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Reproduced courtesy of P&O Heritage

P&O menu card titled 'The Devil to Pay', from a series themed 'Nautical Expressions'

Date: 1940-1970
Height: 255 mm, width: 355 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Christopher Beazley
Object Copyright: © P&O Heritage
Object Name: Menu
Object No: 00049802

User Terms

    Menu card from a series themed 'Nautical Expressions' designed by G. Thompson for P&O and printed by Charles & Read Ltd. The card features an illustration of three men on a swing painting the ship's hull very close to a group of sharks, with text on the side titled 'The Devil To Pay' explaining the origins of this nautical term.
    SignificanceShipboard menus such as these were often printed to be souvenirs and were collected as mementos of what for many people were 'once in a lifetime' voyages Many shipping companies produced their own series of collectable menus with themes such as exotic destinations, historic events or, as in this case, nautical terminology.
    HistoryThis souvenir menu card offers an explanation for the origins of the nautical term ‘the devil to pay’. An earlier expression, ‘devil to pay and no pitch hot’, may have been the inspiration whereby the ‘devil’ is a particularly inaccessible seam in a ship’s side near the keel. ‘To pay’ was to cover the seam with pitch if it had opened. When a vessel was careened for repairs, it was difficult to access and caulk this seam – consequently the pitch may not be hot enough to be applied. The menu card also offers a second explanation for the expression ‘the devil to pay’, as the term may have also referred to a plank low down on the side of a ship that had to be painted, and is a corruption of ‘devil to paint’.

    By the 1960s the stately passenger cruises of the 1920s to 1950s were in decline due to increased airtravel. However in the early 1970s, the passenger cruise lines transformed the cruising experience to attract a new market. In 1974, the Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth II hired international celebrities to perform cabaret acts aboard ship.

    The QE2 ushered in the concept of 'one-class' cruising, as the ship's facilities and amenities were made available to all passengers. Regardless of the staterooms or berths passengers had booked, they enjoyed the same service, menus, entertainment, and activities. People began taking cruises for short vacations, rather than solely as a means of transportation. Some argue the 1970s television series the Love Boat also had an impact.

    In the 1980s cruise lines began launching giant passenger liners, some capable of carrying over 2,000 people. These vessels were designed as all-inclusive magnificent floating hotels with casinos, running tracks, spas, champagne and caviar bars, basketball courts, private stateroom verandahs, and three-story nightclubs. Ports of call were not the main reason for cruising anymore as people became interested in the whole experience of just being on board. Cruise Lines actively marketed their shipboard experiences rather than destinations. The message was 'luxury for the masses'.

    Souvenirs had always been an important part of the cruise experience, and many items issued to passengers such as menus, destination cards, cocktail stirrers and match boxes were kept as momentos of what for many people were 'once in a lifetime' voyages, often honeymoons or romantic cruises.

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