Ocean Liners

A Celebration of The V&A’s “Ocean Liners: Speed and Style” Exhibition

The Exhibition that will Float your Boat

Last month saw the start of a new exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum in London

which promises visitors the opportunity to “experience a unique journey of the design

stories of the world’s greatest ocean liners” and to “find out how these impressive vessels

helped shape the modern world”.


Cunard Line – to all parts of the world, poster, Ulrich Gutersohn.

Cunard Line – to all parts of the world, poster, Ulrich Gutersohn.


Anyone who has visited the Riv will know that we have a historic relationship with Cruise

Lines and, in particular, The Cunard  White Star Line. The many pictures that adorn our

walls are a testament to our connection to Cruise Ships throughout our past. Our function

rooms are named after the Ships of the Cunard Line – The Mauretania, The Britannic, The

Caledonia and, of course, The Cunarder. In celebration of this connection, we would like to

pay homage to the V&A’s exhibition along with a bit of background on the ships for whom

our function spaces are named.


Our Connection

The Riviera Hotel has been owned and run by the same family for nearly 60 years. Prior to

opening the Riv, the head of the household had embarked upon a career aboard the

Cunard Line, making regular trips across the Atlantic and around the world aboard the

Cunard Queens and other Ocean Liners which are now shown in pictures throughout the

hotel bearing a proud reminder of the hard work that went into the foundation of the hotel as

we know it now.

P Whittock Ocean Liners

A Selection of Paintings by P Whittock that adorn the walls at the Riv

The Mauretania

Launched on the 20th September 1906 and taking her maiden voyage on the 16h of

November of the same year, the RMS Mauretania was, at the time, the world’s largest and

fastest ship acquiring the Blue Riband for both Eastbound and Westbound transatlantic

crossings and setting a record crossing time in both directions that would not be beaten for

2 decades.

Ocean liners

The Mauretania’s Launch Party – 20th September 1906

During the First World War, The Mauretania served as a Troop Ship, carrying British

Soldiers during the Gallipoli Campaign. Her capability of reaching high speeds and the

seamanship of the onboard crew enabled her to avoid becoming the prey of German U-

Boats- a fate that had befallen her predecessor, The Lusitania. The Mauretania also served

as a hospital ship (along with The Britannic and The Aquitania), treating the wounded until

January 2016 before being requisitioned by the Canadian government to transport their

troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool, England. From when the US joined the war

until its end in 1918, The Mauretania carried thousands of American troops and was known

by the Admiralty as HMS Tuberose.


Ocean Liners

The Mauretania, 1918, adorned with her wartime geometric dazzle scheme.


In 1919, The Mauretania returned to civilian service, becoming a dedicated cruise ship in

1930 before retiring in 1934 after 28 years of service.


Ocean Liners

The Cafe aboard the boat deck of The Mauretania


There was, of course, a second ship named the Mauretania. After The first RMS Mauretania

was retired, the newly formed Cunard White Star Company (formed following the merger

of the Cunard and White Star Lines), commissioned their first ship and named her in the

Mauretania’s honour. The new RMS Mauretania was launched in July of 1938 with her

maiden voyage in June of the following year – sailing from Liverpool to New York.


Ocean Liners

The New RMS Mauretania, 1938.


Like her namesake, the second Mauretania was called into action when Britain went to war,

this time in World War II. She transported troops on active duty and amassed over 28,000

nautical miles in just one voyage which took the her around the world in 82 days. Her

duties did not stop at the end of the war, she continued to serve the government through

repatriating troops and even undertook the first dedicated sailing for British brides and

their children journeying to Canada to meet their husbands and fathers.


Ocean Liners

The Mauretania during WWII


In the years following the war, the second Mauretania returned to civilian service before

finally being retired in 1965.


The Britannic

The White Star Line had two ships of the same name prior to the launch of the MV Britannic

in 1929 after whom we named one of our function spaces. On the 30th June 1930, the MV

Britannic set sail on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, stopping at Glasgow & Belfast on

route to New York.


Ocean liners

A postcard depicting the MV Britannic in the 1930’s.


In August of 1939, the MV Britannic was called to Southampton where she was equipped to

transport troops before heading to Glasgow to collect officers of the British Indian Army

and Naval Officers heading to Bombay. She was requisitioned on a number of other

occasions throughout the war including transporting 20,000 American troops during 8

transatlantic crossings in a 7 month period in late 1943 – early 1944.


