Getting Onboard With the Titanic II

An Australian billionaire's plan to build a cruise ship called the Titanic II has already been attempted -- at least in a low-budget film by the same name.

"On the 100th anniversary of the original voyage, a modern luxury liner christened 'Titanic 2,' follows the path of its namesake," reads a plot summary from "Passengers and crew must fight to avoid a similar fate."

Predictably enough, this 2010 flick, staring an iceberg and a tsunami, went straight to DVD. Directing and co-staring was none other than Dick Van Dyke's grandson Shane, garnering terse movie reviews such as, "Oh, Rob!"

This hasn't stopped mining magnate Clive Palmer from announcing his plans for the Titanic II. He slated a maiden voyage from England to North America in 2016. He's even naming his company Blue Star Line Ltd. in an unwary tribute to the highly overconfident White Star Line.

Tweets about this news have ranged from "OMG" to "Doomed?" A columnist for "The Australian" newspaper sarcastically opined: "I'm sure there is already a huge queue of cashed-up cruisers looking to tempt fate and history."

"It is going to be designed so it won't sink," Palmer said in making the announcement over the weekend.

No, no. Please. Don't say that.

This development is about as strange as a re-launch of the Chevy Corvair or the Ford Pinto. Remember the discovery of the Titanic's faulty rivets?

What's this guy going to do next? Build a zeppelin and call it the Hindenburg? I know: Why not commission an oil platform and call it the Deepwater Horizon?

The global cruise industry keeps growing no matter what happens -- shipwrecks, fires, mysterious illnesses, missing persons, a sunken economy. The Cruise Lines International Association Inc. expects 17 million passengers on the ships of its member companies this year, up from 16 million last year. But isn't another Titanic pushing the industry's luck?

The Titanic went down on April 15, 1912 and wasn't was found until 1985, about 12,500 feet beneath the North Atlantic. It was one of the most colossal corporate disasters of its time, and 1,514 people died.

Millvina Dean, the last surviving Titanic passenger, lived until 2009, age 97, and it just wasn't long enough for a Titanic to come around again.

The Carnival Corp.'s Costa Concordia, meantime, is still lying on its side on an Italian rock after running aground on Jan 13. Those tending the scene are still trying to find two bodies of the 32 who died.

One of the companies that recently won a contract to refloat the half-sunken vessel is called "Titan Salvage." See. Not even a salvage company, which has a vested interest in shipwrecks, is crass enough to reuse all the letters in the name.

I once heard it said there are two types of customers in the cruise industry: Cruisers and people who will never get on another ship again.

I have taken a cruise exactly one time. As my ship set off from Florida, I could not believe how much my fellow passengers were eating at the endless buffets, and then vomiting once we hit rough seas. Little did I know that the most disgusting part of the voyage was yet to come.

As the boat rocked, waves in the top-deck pool roiled swimmers back and forth like cork bobbers in the surf. When one of them finally puked, a whistle blew and everyone evacuated in a scene reminiscent of the 1980 movie "Caddyshack." The pool was immediately drained and guys in white bunny suits scrubbed its sides.

This was disastrous enough for me.

Other people are undeterred by mishaps at sea. One of them is Stephen Frazee, a trustee at the Titanic International Society, a non-profit historical group in New Jersey that has been preserving the memory of the Titanic since 1989.

"I was delighted to hear of these plans," he wrote me in an email. "It is refreshing to see that someone is planning to build a cruise ship that will emphasize something other than sheer size and passenger capacity."

The Titanic II, you see, will be built on the scale of the original Titanic. As big as that was, it was cozier and more elegant than the glitzy, floating casinos the dot the oceans today.

"A ship with the pedigree of the original Titanic would have no difficulty in attracting well-heeled passengers from around the world," Frazee said, "especially if they were guaranteed a seat in one of the ship's lifeboats!"

(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at or