Grand Staircase.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Field review by the editors.

Orlando, Florida

The first Titanic tourist attraction to open after the 1997 movie blockbuster, Titanic: Ship of Dreams -- which was then renamed Titanic: The Experience and then renamed again Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition -- stresses the majestic, first class side of the maiden voyage, the gruesome aspects downplayed. This makes for a marketable attraction in this family-friendly mecca and puts visitors in a more agreeable mood when they get to the gift shop.

The attraction, built into a strip mall, ushers visitors through a series of rooms. The first two feature actors in period costume (chambermaids and shipbuilders) who give you background about the Titanic and lay on the irony thick with dismissive comments about the lack of lifeboats. "Don't worry about it; this ship is virtually unsinkable!"

You're left to wander through the rest of the attraction on your own: you "board" the ship in a room built to resemble a dockside ramp, then walk past a first class caf, parlor, and the Grand Staircase. As sad music from the movie filters in -- reminding you why the Titanic is remembered -- you end up on the "bridge" (an empty room with a ship's wheel) where you watch an endlessly looped computer simulation of the sinking on television monitors. Visitors can place their hands against an iceberg made of real ice to understand the horrors of hypothermia.

Propeller and actors.

Next you come to a wall-mounted list of all the people on board; your ticket has been assigned a randomly-selected name and you can check to see if you're dead. This, however, is as far as Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition will take it -- there is no actor dressed in black, carrying a scythe, separating the saved from the drowned, unfortunately. Both the living and dead are allowed to continue down a hallway adorned with Titanic movie posters and a set of clothes worn by Leonardo DiCaprio and into the gift shop.

If you're a history buff expecting to see Titanicabilia dredged from the icy depths, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition may not totally satisfy. Although this place has a lot of stuff from Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, on display, and although the signage repeatedly explains that the chamber pot or stationery you're viewing is virtually identical to the one on the Titanic, virtual doesn't count for much. [Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition has since added dozens more items salvaged from the seabed, so they may yet build up to the critical mass we prefer.]

Deck chair.

Actual Titanic relics we saw included a button from an officer's coat, a life vest, a Turkish bath ticket, and a first class deck chair. The chair is prominently displayed. It isn't until you reach the gift shop that you understand why: a replica is for sale -- for $1,200. Its accompanying brochure (Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is the only attraction we've seen that has a brochure for one of its souvenirs) explains that the replica has a suggested retail price of $1,500, so you save $300 if you buy it here.

The gift shop is where Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition's attitude blossoms into commercial flower. High-class glamor is for sale, not tragedy: plush bathrobes, replicas of the jewelry worn by Kate Winslet in the movie, a lavish cookbook titled Last Dinner On The Titanic. Nothing from steerage here. Even the tiny boat in the souvenir pen floats peacefully from side to side. It does not hit an iceberg.

Also see: Titanic Attraction - The Next Generation

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

Address:
7324 International Dr., Orlando, FL
Directions:
I-4 exit 74A. Turn east onto Sand Lake Rd, then make the first left (north) onto International Drive. One block north, on the left, at the Carrier Rd. intersection. You can't miss the large painting of the vessel on the upper facade.
Hours:
Daily 9-9 (Call to verify)
Phone:
407-248-1166
Admission:
Adults $22.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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