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For a ship who’s lifespan in active passenger service encompassed barely four full days, the RMS Titanic has held countless people captive in her spell since she sank in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. I count myself as a major Titanic buff; her magnificent, one-of-a-kind interiors are still some of the grandest I’ve ever seen, and I rabidly devour any books, films, and articles I can on the subject of the great White Star Line ship.
But plans from a wealthy Australian entrepreneur to rebuild a modern version of this iconic vessel have me left with a rather sinking feeling.
Yes, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer – who’s name seems to be rarely mentioned without the word “eccentric” appended to it – plans to have a Chinese shipyard build a near-replica of the Titanic for a new shipping company dubbed the Blue Star Line. With first, second and steerage classes, Titanic II is scheduled to set sail on her maiden voyage in late 2016.
The only problem is this: every time I hear about this project, I ask the same question: is this for real?
Sure, there are deck plans that have been released (and a glorious PDF version available from The Courier Mail) – except they look generally like Titanic’s blueprints input into a modern-day graphic design program. In many spots, it seems as though the designers aren’t even sure what should go there, like the “Engineer’s Promenade” segment of the Boat Deck, annotated with several bold question marks, or the note promising that Officer’s accommodations aft of the bridge “will be modernised.”
And I, of all people, am open, willing and ready to be dazzled by Palmer’s intent to re-create the Titanic; I just don’t see how it’s commercially viable – or how many people are going to want to cruise aboard a ship where, if built exactly as Palmer intends, would re-create a three-tier class structure where even many First Class staterooms would be considered cramped by today’s standards.
One look at the blocks of space running along the port side of Titanic II labeled “3rd Class Cabins” should be enough to send prospective cruisers – even history buffs like myself – packing.
Here are some facts…er…tentative plans: this new ship will be constructed by CSC Jinling Shipyard, which I would normally hyperlink to had my antivirus software not protested when I paid a visit to their website. Although they’ve constructed other forms of ships before, CSC Jinling has never built a cruise ship to-date.
An article in The Guardian states that Palmer, who made his fortune in real estate and mining, also intends to invite the Chinese Navy to participate in the ship’s maiden voyage from England to New York, a move that seems just a little bizarre.
Moving things further in that general direction, Cruise Critic reported earlier this week that Palmer has stated pensioners would be banned from the ship’s casino, along with anyone else who “cannot afford a first-class ticket.” Which, presumably, means you and I.
Not enough for you? Here’s where I start to chuckle and wonder if perhaps Palmer isn’t privately having a nice, big laugh about all of this: the current plans would feature shared bathrooms for those in “steerage” class and dinner served at long, cafeteria-style tables – just like the original.
No word, though, on what the price range of these “steerage” accommodations – which, interestingly, also won’t be allowed casino access – will go for.
I may not be a billionaire like Mr. Palmer, but I’d be willing to bet that those features are going to be a hard-sell for any corporate PR team, particularly in the highly competitive cruise market that exists today.
I certainly don’t want to rag on the guy’s dream if he genuinely intends to bring Titanic back to life; I just can’t shake the feeling that at some point he’s going to tell us we’ve all been Punk’d.
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