TITANIC: DRAGGED UP FOR AIR?

CNV00004Like a Celine Dion mega mix, Clive Palmer’s Olympian attempt to revive the most notorious name in maritime history goes on and on. Yesterday marked the first in a series of events designed to unveil the supposed genesis of his controversial Titanic II project, now slated for a debut in the fall of 2016.

The bare bones of a strategy have been sketched out. Titanic II will be built in a Chinese shipyard. Although complying to every modern safety standard (where have I heard that before?) the new ship will be ’98 per cent’ faithful in recreating the original, fabled opulence of the ill fated juggernaut.

This is no mean feat. For starters, the hull will be welded, rather than held together by the three million rivets hammered into the original Titanic. There will be azipods to power and steer the ship, and an extra deck complete with helicopter pad. The historically astute will be relieved to learn that there will be more than enough lifeboats for everyone. Good thinking. Because the first lifeboat drill held aboard Titanic II will without doubt be the best attended in maritime history.

Passengers- 2400 of them- will have the opportunity to experience two days’ accommodation in each of three classes on scheduled, six day transatlantic crossings, with period costumes available in all three. And here’s where I have to ask…

How, exactly, are they going to accommodate the mass transfer of 2400 passengers (plus, presumably, all their luggage and personal effects) three times during a six day transatlantic crossing? The logistics alone are enough to bring on a nose bleed. They are going to need a purser’s staff way in excess of any other ship just to collate the paperwork. And just imagine those panelled corridors, hopelessly cluttered in mid ocean with a tidal wave of baffled, irate passengers, hopelessly overworked crew and cases. Then multiply that confusion by three….

The extra deck will allow Titanic Ii to incorporate a casino; a feature lacking on the original ship. Apparently, people over a ‘certain age’ will not be allowed in here. Wow. So if you are, indeed, of a certain age, you get to be treated like a second class human being, even if you happen to have booked one of those amazing parlour suites? Harsh.

Some unkind souls have expressed the opinion that the entire project is a few rivets short of being a watertight hull. At least the long delivery voyage from China to the UK will allow ample time for speed and handling trials. Weeks, in fact. A distinct improvement on the eight hours allocated to the same trials for the 1912 original. For reasons best known to himself, Mister Palmer has expressed a hope that the Chinese Navy will escort Titanic II from builder’s yard to Southampton berth. Still, perhaps better safe than sorry, I guess.

In similar vein, Palmer has also asked for the Royal Navy to escort the ship on her maiden crossing from Southampton to New York. If I were a passenger on that trip, I’d be very glad to see another ship within hailing distance at all times. Though I would also require proof that said ship (s) had fully functioning wireless sets. Well, you don’t want to tempt fate, do you? And that’s assuming we still have anything that can pass for a navy by 2016.

Most cruise lines are now charging for on board extras, such as bottled water and photography shoots. I wonder how Mister Palmer intends to boost revenue on board his newly wrought ship of schemes?

Perhaps there will be a special ‘Jack and Rose’ perch on the prow, where star struck passengers can adopt ‘that’ pose and have a souvenir photo taken? Or how about a photographic canvas backdrop of an iceberg, or maybe a half full lifeboat?

Maybe those period costumes will allow you to ‘dress up’ as one of those poor, peerless musicians who went down with the ship. Just lift that violin a little higher, sir, and- smile….

There are some who will doubtless find those last two paragraphs to be somewhat in poor taste. I understand that. But where is the good taste in dragging up the ghastly memory of this appalling disaster for air, and then turning it into some glorified theme park ride that crosses over the actual grave site of the real thing?

When all is said and done, Clive Palmer could have called this ship the Olympic, after the prototype of the two sister ships. Olympic was every bit as luxurious as the Titanic, had a sterling wartime career- including actually sinking a U-boat that tried to attack her- not to mention almost a quarter of a century of buoyant success as a passenger liner par excellence. Olympic was the first of the pair; she was the ship that truly ushered in the age of the modern, ultra luxury passenger steamer. If ever a ship was worthy of modern interpretation, she surely is.

But, of course, she never up ended in the North Atlantic on a freezing cold April night, killing two thirds of her passengers and crew in the process. Close, but no cigar.

Still, all of this might never come to pass. The Blue Star Line circus has proved adept at staging a number of media ‘events’ all around the world that have so far promised much, but delivered very little. Personally, I will believe in the reality of Titanic II when Blue Star get round to laying keel plates in a shipyard, instead of dinner plates garnished with nebulous, indigestible soundbites in a succession of swanky venues around the world.

In terms of size, the Titanic II will be a relative minnow in comparison to the gigantic floating theme parks carousing around tropical waters. She will not have all the mod cons such as balcony cabins, water slides, rock climbing walls, etc. Which is all well and fine, because- as the White Star Line could have told you- the biggest ships don’t always turn out to be the best from a passenger’s point of view. The whole point of Titanic II is to immerse you in the style and essence of a bygone experience. Let’s hope that’s the extent of any actual passenger immersion.

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