Full speed ahead for Titanic tour
Almost 80,000 tickets have been snapped up to tour the world's largest Titanic attraction when it opens in two weeks.
Operators of the £90m (€108m) Titanic Belfast, which has been built in the derelict shipyard where the ill-fated liner was constructed a century earlier, say they are delighted with the interest the centre has generated.
They have also revealed that their banqueting suite, which is themed on the White Star Line's first class dining facilities, has already had almost 200 bookings.
After three years under construction the eye-catching building is on course to open on schedule, ahead of April's centenary of the sinking.
The centre, which hopes to attract 425,000 visitors in its first year, tells the story of the Titanic through nine separate galleries.
Boomtown Belfast brings people back to the turn of the century and explains why the city was chosen to build what was to be the world's largest moving object.
From there visitors will be invited to board a skyrail pod to go on a journey through a recreation of the Harland and Wolff shipyard.
The story then moves to the ship's triumphant launch in 1911.
The exhibition centre has recreated three cabins on one floor, showing how passengers passed the ill-fated voyage in the most opulent cabins and basic steerage accommodation.
Visitors can then take a panoramic virtual tour of every level of the ship using the same video technology that secured the film 'Avatar' its Oscar success.
The maiden voyage is then retold, complete with the last 14 photos taken of the vessel by passenger Fr Frank Browne, who disembarked at its last port of call in Co Cork.
The temperature drops and lights darken as visitors enter the gallery dedicated to the night of the sinking on April 14/15, 1912. As haunting survivor accounts are played overhead, tales of the 1,522 victims are retold on the walls.
The final gallery recounts the discovery of the ship's final resting place 70 years later, with footage of the wreck on a massive video screen below the glass floor of the 88-seat auditorium.
The Titanic Below gallery also hosts a marine exploration educational centre, where live feeds will be streamed from ongoing dive missions down to the ship. Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who discovered the Titanic in 1985, has helped put together this part of the attraction.
"Titanic's story is infused with romance, pathos and glory, and there's no better place to tell it than Belfast," he said.
The opening of Titanic Belfast will be followed by a Titanic Festival which will run until April 22.
Highlights include Titanic Sounds, an open-air MTV concert, one of the world's largest light shows and the opening of a memorial garden. Tickets for Titanic Belfast can be purchased online at www.titanicbelfast.com.