80,000 Titanic Belfast tickets sold
Almost 80,000 tickets have been snapped up to tour the world's largest Titanic attraction when it opens in two weeks.
Operators of the £90 million Titanic Belfast, which has been built in the derelict shipyard where the ill-fated liner was constructed a century earlier, say they are delighted with the interest the centre has generated.
They have also revealed that their banqueting suite, which is themed on the White Star Line's first class dining facilities, has already had almost 200 bookings, representing £1 million of business.
After three years in construction - the same time it took to complete the Titanic - the eye-catching building, already an icon on the Belfast skyline, is on course to open on schedule, ahead of April's centenary of the sinking.
As workers add the finishing touches to the six-storey venue, which at 90 feet is the same height as the Titanic's bow, the owners have given a sneak preview of what waits in store for visitors on opening day on March 31.
The centre, which hopes to attract 425,000 visitors in its first year, tells the story of the Titanic through nine separate galleries, each devoted to a different aspect of the tragedy.
Boomtown Belfast, the first, brings people back to the turn of the 20th century and explains why the thriving industrial port city was chosen to build what was to be the world's largest moving object. From there visitors will be invited to board a skyrail pod to go on a journey through a recreation of the Harland and Wolff shipyard where the vessel was fashioned.
The story then moves to the ship's triumphant launch in 1911 and focus then shifts to the fit-out of the vessel, with three cabins recreated on one floor, from the most opulent to the basic steerage accommodation.
The maiden voyage is then retold, complete and the temperature drops and lights darken as visitors enter the gallery dedicated to the night of the sinking on April 14/15, 1912. As haunting survivor accounts are played overhead, tales of the 1,522 victims are retold on the walls.
The final gallery recounts the discovery of the ship's final resting place 70 years later, with footage of the wreck on a massive video screen below the glass floor of the 88-seat auditorium. The Titanic Below gallery also hosts a marine exploration educational centre, where live feeds will be streamed from ongoing dive missions down to the ship, which lies two-and-a-half miles below the Atlantic surface.