A wealthy Australian businessman who already dabbles in mining, tourism and horse racing said Tuesday he has a new way to spend his fortune: build the Titanic II.
"When you have a lot money and don't know what to do with it and you have a good idea . . . why not?" said Clive Frederick Palmer, 58, one of several international investors building the replica of the ill-fated ship.
In 1912, the "unsinkable" Titanic's maiden voyage across the Atlantic ended in tragedy when 1,502 people drowned or died in the frigid waters after the ship ran into an iceberg. Titanic's image as "the ship of dreams" ended, but its posh decor and luxurious amenities became legend.
Palmer revealed the Titanic II's blueprints at a news conference Tuesday at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, on Pier 86 at 12th Avenue and 46th Street in Manhattan.
Palmer cast images of "a traditional cruise" on which passengers will be given period clothing to wear on the Titanic II. "There is an unsatisfied demand to capture the Titanic cruising experience," said Palmer, adding, "We will unplug the tweeters and have people actually talking to each other."
However, Wi-Fi, a shopping area and a theater for 400 will be aboard. Other modern technology includes air conditioning and satellite navigation equipment -- and life boats that cover 130 percent of the passenger and crew complement, Palmer said.
"This experience will give us the ability to revisit the days of the Titanic," Palmer said. "This is not a movie. It's real."
Palmer would not disclose the cost of the ship, which will have carpeting, wallpaper and cabins matching the original. Titanic II is being built in China and is expected to sail in 2016 from Southampton, England, to New York City, the original itinerary of the Titanic.
Titanic II will not be marketed as "unsinkable" but rather as "unforgettable," said Palmer, who plans to travel third class. "I travel first class all the time and it's isolating. I want to be in third class and talk to people and do the Irish jig." He was referring to the 1997 Academy Award-winning film "Titanic," in which steerage passengers were packed into the ship's hull but still managed to have a party with dancing and drinking. The majority of the steerage passengers died.
On board with the new project is the great-granddaughter of Molly Brown, the first-class passenger who survived the Titanic's sinking and was known thereafter as the "unsinkable" Molly Brown.
Helen Benziger of Story, Wyo., flew to New York for the Titanic II blueprint unveiling. "When I first heard about it, I didn't know what to think," she said.
But when the idea was explained, she said, she had no problem with "this capitalist venture. What's wrong with that? This will bring back the civility and grace of the Edwardian era."
The new cruise ship will also "pay homage to the heroes and their bravery," she said, describing how women and children were given first passage into the life boats with the men left behind to perish.
With John Valenti