Australian multi-millionaire rock-er Clive Palmer has been continent-hopping to promote Titanic II, a 55,000-ton, 2,435-passenger replica ocean liner set to launch in 2016. The drip campaign began in April around the 100th anniversary of the original doomed voyage. Revelations have been made about No. Two’s three-class setup, its vintage gymnasium reminiscent of a medieval torture chamber, the period garb hanging bathrobe-like in cabin closets and the abundance of lifeboat capacity.
Under the flag of the newly created Blue Star Line, version 2.0 will purportedly offer traditional Atlantic crossings between Southampton and New York. It will also, according to official brochure materials, “circumnavigate the globe.”
Red flags are flapping like the mouth of a first-class socialite after too many Manhattans. There’s the reputation of Mr. Palmer, a man associated with grand gestures, like a proposition to resurrect a dinosaur or the suggestion that the CIA and Greenpeace are bedfellows.
Titanic II, we’re told, will be built by Chinese yard CSC Jinling — an outfit that’s never built a cruise ship. The State-run facility specializes in bulk carriers, something Mr. Palmer certainly has need of in his line of work (minerals). It’s notable that, besides Titanic II, Blue Star Line has also commissioned CSC to build said carriers, according to a piece from China Daily published in May. At the time of press, a language barrier prevented me from obtaining additional information (“Sorry, sorry, sorry [click]” was the only available comment.) Questions about the choice of yard — why not opt for one of established powerhouses in Finland, France, Germany or Japan? — have also been sent to Crook Group, the Australia-based agency representing Blue Star Line.
And, while a memorandum of understanding was signed by line and yard in April, an actual deal has yet to be sealed.
Adding to the confusion are brochure materials that mention oddball marketing opps: See your company logo on a flag hoisted from one the three flag poles as the ship draws crowds in international ports; see your logo on “king of the world from the bow” pics sold to the public; name one of the luxurious facilities onboard.
Then there’s the question of size. At about 55,000 gross tons and carrying a maximum occupancy of 2,435, Titanic II will have the lowest passenger-to-space ratio of any cruise ship in the industry by some 25 percent. Not any luxury ship, but any mainstream ship. At 128,500 tons and a capacity for 4,724 passengers, Carnival Breeze, one of the most cramped mega-ships, offers more room to roam. Never mind the lack of amenities, like cabin TV’s.
Here’s a final rhetorical inquiry: Are there really enough fans of Titanic history to shell out for a cramped historical re-creation experience on a regular basis? “There’s probably a couple thousand people in the world who’d be fascinated by a transatlantic crossing on a replica of the Titanic,” maritime historian Peter Knego told NBC News. “It would also have to compete against the Queen Mary 2, and there are times that the QM2 isn’t even full.” In 2012, there were two 100th anniversary Titanic theme cruises. One, which was marketed for years, sold out. The other did not. Both were on ships far smaller than Titanic II. Still, Mr. Palmer has been widely quoted saying 40,000 people have signed on the Blue Star Web site to buy tickets on the maiden voyage. I’ve signed up, too — for the mailing list. I’ve been unable to find an actual place where you can register to secure a spot on the maiden voyage. A release on the site adds that, “among those interested, were 16 who were willing to pay between $750,000 and $1 million for a spot.”
Even with questions swirling about legitimacy, the names involved are very real — especially Finland-based Deltamarin, an industry-leading naval architecture and design firm that’s been commissioned to ensure Titanic II is compliant with safety and construction regulations. The firm has an impressive resume, having worked in various capacities on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, Disney’s Dream-class pair and Celebrity’s Solstice-class quintet. I’ve reached out to Deltamarin with questions on the project. At press time, a rep said they were working on getting answers.
As to the feasibility of such a project, there’s little doubt. “Technically, I see no reason why it couldn’t happen,” said Nick Savvides, editor of Naval Architect Magazine. “Of course, a modern version has to take into account certain elements like damage stability, use of materials and safety equipment.”
Savvides added that, despite CSC Jinling’s lack of experience with cruise ships, the yard could indeed tackle the superstructure. He and other experts, however, agree it doesn’t have the expertise required for the complex and costly interiors, renderings of which show elaborate period-style paneling, wainscoting and glass work styled after the original Titanic. Savvides suggested that a very high proportion of the finishing work would have to be contracted out.
I’m confused. Is it an ambitious pipe dream, an elaborate ruse for ruse’s sake or a publicity stunt ultimately tied to one of Palmer’s other, more realistic projects? It’s hard to know.
When Mr. Palmer was asked this question directly at a recent press conference, he had a one word response: “Bull****.”
“If it’s a hoax, no one told us about it,” Crook Group’s Steve Connolly added.
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