crewmen and 5 passengers. It’s believed it may have been lowered quickly in order to make room for the ship’s two collapsible boats to be readied.

Later, when Sir Cosmo paid the crewmen, he and his wife were accused of bribing them to not go back for more passengers. The Duff-Gordons testified at the British inquiry and were vindicated. The crewmen in the lifeboat had decided it was too dark to go back for anyone, and Sir Cosmo had paid them five pounds each, not as a bribe, but to help them during their search for new employment.


Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, 1914

Sir Cosmo died in 1931, and Lady Duff-Gordon’s business eventually collapsed. She died in 1935 at the age of 71 in a London nursing home, and is buried alongside her husband near London.


Lady Duff-Gordon