After sailing 103 nautical miles (191Kms) from Dún Laoghaire we docked at Belfast Harbour in Northern Island on a very sunny and pleasant day. My day in Belfast was a full one starting with a visit to Titanic Belfast in the morning and then a pub crawl through downtown Belfast in the afternoon.
The view from my cabin
Titanic Belfast is a short drive from where the ship was docked through the industrial area surrounding the port. As you drive up the building that houses Titanic Belfast definitely makes an impact.
The building has been designed to look like the prows of two ships from the street side and then on the graving dock side a single prow which is pointed down the middle of the slipways of both Olympic and Titanic. Titanic Belfast is also the same height as Titanic’s hull.
Apparently the locals have nicknamed it the Iceberg
Inside there are 8 floors of galleries that take you on a journey through the design, building, launch, sinking and legacy of Titanic, as well as providing some of the history of Belfast’s ship building industry. Harland and Wolff in Belfast was once one of the largest ship building centres in the world.
The first gallery provides a walk through the industrial history of Belfast and how it was an industrial powerhouse, not just build ships but also linen. Belfast was the largest linen producer in the world at the turn of the 20th Century.
The next gallery was more of a “roller-coaster” (a very slow, gently one) that took you through the shipyard, sorry for the blurred photos.. A really interesting way to learn about how they made ships like Titanic
Titanic was launched on 31 May 1911 and was watched by around 100,000. From this gallery has windows to allow you to see where the slipways that both Olympic and Titanic were both launched. The area is now filled in and has markers (the uprights) that show where the slipways were.
In this gallery there were a number of replicas of the cabins provided to passengers on the Titanic and the dinning rooms. The fit-out continued to occur post launch until April 1912.
One myth to be cleared up is that there were no steerage berths on Titanic, sorry James Cameron… The “worst” class of cabin on the Titanic was third class which looked a lot better than my rack early in my career…
The Maiden Voyage
RMS Titanic first sailed from Belfast to Southampton, then on to Cherbourg, France, and then Cobh, Ireland, before departing for New York. Some passengers were on the legs up to Cobh and their photos and stories are scattered around this gallery. I was not aware that Titanic had visited multiple ports before attempting to cross the North Atlantic.
Titanic’s sinking occurred over the night of 14 / 15 Apr 1912.
Whilst in this gallery you constantly hear Morse Code SOS messages being sent whilst you check out each exhibit.
The use of 400 replica life jackets to simulate the size of the iceberg was a good visual. It was hard to capture an image that does it justice.
In this gallery there is a full size replica of a life boat, tiny when compared to what ships are required to have onboard these days. There are also details of the US and British inquiries into the disaster and there is an interactive passenger and crew lists exhibit which allows you to search the lists.
Post the sinking of Titanic there were a number of changes made to sea going regulations, including:
- Wireless offices needing to be manned 24 hours a day
- Increased capabilities and availability of lifeboats on ships
- An international ice patrol.
In the last gallery there is an end to end video of the RMS Titanic where she lies on the ocean floor at a depth of about 2,100 fathoms (3.8kms).
Robert Ballard, the leader of the ultimately successful expedition that found Titanic, was originally commissioned by the US Navy to search for two submarines that had been lost in the North Atlantic, USS Thresher and USS Scorpion (RIP Brothers).
FYI, the search for Titanic was used as the cover story for the search for the two submarines as that was classified at the time.
During this search they learnt that the expected debris field of a wreck was a lot wider and that they way to find the main wreck was to follow the breadcrumbs of the smaller pieces of wreckage. Using this information, plus realising that the SONAR of the day is not going to be too helpful to identify a wreck, Ballard used the cameras on the remote controlled deep sea vessel Argo and a robot named Jason to search for the Titanic when not searching for the submarines.
The initial part of the wreck of Titanic was found at 12:48am on Sunday the 1st of September 1985, the main part of the wreck was found the following day.
Once I had finished my tour of Titanic Belfast I headed outside to walk around the slipway area, helps you understand the size of the RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic. Both ships are dwarfed by the large cruise ships of today:
- Titanic is 269m in length and displaces 52,310 tons
- Seven Seas Voyager, which I was on, is 206.5m in length and displaces 42,363 tons
- Allure of the Seas is 362m in length and displaces around 100,000 tons
From the slipway you can also see Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones was filmed.
At the end of the slipway there was the first of the the Game of Thrones Glass “windows” or sculptures that I saw, the second was next to the Lagan Weir. There is apparently a Game of Thrones trail around Belfast made up of these windows. Not sure that I am that big a fan of the show.
A visit to Titanic Belfast should definitely be on your list of places to visit. To check out the whole place takes about 90 mins, add in 30 mins to walk around the exterior as well. There is also a path to and from the centre of Belfast, unfortunately I did not have time to walk it.
Time for a quick bite and then a pub crawl of downtown Belfast.
The Famous Pubs of Belfast
Join us as we visit a pair of convivial pubs and experience traditions that have been a cornerstone of Belfast social life for centuries. Once transported to the city center by coach, you’ll take to the streets on foot as your guide leads the way to the evening’s two designated pubs. They’re part of a historic group of hostelries we’ve specially hand-picked for their character and authenticity. Some are known for their music and atmosphere, many have good food, and all of course offer a great pint or a comforting hot whiskey. In addition to your two included drinks, you’ll savor plenty of craic – the Gaelic word for lighthearted conversation and the simple enjoyment of life. Pubs on the contender list include The Morning Star, once a coach stop; McHugh’s Bar, a 300-years-young alehouse with a checkered past; triangular Bittles Bar, awash in literary memorabilia; and Whites Tavern, hidden deep down a cobbled lane.
- With your guide, walk the same evening streets of Belfast that locals have walked for centuries.
