Spending a few nights in a ‘60s-style home is one thing, but how about taking a trip that mirrors one of the most infamous travel experiences ever? I’m talking about the Titanic. Yes, it’s for real: An Australian billionaire, Clive Palmer, has set out to replicate the ill-fated luxury liner in detail and to set sail with actual passengers.
Under construction in the CSC Jinling Shipyard in Jiangsu, China, “Titanic II,” will look extremely similar to its namesake, the RMS Titanic. Like its predecessor, the new ship will feature a grand staircase, timber-clad walls, and crystal artwork chandeliers, as well as a Turkish bath, a period-appointed gymnasium, and a smoking room.
Titanic 2 also will have three passenger classes, as made famous by James Cameron’s 1997 Oscar-award-winning film “Titanic” featuring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Those who book a cruise will have the option of staying 2 nights in each of the three caste-levels of accommodations.
Of course, the RMS Titanic tragically sunk in 1912, 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada after the ship hit an iceberg. More than 1,500 of the 2,240 passengers and crew lost their lives. Fortunately safety features of Titanic 2 hail from the modern era. For instance, the ship’s hull will be four meters wider and will be welded instead of riveted. The bridge will contain the latest high-tech navigational equipment, and there will be an added “Safety Deck” with ample lifeboats and safety chutes. Also worth noting, the ship’s maiden voyage, planned for 2018 between Jiangsu, China and Dubai, UAE, will run little risk of encountering icebergs.
All of the above sounds good, but will anyone really want to ride on a ship whose name represents one of the greatest transportation tragedies of all time? The answer appears to be “yes.” Since Palmer’s shipping company, Blue Star Line announced its plans, the company “has reportedly been flooded with requests for tickets — with some offering up to about $900,000 for a spot on the first trip.” So, there appears to be a market for Titanic 2 travel and strong potential for creating stakeholder value, but what about the always-important ethical question: Should such a ship be made?
What about the descendants of those who took the ill-fated trip on the RMS Titanic? For some the name conjures memories of lost loved ones whose lives were cut tragically short. For others Titanic is a story of familial survival; however, the narrative is a horrific one. Some of the passengers’ relatives have suggested that building Titanic 2 is insensitive and others have criticized the plans, but Blue Star Line claims that the response it has received has been “largely positive.”
In light of these mixed messages, I took the opportunity to contact a friend who is the grandson of a Titanic survivor. I asked him what he thought of the plans for Titanic 2. He kindly spoke with his mother whose own mother was a passenger who endured that fateful day in 1912. Her aunt also survived the sinking, but unfortunately her uncle did not. I didn’t know what their response would be to my question, and I felt uneasy even broaching the topic.
However, both grandson and daughter of the Titanic survivor voiced strong support for the commemorative ship. My friend suggested that Titanic 2 could be a way of honoring those who survived as well as those who died on the voyage. He added that the new vessel would not deprecate their memory, even though those memories were difficult to replay:
“My grandmother was one of the few on her half full lifeboat that desired to go back, and recalled hearing the screams from the dying in the water after the ship sank. According to my Mom, my grandmother wept uncontrollably every time she would tell the story orally, so she would have to write it out.”
Even in recounting such heart-wrenching stories as this one from his own kin, my friend’s affirmation of Titanic 2 suggests to me that the commissioning of a second ship could perhaps be restorative. Maybe a new generation’s completion of the amazing voyage would help to both reclaim the ship’s name and reframe the memories for those whose loved ones suffered a century ago. To be honest, the notion that Titanic 2 might recover hope from tragedy was not the conclusion I expected when I first set-out to write this piece.
Of course, my conversation with one ancestor of Titanic passengers does not represent the feelings of all the families. Still, based on this communication and the positive responses that Blue Star Line has apparently received from others, perhaps most descendants will see the new ship as a living memorial to their departed loved ones. If that perception prevails, then Titanic 2 can be considered a case of “Mindful Marketing.”