In the past four years, we have taken in two Titanic experiences in the United States: (1) Las Vegas’ Titanic Exhibit and (2) Orlando’s Titanic Experience. These two exhibits display a variety of artifacts from the wreckage and each do a nice job of delivering a well-rounded learning experience and provide a glimpse into what it was like during a time and place left behind.
This past March and April, we had the opportunity to take in three more Titanic experiences in Ireland that provided a deeper glimpse into the heart of the ship and its people. Our exceptional, and completely unplanned, timing to the city meant we were in Belfast on the 1-year anniversary of the Titanic Belfast center.
Walking into the Titanic Belfast building took our breath away. HUGE! MODERN! EXHILARATING! And, quite clever. The experience took us from the bygone era when Belfast became a bustling city and gave us the opportunity to view the plans for the ship, posters advertising the journey as well as discovering how the ship was built, and giving an understanding of the vastness of the Titanic. After the first hour of our tour, we were so enwrapped in the making of the ship, we, for a moment, forgot this beautiful ship sank. Unlike any other exhibit, it gave us a clear understanding of the hard work put into such a project.
We made a point to arrive at the time of opening and it paid off because we ended up having the place to ourselves for the first hour, which is always nice when you’re trying to take in an exhibit at your own pace.
After we completed the entire tour, which is seriously impressive, we were surprised at the lack of artifacts. We presumed that since this was the largest Titanic experience, we would leave dizzy with information. We were impressed, but not dizzy. This experience would be absolutely off the charts if it merged the Titanic artifacts experienced in Vegas or Orlando. We still recommend this experience, but would encourage an interested Titanic traveler to seek out one of the US experiences too.
Titanic Belfast is not the only experience to be taken in Belfast; the Titanic’s Dock & Pump House is a must-see as well.
Not knowing exactly what we were getting ourselves into when we visited the Dock and Pump House, we were overwhelmed by this location and learning of time in 1912 when the Titanic rested in this dock as it was groomed for its first, and only, sailing. Descending 44 feet below the surface allowed us to take in just how big the Titanic was.
We were surprised to learn this dock continued to be used up until just a few years ago.
The pump house educates visitors on how the water pump worked and while it may be unimpressive to some, we found it quite informational and rewarding. The Titanic’s Dock and Pump House is worth every penny.
Our final Titanic experience took place at the City Hall where we had the rare opportunity to see artifacts up for auction. One of the items on display, and not being auctioned, was the violin belonging to Wallace Hartley. Wallace Hartley was known for playing his violin, along with other band members, to calm passengers on the Titanic as the ship sank. As we walked the auction floor exploring the memorabilia and tales of the Titanic, a history buff chatted with us. “The first person to see the violin was a woman who lives three miles away,” said the man watching over the display who appreciated it being shown to the public and starting in Belfast. He also talked about the local pride that is still tied to the ship. “We built it. It was fine when it left here.”
Other amazing pieces included a letter Hartley wrote on White Star stationery after the Titanic left port and a letter from his parents that Hartley had on him when his body was pulled from the sea. The Titanic was certainly not a joyful event, but being able to memorialize the lives lost allow them to live on.