Disaster tourism. The Guardian believes the cruise tours planned next year to commemorate Titanic’s sinking fall into this category. These tours are following Titanic’s route in 1912 to where it all ended in the mid-Atlantic. It is hard to say what offends the newspaper most, the tours themselves or that people are actually paying big dollars. Considering their criticism is included with other odd and strange tours, I am leaning to the second. Today the cruise business is no longer about transporting passengers as in 1912 but essentially floating hotels taking passengers to interesting, even exotic destinations.
I understand why many are upset with such tours. But really is it that different from people who travel to famous battle sites, meet with distinguished lecturers and historians, and then have meals? The only difference I see is that people are aboard a ship where they will likely have Titanic themed events and lectures, movies, meals like those served aboard Titanic, and likely a memorial service for those that perished. Of course being a cruise ship of today it will have the latest safety features, a benefit of the very tragedy they are aboard to commemorate.
Belfast is using Titanic 2012 to show the world the city is worth more than battles between Catholics and Protestants. They are busy making things ready for the many tourists coming to see where Titanic was built. For Belfast the Titanic legacy has been mixed. They did not want to talk about it much believing that it tainted them. Much of Titanic was handmade by craftsman who took pride in their work. Its sinking was a terrible blow to all those who had made the dream come true. Yet they ought not to be ashamed. Titanic was a magnificent ship built by workers in Belfast. Its sinking was a terrible catastrophe but ought not to take away the fine work done to build her.
Critics see the cruises as bad since they commercialize the catastrophe. Except that this has been going on ever since 1912 from books, to movies, to exhibits, and feature movies. You can split hairs as to what was done for the right and wrong reasons, but lots of people have made money from Titanic. James Cameron made buckets of money for himself and the studio by commercializing the catastrophe (albeit with a fictional story) with his movie. The movie was spectacular and probably the most close in depicting how the ship looked ever done on screen. Of course now there is a television miniseries coming next year. What will the critics say-a cynical cashing in on Titanic or the retelling of a well known story?
The memorial cruises are no more and no less that what has gone on before. People are free, unless it has changed, to spend money as they see fit. If they want to take a Titanic Memorial Cruise, get a sense of what it was like in 1912, and get dressed up for it, that is their decision. Many will go to Belfast to connect with Titanic, soak up the sights, and get a taste of Ireland as well.
The Guardian notes many other strange and oddball places for people to stay at:
*A comfortable place that requires you to remove shoes upon entry (barefoot, socks, or slippers only)
*A hotel that imposes a Day of Silence on its guests.
*And the best of all-camping with pigs. Not just staying nearby but actually sleeping with them in the pig houses (fresh straw included) so you really get up close and personal with your future ham, bacon, and sausage while still on the hoof. Of course those who are religiously averse to pigs (or vegans) ought to stay away.
I wonder what James Herriot would think of that. 🙂
The Guardian,Would You Go On This Holiday?, 20 Aug 2011