The Story Of SS Nomadic In Belfast (And Why It’s Worth A Nosey Around)

ss nomadic belfast
Photo left: Dignity 100. Photo right: vimaks (Shutterstock)

The SS Nomadic has a special place in history as the tender ship of RMS Titanic.

Now the only remaining vessel from the mighty White Star Line, it has been beautifully restored and a visit here is one of the more popular things to do in Belfast.

Walk the decks and brush with 100 years of maritime and social history as you explore this remarkable boat which is part of the Titanic Belfast experience.

Below, you’ll find everything from what the SS Nomadic interior looks like to how much it costs to visit in 2021.

Some quick need-to-knows about SS Nomadic in Belfast

the history of ss nomadic
Photo by Kuiper (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to the SS Nomadic is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

Note: if you make a booking through a link below we may make a small commission (which we very much appreciate).

1. Location     

The SS Nomadic is moored at Hamilton Dock in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast. It’s just a stone’s throw from the Titanic Belfast and the Harland and Wolff cranes – an appropriate resting place for this historic restored tender to RMS Titanic.

2. Opening hours

SS Nomadic is part of the Titanic Experience. Both attractions are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays except for the summer months when they are open daily.

  • May and June: Thursday – Monday 11.30am-3.30pm
  • July to September: Open daily 11.30am-3.30pm
  • October to April:  Thursday – Monday 11.30am-3.30pm
  • Closed December 24 to 26th

3. Admission

Admission to SS Nomadic is included as part of your Titanic Experience Tour. The price for both attractions is (note: prices may change):

  • £19.50 for adults
  • £8.75 for children aged 5-15 
  • £48 for a family pass (2 adults and 2 children)

4. Plenty to see and do

With admission covering both the Titanic Experience and SS Nomadic there is plenty to enjoy at this fascinating historic site. Join a guided walking tour (£10) or rent multimedia guides to help you get the most from your visit. More on this below.

The history of the SS Nomadic

SS Nomadic was launched in April 1911 as a tender for the White Star Line. Designed Thomas Andrews and built by Harland and Wolff, the boat was used to transfer passengers and crew to and from RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic when they were moored offshore in Cherbourg. 

The Nomadic is 70m long and 11 metres wide with four decks plus a hold. Powered by coal boilers and steam engines, she had a service speed of 12 knots (14mph).

She could carry up to 1000 passengers at a time in lounges and open deck areas. Of course, passengers were segregated with first class at the front and third class in a cramped area at the rear of the lower deck. 

SS Nomadic in Cherbourg

Built in Belfast, the Nomadic was delivered to Cherbourg in 1911 to begin work as a tender. On 10 April 1912, she transported 247 passengers to the RMS Titanic at the start of the maiden voyage.

During WW1 the ship was used as a minesweeper in France and ferried troops to and from the harbour in Brest before returning to tendering for White Star Line. During WW2 the aging vessel was used in the evacuation of Cherbourg (18 June 1940) and was then used as an accommodation ship for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth Harbour. 

Its retirement

Saved from the breakers yard, SS Nomadic tendered for the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth liners in Cherbourg before being retired in 1968. She became a floating restaurant on the River Seine, Paris before facing being sold for scrap. 

Realising its unique historic importance, the ship was bought at auction by the Northern Ireland Government in 2006. After being fully restored by the Nomadic Preservation Society, it is now a popular Belfast tourist attraction. You can admire the ornate decoration and plasterwork in the first class lounges as part of your tour.

Things you’ll see and learn about at SS Nomadic

the ss nomadic tour
Photo by vimaks (Shutterstock)

There’s plenty to see and do here on the Titanic Experience Tour which makes it a great place to visit when it’s raining. 

Below, you’ll find everything from the SS Nomadic interior and the Nomadic Experience to the various exhibitions and more.

1. The Nomadic Experience   

Tour the decks and see the difference between the comfortable decor enjoyed by first class passengers compared to those in second and third class Visit the Captain’s quarters, the cramped crew bunks and take a turn at the ship’s wheel. 

There are plenty of interactive exhibits and stories to listen to. Meet Pierre, the barman and discover the Titanic connection. Learn about the different roles the ship played during WW1 and WW2 and hear about some famous passengers. Imagine this historic tender in Paris as a floating restaurant and then follow the huge restoration project.  

