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, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the sailing of Titanic's maiden voyage. 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 closeness to the sea and as a safe harbor to 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 ( www.destinationhalifax.com ) is presenting "Halifax & the Unsinkable Ship," a two-day itinerary of 14 historic sties 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 this museum through Nov. 27 is a traveling exhibit called "Hello Sailor!" that explores gay subculture aboard ocean ships from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Other stops on the Halifax 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 ( www.fivefishermen.com ) is among the best places in town 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 ( www.Halifaxpride.com ) , Atlantic Canada's largest LGBTQ Cultural Festival. The celebration includes a week of activities with the main events on Friday night featuring a dance party on the Garrison Grounds and daylong list of activities on Saturday starting with 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 ( www.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. Air Canada and United offers non-stop flights from Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
Titanic memorial cruises
Mile Morgan Travel ( www.titanicmemorialcruise.co.uk ) created three Titanic Memorial Cruises to mark the 100th Anniversary of Titanic. The transatlantic cruise from Southampton, Englanddeparting April 8, 2012, aboard the MS Balmoralis already sold out. A second "mini-cruise" from Southampton is still available.
The tour company is offering a second eight-night round-trip cruise that will depart from New York City 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 multiple non-stop flights from Chicago to New York. Check your favorite airline.
There are several permanent and traveling exhibitions on Titanic. If you are planning on attending Gay Days Orlando ( May 29-June 4, 2012 ) in Florida, check out Titanic the Experience ( www.titanictheexperience.com ) . If you are attending the first-ever Gay Days Las Vegas ( September 4-10, 2012 ) , check out Titanic: the Artifact Exhibition at the Luxor Hotel.
Jeff Guaracino is the vice chair of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association ( IGLTA ) , vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation ( GPTMC ) and the author of Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing. He has learned to how to find the best deals and travel resources out there for our community.