Covering the Titanic centenary in Halifax
I was thrilled when the good people at Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism accepted my travel blogging proposal to visit Halifax and cover the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic; and when my editor Adrian Brijbassi at Vacay.ca agreed to feature my series of blogs, tweets and social media postings about it. As I have written elsewhere, I have had an almost life-long fascination with this epic disaster (and I even liked the movie). Plus, I really do love Halifax, it’s probably my favourite Canadian city. It was a great experience all around and best of all, it was very successful in terms of traffic and engagement. So, for those who are interested in these things, I have decided to make my report to Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism into a blog. If you have questions or comments, please make them in the comments section below. I’ll be happy to answer.
The proposal and lead-up
Knowing that the Titanic centenary was on April 15, 2012, and that Halifax was the only officially designated Titanic city in North America, I started thinking about this trip in the early winter. I mentioned the idea to my editor Adrian at Vacay.ca — where I am a senior writer — and he liked it and gave me the go-ahead to approach Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism. In February, I sent them sent a proposal that outlined my idea, and the coverage we were planning on Vacay.ca and also on Breathedreamgo, and their response was immediate and positive.
Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism sent me a press kit, and after perusing it I gave them a list of requests, mostly about who I wanted to interview, what events I wanted to attend and what colour of M&Ms that I like (just kidding!), they replied with a detailed itinerary. To my delight, they put me up at the Westin NovaScotian. I had a magnificent view of the sunrise over the harbour in the morning, along with a breakfast tray of healthy, tasty, local food — such as fruit plates and smoothies. The Westin NovaScotian is a grand old hotel right beside the train station and I love the way they combine the charm of tradition with modern ideas — like locally sourcing fresh and organic foods for their room service and restaurant menus.
Before leaving for the trip, I wrote blogs on both Vacay.ca and on Breathedreamgo, and talked about the Titanic centenary, my fascination and my upcoming trip on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook, I provoked a very lively discussion about the Titanic on more than one occasion, as other “Titaniacs” came out of the woodwork to share their feelings of fascination too.
Here are links to the pre-trip blogs:
- Vacay.ca, March 19: On Titanic 100th, Halifax remembers.
- Breathedreamgo, March 22: The legend of the Titanic lives on.
- Breathedreamgo, April 4: The Titanic and what it means.
The trip and the Titanic events
I arrived about 11 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, and my packed itinerary started the next morning at 9 a.m. when I went to the Nova Scotia Archives to meet Senior Reference Archivist Gary Shutlak. I got there early, before the madness began, and had a great chat with him and also with Lauren, who runs the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic Twitter account (and who did an amazing job with the Titanic SOS messages stream — see below). From there I went to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography to speak with Marine Geologist Steve Blasco. Later, a press conference, followed by my first Titanic dinner and then a fashion show at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It was a long day, but extremely fascinating and the itinerary Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism had prepared was perfect. I am so impressed with their thoroughness and professionalism (and friendliness, too).
The next day, Saturday, April 14, was the eve of the anniversary of the sinking. I toured the Titanic exhibit at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, walked around the city, ate as much sushi and seafood as I could and relaxed until the big evening. After my second Titanic dinner, I bundled up into about four layers of clothing and joined the very moving candle-lit procession through the streets of Halifax and then sat down to watch the Night of the Bells, with Gordon Pinsent narrating. It was a long show, and we were outdoors in April on the Atlantic coast at night. It was chilly! But what a show and what an experience. I bonded with the other travel writer covering the event, Sharon, and we stuck together to experience the whole thing together, including many coffee and tea runs.
After a long night, I got back to the hotel at about 1:30 a.m., cold, wound up and excited; slept only a couple of hours, and then jumped out of bed very early to upload my photos and write my wrap-up piece for Vacay.ca, which they published in the afternoon. This is what is called the glamour of travel writing. I should add that throughout this entire trip, I was posting to Facebook and Tweeting up a storm — reports are below.
In the afternoon I had yet another sushi lunch, but this time with travel bloggers Candice Walsh and Corbin Fraser, and then off to the most moving ceremony of all — the spiritual ceremony at the Titanic grave sites. When the girl’s choir sang and the children placed roses on the graves, I admit, I lost it. All that pent-up emotion and exhaustion came pouring out and I cried my eyes out. Sunday night I was tired, but had my last Titanic dinner, with my new buddy Sharon the travel writer, at the Westin. I only had to go downstairs, and the food was absolutely delicious, so what a way to end the weekend. I left the next morning for home, back to Toronto.
Here are links to my during and after trip blogs:
- Vacay. ca, April 15: Halifax respectfully honours the Titanic.
- Breathedreamgo, April 17: People of Halifax are Titanic heroes.
- Vacay.ca, April 26: In Halifax, Titanic memorabilia rises to prominence.
- Vacay.ca, June 7: Titanic feast proves Halifax seafood supremacy is unsinkable
Twitter, traffic and outcome
If there is any question about whether I was active on Twitter over the weekend I was in Halifax, this Twitter usage report above should dispel all doubts. You can see the spike on April 15, the date of the Titanic centenary!
More Twitter reports appear below, showing that Breathedreamgo’s reach was very strong. I used Hashtracking to track the two main destination-based Titanic hashtags I was using (I was also using #VacayTitanic, #Titanic100 and just #Titanic). The hashtag #TitanicNS was the hashtag that Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism was using; and #TitanicMMA was the hashtag the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was using. This was the stream that was tweeting out all the actual SOS and CQD wire messages, in real time (100 years later), that came from the Titanic as it sank.
In terms of blog traffic, The Titanic and what it means very quickly jumped to my number one most popular blog post of all time, with about 8,000 views in about eight weeks. Adrian from Vacay said, “The Titanic articles received tremendous readership on Vacay.ca from all over the world — with thousands of visitors coming from the U.S., Britain, Germany and elsewhere — and there was support from our social media networks across Canada.”
My Titanic renown also attracted the attention of a new publication, FreshJuice.ca, and I wrote an article for them called The Menu on the Titanic: A Moveable Feast.
Altogether I wrote eight blog posts, about six-to-eight Facebook postings and countless Tweets about my trip to Halifax Nova Scotia to take part in the Titanic commemorative events. The Facebook posting on the right received 33 comments and 51 LIKES (and it was just one of many).
It was a very rewarding experience in every way. I was the only travel blogger covering the events, and one of only two travel writers on the scene (to my knowledge), so I was able to interview the right people, be at the centre of the action and be a very significant part of the activity online and especially on Twitter. As a travel blogger, I had access to instant communication and I was connecting to people in Halifax, in Nova Scotia, in Canada and around the world during this historic weekend.
Thank you to Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism for hosting me, to the Westin NovaScotian for housing me, to the Titanic 100 Society for making me part of the events and to Vacay.ca for publishing me. It was an experience I will treasure forever.
I also used Tweetreach to run reports on these same two hashtags. The information is tabulated a bit differently — but still shows the strength of a travel blogger’s reach.
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