An original postcard advertising the White Star Line’s Olympia. Uploaded by user Marxchivist on Flickr.
Perhaps one of the reasons that travel and being a vintage girl go so well together is that the ‘vintage’ era includes what was marketed as “The Golden Age of Travel” of the inter-war years (1920s and 1930s). This was an era in which, instead of turning up at the bus depot or airport with hiking boots, yoga pants, and a beat-up backpack, ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ traveled in their best suits, smartest hats and cleanest gloves, with five or six pieces of matched luggage. For those who could afford it, the journey was an important part of the experience of travel, versus simply a means of getting from origin A to destination B.
Many of the most luxurious (and often most expensive) of these journeys have been immortalized in books and movies and plays. Some still exist in modern-day forms, others have disappeared, but a few survive with their classic glamour intact.
Over the next few months, I’ll occasionally be writing about trips like these that you can still do – some of which are even affordable for the budget-conscious traveler!
Vintage Journey One: The Trans-Atlantic Cruise
While the Titanic’s maiden voyage ended in tragedy, she wasn’t the only luxury liner plying the Atlantic Ocean in the early 1900s. The White Star and Cunard Lines individually operated the very grandest of ocean-going floating palaces before merging in the 1930’s and still continue to produce some of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships today. A transatlantic crossing was THE most frequent but fabulous trip for the rich and famous to make in the 1920s and ’30s, allowing them to enjoy many luxuries, beautiful surroundings, top-class “White Star Service,” and top-notch entertainment as they moved back and forth between the new and old words on business or pleasure.
The Queen Mary II continues this famous tradition and frequently makes the five-day trip between the ports of Southampton, England and New York City. Drawing on the glamour of the original White Star & Cunard cruise ships, it comes complete with sweeping staircases, a classic ballroom, promenade decks, 5-star dining, a live jazz band bar, performing string quartets, and enough early- and mid-20th century decor to make any vintage lover’s head spin. Loved the sets in James Cameron’s version of Titanic? Photos of the Queen Mary II show similar interiors.
Surprisingly, this is actually a relatively affordable holiday. Prices start at about $1200 USD for an off-season, inside (no porthole), second-class stateroom.
What to pack
The Queen Mary II is a luxury cruise ship, which means leaving the jeans at home. This is a place to enjoy wearing all your favourite and most elegant dresses, blouses, and skirts. It’s also a cruise that traverses frigid waters, so a warm cardigan, wide-legged wool pants, and a very warm (but formal) winter coat are useful items.
Indulge your vintage side
Each crossing features a ball. If you’ve ever wanted to dress up like Greta Garbo, Rita Hayworth, or Grace Kelly attending the Oscars, this is your opportunity. Purchase a gorgeous stole (fur is most authentic, but silk was also popular), a full-length evening gown from between the 1930s and 1960s, and find some mid-century rhinestone jewellery at your local flea market. Or stock up on retro-inspired swimsuits (high-waisted, low-legged bikini bottoms and tied tops, halter or square necked one-pieces with attached skirts) for the on-ship pool and hot tub. The ship has porters, so feel free to indulge in a steamer trunk or vintage (non-rolling) suitcases for your possessions. Then sit back with a martini in the jazz lounge and let your imagination carry you back to the Golden Age of travel!