Titanic Belfast’s first Staircase Sunday event has been hailed a huge success by visitors lucky enough to get a ticket — so much so bosses have been urged to do it on a more regular basis.
The attraction on Sunday opened its banqueting suite to allow the public the opportunity to view its grand staircase replica in response to public annoyance over limited access to the steps, a faithful recreation of the striking central feature of the Belfast-built ship.
The building’s bosses faced criticism after it emerged that the stunning oak staircase is only open to corporate guests, and is not part of the main tour for visitors.
Management were inundated with ticket requests after coming up with Staircase Sunday — two days this month in which the suite will have limited opening. On Sunday the ticket-holders came to have their pictures taken on the stairs, and were so impressed they’ve joined the voices calling for the feature to be made more widely available to visitors.
The Belfast Telegraph was not allowed access but visitors told how, once inside, they queued for up to 15 minutes before getting close enough to the staircase to stand on it.
“Amazing and friendly” staff snapped away with hundreds of cameras offered to them by excited visitors.
June Bennett from Richhill could not understand why it wasn’t included in the wider tour “because there was loads of room”.
She said: “I was more impressed than I thought I was going to be.”
Mrs Bennett (62), an NHS interpreter, added: “People who don’t get to see it will have really missed out.”
She said she was moved to hear a violinist, which she said was evocative of what passengers on the ship would have heard as it began to sink in to the Atlantic on April 14, 1912.
“At one point, they played Nearer My God To Thee.” Her daughter-in-law Ally (33) from Ballycastle said it prompted her to be “choked up”.
Getting up close to the grand staircase was “the cherry on the cake” for Irene Montgomery from Moira, who said “it really should be open to the public, to complement the whole experience”.
Aileen Eccleston, a retired school teacher, said “mention must be made of the staff because they were so amazing”.
“They were so friendly and open and nothing was too much for them,” she said.
Joanna Pawl (28) from Bangor said she was “very impressed” by the staircase and said she was looking forward to visiting the rest of the centre. Thomas Cairns from Belfast said “it was really worth” going to visit, while friend Despina Sperou agreed “everyone should get to see it as part of the tour”.
For Erin Maguire (30) from Greenisland it was the small size of the steps which made her ponder “whether they had smaller feet back then, or whether just because it’s a replica”.
Titanic Belfast has been criticised for not making its replica grand staircase part of the public tour at the landmark building. It is situated in the building’s banqueting suite and therefore only open to corporate visitors. As a result, Titanic Belfast introduced two Staircase Sunday events for this month to allow 2,000 public visitors access.