One hundred years ago, the sinking of the RMS Titanic cruise ship was an unimaginable tragedy. Today, it's fodder for a multitude of tourism opportunities for a new generation keen on reliving the fateful day of April, 14, 1912 when the world's largest, most advanced ship hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Built between 1909 and 1911 by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, the Titanic carried 2,224 people before she sank to the bottom of the ocean. The tragedy remains the world's deadliest peacetime maritime disaster with 1,514 casualties.
In honor of the 100-year anniversary of the doomed liner, several locations on both sides of the Atlantic will stage major events, open new galleries, and provide tours to please those struck with Titanic fever.
It's mindboggling how many places in the world claim to have the most extensive collection of Titanic artifacts. In fact, it's a wonder there are enough artifacts in existence for the plethora of museums capitalizing on the hype this year.
Be assured that if a town near you had anything at all to do with the Titanic, its passengers, or its crew, it will be celebrating this April in a big way.
The largest Titanic experience in the world opened on Saturday in Belfast's Titanic Quarter on the original site of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, birthplace of the RMS Titanic. The $155 million Titanic Belfast is one of a number of signature projects designed to drum up tourism interest in Northern Ireland, an area better known for decades of regional violence. Shaped like the vessel's hull, the six-floors house nine galleries that tell the story of the doomed steamship and of Belfast in the early 1900s. It boasts an interactive ride and never before seen film footage of the wreck in its final resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic. The museum hopes to draw 125,000 visitors a year from outside the British Isles.
Around the corner at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, the TITANICa exhibit displays 500 original artifacts including objects recovered from the seabed. Meanwhile local pubs have capitalized on the 100th anniversary with Titanic beer, Titanic whiskey, and Titanic potato chips.
Titanic fever comes to a head in Belfast with what's being billed as the world's largest lighting show and an MTV concert with a coterie of global stars on April 13.
On April 10, exactly 100 years after the Titanic departed from the city, the Southampton City Council will open the SeaCity Museum, a space dedicated to exhibitions about Southampton's maritime past and present. Exhibitions will focus on several elements including the lives of those affected by the tragedy and the official inquiry that took place in the 1930s in London. Other displays include a disaster room with hands-on activities and an area focused on the hidden history of Titanic's crew. The sinking of the Titanic had a devastating effect on the people of Southampton as most of the crew lived there and more than 500 households lost a family member.
The Titanic stopped at Cherbourg in Normandy on April 10 just a few hours after leaving Southampton to pick up 281 passengers, including American Margaret Brown whose ordeal as a lifeboat survivor was immortalized in the hit 1964 movie musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
A new permanent exhibit at the Museum of the Sea in Cherbourg will commemorate the day the Titanic sailed there to pick up passengers 100 years ago. The exhibit, Titanic - Return to Cherbourg will recreate life onboard the ship through the testimonies of survivors and witnesses. Additionally, there will be concerts, theatrical performances, and guided tours.
Nova Scotia, Canada
As the tragedy unfolded in the North Atlantic, three ships left from Halifax, Nova Scotia -- the closest major port -- to bring back the bodies of the victims. Some 150 are buried in three Halifax graveyards, including 121 at Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
Nova Scotia boasts nearly 20 Titanic-related sites in total including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which claims one of the most extensive permanent Titanic exhibitions in the world.
On April 14 and 15, Nova Scotia will hold commemorative events including the Night of Bells, a procession through Halifax featuring stops at Titanic-related landmarks, interpretive presentations, live performances, and a moment of silence at the time when the Titanic began to sink. The Titanic Spiritual Ceremony will take place at Fairview Lawn Cemetery the following day in remembrance of those lost.
Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Canada's easternmost province is the closest to where the ship went down, and Newfoundland's Cape Race was the center of attention for Titanic passengers on that fateful night as nearly 300 messages were exchanged between ship and shore. One hundred years later, Newfoundland will host exhibitions, concerts, film showings, re-creations, music events, lectures, and tours to Cape Race.
The aforementioned unsinkable Molly Brown has her own museum in the Colorado capital and in honor of the survivor turned human rights activist and philanthropist, the museum will hold guided tours and offer musical performances, a lecture series, and a special exhibit: The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Denver's Heroine of the Titanic. The Molly Brown House invites guests to experience the excitement and opulence of a once-in-a-lifetime, first class Titanic gala on April 14.
Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
A long way from the ocean, these Titanic museums in Missouri and Tennessee -- owned by the co-leader of the first private expedition to visit the shipwreck -- have welcomed over seven million visitors since 2006. Both ship-shaped museums, operated by Titanic Museum Attractions, serve as permanent memorials honoring the original ship's creators and her passengers and crew. Visitors receive a boarding pass of a Titanic passenger or crew member upon entry and learn whether they live or die at the end of the tour. In honor of the centennial, both museums will debut A Night To Remember: An Original Musical Tribute to Titanic, on Saturday, April 14.
The two museums have sponsored a Coast Guard cutter that will leave Boston on April 10 and distribute 1.5 million rose petals above the site where the ship sank. The cutter will join several other commercial cruises in the area for the occasion.
St. Louis, Missouri
The St. Louis Titanic Centennial Weekend proves that you don't need any historic ties to the accident to throw a major event. The three-day affair features film screenings, visits to an exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, and a recreation of the last 11-course dinner served on the Titanic. Organizers say guests will partake in the elegance, grandeur, and luxury of the RMS Titanic, while enjoying a gastronomical extravaganza from another era.
The much-hyped Titanic: 100 Year Obsession exhibition opened at the National Geographic Museum in Washington on March 29. National Geographic was the first to unveil images of the wreck discovered by explorer Robert Ballard in 1985. The new exhibition highlights the latest research and includes an intricately detailed 18-foot model of the ship and new imagery captured by Titanic director James Cameron on the ocean floor.
The Titanic Historical Society, which claims to be the first and original, will host a Titanic Centennial Memorial Weekend (April 20-22) to dedicate a new memorial. The convention for serious Titanic buffs will feature guest speakers, visits to the nearby Titanic Museum, a gala dinner, and raffle with collectibles.
New York, New York
The Titanic never made it to its intended destination in New York Harbor, but the city will honor the lives of several New Yorkers who passed away on that fateful night. A trolley tour on April 7 will usher visitors through Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, the final resting place of nine passengers aboard the Ship of Dreams. Twelve others were buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Across town in the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, Duncan McCargo and Stephanie Winters will debut the world premiere of Titanic Tales: Stories of Courage and Cowardice on April 12, part of the Center's Target Free Thursdays series. The show is part theater, part concert, and part history, weaving together firsthand accounts to show how great danger can bring out the best -- and worst -- in people.
On April 14 and 15, NYC Discovery Walking Tours will offer a two-hour Titanic History Tour in Greenwich Village, stopping at the Titanic Memorial Arch, The Seaman's Lodge, and sites associated with passengers Isidor Straus, John J. Astor, and others.
Across the Hudson in Secaucus, New Jersey, The Titanic International Society will host a centennial convention April 27-29 including a candlelight memorial service, private guided tour of Ellis Island, New York Harbor cruise, gala dinner, and auction.
Leave it to Orlando to take a major disaster and give it theme park treatment. Redesigned in 2012, Titanic The Experience immerses visitors in the 100-year-old story as never experienced before. With 17 galleries housing never before seen artifacts, costumed tour guides, the second-largest piece of Titanic ever recovered, and ten full-scale recreations, this attraction is not short on superlatives.
Similar shows form Premiere Exhibitions are currently on display at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, the San Diego Natural History Museum, Union Station in Kansas City, and the ArtScience Museum at Marina bay Sands, Singapore.