As many of you will be aware, the oft delayed, eagerly awaited announcement for the keel laying date of Titanic II will be revealed this month, we have been told. With two thirds of June almost gone, the sense of anticipation has been sharpened to almost knife edge.
Clive Palmer has promised a ship that is around 96 per cent accurate; albeit with a welded hull, inboard lifeboats (and plenty of them) as well as one extra deck. All of this is by now out in the public domain.
But I’ve been thinking more about the interior structure lately. To be precise, the passenger mobility aspect of the ship. Bear with me.
The original Titanic had four lifts. That’s right- four. Of these, three were the exclusive preserve of the 750 first class passengers. The fourth lift was a welcome, novel addition for the benefit of second class. The third class passengers- by far the bulk of the ship’s complement- had no lift access at all.
Given that Palmer has pledged to keep the numbers, class system and structural integrity of the original ship, the modern voyagers aboard Titanic II will be stuck with that same quartet of lifts. And, as Mister Palmer intends for his passengers to spend two days experiencing each of the three classes on each six day crossing, the logistics of moving both them, and of course all their luggage, begin to look like a very badly orchestrated Monty Python sketch. Repeated three times a week, in case you missed the first show.
Of course, the obvious solution seems simple enough; just add more lifts. But that involves cutting lift shafts right through the entire, nine deck structure of the ship. Lift shafts where none ever existed before. Or intended to be either, for that matter.
Any ocean liner- even the biggest- is a trade off as regards space in every section, from cabin size to kitchen square footage. Massive compromise in this respect is as unavoidable as that iceberg back in 1912.
More lifts means plowing wholesale through deck after deck; obliterating original cabins, and cutting through corridors on every deck; perhaps even cutting through public rooms. It certainly means creating vestibules where none ever existed before. That creates backup in terms of passenger flow; it makes the original form and function of many public spaces impractical and, more to the point, downright uncomfortable.
That end result means a TItanic II that will be a butchered, truncated mish mash inside. It makes even the fanciful figure of ’96 per cent accurate’ a joke.
So, Palmer here inherits a true maritime catch-22 situation, albeit one of this own making. He wants to create a ship that replicates the original of 1912 as faithfully as possible, and sell it to a society that cherishes the modern creature comforts of 2013.
You could, in theory, create a corridor for the third class passengers to use the single, second class lift. But again, that means cutting away at the original interior. And one lift for the use of around 1500 passengers? Really?
And what about disabled access? How will that work in and across all three classes? My guess is not very well at all.
The shape and technology of ship hulls- from freighters to cruise ships- advances and changes to meet the needs of modern demands. Recreating a century old hull design and expecting it to be adapted to modern tastes strikes me as a fanciful, fatuous daydream.
This isn’t 1912. Palmer can either create a working, potentially viable transatlantic tribute that doffs its cap to its heritage, or he can conjure a real, live 1912 theme park that is woefully impractical, verging on farcical. He can’t have both.
And, thus far, there’s actually no real sign of him doing either.
Update: As of today- Thursday, July 4th- there has still been no announcement of any definite launch date for the Titanic II project, despite Clive Palmer’s promise that this would be forthcoming in June.