Ocean Liners

Ocean Liners: Getting there is half the fun!

Prior to the arrival of the “jet age” and, in particular, the commercial success of the Boeing 707 “airliner” ocean liners were the dominant mode of transport between continents not only carrying passengers but freight and mail. Today only Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 (QM2) continues that line’s advertising slogan of “Getting there is half the fun!” Indeed the QM2 is now the sole ship in service as an ocean liner albeit not exclusively as she is also used as a cruise ship.

Ocean liners and cruise ships are actually different types of vessels. Ocean liners have regular ocean going routes and being built for the open oceans tend to be stronger, faster and sleeker. In comparison cruise ships tend to be much boxier being largely designed to cruise around the calmer sailing conditions of sheltered waters.

Only a handful of ocean liners now survive, including the SS Great Britain (1843), RMS Queen Mary (1934), SS United States (1951), SS Queen Elizabeth 2 or QE2 (1967) as well as a couple, MV Astoria (built as the Stockholm, 1946) and MS Marco Polo (1964), now plying their trade as cruise liners.

Illustrated here are a number of photographs and drawings of ocean liners from the RIBA Collections including several with interior designs by renowned architects including those for the RMS Queen Elizabeth by the designer of the RIBA headquarters, George Grey Wornum.

Readers may also be interested in the exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style at V&A Dundee until 24 February 2019.

SS Normandie
Ocean Liners

SS Normandie

Click on the image above to go to the Normandie gallery.

RMS Orion & RMS Orcades II
Ocean Liners

Orion & Orcades II

Click on the image above to got to go to the Orion & Orcades gallery.

SS Oriana
Ocean Liners

SS Oriana

Click on the image above to go to the Oriana gallery.

33 items
RIBA106843Anne Urquhart (left) and Dorothy Marckwald (right): the designers of the SS United States interiors with interior and exterior models of the ship

 
RIBA11630Austin Reed on board the RMS Queen Mary: the shop on the promenade deck

 
RIBA77443Car being disembarked from the Queen Mary at Cherbourg


RIBA31445Design for a pendant lamp featuring an alabaster bowl and winged sphinx figures for the lounge of the TSS Otranto for the Orient Steam Navigation Company

 
RIBA31227Design for the interior decoration of the RMS Queen Elizabeth for Cunard White Star: isometric projection indicating a decorative flooring scheme for a deck entrance

 
RIBA31455Design for the interior decoration scheme of the children's dining room of the MV Manoora for the Orient Steam Navigation Company: elevations and plan showing wall paintings featuring monkey, elephant and polar bear motifs


RIBA35402Designs for SS Canberra: Meridian Lounge and Bar

 
RIBA35398Designs for SS Canberra: musicians' uniforms

 
RIBA35401Designs for SS Canberra: the (first class?) dining room


RIBA31479Interior design for the first class lounge of the MV Manoora for the Orient Steam Navigation Company: perspective view

 
RIBA11262MS Asama Maru ocean liner: the Japanese room

 
RIBA18418RMS Balmoral Castle, Union-Castle Line: a view of the 1st Class Library looking to port


RIBA18419RMS Balmoral Castle, Union-Castle Line: a view of the 1st Class Lounge

 
RIBA18409RMS Mauretania: a lounge

 
RIBA18413RMS Mauretania: a lounge bar


RIBA18411RMS Mauretania: Cabin Class Grand Hall designed to serve three different functions: a Lounge, Cinema Theatre or Ballroom

 
RIBA18412RMS Mauretania: detail of special State Room

 
RIBA18415RMS Mauretania: the nursery


RIBA11107RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) under construction on Clydeside

 
RIBA24936RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2): the children's room on the Sports Deck

 
RIBA2571-11RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2): the Double Room, Upper Deck Bar


RIBA11109RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2): the Theatre Bar on the starboard side of the Upper Deck

 
RIBA24939RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2): the Upper Deck Bar on the upper level of the Double Room

 
RIBA18422RMS Scot, Union-Castle Line: the 1st Class Saloon


RIBA18423RMS Scot, Union-Castle Line: the Music Saloon

 
RIBA7671S.S. Otranto: a lounge

 
RIBA21966SS Caledonia (4): design for the first class dining saloon and staircase


RIBA21971SS Caledonia (4): design for the interior decoration of the second class lounge

 
RIBA13518SS Orama: the dining room

 
RIBA13536SS Orama: the staircase


RIBA58743SS Oronsay: the third class dining saloon

 
RIBA50431SS Tuscania: the oak panelled first class Smoke Room

 
RIBA18417TSS Awatea: First Class Lounge