On 1 April 2012 we went to check out the brand new (opened the previous day) Titantic Experience Museum in the docks area of Belfast.
I expected a few teething troubles, but was very impressed with the whole "experience".
(This is only a selection of the photos - more to follow in a separate post!)
I know a few have expressed reservations about "celebrating" the Titanic, as the sinking was a terrible tragedy, but it was more about exploring and celebrating that time in Belfast, and then commemorating the tradgedy and the impact of it's aftermath.
We had booked tickets online, and as long as you know your booking reference or have your credit card that you paid with, it was a very simple process to print out your tickets from the self-service booth. You are allocated a time, however as we had the last time of the day (4pm) there was no queue and we were able to walk on in about 3.45pm.
The first part was probably the most crowded section, and it was hard to work out if you were supposed to follow a certain direction, and to keep your bearings. With two excited 7 year olds it was tricky to absorb all the information, and I would definitely want to spend a bit longer in this section the next time.
The only queue we had the entire time was for the "ship yard ride". Perhaps a bit more to look at or do while waiting would be good - there was some information written on the walls, but due to the crowds it wasn't really possible to read it all!.
I'm glad I did the ride once, but considering the wait involved, and the shortness of the ride, I would probably skip this the next time. Again a wee bit disorientating and not entirely obvious where you should be looking, but definitely gace a glimpse into the difficult and dangerous working conditions.
The most fascinating part for me was the recreating of the cabins - first, second and third class, and all the details such as china, linen and carpet samples on show.
SIDE NOTE - I have heard some complaints on local radio about how they thought you would be able to go on the recreated staircase, but that it is in a separate part of the building, and reserved for corporate functions and weddings. I had known this would be the case, so wasn't overly disappointed. I believe that there may also be opportunities for the general public to see it on days when there aren't functions happening, so maybe I will get to see it, but to me it wasn't too big a deal.
The actual sinking was not dwelled upon, and the disaster was portrayed using the telegraph messages sent from the Titanic and other ships in the area.
I can't remember seeing much the various errors which combined to result in the disaster - about the design and the shortage of life boats etc, but maybe I just overlooked that part - at times it was difficult to see where to go next on the tour - maybe some arrows on the ground (a bit like IKEA!) would help!
There were lots of individual stories about the survivors and the heroic efforts of some to save others. and then details of the inquest.
We then moved on to how the history of the Titanic has been remembered through books and films.
The final three sections were about finding the wreck of the Titanic, and included a movie presentation of what the divers could see. Then there was a section where you could stand on a glass floor and see the bottom of the sea bed, including various parts of the ship and the belongs left behind. Apparently this is made up of tens of thousands of photographs taken of the actual sea bed.
The last section was to do with maritime archeology and the equipment used to locate and explore wrecks, but by this stage it was information overload, and we did not spend too long in that part.
Phew - back out to daylight, and on leaving we were given a souvenir ticket, with the day of our visit stamped on it - this was a nice touch and gave the kids something tangible without having to visit the gift shop.
The gift shop wasn't too busy after our tour (it had be packed before) and it had a wide range of items from the usual pencils and rubbers, to books and china, sweatshirts, teddys and more expensive models of the ship. I was perhaps a little disappointed that there was not an affordable toy model of the ship - the cheapest was £15 model and it was definitely more for decoration than a toy. I declined the whistle and the bell, and in the end my son chose a book and a lanyard. We also bought a souvenir collection of copies of various items - newspaper clippings, telegrams, letters etc.
All in all a successful trip. Definitely a lot we didn't get time to see, and would love to return to see a bit more. The price of a family ticket was fair, and although we didn't use the cafe the shop had a good range for all pockets (except for a small child's model of the ship).
On leaving at around 5.30 pm we were looking for a snack to eat before our train home, but only a few sit-down restaurants in the Odyessy available - the Streat coffee shop was closed.
the celebration of Belfast and it's industrial era
the recreation of the cabins
the visual journey up through the floors of the ship
the film of discovering the wreck
quite a lot of interactive buttons for the kids to press
the souvenir dated boarding pass on leaving
an iconic building
Could do better
better signage to direct us so we don't miss bits
a sturdy toy boat in the pocket-money price range in the shop
a bit more landscaping outside to be completed
somewhere nearby to eat on leaving
None come to mind!
Hope you enjoyed my review and photos.
Have you been? Is it something that would interest you? Let me know!
Part 2 will follow with more photos soon.