HEARING the sound of the survivors’ voices washing over you in the dark and echoey corridors of the Titanic Belfast museum is when the impact of the ill-fated voyage truly hits.
You realise they were voices in the minority as you read the chilling radio messages sent after the ship hit the iceberg on 14th April 1912 - a tragedy in which 1,517 people perished.
The £97m Belfast museum has welcomed more than visitors since recently celebrating its first birthday and prides itself on being a celebration of the people of Titanic.
From those who worked tirelessly to build the largest and most luxurious steam ship in the world to the bravery of the staff and passengers on board, the museum offers a wealth of personal stories from Titanic’s inception to its ultimate demise.
There was a personal story too behind our visit. My partner Don’s ancestor Joseph Fitzpatrick was a dockyard worker on the Titanic but after contracting pneumonia he never set sail on the fateful voyage.
It was a story which resonated closely with us as we embarked on Boomtown Belfast - the first of nine galleries which take you from the city where it all began to the dark depths of the ocean.
Our journey started with a walk through the famous Harland and Wolff shipyard gates where we discovered why, more than 100 years ago, Belfast was considered the perfect location to build the biggest ship in the world.
We then rose to the top of the Arrol gantry to take the shipyard ride - a multi-sensory cable car tour taking in the sights, smells and sounds of how Titanic came to life.
It was then time to celebrate the launch before exploring the sumptuous surroundings on-board as we immersed ourselves in a 3D tour of the mighty ship.
We got to know the stories,hopes and dreams behind the names of crew members and passengers as they set sail for America - each room carrying an impending sense of doom of what lay ahead.
As the SOS messages between ship chiefs slowly draw to a close, so began the aftermath as we learnt how the world reacted to the tragedy both at the time and in the years to come.
Our journey ended as we descended to the bottom of the ocean to Titanic Beneath Theatre to watch haunting footage of the spot where Professor Ballard famously discovered the wreckage in 1985.
But don’t expect to see any artefacts from the wreck. The museum is a celebration of the people of Titanic and will not salvage from wreck sites for ethical reasons - a view shared by Dr Ballard.
Titanic Belfast dishes up a fresh twist on a timeless classic and offers something for everyone, from a wealth of historical information to interactive displays which are sure to delight visitors of all ages.
Allow yourself plenty of time to take it all in and why not complete your visit with a trip afterwards to the original Harland and Wolff drawing offices and Titanic’s Dock and Pump House.
There you can walk every square foot of this colossal and authentic landmark, descending 44 feet to the bottom of the dock to experience the sheer scale of the world’s most famous ship.
And while you are in Belfast, why not take more time to explore this exciting and vibrant city which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year.
You can also experience Afternoon Tea in the magnificent surroundings of the Titanic Suite featuring the Grand Staircase on Sundays,
From 21st April, Afternoon Tea will take place in the Titanic Suite, featuring the Grand Staircase and overlooking the Slipway on which Titanic was built.
The menu costs £23 per person and £29 including a glass of champagne - there is also a children’s menu available.
We stayed at the Ramada Encore, an elegant and modern hotel situated in the up and coming Cathedral Quarter - packed with a range of excellent restaurants, pubs and bars to suit all tastes, including The Spaniard, John Hewitt and Duke of York where Snow Patrol played their first ever gig.
The hotel is also situated next to the MAC which is hosting Northern Ireland’s first ever exhibition of world-renowned artist Andy Warhol until 28th April.
A stone’s throw away and also worth checking out is the Northern Ireland War Memorial’s Home Front Exhibition where history came to life as we were treated to an excellent tour courtesy of war veteran Bob Wright.
Time soon ran out to pack more into our three-day stay in this fun, friendly and cosmopolitan city but we will definitely be returning to sample even more of what Belfast and beyond has to offer.
To find out more about Titanic Belfast visit titanicbelfast or call 028 9076 6386.
To book Afternoon Tea tickets at Titanic Belfast, email email@example.com or call 028 9076 6399.