Tag Archives: Southampton

Titanic, Part 1: Doomed Ship or Magical Journey?

The construction site

It’s always struck me as highly ironic that the mighty Titanic, which was launched with much fanfare and then sank in the Atlantic on its first voyage, is responsible for introducing cruise travel to a whole new generation of travelers. (Well, perhaps credit goes as much to the fictional love story played out in the flick “Titanic” by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.) But nowhere will you find a passion for Titanic as strong as in Belfast.

Titanic is already a huge tourist attraction in Belfast, where the ship was built, and is slated to grab an even higher profile in 2012, when the city will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its construction (and demise). Yesterday, on Westerdam’s day-long call in Belfast, I got a tour of the new Titanic Belfast project, currently under construction, and got to visit a few locations of historical import, including the dock in which the ship was built. Here’s part 1 of our visit in photos. Stay tuned for part 2, which will launch tomorrow.

Titanic in Southampton. Courtesy of Titanicinbelfast.com

The mighty Titanic was built for White Star Line in 1912 by Belfast shipbuilders Harlan & Wolff. (The company is still in existence — though with no ship orders at present, it’s involved in producing industrial strength windmills.) The ship, along with its sisters Olympic and Britannic (both of which enjoyed longer lifespans than Titanic), was meant to be the most luxurious ever constructed. Its keel was laid on March 31, 1909; the ship underwent sea trials on April 2, 1912, and it arrived in Southampton on April 3. Titanic was heralded then as a masterpiece of Edwardian engineering and design.

Titanic was the Oasis of the Seas of its time — the biggest steamship ever built when it set off on its maiden sailing on April 10, 1912. Four days later, it had a fatal encounter with an iceberg and sank; 1,517 of the 2,223 passengers onboard perished.

A rendering of the museum

The under-construction building will be the heart and soul of the new Titanic Belfast, the £97 million project that includes what sounds like an incredible interactive museum. (It’s essentially designed as four ship hulls that meet in the middle). When it opens in 2012, the museum will be comprised of different galleries that showcase the building of the ship and also the role it played in Belfast.

So what’s different about this project at a time when there are already 20 exhibitions floating around in North America? Says Bryan Gregory, the executive in charge of Titanic Belfast: “Titanic is Northern Ireland’s history. The big difference is that we own the boat. You can’t be any more authentic than that.”

Gregory says that the other exhibitions across the pond primarily focus on the artifacts uncovered at the bottom of the sea. Titantic Belfast willtake a different approach. “We’ll tell the story of what, in the end of the day, is an immigrant ship.”

Gregory showed us the design plan for the museum’s exhibitions and while visually there’s not much to share yet, the ideas for the museum are fantastic! This will be a place not only for Titanic romanticists but also for shipbuilding aficionados. Its interactive features on the design and conception of the vessel look fabulous. Exhibits will include, for instance, a re-creation of a section of ship and shipyard; visitors will be able to inspect, up close and personal, the hull via a gondola-like ride.

Another gallery will focus on the fitting out of Titanic, with life-size models of cabins (from first, second and third classes) and a piece of the dining room, as well as its engines and funnels. There will be a multi-dimensional show that will make visitors feel as if they’re walking through Titanic’s rooms, an immersive theater with shows yet to be decided, and other galleries that center on topics such as Titanic legends and myths, and the rescue effort.

Of course the museum will spotlight stories about people onboard — but just as interesting are the tales of those who didn’t take the voyage, such as the priest who had to get off at the ship’s last land call, Ireland’s Queenstown, because he was ordered to return by his superior. His photographs survived as a result. I also heard the story of Belfast craftsman hired to make a dining table for the captain’s quarters. He didn’t finish the work on time and the ship sailed without it – and as such the handmade table still exists!

That’s all for today. We’ll have more Titanic tidbits from our Belfast visit tomorrow.

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Write a review and win a cruise!

The weekend is here, so what better time to write a cruise review for Cruise Critic for a chance to win a fantastic cruise to the Canary Islands?

We’ve teamed up with Royal Caribbean in the UK to offer this amazing prize of a 10 or 11-night cruise for two on Independence of the Seas , round trip from Southampton, to the first reviewer whose name comes out of the hat after the deadline of August 16.

You could win a cruise on Independence of the Seas!

We’re not looking for a towering work of literary genius; your review simply has to meet our submission criteria, guidelines for which are here . You can review any cruise you’ve taken since January 1, 2008 (and it doesn’t matter if several members have already reviewed your chosen ship) – and you must be a UK resident over 21. Simple!

