Celtic (yard number 335) was launched at Harland & Wolff on 4th April 1901. She was the ﬁrst ship to exceed Great Eastern’s gross tonnage and the last ship to be ordered from Harland & Wolff by T.H. Ismay. She was the ﬁrst of the group that was to become known as the “Big Four”. These were designed primarily as passenger liners, with the carriage of cargo a secondary matter, even though she could carry 17,000 tons! Celtic had two quadruple-expansion engines with eight double-ended boilers working at 210psi. When built she was designed to carry 347 passengers in First Class, 160 in Second and 2,350 in Third.
Celtic was handed over by Harland & Wolff on 11th July 1901. After completing her trials, she arrived in the Mersey. Under Captain Henry St George Lindsay, she began her maiden voyage, from Liverpool to New York, on 26th July. She arrived in New York on 4th August, taking 8 days 46 minutes for the crossing. J. Bruce Ismay missed the maiden voyage for business reasons but was aboard for the second voyage.