Ship of dreams
By Caroline Fontein
When the Titanic was completed in 1912 it was billed as the "ship of dreams," a majestic vessel with unprecedented features. It embodied the sense of dreamy optimism characteristic of that era. Today, that same sense of wonderment can be experienced at Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition inside Luxor. The 25,000-square-foot exhibit features more than 300 artifacts retrieved through seven different expeditions that spanned from 1987 to 2004.
Before entering the exhibit, each guest is given a boarding pass with the name of an actual passenger aboard the Titanic. Guests are also given hand-held audio devices that can be played as a supplement to the displays. This is a nice way to still obtain a lot of information if you don't feel like reading.
Walking through the exhibition is like taking a trip back in time. It begins with an introduction on how the idea for the Titanic was contrived and the construction that went into building the seemingly "unsinkable ship." Facts about the era and the people who designed the ship hang on the wall, while actual pieces from the boat sit in glass encased exhibits. Each artifact is labeled with a description and the date that it was retrieved.
A feature about Captain Edward J. Smith hanging on the wall explains how he planned to retire after the Titanic's maiden voyage. Knowing that he didn't make it leaves a haunting feeling. This is just one of the many passenger stories that you learn about during your visit. Artifacts that range from fine china to restored jewelry and even a mercury thermometer are also on display.
After explaining the creation of the Titanic, the exhibition transports guests to the final day of departure when the ship set sail. The soundtrack playing in the background simulates seagulls, waves and the ocean breeze, making it seem like you are actually setting foot on the legendary vessel on Apr. 10, 1912.
From there the exhibition's design transforms into what looks like the inside of the ship, starting with the third class and then moving onward to second and first class cabins, the most luxurious accommodations in the Titanic. There are pictures and information about the different classes of passengers that give you an idea of who may have been staying in each section of the ship.
Along with the facts there are also quotes from various passengers on the wall describing what they thought of the ship, why they were traveling or what they were planning to do once they arrived at their final destination. All of these incredible details give you a new appreciation and understanding of the Titanic and the tragedy that ensued when it hit an iceberg on the night of Apr. 14, 1912.
Upon entering the first class cabin you are greeted by a replica of the immaculately carved wooden staircase that most people recognize from the blockbuster movie "Titanic." Actual pieces from the original staircase are also on display. Once inside you get a real taste of the opulent furnishings and grand accommodations that first class passengers experienced. In that same area, recovered playing cards and American currency when it was still "paper money" are also on display.
After leaving the first class cabin, the exhibition takes you through the events leading up to the moment when the ship collided with an iceberg. More quotes hanging on the walls explain what passengers and the crew were thinking and doing at that tragic moment. There is also a huge block of ice on display that simulates the freezing temperatures passengers experienced on that night.Only 705 passengers survived the wreck, leaving the remaining 1,523 passengers and crew, their belongings and the ship lost at sea two and a half miles below the ocean's surface for 73 years before being uncovered by the first expedition.