Here’s where to enter the competition (and read the rules). There’s exactly a month till the competition closes so get scribbling – and good luck! SJB

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Something old, something new

As New York City readies itself for the biggest-ever Macy’s 4th of July fireworks spectacular , which will be broadcast live from the newly-named Norwegian Epic, a quieter, more modest celebration has taken place here in the UK this week.

Fred. Olsen Cruises launched its 2011/2012 brochure over a glass of wine on a sunny terrace overlooking the Thames. There were no fireworks.

You may ask how this is connected to the razzle-dazzle Norwegian Epic, which sailed from Southampton last week across the Atlantic, leaving the guests from its two-night preview cruise reeling from sensory overload.

Well, what brought it all home was when at the Fred. Olsen drinks, marketing director Nigel Lingard, made the amusing observation that Norwegian Epic alone carried more passengers than Fred’s entire fleet.

He’s right; the combined capacity of the four Fred. Olsen ships is 3,987, while Norwegian Epic can take 4,100. Puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? There’s been so much in the news over the last 12 months about huge, gleaming new ships (Oasis of the Seas, Azura, Celebrity Eclipse, Epic and next, Allure of the Seas) that to an observer, or perhaps a non-cruiser, a capacity of thousands must seem like the norm now.  

Yet the British cruiser’s appetite for smaller, more personal ships is stronger than ever. Some 52% of Fred. Olsen’s passengers are repeat bookers, a higher level than ever before, Lingard told us, adding that what Fred. Olsen lacked in ‘sexy hardware’ (fancy new ships), it made up for in ‘human software’ (friendly crew).

Of course, we’re not comparing like with like, but to me, Lingard’s comments were a reminder of the amazing variety of what’s out there. And although Fred. Olsen is better known for the diversity of its itineraries than its entertainment (no Blue Man Group here), he did mention a new development. “We’ve moved on with our passengers,” he said. “Ten years ago, we might have had songs by Vera Lynn. Now, it’s more likely to be Sixties Gold.”  Quite.

SJB

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Norwegian Epic’s just arrived in Southampton!

It’s a very pretty cruise into Southampton and the ship got a nice welcome from the folks at Carnival UK, who took to the rooftop to cheer on the ship (not sure you’ll be able to tell from photo).  Fred. Olsen’s pretty Black Watch is tied up alongside — talk about David vs. Goliath, sizewise. It looks tiny next to Epic. Alas, vista of piles of garbage on a dock that I’m looking at right now — and smelling — isn’t too nice; god help us if we dock right next to it.

CSB

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Norwegian Epic’s good news!

There’s good news from Norwegian Epic

We might be arriving early today in Southampton. I’m hearing onboard that there’s a good chance for a 2:30 p.m. arrival (three hours earlier than predicted yesterday though a good four hours-plus later than was originally scheduled). I have also found out that embarkation in Southampton for the tw0-night preview cruise is expected to begin at 6 p.m. instead of 8:30 p.m.

We’ll keep you posted here and also via Cruise Critic’s news page (www.cruisecritic.co.uk/news).

There’s more good news – and another first for Norwegian Epic: Full-on sunshine means the pool deck will be open for business (it doesn’t hurt that we’re moving pretty slowly due to busted propeller so there’s not a wind tunnel situation). I’ll catch some photos of areas we haven’t yet covered because they were subsumed in gloom….

CSB

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On our way to Southampton!

Norwegian Epic may be limping due to a technical problem that’s slowed down the ship enough to delay its arrival in Southampton tomorrow…but we are on the move.

Here’s today’s trivia quiz (first winner to answer all questions correctly wins a Cruise Critic prize) — I’ll admit, this one isn’t going to be easy.

We’ve just cruised past a special ship; its smokestack is pictured, left. Which line built and operated the venerable vessel? What was its original name (and what were subsequent iterations)? What year was it originally launched? And what’s it being used for today?

Please send your answers to Kelly@cruisecritic.co.uk.

Good luck. Oh, by the way, we’re still getting answers to the weekend question (What was the first ship to have a passenger escalator?). We’ll keep you posted.

CSB

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NCL delays Epic’s Southampton arrival

Bad news — Norwegian Epic’s developed technical problems that affect its speed (we’re told it’s definitely not a safety issue). As a result, the ship is delaying its much-anticipated arrival into Southampton tomorrow morning. Instead it will arrive at dinner time.

We’re already onboard so we’ll continue to keep you posted via our blog, news coverage on Cruise Critic’s home page, and Kelly’s Q&A on the Norwegian Epic forum.

But we do want to make sure any folks who are planning to come out tomorrow — whether to board the ship or to celebrate its arrival — read our news item, posted early this afternoon, with the details.

CSB

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