BELFAST, Northern Ireland, March 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
For millions of Titanic fans around the world, the city that built the most famous ship on the planet is now Europe's new must-see destination.
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Titanic Belfast, the world's largest Titanic visitor attraction has opened in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on the site where the ship was designed, built and launched. March 31st is also the same date on which RMS Titanic was completed in 1912 and the same day her first keel plate was laid in 1909.
After three years of construction - the same time it took to build the famous ship - the eye-catching £97 million Titanic Belfast makes an iconic addition to the city's skyline.
The 14,000 sq m building, modelled on four ships' hulls rising to the same height of Titanic and clad in almost 3,000 striking aluminium shards, was opened by Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
In a simple ceremony reminiscent of the ship's original launch, two rockets were fired in anticipation of Titanic Belfast's opening. The First Minister and deputy First Minster were also joined by 105-year old Cyril Quigley, a Belfast man who remembers being taken by his parents to see RMS Titanic's launch in 1911. It's believed that Mr. Quigley is the last surviving person to have witnessed the launch.
It's expected that over 400,000 visitors, including 105,000 from outside Northern Ireland, will visit Titanic Belfast in its first year, spurred by the ship's enduring global appeal, and the centenary of its maiden voyage and tragic loss in April 1912. Almost 100,000 tickets have already been pre-sold.
Titanic Belfast provides nine interactive galleries that tell the ship's fascinating story from her conception in Belfast's Harland & Wolff Shipyard, to her tragic sinking in 1912 and re-discovery led by ocean explorer Dr Robert Ballard in 1985. It also has a 1,000-seat banqueting suite that includes a replica of the Grand Staircase from the ship's first-class section.
The Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Niall O' Donnghaile, said:
" Titanic Belfast is part of our shared history and our shared future. It pays homage to those who perished and those who built the ship by telling their stories. But it is also a symbol of the new Belfast, which is emerging again as a world class city."
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SOURCE Tourism Ireland