2. Famous Passengers

Over the decades, SS Nomadic transported many wealthy passengers including American socialites and movie stars. On 10 April 1912, SS Nomadic transported 274 passengers to RMS Titanic for the liner’s maiden voyage.

These included New York millionaire John Jacob Astor IV along with mining tycoon Benjamin Guggenheim and millionairess Margaret “Molly” Brown who helped save other passengers. Nobel prize winner Marie Curie traveled on the Nomadic as did Charlie Chaplin and “Tarzan” actor Johnny Weissmuller.

3. The Restoration

Some 95 years after being launched from Belfast, SS Nomadic returned to the city in 2009 in a dilapidated state. Her top decks had been removed so she could sail beneath the bridges on the River Seine and most of the valuable features including the brass portholes had been stripped and sold.

Hamilton Dock, unused since the 1990s, became the new home as the ship was restored. Harland & Wolff did much of the external restoration. Once the initial phase was complete, the ship was opened to the public to raise more funding for the final stages.  

4. The History

SS Nomadic is the only surviving White Star Line vessel in existence today. Her eventful life began when she was launched in April 1911 as a tender for the RMS Titanic. The tender was exactly one quarter the size of the Titanic and was very similar in shape and design.

Nomadic was designed for the White Star Line by naval architect Thomas Andrews and built in Belfast by Harland and Wolff. The tender was then sailed to Cherbourg and used to transfer passengers and crew to and from RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic when they were moored offshore. 

5. The Dock

SS Nomadic has fittingly return to the Titanic Quarter and the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast where she was built. Moored at Hamilton Dock, she sits alongside Titanic Belfast. 

In 1864, the site of the Hamilton Dock was controversial as workers had to cross the River Lagan from their homes in Antrim and there were few bridges. However, Harland and Wolff shipbuilders insisted on its location which led shipbuilding on Queen’s Island.  

From 1867-1990 Hamilton Dock was used for repairing, maintaining and fitting out ships. As the industry declined, the dock lay unused and became the natural place for the restoration and mooring of SS Nomadic.

Places to visit near SS Nomadic

One of the beauties of SS Nomadic is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best places to visit in Belfast.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the ship (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Titanic Belfast 

titanic belfast
Photos via Shutterstock

SS Nomadic is part of the same site as Titanic Belfast and is included in the Titanic  admission. Both are located on the slipways where RMS Titanic was designed, built and launched. The contemporary building tells the Titanic story through exhibits, replica staterooms, photos, documents and 21st century technology. You’ll see, hear and even SMELL the shipbuilding process during your tour! 

2. Harland And Wolff Cranes

places to visit nearby
Photo by alan hillen photography (Shutterstock)

Nicknamed Samson and Goliath, the massive Harland and Wolff cranes are a 3-minute walk from SS Nomadic and are hard to miss! Walk around the back of the Titanic Belfast building and you’ll see these mega yellow cranes dominating the city skyline. They are now retired and preserved. 

3. Food in the city 

food in belfast
Photos via Neill’s Hill Brasserie on Facebook

There’s some excellent places to eat in Belfast, with everything from brunch and breakfast to vegan food in Belfast on offer. There’s also plenty of great pubs in Belfast to nip into after a day of exploring.

4. Divis Mountain

black mountain walk
Photos by Arthur Ward via Tourism Ireland’s Content Pool

Within sight of Belfast City Centre, Divis Mountain is a popular area for a hike with breathtaking views from the 478m summit. Managed by the National Trust, there are two routes: the short and sharp Summit Trail or the long and leisurely Ridge Trail.

FAQs about visiting SS Nomadic in Belfast

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what is the SS Nomadic interior like to how much a visit costs.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Can you go on the SS Nomadic?

You can indeed. SS Nomadic is part of the Titanic Experience, so you can visit both in the one go.

Is SS Nomadic actually worth visiting?

Yes! The ship has been carefully restored and it’s home to a wealth of history. The SS Nomadic interior, in particular, is a joy to explore.

How much are tickets for SS Nomadic in Belfast

You can visit the ship as part of the Titanic Experience. Tickets are £19.50 for adults.

Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.

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