Cruisers love to moan about the cost of onboard extras: How it’s getting worse, how greedy the cruise lines are, and so on. But is modern cruising really that different from the days when liner travel was the only way to get from point to point?
An information booklet from Union-Castle Line’s RMS Windsor Castle has come into our possession, for the Cape Town to Southampton sailing on August 16, 1967. The 38,000-ton RMS Windsor Castle was a super-liner of its time and the last of the Union-Castle mailships to ply that route (the line ceased shipping operations in 1977), carrying 782 passengers and 475 crew, as well as mail and freight. Looking through the booklet, there seemed to be just as many opportunities 45 years ago to part with cash onboard as there are now – and even services that cost money then and are actually included now.
Some examples of paid services:
Group dance classes are free nowadays, but in 1967, you could pay the dance hosts for private tuition by prior arrangement with the reception desk.
Tender service is included now, too, but in 1967, when the Windsor Castle called at St Helena island in the South Atlantic, the charge for those who wanted to go ashore for sightseeing was 4/- (four shillings), or 20p in decimal currency, not allowing for inflation. In today’s money, the charge would be £2.93.
Deck chair rage? Guests could rent their own steamer chair for the two-week voyage for a whopping £1 10s (£1.50 in decimal) – and a ‘small additional charge’ was made for a rug. This works out to around £25 in total — £22 just for the chair!
Cabins didn’t have safes, but valuables could be left with the Purser for safekeeping – with a charge for the privilege, based on the declared value of the goods.
The Windsor Castle had a private dining room where dinner parties could be thrown, for a fee, while two other ships in the fleet, S.A. Vaal and Pendennis Castle, had alternative restaurants with an a la carte menu, also for an extra charge – just like today.
Other extras included the services of a shorthand typist (in the absence of an internet café); an Interflora service for sending flowers to friends at home; a masseur (passengers in First Class got priority bookings); and a hairdresser and beauty salon – all things you can pay for on today’s cruise ships.
And although the wording in the booklet is terribly polite, the subject of tipping still rears its head: “The Chief Purser will be pleased to give advice on the subject of gratuities if desired.”
Not so different after all, then.
Did you sail on any of the Union-Castle ships? Tell us about it.
- Sue Bryant
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