Tonight, the famous Titanic Belfast visitor centre hosted it’s first ever “Taste of Titanic” event. They promised a “guided journey through the Titanic Galleries; learn about the fascinating story of the world’s most famous ship and sample culinary delights from the era.” And it delivered on that promise, even though not to the degree I was expecting.
For those who want the raw data; it was interesting, competently presented, and the 2 costumed guides made an excellent addition, but for £20 more than the usual ticket price, it was way too fast, skipped too many interesting parts of the gallery and offered very little actual tasting. I give it 3 out of 5 stars. (And I think that’s just because of how much I liked the costumed guides.)
“I am very glad that we tried this because I can say with confidence that costumed guides make all the difference to the overall Titanic experience and I would be happy to pay a little extra for that; however…”
Now, for more detail.
I have been to Titanic 3 times before and am an avid fan of the exhibition.
We were greeted with glasses of Prosecco, had a souvenir picture taken and were given handy portable radios that we could use throughout the tour to better hear the guides; we were off to an amazing start. My husband I commented to each other on how beautifully the foyer had been decorated with standing tables, a bar and drinks being set up and we got really excited to mingle with the others guests over some more (presumably paid extra, but that’s okay) drinks at the end of the tour, and were well impressed by the effort Titanic Belfast had clearly put into this.
The first gallery boasted the event’s new addition of a Belfast born and raised local from the era who told us all about the linen industry, his uncle who works at the yard, the arl gantries and the local food. He was also available to answer questions and make funny jokes about not knowing what a phone is, so he was wonderful!
The first sampling we got was milk in a tiny bottle with a paper white and red striped straw. We weren’t told the significance of this, but it was quaint and cold, so I liked it.
Then we got the first bite which was a nod to the famous Ulster Fry. A Cold Potato Farl, topped with bacon and some black pudding. The black pudding was tasty, but for those of us who know an Ulster fry, hardly impressive, unfortunately.
We then moved up the gantry, completely skipped my favourite part of the whole exhibition (the ride) and on to the next snack a “Belfast Clanger” served with brown (more manly) lemonade (which was actually quite nice) and Belfast Ale. I didn’t really understand the significance here either… I didn’t feel like anything but the brown lemonade was explained in a way to suit he history.
At this point we were almost immediately beckoned into the newly decorated viewing room for the slipways without any time to explore the charming interactive exhibits that highlight Titanic’s construction (or the newly decorated room for that matter.)
We were then offered champagne, but they ran out of glasses half way through serving, so while the next costumed guide (a second class English lady) was waiting for us and chatting away in the next room, people were left waiting for a drink and wondering whether to just move on without one.
The second guide was lovely and, while gossiping about the ship’s elite passengers, she lead us to afternoon tea, which consisted of several delectable looking treats. There was just about enough for everyone to try one; which would of course be fine if there weren’t five to choose from and you’re left wondering what the other four tasted like. A strange choice for a taster evening… (I was cheeky, I must admit, and took a second one once everyone else was gone, because the first one I tried, a “French Fancy” was just too ghastly sweet.)
Finally I was awstruck as we entered the section that used to describe the passengers and cargo and at which harbour they joined/were loaded, because it had been completely reimagined from the last time I was there. Snow white walls covered in photographs from each harbour looked incredibly interesting and inviting, but alas, even these were skipped.
I wish I could tell you more about it, but once the (very funny) guide told us her story we were moved on to yet another new addition to the exhibition, a recreation of the promenade deck. (OMG this was easily the most impressed I had been all night!) Here they served small samples of dinner (prawn cocktail & a chicken dish of some sort).
Following this, we briskly made our way through the (sombre and respectful) gallery dedicated to the tragedy and the victims, accompanied by a very well spoken and modernly dressed young guide who clearly knows her Titanic history. We were offered hot chocolate (as the survivors would have been offered aboard Carpathia) and walked through the history of both the legal inquiries and the movies dedicated to Titanic.
Regrettably here even more of the exhibition was skipped, completely missing Dr. Ballard’s story of finding the wreck and the discovery theatre movie. We were shown the glass floor (under which you can see the whole wreck in a fascinating constructed image) and were then lead out, completely skipping the final marine science gallery.
In conclusion, I am very glad that we tried this because I can say with confidence that the costumed guides make all the difference to the overall Titanic experience and I would be happy to pay a little extra for that pleasure any day; however, the food samplings felt uncreative and like there simply weren’t enough; it felt incredibly rushed at key points of the gallery, while we were left standing and waiting awkwardly in relatively empty spaces at other times.
I am devastated for any tourists who came to Titanic for the first time today, because there is no way they got to enjoy even half of what the amazing galleries actually have to offer, missed out on key points such as the ride, interactive galleries, the audio files that come with the projected characters, the 3D tour of the ship, Dr. Ballard’s discovery and the discover theatre. We all payed £20 more than the usual price and I am afraid that those people will go home, not having enjoyed half of what I can see on any other day for £15 (or even £10 if I get the early bird special).
As a final stinger to all of this, the included “souvenir photo” felt like an afterthought as they were handed out at the end, and it turns out that the beautiful decorations and bars we were admiring when we arrive were for a completely separate (and private) event that going on in the foyer as we left. It smelled of succulent BBQ, with mingling guests happily sipping at sparkling glasses of wine, beer and water, playing games and chatting away as we (strangers) awkwardly apologized our way through their midst to reach the doors. Very soon my husband and I ended up back at home on our sofa, cooking a dinner because we were exhausted and starving.
Like I said, fascinating, interesting, a great idea – but not fully thought through and in my humble opinion, not worth £35 per person.
(Even though I am happy to have made the experience and I had fun with my hubby… but I enjoy almost everything we do together, so I guess that doesn’t count. 😉 )
Thank you for reading and take care. xoxo