There is no other name that seems to loom over nautical history like the White Star Lines’ R.M.S. Titanic.
Its story is highlighted in articles, books, films and televisions shows spanning the past 99 years. Amazing isn’t it, 2012 will be the 100th Anniversary of the story of one of the most fateful voyages of modern history.
The 1997 James Cameron film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet solidified the circumstances around that night the ship hit an iceberg in the minds and hearts of yet another generation to insure that the experience will be present in our minds for many years to come.
Another venue that is providing a more tangible and realistic view of the experiences while honoring the memories of the lives of those who walked upon that unsinkable ship is “Titanic – The World’s Largest Museum Attraction” now located in Branson and Pigeon Forge.
I recently was honored to be a guest along with my brother at the Branson location and spend a wonderful afternoon walking among costumed crew members and passengers as we got a first hand look at what we would have experienced had we been passengers on the boat. With the help of audio aids hung about our necks, we could enter a number at displays around the attraction to learn about what we were seeing and to hear accounts from survivors.
We were greeted by the boarding staff, where I received my boarding pass and was assigned the name of one of the actual passengers –Dr. Washington Dodge, 52, of San Francisco, Calif.
After ticketing, we found ourselves stepping on board the ship where one of the first interactive actions was to feel an iceberg then examine the world’s largest model of the Titanic.
One might think that such an attraction is simply another Hollywood themed attraction playing on the success of the monumental blockbuster movie. Once you enter and especially when you leave you know that is not the case. In my life I have never had a more enjoyable museum experience and a more effective depiction to bring to life a point in time in history.
I have always been fascinated by time travel films and TV, I believe in a way this is the closest I will ever come initially walking among the men who built the ship in Belfast and their tools then moving to learn about the crew working to keep the ship going by filling the 159 furnaces on board with tons of coal.
Another special feature at Branson was an exhibit honoring the dogs on the ship. The museum actually has two mascots representing two of the 10 dogs whose owners paid the equivalent of $200 to get them aboard. Only 3 survived the sinking.
After seeing the pride of their work we found ourselves in the midst of the third class cabin area seeing and hearing how those passengers lived on the ship while learning the real life stories and seeing the artifacts held by so many of those families.
With every step there was something new to learn, something new to see or hear.
We eventually reached the elegant exact replica of the Grand Staircase so vividly seen in the film and walked up to reach the first class experience where we saw how passengers such as the Astors and the Unsinkable Molly Brown lived.
Just when you think that the experience is nearing the end there is more and more. The gallery of photos taken by Father Browne showing the passengers on the ship brought me even more into the experience.
We stood upon the bridge of the ship hearing as orders were given and the stepped out into the cold Atlantic breezes on the deck of the ship. The producers describe it as a 90-minute walking experience.
I even stood upon the alternative decks giving one the impression of what passengers had to try to cling to as the ship reached different points in its dive into the deep.
We learned about the work of the wonderful people who brought this museum together and their efforts to honor the legacy of the passengers.
As we came to end of our visit, we both searched for the fate our passenger had found that night. My passenger – Dr. Brown did survive. There were many survivors who found it hard to face the future after that night.
When my brother and I left, we realized that we had been in there three hours and had not even realized that much time had passed.
I encourage you; if you find yourself visiting either Pigeon Forge or Branson, make sure you include this attraction in your plans especially if you have children. Advance adult tickets are in the $20 range with children around $11 and a family pass for four is available in the $60 range.
You can find out more by visiting http://www.titanicattraction.com/.