The passenger classes in which one sailed were often consistent with the social classes on land. First class passengers, also referred to as "saloon" passengers, had the best accommodations aboard ship. These passengers were considered wealthy, respectable, and of a good social order. Traveling by first class was expensive; it was not unsual for a ticket to cost three times as much as the steerage passengers' fares. Purchasing a saloon ticket would have been a worthy investment for those that could afford it. Accommodations included better food served by stewards, better ventilation, more availability to entertainment, and private cabins. These factors contributed to the overall health of passengers. Sources estimate that of all emigrants to Australia, less than ten percent afforded a cabin.
Conversely, the conditions in steerage were quite deplorable. Passengers were loaded together underneath the deck. The layout of the steerage generally included bunks that lined the sides of the ship and tables in the center of the floor. The bunks had little to no privacy from one another and were separated from the general area by a curtain. Passengers were placed very deliberately within the steerage. Passengers were very deliberately placed within the steerage to preserve integrity and prevent trouble. They were organized by their background and by gender. Single men and single women were stayed at opposite ends of the ship, separated by the families in the middle. Steerage passengers were kept busy in an attempt to prevent boredom, and consequently, mischief.
Duncan, Sinclair Thomson. Journal of a Voyage to Australia by the Cape of Good Hope, Six Months In Melbourne, And Return to England by Cape Horn: Including Scenes And Sayings On Sea And Land. New and enl. ed. Edinburgh: Gemmell, 1884.
Hassam, Andrew. "Introduction." No Privacy for Writing: Shipboard Diaries, 1852-1879. Carlton South, Vic.: Melbourne UP, 1995. Xiii-xv. Print.
Pearson, Michael N. "Studying the Indian Ocean World." In Himanshu Prabha Ray and Edward A. Alpers, eds., Cross Currents and Community Networks: The History of the Indian Ocean World. New Delhi: Oxford UP, 2007. 19-22. Print.