The Australian, 58, is serious about delivering an authentic 1912 experience, although extra lifeboats and a series of 'disaster simulations' should avoid a repeat of the tragedy. There will be no Internet on the ship, but there will be a full period costume for every passenger, an extravagant smoking room, and tickets will be divided by class. “That’s about choice – I will be traveling in third class so I can meet real people,” says Palmer, echoing Rose, the heroine from James Cameron’s movie about the famous ship.
Yet this is a business decision. The idea for Titanic II emerged from a meeting with Chinese shipping magnates hoping to crack the cruise industry, and Palmer offered them a glamorous way in. His Blue Star Line company has received 40,000 ticket requests, including sixteen million-dollar offers, enough to sustain several years of journeys and the building of more Titanics.
Palmer dismisses “negative” suggestions he is cashing in on tragedy, but aspects of his plans are worrying historic and charitable groups, such as the decision not to include any memorial to the dead.
“There is no problem if the project respects good taste and pays tribute to those who were lost but I think this is slight exploitation,” Howard Nelson, founder of the Titanic Heritage Trust, told Metro. “The survivors’ families have mixed feelings, and they should be considered”.
Regardless, the wheels are turning already, and the Titanic is set to sail again in 2016.
Q+A with Clive Palmer: 'We'll build another four'
Metro: How will you respect the tragedy of Titanic?
Palmer: We have a lot of family descendants on our advisory board, and the best historians to help with every detail. People say this is controversial but this keeps [the victims’] memory alive – I wouldn’t want to be forgotten after I die.
What are you looking forward to about sailing on the ship?
Having dinner with my wife and telling her how important she is to me. Titanic represents more than a cruise ship to me and I hope it will be the same for all the passengers.
How long will it be in service?
We have enough passengers for four years on that route and if it’s commercially successful we will build another three or four, sailing from Shanghai to Tokyo, Sydney to Singapore, Rio to Los Angeles. We’ll see what happens.