Titanic II is a Terrible Idea
3/4/2013 10:26:00 AM
If cocaine is God’s way of saying you have too much money…building a replica of the Titanic is a close second.
Ever since the movie “Titanic” became the most popular movie of all time, millionaires and billionaires have drawn up plans to build a new version of the ship that struck and iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912. Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is the latest to step up to the plate.
The new Titanic will have enough lifeboats…and all sorts of modern electronic gear that keep it away from icebergs.
The new Titanic, if it were to be built, will be doomed the moment it leaves the dock. Not because of icebergs, but because the economic model that made theTitanic possible in the first place disappeared shortly after the ship sank.
When work started on the Titanic in March of 1909, people crossed the Atlantic for two reasons and two reasons only:
1- You were a rich American/European who was going to/leaving Downton Abbey.
2- You were a European immigrant trying to find a new life in America.
The Titanic’s tickets were priced accordingly. A First Class suite cost 82,000 of today’s dollars. But the real money was made on ferrying immigrants from Europe to New York. They paid their $750 fare, got three hots and a cot, and were deposited at Ellis Island to make a new start in the States.
The Titanic wasn’t a fast ship. It was supposed to cross the North Atlantic in seven days. The Lusitania and Mauretania of the Cunard Line could do it in five. The rich people were supposed to sail on the Titanic because of the luxurious accommodations, and the immigrants were supposed to book passage because it looked big and safe.
Really. One of the reasons why the Titanic had four funnels (It only needed three. The fourth was used for storage) was that people thought a ship with four smokestacks was somehow better than one that had two or three.
World War I broke out two years after the Titanic sank. When the war ended in 1918, the world in which the Titanic was conceived had ended. The rich people went back to their summers in Europe, but immigration quotas set by the newly isolationist United States government caused steerage traffic to crash.
Instead, the shipping lines remodeled their third class space and opened it to Americans who wanted to bum around Europe for the summer…or to Doughboys who wanted to see their old haunts in England and France. The term “steerage” was retired in favor of “Tourist Third Cabin.” When Prohibition was enacted in 1919, the European ocean liners became havens for Americans in search of a legal drink. The term “where is the bar?” became required learning for trainees on French and German liners.
The introduction of the Boeing 707 in the 1950’s killed the North Atlantic passenger shipping trade for good. In the 60’s, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Marywould often sail with just a handful of passengers on board. More often than not, the crew outnumbered the paying customers. Both ships were retired in the late 60’s, to be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth 2.
By the time the QE2 entered service in 1969, the passenger ship market had changed dramatically. Cruise ships were becoming more and more popular. Cruise liners had big cabin windows, spacious decks, pools, and all sorts of other creature comforts that were designed for people who wanted to relax on a big ship as it sailed in circles around the Carribean.
This is where the new Titanic will fail. The new ship is designed to look like the old ship, which was designed to sail the North Atlantic. There are no windows, the decks are cramped, and there’s very little to do. The Titanic may have been the largest ship in the world when it sank in 1912, but it has since been dwarfed by any number of cruise ships. The Disney Dream, which my wife and I took last summer, is 11 hundred feet long. The Titanic was 882. The Dream has 18 decks. The Titanic had 9.
The Cunard Line still exists, and it still offers Transatlantic crossings…more or less as a sop to tradition. But the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria only sail during the spring and summer. The later crossings can be kind of dicey:
The Queens are cruise ships, first and foremost. They bounce around the Carribean, Indian Ocean, and Mediterrenean most of the time.
The Titanic’s sister ships were scrapped decades ago. The economic model that made the ship possible is long gone.
If a billionaire has the money to build a new Titanic, why not charter a research submarine and see the real thing for yourself?