Professor Palmer's ship comes in

NEW YORK: Australian billionaire Clive Palmer revealed his grand design plans to build a modern-day replica of the doomed Titanic, confirming the cruise liner would make its maiden voyage in 2016.

At a press conference in New York on Tuesday, and following a rendition of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, Mr Palmer told the world's media construction of the 835-cabin ship would begin in China later this year.

The billionaire, who used the honorific "Professor", awarded by Bond University in 2008, for the announcement, said 40,000 people had already registered for tickets on the first voyage, which will retrace the fateful 1912 trip from Southampton to New York, in which more than 1500 passengers and crew died.

Setting sail ... a drawing of the proposed cruise ship Titanic II.
Setting sail ... a drawing of the proposed cruise ship Titanic II. Photo: Reuters

Among those interested were 16 who were willing to pay between $750,000 and $1 million for a spot.

Refusing to divulge the cost of Titanic II ("I have enough money to pay for it, so that's all that really matters"), the 58-year-old said it was not about money but recreating the romance and memories of a bygone era - minus the iceberg.

Passengers aboard the 10-deck ship will be provided with 1912-style outfits to wear during their holiday and there will be no phone or television - and he was debating about internet access.

Cruise power ...  the propellers on the original titanic.
Cruise power ... the propellers on the original titanic. Photo: Titanic In Photographs: Klistorn

Titanic II will have Turkish baths, a smoking room, casino, theatre and hospital. Key differences to the original include a high-tech engine, airconditioning and a safety deck with more lifeboats (including 18 covered motorised lifeboats).

As with the original, there would be first, second and third classes and they would not be allowed to mingle. Mr Palmer said he would be travelling third class, dressed in a wig and 1912 garb.

"I like Irish stew and potatoes … . I'm looking forward to banging the drums, playing the fiddle and getting dizzy as I twirl around like Leonardo did in the movie," Mr Palmer said, referring to the 1997 blockbuster, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

Making history ... the orginal Titanic leaving Southampton on her ill-fated maiden voyage on April 10, 1912.
Making history ... the orginal Titanic leaving Southampton on her ill-fated maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. Photo: AFP/Southampton City Council

At the press conference, Mr Palmer provided Helen Benziger, of Wyoming, whose great-grandmother survived the 1912 disaster, the chance to speak. She said she was "thrilled" about the project "because the professor has assured me he will honour those passengers that perished and survived".

Mr Palmer said Titanic II would be the safest cruise ship in the world but, when asked if it would be unsinkable, he said: "It's very cavalier to say that. I think people have said that in the past and lived to regret it."

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