One of the newest attractions in Belfast is the SS Nomadic, arguably the last true link to the Titanic and the White Star Line. The ship is docked in the Titanic Quarter - the Titanic Visitor Centre is just behind. When we were there, the ship had only been open to visitors for a couple of weeks. Opening times are between 10am and 5pm every day. It costs £8.50 for adults, £5.00 for children and £6.50 for students and old age pensioners. On the website, they recommended that you buy tickets in advance. Whilst this is definitely the case for the Titanic Centre, I didn't think it was necessary for Nomadic. We bought our tickets a couple of weeks in advance, but during our visit, the ship had only a couple of other visitors. Maybe this will change as more people get to know about it and want to come and visit.
Our ticket was timed - they say the average visit length is 60-90 minutes. We spent 2 hours exploring and could easily have stayed for another half an hour. It is self-guided, but you can buy an audio guide for an extra £3. We did not find this necessary. There is lots of information to read and the staff were first class. Dotted throughout the ship, they were full of enthusiasm and knowledge and often told us lots about Nomadic.
We parked at a pay and display car park just opposite the ship. There is plenty of parking in this area and it was only a couple of minutes walk away.
Nomadic's opening is a bit of a triumph for some dedicated N.Irish enthusiasts. They started a campaign in 2005 to save her from the scrap heap which seemed to be her destiny, and return her to the city where she was built. Over 7 years and £9 million later, she has been beautifully restored and looks as she would have done in 1912.
Nomadic is described as "mini Titanic." She is exactly one quarter of the size of the famous ship. She was a tender and ferried first and second class passengers to Titanic from the docks at Cherbourg in France. She is also the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world.
After the sinking of Titanic, Nomadic saw active service as a mine sweeper and troop carrier in World Wars I and II; she was then part of Cunard and carried numerous celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. For 30 years she was then a floating restaurant in Paris - quite a story.
Nomadic is in a dry dock, we enjoyed the whole quayside area - lots of things to read, hands-on stuff for children and a huge, original caisson.
There are 4 decks to explore - each one is completely fascinating. The first deck is as it would have looked in the time of Titanic - grand, luxurious and all aimed at helping you imagine what it would have been like as a first class passenger, about to board the great ship. At the bar area you can "meet" Pierre - a hologram barman who appears and tells you tales from Nomadic. There are displays about emigration, trans-Atlantic travel and lots of stories about Titanic's passengers and their journeys. They even have a dressing up area where adults and children can try out the fashions of that era.
The next deck is about Nomadic during the war years. They have more fascinating displays, interactive puzzles and games and clothes for dressing up. Look out for the information on when she evacuated thousands of people from Cherbourg harbour.
The lower deck gives you a chance to get up close and examine the rivets - you can touch and feel the steel, as well as information about how the ship was built and designed.
Be sure to leave time for a stroll on the bridge deck. The views of Hamilton Dock and Belfast Harbour are lovely. Our son enjoyed having a turn on the ship's wheel and peeking into the captain's cabin - he "speaks" to you.
The souvenir shop - on the quayside opposite the ship is also worth browsing in. They sell good quality, unique souvenirs that are interesting and different.
We loved our afternoon on Nomadic - it is a must-see. Last summer we visited the Titanic Visitor Centre and were impressed with that, but I think this beat that hands down. Perhaps the fact this is the original tender and a real link to the Titanic, I'm not sure, but it is a special, fascinating and intriguing ship.