Published Friday, 30 March 2012
The entrance to the Titanic Belfast visitor centre (© Pacemaker)
Almost 100,000 tickets have already been pre-sold for the world's biggest Titanic visitors attraction's first year in business.
The £97m flagship building, which is opening to coincide with centenary commemorations of the ship's sinking, was six years in the planning and took three years to build.
On Friday night, First Minister Peter Robinson hailed Titanic Belfast as "a world leader."
The DUP leader told UTV: "I think anybody who looks around this facility will see that this is the cutting edge of a visitor experience."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the opening of Titanic Belfast as possibly "the most important tourist event of 2012" anywhere in the world.
"I predicted when Peter and I were in the United States last week that this would be a world news story by this week and that has come to pass over the last 24 hours - and I think will continue to be right up to the 14/15 April when the actual Titanic sank."
He said the worldwide headlines generated by the attraction's opening would result in major numbers of tourists from all over the globe coming to visit the centre.
Mr McGuinness said the opening made a "very bold statement" to the world about looking to the future while not forgetting the past.
This is a world top ten - there is no equal to this anywhere in Northern Ireland and indeed not far beyond it either.
Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said it was a remarkable achievement that the project was completed on time and within budget.
She said: "We should all be proud of and celebrate Belfast's world famous shipbuilding and maritime history that created Titanic. It was the largest moving man-made object of its time and the many other incredible vessels that were built in Belfast by our skilled tradesmen.
"I am confident that Titanic Belfast will be a visitor experience of international quality and be one of the most exciting and dramatic tourism projects opening in 2012 anywhere in the globe."
"We must never forget the enormity of this tragedy or forget those who died."
Inside the building, the story of Titanic's tragic demise is told as well as the ship's story right from the very beginning.
The exhibition is designed as an experience rather than a museum, with visitors progressing through nine galleries to discover what is was like to build the most famous ship in the world - and to sail in her.
A virtual tour of the ship, it uses the same technology as in the movie Avatar. The modern special effects make visitors feel like they are on Titanic and the attention to detail makes the experience real.
The word Titanic stands for all things luxurious and a visit to the banqueting hall, complete with staircase, is the epitome of the grandeur experienced by first class passengers.
But, there is also the chance to step into the lives of the original shipyard workers with a ride in a cage lift that transports you right to the top of the gantry.
Titanic Belfast is a chance to see life as it was then for all of the classes who sailed and worked on the doomed liner.
It will open at 12 noon on Saturday.
© UTV News