The Ship Beautiful

Aquitania’s outfitting would take 13 months.  Her first-class interiors were designed by British architect Arthur Joseph Davis of the interior decorating firm Mewès and Davis.  Interestingly, at the same time, Davis’ partner, Charles Mewès, was in Germany designing the interiors for Germany’s Hamburg America Line ships, Imperator, Vaterland, and Bismarck.  Through an arrangement by Cunard and Hamburg America, Mewès and Davis would work apart in Germany and Britain respectively, with neither partner communicating the details of their work to the other.  This arrangement was likely violated, although the two had worked closely for many years that it became hard to distinguish whether a room’s decoration was the work of one man or the other. Aquitania’s first-class accommodations surpassed the standards of luxury of any Cunarder before her.  The first-class dining saloon was decorated in the design of Louis XVI and situated on one floor, although the balcony and raised ceiling above gave the impression that the room spanned two decks.   The grill room was decorated in Jacobean style.  The men’s smoking room was Carolean with oak paneling and beams, modeled on the Greenwich Hospital.  The ladies’ drawing room was decorated in the Adam style, recalling features from the Landsdowne House in London, with the walls decorated with prints of English seaports and portraits of royalty and other famous people.  The lounge was Palladian and a signature room on the ship.  Also, deep in the depths of the ship, was the first swimming pool was on a Cunarder, although shipboard pools first appeared on White Star’s Adriatic of 1907. Her gorgeous interiors and her breathtaking exterior granted Aquitania the nickname “The Ship Beautiful.” In May 1914 Aquitania went on her speed trials.  Although she was not designed for speed, she steamed one full knot faster than expected. Cunard announced in February 1914 that Aquitania’s first captain would be Captain William Thomas Turner.  Aquitania departed Liverpool on her maiden voyage on 30 May 1914, although the sinking of the Empress of Ireland the previous day overshadowed this event.  Aquitania was only able to make three round-trip voyages before the outbreak of the First World War interrupted her civilian career.

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