The Titanic @ The Trop
When you think of Las Vegas, what do you think of first? Some may envision the flashy Strip and its multicolored splendor. Others may imagine that forty-minute roll on the craps table at The Bellagio. Perhaps for you it’s the Pharaoh’s Pfeast at Luxor. Even if you think about Celine Dion’s spectacular at Caesar’s, I’m willing to bet that you don’t immediately think of the Titanic.
The Tropicana is an anachronism in the context of Las Vegas Boulevard. Walking across the casino floor, looking up at the mirrored false ceiling that feel impossibly low (it’s probably 15 feet, but compared to the new places, I for one feel claustrophobic there), it impossible to avoid the keen awareness that the casino is outdated and decidedly unstylish.
At most casinos, I would not feel out of place or overdressed in a suit. But I felt as odd walking the Tropicana floor in my new suit as I would feel in a honky-tonk bar back home.
So why were we spending any time there, when we could have been taking in the scene at one of the swankier venues in town? Well, we were there to see the Titanic Exhibit, and like every other thing in Vegas, you can’t get there without walking the casino floor.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am one of ten living persons who have managed to avoid watching the movie. Impressive, no?
We arrived just before ten p.m., and I have to tell you--that’s a kick-ass time to visit an exhibit in Vegas, because there wasn’t a soul there to push us along, get in our way, or prevent us from taking the time to read each and every detailed information card flanking the artifacts. We opted against the audio wands (unlike the Shark Reef, they were not included in the exorbitant entry fees), and considering how much time we spent reading the information cards, the play-by-play voiceover might have pushed me over the edge...
At the start of the exhibit, the ticket-taker handed us cards describing a single passenger on the ill-fated vessel. As we came to learn in the final room of the exhibit, both our passengers died. Although this failed to resonate in the way that a similar device might at, say, the Holocaust Museum, the exhibit itself struck a chord. The video coverage of the shipyard impressed me; other than a World Series celebration, what other single event could prompt such a massive gathering today? But I especially enjoyed the sections of the exhibit where we were transported from generic exhibit-hall spaces into reconstructions of the ship. A third-class sleeping cabin, cramped and uncomfortable, with low ceilings and the dull roar of engines and machines. The grand staircase complete with gilded cherubs. And most ooh-inspiring of all, the open-air deck with a faux view of the stars and crashing waves.
Other artifacts of interest:
- A giant hunk of ice you’re encouraged to touch (as if I’ve never touched a block of ice before...)
- Reproductions of first- and second-class cabins -- the former were nearly as grand as our Mandalay Bay accommodations
- As a Harvard alumnus who spent many hours in Widener Library, named after a young man who died on the ship, some related artifacts drew my attention. (While we're here, check out this page on the popular theory that Harry's death is the reason every Harvard dining hall serves ice cream...)
In any other context, the artifacts would be interesting for period-study and in critiquing the grand span between upper and middle classes. That they were harvested from the sea floor is challenging to fathom. A cache of dinner plates earns your interest when you learn that the wood cabinet around them decayed during eighty years at the ocean’s bottom, leaving the plates to settle in the sand in the same ordered stacks a Titanic crewperson had arranged them in.
All in all, I came away with a whole new appreciation for the incredible engineering feat, the tragedy, and the impressive effort made to salvage the wreck site.
Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop dodging the movie...
- Normal Guy (aka Jason Shaffner)