- Savor two “drinks of choice” at each of two pubs selected for their authentic period character.
- Opt for perfectly pulled pint of local ale, or a soothing hot whisky – or both.
- Experience a bit of the simple enjoyment of life known to the Irish as craic, sought with gusto.
- Wear weather-appropriate clothing; include a light raincoat or umbrella.
- Flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
This tour involves a considerable amount of walking and some of the locales visited are not wheelchair accessible. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests, and those with mobility concerns are cautioned to evaluate their personal level of stamina before participating. Two drinks are included; one each in two pubs. Additional beverages may be purchased individually. Specific pubs visited will vary. Participants must be at least 18 years of age.
After a relatively short trip from the wharf to the centre of Belfast we headed across the River Lagan across the Lagan Weir to get a bit of perspective and history of Belfast. We then headed back across the Queen Elizabeth II bridge back to the centre of town to learn a bit more about the place.
Albert Memorial Clock
This clock is a memorial to Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort, Prince Albert, and was built between 1865 and 1869 and stands 113 feet tall. As the tower was built on reclaimed marsh with wooden piles, the tower leans about 4 feet at the top.
The first pub on the tour was McHughs, the oldest building in Belfast, built in 1711 as a house. It became a pub around 1725. It has an interesting interior. My drink at this place was a half pint of Clonmel Irish Beer, it was ok. After the drink we headed off for another walk around the centre of Belfast.
Our second pub was the Morning Star on Pottingers Entry.
This time I decided I was going to have a Guinness but could not bring myself to having a half so I asked the guide if he would have an issue with me buying a pint. He agreed that a half pint of Guinness should be considered illegal… The Guinness was definitely better than the Clonmel and I enjoyed it in the lane way that the Morning Star is on.
This was downright scary! Smirnoff Espresso Martinis on tap and even more of a worry Passion Fruit Martinis! And these taps were in a pub that serves Guinness….
From a pub crawl perspective it left a lot to be desired, from a tour of Belfast perspective it was fairly informative, though I would not do this again. Also just noticed that there were meant to be two drinks per pub, there was only one offered.
Return to the Ship / Random Photos of Belfast
Harland and Wolff Cranes – Samson and Delilah
Harland and Wolff. These cranes, Samson and Delilah, dominate the skyline around the port and the centre of Belfast
After the Morning Star we headed back to the coach for the trip back to the ship via the Titanic quarter. We did not get off of the coach but passed by a few more landmarks and more of Titanic Studios, Harland and Wolfe shipyard on the way to the wharf.
The Captain must have been in a hurry to leave Belfast as we left 15mins ahead of schedule, I was just leaving my cabin when we were dropping our lines so missed the first part of the sail away.
Compass Rose was the restaurant I chose for dinner. This is the main dinning room onboard and does not need a reservation. Since my last cruise onboard a Regent ship they have revamped the décor, I preferred the previous look, it is a bit too bright for me now.
Another change to the Compass Rose experience is the addition of the Executive Chef’s Menu Degustation, so I gave that a try.
- Sesame- Coated Tuna Loin – Vegetable Tartare, Wasabi Mayo
- Mulligatawny – Traditional Indian Red Lentil and Coconut Soup
- Shanghai-Style Dumplings – Shrimp, Pork, Ginger-Soy Broth, Chili Oil
- Strawberry Daiguiri Sorbet
- Thai Barbecue Pork Rack – Fried Rice, Cucumbers, Shiitake Mushrooms
- Saint-Honoré – Choux Pastry, Vanilla Custard Cream, Chocolate Sauce
2020 Pionero Reserva Carmanére, Maule Valley Chile
|Nose:||A blend of black pepper, mocha and a bit of anise aromas|
|Palate:||Uncomplex and boring, with a bit of sourness and dull tannins|
|Finish:||Medium length with a bit of heat|
|Oz’s Rating:||2.5 out of 5|
Not sure if it was the bottle, probably won’t give this another go, lots more to try onboard
Sesame- Coated Tuna Loin
– Vegetable Tartare, Wasabi Mayo
Looked great, tasted even better. Loved the wasabi. One word – AWESOME
Great start to the degaustation
More Red Wine
2020 Backhouse Pinot Noir, California, USA
|Appearance:||Medium deep red|
|Nose:||A nice combination of raw capsicum and cherry aromas|
|Palate:||Balanced with evolving tannins|
|Finish:||Medium length with a bit of heat on the tail|
|Oz’s Rating:||3 out of 5|
Definitely an improvement on the Carmanére.
I usually avoid wines where the only regional designation is an entire state, in this case California, can mean that the grapes used to make the wine did not make the cut for the good stuff.
– Traditional Indian Red Lentil and Coconut Soup
Smelt and tasted great, lots of turmeric. Excellent. So far so good….
– Shrimp, Pork, Ginger-Soy Broth, Chili Oil
Unfortunately the dumplings were very average. Guess living in Singapore has meant that I have the good stuff so know what a good is.
2 out of 3 is not too bad.
Strawberry Daiguiri Sorbet
Refreshing and did what it is meant to do, cleanse the palate
Thai Barbecue Pork Rack
– Fried Rice, Cucumbers, Shiitake Mushrooms
The initial piece was tender and very tasty, the second piece was a bit dry. Still a nice dish
After all of the previous courses I was full, so gave dessert a miss for the night. Unfortunately I was not fast enough to say no to the Petit Fours, left them alone, a waste of food…
One day is never enough in most places and I definitely could have handled a lot more time there. As I mentioned earlier a visit to Titanic Belfast is worth the time and cash (GBP25.50 with an audio guide)
Another enjoyable day onboard the Voyager.
Next up Killybegs, Ireland