The ‘Find out Friday’ interview

What were liners like after the sinking of the Titanic and the two world wars? How much did construction and safety procedures change? Did liner popularity and use decrease?

After the Titanic every passenger ship had to carry a wireless and this had to operate 24 hours a day. Also lifeboats had to be carried for everyone on board. The construction stayed the same but the technology improved such as moving from coal to oil burning, thus reducing the number of crew and the time taken to refuel.

Popularity increased post-WW1 but the Americans introduced a quota for immigration and this meant a decrease in trade. Liners were then sent cruising to supplement this decrease in trade.

interview,Janette McCutheon, a history of ocean liners, how it works interview

In your opinion, what has been the best invention with regards to ocean liners in the last century?

Slightly earlier in than the last century the best invention was steam turbines. This reduced the need for large engine rooms and turbines were more economical, could operate at higher speeds and helped ships travel faster and faster.

Why are docks such as Liverpool, Belfast and Southampton used so frequently?

Belfast was used for building ships but not so much for passenger service. Liverpool and Southampton were popular because they had good communication links to London. Southampton eventually won because it was closer to London.

interview,Janette McCutheon, a history of ocean liners, how it works interview

The Canberra on its way to the Falklands

What liners were used to help support the military in World War Two and the Falklands War?

All the liners were used to support the military in WW2, but the most famous were the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. These liners were the main ships because of the sheer amount of passengers they could carry. The Queen Mary’s troop carrying capacity increased from 2,500 to over 16,000 troops (one Division). She still holds the World Record for carrying the most people by ship.

Only three liners were used during the Falklands – The Queen Elizabeth 2, Canberra and Uganda. A ferry called the Norstar was also sent down. The liners were requisitioned for their troop carrying capabilities. Wood was laid down over their decks, helicopter pads and guns were installed. The Canberra and the Uganda saw active service in the Falklands but the QE2 only went to South Georgia. She was so valuable a ship (bearing the monarch’s name) that she shouldn’t be allowed into the war zone.

interview,Janette McCutheon, a history of ocean liners, how it works interview

The king-sized Queen Mary 2

How do ocean liners propel their immense bulk? What are the key components of their engines?

It has varied over the years. The first ocean liners had paddle wheels and reciprocating steam engines, but improvements in technology such as condensers and larger engines saw ships travel faster. The peak of reciprocating engine technology was in the Britannic of 1914, but by then the major shipping lines had converted to steam turbine technology, which was lighter, more economical and faster.

By the 1930s motor ships with diesel and heavy fuel engines were becoming the ship of choice for companies who were operating longer routes at less speed, and who wanted more economical ships.

The ships of today are slower than many of the ocean liners of the past because their routes are not dependent on speed.

Can you explain ‘port’ and ‘starboard’ to a landlubber like me?

It comes from a time when ships didn’t have rudders and they would always berth on one side to the quay (port), as the other side of the ship had the steerboard. These could be damaged if your ship berthed steerboard to the dockside (starboard).

Also, the term ‘posh’ comes from the fact that if you had enough money, you tended to travel ‘port outward, starboard home’. This meant that your cabin would always be in the shade and not in direct sunshine.

Is the cruise industry still booming? What are the current trends in the cruise experience?

The current trends are for economies of scale. Larger slower ships and less staff equal more profitable ships.

There is also a trend for ‘Disneyfication’ of the cruise industry. Providing passengers with what they would expect to find in resorts, such as flume rides, carousels, surfing, ice skating and zip wires. This attracts a younger customer with a longer lifetime spend. These are great engineering feats in themselves because ships move and twist.

Where is the best place to cruise in the world?

This depends on the type of person you are. The best places I’ve travelled to have been Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen, Dutch Harbour in the Aleutian Islands and Petropavlovsk in Siberia. However, I find Venice equally as stunning, and I love visiting Dubrovnik and Athens for their history.

interview,Janette McCutheon, a history of ocean liners, how it works interview

The RMS Titanic leaving Southampton dock on her maiden, and only voyage

How have liners changed since 1930?

They have gone from making line voyages to being destinations in themselves.

What is the best liner of all time and why?

This is a loaded question. Everyone I know will have a different opinion.

My favourite liners are: The Queen Mary, as she the first Liner I ever met; The QE2 holds a very special place in my heart and the ship I would trust to take me anywhere. QE2 always made a cruise into a special occasion. I love the cruise ship Independence of the Seas, as she is simply stunning and I have great admiration for Royal Caribbean’s logistical organisation.

Janette McCutheon, a history of ocean liners, how it works interview

Copyright Janette McChutcheon

Janette McCutheon, a history of ocean liners, how it works interview