Ocean Liners

The MV Britannic


After the war and having transported over 170,000 people across more than 320,000 miles,

the MV Britannic underwent a, much needed, overhaul, modernising her interior before

returning to commercial service in May of 1948. Her final cruise from New York to the

Mediterranean took place over 66 days in 1960, making 23 stops before returning to New

York where she was deemed unable to undertake anymore journeys.


Ocean Liners

Turner, C.E. , Cunard M.V. Britannic, c.1950


The V&A Ocean Liners: Speed and Style Exhibition


V&A Ocean Liners


The Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Ocean Liners: Speed and Style” exhibition is the most

wide-ranging ever to focus on this subject and promises to take us back to a more

glamourous era showcasing everything from iconic travel posters to the stylish attire from

a golden age.


If, like us, you have yet to have the pleasure of visiting the exhibit, you must head over to

their website to whet your appetite for rekindling an era of impossible glamour. We’ve

earmarked the parts of the exhibition that excite us most and have included them below

for your enjoyment too.


Ocean liner fashion: a socialite’s guide


“Glamour is what I sell, it’s my stock in trade” 

Marlene Dietrich


Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich aboard the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ arriving in New York, 21 December 1950. © Getty Images


Practicality was not at the forefront for any lady looking to pack for a cruise. Being aboard

ship was about being seen in the newest fashions by the social elite of the day. Boarding

and disembarking were key points for any passenger as they became the central focus of

all those in port. Above we see Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in New York sporting a new

look in a suit by Christian Dior, cinched in at the waist and creating an hourglass silhouette

that was sure to be the envy of all the other passengers.


V&A Ocean Liner

An example of the evening dresses on show at the V&A Exhibition


The V&A has acquired some beautiful examples of evening dresses of the day, each with

their own style and intricate detailing to give you a feel of the elegance of the era. Of

course, fashion wasn’t just for the ladies! Whether he is seated at the Captain’s table for a

fine dinner or walking his dog upon deck, a gentleman would be expected to wear the

newest styles as appropriate for each part of his day.


Ocean Liners

Suit worn by Geoffrey Osmint at the Captain’s table on board the QE2, designed by Tom Gilbey, 1969, UK. © Museum of London


Ocean Liner Fashion

Left: Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr on board a liner with his Great Dane  Right: Day suit belonging to US diplomat Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr, 1940s. Both courtesy of Mr and Mrs Anthony J. Drexel Biddle III. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


For a greater insight into the fashions of the day, head on over to the “socialite’s guide” on

the V&A  website. You’ll find some interesting pieces about jewellery, luggage and some

rather fetching swimwear! If that’s not enough, check out their video as they recreate “the

grand descent” in the styles of a bygone era.


Inside an ocean liner: the ‘Aquitania’

Another fascinating piece and one that is close to our hearts here at the Riv as, until

recently, our bar was named for this great ship.


Ocean Liners

RMS Aquitania on her maiden voyage in 1914 in New York Harbor


The passenger accommodation aboard the Aquitania was more luxurious and far superior

to any ships sailing across the North Atlantic that had gone before her. With walls adorned

with prints of English ports and portraits of royalty, the public rooms truly were a sight to

behold and helped the Aquitania to become one of the best-known and highly sought after

ships of all the Cunard Liners.


A postcard depicting the RMS Aquitania


Head on over to the V&A site for an interactive guide to the Aquitania from the first class

lounge to the boiler rooms and everything in between. It’s a must see for all enthusiasts!


Planning your visit

The exhibition promises to showcase the era with a selection of film clips, haute couture

dresses, surviving on ship decorations and publicity materials.


If your appetite has been thoroughly whetted, make sure you plan ahead so that you don’t

miss out!


Address: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL


Museum opening hours:

Daily: 10.00 – 17.45
Friday: 10.00 – 22.00

Exhibitions close 15 minutes prior to Museum closing.
Reduced gallery openings on Fridays after 17.30.

Exhibition on now until Sunday, 17 June 2018


Adults – £18.00

Senior Citizens – £17.00

Children (11-17yrs) – £15.00

Under 11s – free

To book – click here