Today’s cruise ship companies endlessly announce the “newest” or “world’s largest” ships, but one passenger liner still captures our imaginations and respect: the RMS Titanic. The “unsinkable” ship struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, and sank on April 15, 1912, with 1,517 casualties.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s maiden voyage and several destinations, tour operators and exhibition companies are getting ready.
For the real deal, visit Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax has a rich maritime history due to its proximity to the sea and served as a safe harbor for ships coming from Europe. It may come as a surprise to many that Halifax played a significant role in the recovery effort after the sinking of the Titanic.
Now through 2012, Destination Halifax (destinationhalifax.com) is presenting “Halifax & the Unsinkable Ship,” a two-day itinerary of 14 historic sites for travelers interested in exploring the authentic voyage of Titanic. The self-guided tour includes visits to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, where a permanent exhibit features authentic documents and photographs. A number of artifacts are on display here, including pieces of ornate wood from Titanic’s main staircase. Also at the museum through Nov. 27 is a traveling exhibit called “Hello Sailor!” that explores gay subculture aboard ocean ships from the 1950s-’80s.
Other stops on the Titanic tour include the historic churches and the cemeteries of Fairview Lawn, Mount Olivet and Baron De Hirsch, where 150 victims were buried.
Today, the Five Fishermen Restaurant on Argyle Street is among the best places in town for fresh mussels and seafood. At the time of Titanic, the Five Fishermen building was the John Snow & Co. Funeral Home. John Jacob Aster, the wealthiest man on the Titanic, was taken here, as were other wealthy first-class passengers. (Could it be haunted?)
A great time to visit is in the warm month of July for Halifax Pride (Halifaxpride.com), Atlantic Canada’s largest LGBTQ cultural festival. The celebration includes a week of activities, with the main events on Friday night for a dance party on the Garrison Grounds and Saturday for the Pride Parade. Thousands line Halifax’s quaint streets for the two-hour parade.
Halifax has many familiar brand hotels, such as Westin, but for those looking for a more intimate experience, the Halliburton (thehalliburton.com) is a good choice. The Halliburton includes complimentary breakfast and Internet. For a complete list of gay-friendly hotels, check out Destination Halifax’s website for the Pride Packages. USAirways offers nonstop service to Halifax from Philadelphia International Airport daily.
Titanic memorial cruises
Mile Morgan Travel (www.titanicmemorialcruise.co.uk) created three Titanic Memorial Cruises to mark the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated vessel. The transatlantic cruise from Southampton, England, departing on April 8 aboard the MS Balmoral is already sold out. A second “mini-cruise” from Southampton is still available. The tour company is offering a second eight-night round-trip cruise departing from New York City on April 10, 2012, aboard Azamara’s cruise ship Journey. This cruise stops in Halifax and at the site of the sinking. Prices for this cruise start at $4,900 per person.
There are several permanent and traveling exhibitions on Titanic. If you are plan to attend Gay Days Orlando (May 29-June 4, 2012) in Florida, check out “Titanic the Experience” (titanictheexperience.com). Or if you are attending the first-ever Gay Days Las Vegas (Sept. 4-10, 2012), check out “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” at the Luxor Hotel.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” He has learned to find the best deals and travel resources out there for our community. If you’re traveling locally, check out visitphilly.com/gay and friend visitgayphilly.com/facebook.