Titanic centennial: Museums, events, dinners

By Beth J. Harpaz

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 26 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

FILE - This undated file photo provided by Titanic Museum Attractions shows the exterior of a half-scale replica of the Titanic cruise ship in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The attraction in Pigeon Forge and another in Branson, Mo., are marking the April 15, 2012 centennial of the Titanic sinking by sponsoring a Coast Guard cutter to take 1.5 million rose petals to the North Atlantic site where the ship went down.

Titanic Museum Attractions, File, Associated Press

NEW YORK — A hundred years ago, the sinking of the Titanic was a tragic disaster. Today, it's fodder for an entertaining outing with the kids.

There are replica ships in Tennessee and Missouri, graveyard tours in New York and Nova Scotia, traveling exhibits from Las Vegas to Atlanta, and two brand new museums in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Southampton, England. Hotels and restaurants are serving Titanic dinners, and ships are even heading to the disaster site — including an anniversary cruise that slashed prices last-minute from nearly $5,000 to $1,000. Here's a roundup of notable Titanic events and attractions here and abroad.

TITANIC BELFAST: Titanic Belfast, an interactive attraction that tells the story of the doomed ship, opens March 31 in an ultra-modern building whose shape and silvery color evoke ship hulls on the water. Exhibits include 3-D projections, audiovisual displays, artifacts and even an indoor ride. A marine exploration center describes the work of Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985. Titanic walking tours and other attractions are also located in the new neighborhood, Titanic Quarter, that includes the defunct shipyard where the ocean liner was built, http://www.titanicbelfast.com/.

SEACITY MUSEUM: SeaCity Museum opens April 10 in Southampton, England, the same day the ship departed from that port a century ago. The city lost 549 locals when the ship went down, mostly crew members. The new museum tells the story of Southampton's connection to the sea, with a focus on the Titanic story, including an interactive model of the ship and the London courtroom where an inquiry was later held. Southampton is about 90 minutes from London by train, http://www.seacitymuseum.co.uk/.

CHERBOURG, FRANCE: The Titanic stopped in Cherbourg on April 10, a few hours after leaving Southampton, to pick up 281 passengers, including American Margaret Brown, whose ordeal as a lifeboat survivor was made into a movie, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Cherbourg's maritime museum, the Cite de la Mer, located in the port's 1933 Art Deco terminal, is opening an exhibit April 6 called "Titanic 2012," http://www.citedelamer.com/uk/ . Cherbourg is in Normandy, about 225 miles northwest of Paris.

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA: Ships dispatched from Halifax, Nova Scotia, recovered more than 330 bodies from the disaster site in the North Atlantic, and 150 are buried in three Halifax graveyards, including 121 at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. The city's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is also home to an extensive permanent Titanic exhibit as well as special exhibits that will continue into the summer. Other events include ceremonies, tours, book talks, a concert, dinner theater, a photo exhibit, and even a Titanic toy model workshop, http://www.destinationhalifax.com/visitors/titanicevents.

PIGEON FORGE AND BRANSON: It's a long, long way from any ocean, but Titanic museums in Branson, Mo., and in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., have hosted more than 7 million visitors since 2006 and claim to house some of the largest permanent collections anywhere of Titanic artifacts and memorabilia. The museums are actual half-scale replicas of the Titanic and are co-owned by John Joslyn, who was co-leader of the first private expedition to visit the shipwreck. Museum visitors get the boarding pass of a Titanic passenger or crew member when they enter, and at the end of the tour, they learn whether their passenger lived or died, http://www.titanicpigeonforge.com/ or http://www.titanicbranson.com/.

Both museums will have special ceremonies April 14 marking the anniversary, and they're also sponsoring a Coast Guard cutter to take 1.5 million rose petals to the North Atlantic site where the ship sank. The cutter will leave Boston April 10 and joins several commercial cruises in the area for the occasion.

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