By Bianca Ffolkes
An area close to the Belfast shipyard from which the Titanic sailed a century ago has been transformed into the biggest tourist attraction ever built in Northern Ireland.
After three years of construction, the Titanic Belfast is opening its doors in time for the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking on 15 April 1912.
Image credit: Patrick Frilet/Rex
The Titanic Visitor Experience, which cost £97million, is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Belfast over the next year.
Over 90,000 tickets have been sold to people in over 20 different countries around the world - and that's before the doors had even opened.
The museum, sited at the Harland and Wolff dockyards where the ship was built, recreates life on board and reveals how it was made and launched.
Visitors to the Titanic Belfast will experience an interactive journey through nine separate galleries each telling pieces of the Titanic story as well as stories from the city and people which made what was at the time the world's largest vessel.
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Senior designer of the Titanic Belfast Steve Lumby said: “The ultimate aim is for people to get a real sense of the effort that went into constructing that ship... from design and technology, but also from the sheer manpower, the skill of the workers.”
Highlights of the tour include a ‘shipyard ride’ which will allow guests to understand what life would have been like on the docks.
Titanoraks will enjoy the element of sights, sounds and smells of a 20th-century dock – which proves there’s much more to this exhibition than a visit to the museum.
‘The Launch’ gallery recounts the ship's jubilant dispatch in 1911. It also focuses on the interior of the vessel, with three cabins recreated on one floor, from the most luxurious to basic steerage accommodation.
As visitors enter ‘The Sinking’ gallery, the maiden voyage is then retold, complete with temperature drops and dark lighting.
The final gallery recounts the aftermath, showing footage of the wreck on a massive video screen below the glass floor of the 88-seat auditorium.
Titanic Belfast also houses a 1,000-seat banqueting suite, education and community facilities, catering and retail space.
With the opening of the Titanic Belfast, a new visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway and the Irish Open golf tournament being held at Royal Portrush (home of Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke), Northern Ireland is hoping for a huge tourism boom this year.
When asked why people should visit the centre, project manager Noel Molloy said: “We've built a truly iconic building, put in the world's largest Titanic exhibit and we're dealing with one of the greatest stories the world has ever known”.
For more information visit the Titanic Belfast website.