About 370 miles south-east off the coast of Newfoundland, the Titanic rests 2.2 miles below the the surface of the Atlantic ocean. Yet on the other side of the world in a shipyard in Jiangsu, Eastern China, the Titanic 2 is preparing to set sail. A first of it's kind, an ocean liner built to recreate the 1912 ferrying experience...without the tragedy. When it launches, Titanic 2 could be the most incredible immersive experience anywhere, let alone afloat, giving passengers a unique look into what it must have been like aboard the most luxurious ocean liner of the time.
Titanic 2 is not a clone of the original, but it's close. It is about 13 feet wider, to increase stability, and there are enough lifeboats for all passengers and crew this go around. "The new Titanic will of course have modern evacuation procedures, satellite controls, digital navigation and radar systems and all those things you'd expect on a 21st century ship," said James McDonald, Marketing Director for Blue Star Line. The entire propulsion system, which was steam powered in 1912, is replaced with modern, space saving diesel engines. CNN reported this past February that a spokesman for the Australian tycoon Clive Palmer told the Belfast Telegraph that the project has been pushed back from 2016 to 2018. Although no reason was given, the Belfast article did confirm that the ticketing will be true to the original with first, second and third class ticket offerings and will accommodate 2,400 passengers and 900 crew members.
The new Titanic will of course have modern evacuation procedures, satellite controls, digital navigation and ... all those things you'd expect on a 21st century ship.
The challenge for Titanic 2 is not going to be the interest, morbid or otherwise. It's going to be about the experience, from the small modern comforts in the cabins to the incredibly reproduced woodworking and ironworks of 1912. There is no doubt that the ship will look amazing, but Titanic 2 is nothing like a modern cruise ship and anyone wanting a cruise experience should not expect their time on Titanic 2 to be the same.
On-board activities in 1912 consisted of a single indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium, a squash court, libraries, cafés and Turkish baths. Deck games included shuffleboard and ring toss, along with popular board games of the time, including chess and backgammon. Live orchestral music was featured in social areas. Many of these activities were reserved for the first class and second class passengers. Third class passengers were permitted on Titanic's forward Poop Deck to play deck games, but segregated from first and second class. If you saw James Cameron's 1997 motion picture depicting life aboard Titanic, it's true, third class passengers were segregated with the use of locked gates to keep contagion from spreading to first and second class passengers. While contagion is no longer a risk, it will be interesting to see just how authentic the Titanic 2 will be in this regard.
A ship of many firsts at the time, the Titanic was the first to provide running water in every cabin. However, only some first class cabins included a full bathroom. Second and third-class passengers had a chamber pot
to crap in in case of sea sickness and communal bathrooms. Third class only had two bathtubs, one for each gender for the 709 passengers aboard. The poor in 1912 believed bathing could cause respiratory disease, so they likely avoided bathing altogether. But hey, first class could pay for the priviledge of swiming in the first heated pool at sea.
Life in 1912 was vastly different than today. While Titanic was very much a luxury for those who could afford it, it was also a necessity of the time. With commercial air travel still to come, ocean liners were the primary mode of transportation for immigrants to get to the new world. Titanic was built to ferry people and things and not to be a pleasure cruise, at least not for everyone. Even the 1971 Pacific Princess (aka the Love Boat) appears spartan compared to the floating cities operated by the likes of Royal Caribbean today. The Allure of the Seas, the largest passenger ship afloat in 2016, features an on-board shopping mall, waterslides, 21 pools and jacuzzis, rock climbing, and ice skating rink among other entertainment options.
So what will you do on Titanic 2 when you're not eating or sleeping?
The company states on their Blue Star Line website that Titanic 2 will be every bit as luxurious as her namesake while featuring every modern amenity. With just two years before launch, we have yet to see what this means in photos or other official communication from the company. I can only imagine that there will be some blending of 1912 and modern experiences on board. However, back in January of 2014, the Telegraph reported that billionaire tycoon Clive Palmer, who's building the ship, suggested that there would be no televisions or internet access on board, and that passengers will be provided period clothing should they wish to dress up.
If you're a hardcore Titanic buff, an early 20th century historian or a second industrial revolution enthusiast, I can see this being a once in a lifetime opportunity. You might be similar to a modern day civil war buff who is willing to poop in the brush because that's what they did back then. So, if you're not too uncomfortable showering in public bathrooms with strangers, with no television and no internet, okay, this may be an experience for you. You are in a very small minority. However, if you are part of the vast majority of the world who has seen the movie Titanic and has visions of having your Jack and Rose moment on the bow of the ship, then this may be the experience for you. Luxurious or not, Titanic 2 may not be the cruise experience you're looking for if the authenticity is too real. As a 21st century culture, our tastes and expectations have matured since 1912. If this is going to be an authentic experience, I can only hope that careful consideration has been paid to what should be authentic vs. what should be modern aboard Titanic 2.
Authenticity will be the key to success for Titanic 2. I would expect that all public areas be recreated with utmost detail, presenting changes only required to meet modern safety standards. This would include all passenger areas, including public bathrooms. However, I think this is where it should end. We already know that the bridge and engine room are updated to modern standards, and I would expect the same for galleys, crew quarters and other shipboard offices that support the ship and crew. I would also expect modernization of all staterooms and cabins. You might think that this would contradict presenting an authentic experience aboard Titanic 2. However, if done well, it could be complimentary to the on-board experience without taking passengers too far out of the experience.
Personally, I would probably enjoy the experience if I was in first class stateroom. Less so if I was in third class cabin and had to share the small narrow space with bunkbeds with five other strangers. Yes, I said strangers. Back in the day, third class tickets were sold by the berth (the bed) in cabins that had up to six berths in them. Imagine tickets being sold by the bed today. I might be able to stand a two or three day adventure in third class on Titanic 2, but anything longer may be agonizing depend on who your bunkmates might be.
Some of the modern amenities I'm suggesting, against Clive's recommendation, include in-room conveniences, like:
- a television to obtain on-board information and events that compliment a paper offering;
- a telephone to request basic in-room help and service;
- a fully functional bathroom, this alone could be a deal breaker;
- a mini-fridge, because you'll be eating a lot of food;
- power outlets for charging your smartphone and other electronics.
Having these modern conveniences should not take away from any of the authenticity planned for Titanic 2, but I do think it will make the transition to a very real 1912 much more enjoyable and allow passengers to focus on the shared immersive experience, rather than be concerned with their sleeping arrangements or bathroom needs. We've become fairly a sophisticated society since 1912 and no matter how authentic the experience is hyped to be, it must take into consideration the convenience and expectations of the 21st century entertainment enthusiast.
The 2018 maiden voyage will be from China to Dubai where it will begin regular cruise service from the UAE. reelXperience Entertainment would love to be on-board when it finally sets sail. If you'd like to help us get there so that we can report on it, please see our donations page and pledge your support.