The largest “unsinkable” passenger shipped set off from Southampton, England on its maiden voyage in April of 1912, with 2223 eclectic passengers on board, who excitedly embarked to experience a new level of opulence at sea. Four days into the journey, the massive ship struck an iceberg and sank in two hours and forty minutes, with 1517 lives lost, making it one of the world’s largest maritime disasters, partly due to a lack of lifeboats. Our culture’s fascination with this behemoth luxury liner stems from its disastrous fate, famous victims, and 1985 discovery which produced a wealth of relics, along with James Cameron’s sweeping epic and billion dollar-grossing film.
A new Titanic Museum has taken residence in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, the resort area surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Open since April, the museum, an actual smaller replica of the Titanic anchored in water, displays over 400 real artifacts, and rooms built from the Titanic blueprints. Visitors experience the ship’s spectacular interior, including third-class quarters, a first-class suite, dining rooms and the museum’s piece de resistance, the $1 million exact reproduction of the Grand Staircase. The first-class suite is dedicated to Isidor and Ida Straus who co-owned Macy’s Department Stores and died on the ship.
At the beginning of the two-hour, self-guided tour, a true interactive experience, guests are given a boarding pass with the name of an actual passenger. Crew members and maids are on site to tell the tales of the ship and its inhabitants. One can touch an actual iceberg and feel the icy temperature of the 28-degree water that many perished in. After exploring the rooms and artifacts, visitors discover their fate at the memorial wall as to whether the passenger on their boarding pass survived or not, an impactful experience in itself.
The Titanic’s 100-year anniversary arrives in Spring 2012 which will further spark our fascination with this mythic ship. Book tickets in advance as the museum often sells out as over 100,000 have already visited since its opening reception. Or call 800-381-7670.