Today is the hundredth anniversary of one of the worst maritime disasters in history. On April 15, 1912, the luxury liner RMS Titanic, a ship believed to be “unsinkable,” hit an iceberg while crossing the Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage and sank. Over 1500 people died in that disaster. To say it still grips the imagination of the public is an understatement. Movies and documentaries have been made and songs and books have been written about it.
Why are we still so fascinated with this story? Perhaps it’s the story of human hubris. When you say something is “unsinkable,” you’re pretty much begging the universe to smack you down. Or perhaps it was the scale of the tragedy, or the fact that both rich and poor alike went down with that ship (“death, the great equalizer”). Maybe it was the courage in the face of death that snares our imagination. Who hasn’t heard the stories about how the band kept playing even as the ship sank? Or maybe it’s just the stark knowledge of how life can turn on a dime. One minute you’re having fun, enjoying the cruise of a lifetime, and the next, the unthinkable happens. . .a lesson we learned again this year with the Costa Concordia.
If you are a history buff with an interest in the Titanic, then you must visit The Titanic Artifact Exhibit at the Luxor in Las Vegas. This exhibit is the property of RMS Titanic, Inc., the company that operates salvage operations for the deteriorating Titanic, thus the artifacts you see here have all been salvaged from the sunken ship. The exhibit at the Luxor provides a snapshot of life aboard the ship as well as life during that time period in general. And it is amazing to see all the artifacts they’ve been able to bring up from the wreckage–which is more than 2 miles below the surface–that are still in very good condition, except for the passing of time, of course.
I first visited the Titanic exhibit back when it was at the Tropicana, but as I understand it, the layout is pretty much the same at the Luxor. You’ll learn about the making of the Titanic and the kinds of people who were aboard its maiden voyage. Among the artifacts and displays you’ll see here are: replicas of different classes of staterooms (first class and third class, the latter of which resembled the 20th Century equivalent of a hostel dorm room), a grand staircase, and personal items such as plates and dinnerware, clothing, jewelry and toiletries). The real stars of this exhibit, though, are:
- a chunk of iceberg that you can touch (this gives you a sense of how cold the water was that night);
- a large section of the hull of the ship (complete with portholes);
- and a simulation of the ship’s deck at night (which feels eerily real).
When you enter, you are given a boarding pass with the name and information of a real Titanic passenger. At the end of your tour through the exhibit, there is a wall listing the fates of all the passengers, and you can find out whether your alter ego lived or died. Mine was a married woman. As you might imagine because of the “women and children first” policy, she was saved, but her husband perished when the ship sank. By that time, I was feeling kind of invested in her, so I was sad that she lost her husband and wondered what happened to her after that. I’m not too proud to admit I got a little choked up.
This is probably not an exhibit you want to experience right before going on a cruise, but otherwise, it is very worth visiting on a trip to Las Vegas. It’s both educational and interesting, especially if you have any fascination at all with the Titanic or history in general. By the time you leave, you’ll have a much more vivid sense of the final hours aboard this doomed vessel for passengers and crew.
What you need to know about visiting:
Location: The Luxor, 3900 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas.
Admission: $32 if you pay at the exhibit. Look for half-price or discounted tickets at Tickets4Tonight booths or in coupon booklets once you arrive in Las Vegas. Audio tours are $6 extra and not necessary if you can read English.
Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm.
No photography allowed.