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Fast confession - Ondřej Vrkoč: He builds Titanic with experts from James Cameron

Karolína Lišková
02.Aug 2017
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9 minutes
Special section
Ondřej Vrkoč admires Titanic from the age of four.

With the young visionary and the greatest Czech expert at the Titanic, not only about the spectacular dreams floating on the sea.

Someone thinks he is crazy, others hope that he will bring his idea to build Titanic 2 to a successful end. Ondřej Vrkoč, 24, fell in love with the legendary boat already as a child. Passion, however, grew into an obsession that also swallowed-up his surroundings. He found investors, there was work that was done on plans. If it goes well, within five years, Titanic 2 will be built, which, however, will not sink. The young businessman has found time for Luxury Prague Life to outline the life of an ordinary boy with unusual dreams that are slowly but surely coming true… 

The legendary staircase from the movie will be on the new Titanic as well.
Titanic has not begun to build yet.
Ondřej Vrkoč

Ondřeji, you came up with the idea that you wanted to build Titanic. This has already been known for a while, but what’s new with this project?

"We’ve been working on reproducing the Titanic 3D model with a team of Americans and the world’s most respected Titanic experts. We have Ken Marshall in our team, for example, who worked with Jameson Cameron, the director of Titanic. He had put together a mock-up for him with which Cameron was filming the movie. With him and others we also worked on a detailed 3D design. For example, the picture that was hung in the film will hang there again. But there is a question about why we worked on it at all. There are roughly 30 per cent of the Titanic plans that have been preserved because during the Second World War they were burned-up in London during the bombing. That’s why Cameron’s Titanic used only a part of the interiors for filming, mostly the first class sequences that were the best preserved. Not much has been preserved so currently we are investigating historical photographs. That’s why the cost of the construction increased from eleven to eighteen billion crowns, for safety-sake, in case it started burning. Nowadays there may be no wood on a ship, and if there is, no more than a one millimetre lining But the Titanic’s entire first class staircase was made of wood, so how to make it look like wood when it was not wood? We have negotiated with a Swedish company that cooperates with the world’s largest ships. Modern materials will be utilised, but it will still look like wood, and such factors are countless.

You are only 24 years old. You have been working on this for a long time and the top experts in the field are working with you. How does this come-about? How did you convince them?

When I was four, my parents showed me the Titanic movie, not expecting what did happen to happen. When I first saw it, I was still in the kindergarten. At that time, I still drew it and talked about it. Then I wanted to know more and more. When I was ten, I started contacting the world’s biggest experts on the Titanic, such as Dr. Robert Ballard, Ken Marschall and others…

How could they talk to you when you were still a child?

They did not know, I did not tell them how old I was. They took me to be a researcher from Bohemia and I left them with that and I did have a lot of knowledge. I would describe a problem in a funded manner and we worked based on the principle of family. When someone found any new information about the Titanic, we shared it. This was all via e-mail. When Ballard dived down to the Titanic, he then sent me a photo. I was getting more and more enthusiastic. And when I had so much information, I did not want to keep it to myself, I wanted to get it out amongst the people, so I started giving lectures in schools, at basic schools, high schools and universities.

Byt na prodej Smetanovo nábřeží 235m
Byt na prodej Smetanovo nábřeží 235m, Praha 1

How did you get there? Then you were 17 years old, who wanted to listen to a young boy like you?

That’s another thing. Actually I just did not tell them how old I was.

But, Ondřej, I see you’re young, they also had to see it.

Yeah. When I arrived, they asked me, my dad was bringing me, I was not yet a driver. They thought that Dad was the expert and he always said: No no, here’s that son of mine. I remember my first live show on TV. In the “Snídaně s Novou” show they were looking for a historian on the Titanic, they were looking on the Internet for discussions, Facebook did not work so well at that time yet, so who made the most comments, and it was me. So they invited me. Daddy brought me up and the makeup artist was dragging him into the makeup room... that’s how it started.

What did your parents think about it all? They cannot be excited about it. They definitely wanted a doctor or an engineer...

I was to become a Civil Engineer, but I did not finish university. The Titanic needed me to devote myself to it completely, so I left after the first semester. Parents... when the Vice-President of the largest ship company in the world sits on your couch to go through the details of the Titanic project, well it’s so self-convincing...

What do we, who only saw the film, not know about the Titanic?

There are a lot of stories. I tell them during those lectures. For example, third-class passengers had to smash their children with chairs so that they did not look at how they were drowning. At this point, all students will listen, watch, just like you are doing now.

How do you know this was happening?

Thanks to the experts that I meet and deal with. It’s not just about Romantics, as we know it from Cameron.

When did you first think that you would build the Titanic?

The idea came when I was 16 years old. I was at a lecture at that time, and the professor of that class asked me what my biggest dream was. But my dream was impossible - to go back to 1912 and see the ship simply sail away. And he was giving me the idea - he said I should move a few years ahead, that the Titanic was there.

Who does pay for all this?

At this point, we have investors.

Are you from a rich family?

No. My dad is a carpenter, and my mum worked until recently at the Airport where she checked the passengers before they entered the plane to ensure whether or not they had a bomb or scissors.

So how does such a kid from an ordinary family feel when he is amongst millionaires, billionaires? This is a completely different world.

You must not lose your marbles. I was seventeen, and today I’m twenty-four. I have to be modest, I cannot ask the investor for an extra million and buy a house and a Ferrari. Additionally that’s not me. Although I would like it to be me. I love cars, it’s just more important for me to finish the Titanic and to see it in the harbour and take a cruise on the Caribbean.

How do you convince investors that this is a good investment?

They want to know numbers. It’s simple. You for example have fifty million to invest. I will offer you a vessel for 3,000 passengers that will cost $ 750 million. In four years, this investment will return and for another 35 years it will go-on earning a similar amount. It will have such and such interest plus other benefits. It sounds interesting. These people count every penny. Mostly the richer the person, the more cautious s/he is about the money. Then they had the condition that if they go in it with me, I must not have any benefit from their investment.

I do not understand that. It was your idea!

Yes, but I agreed to that then. A few months before these meetings started, we managed to negotiate cooperation with the largest and most successful shipyard in the world. STX France builds the largest ships in the world there. In order for these shipyards to deal with you, you must have at least three billion crowns on your account. Otherwise, they will not even reply to your e-mail.

I do not understand how you have come to the conclusion that you will never have a crown from your idea!

In regard to this agreement it was an agreement with the first investor and he wanted me to prove that I did not want to become rich from this project. This is how our agreement came about. Of course I did not discuss this deal with any other investors.

Prodej rodinného domu, Praha 10 - 303m
Prodej rodinného domu, Praha 10 - 303m, Praha 10

Did you have this amount on your account?

No! But I figured-out a way to get to it. I simply wrote to them that we want to build the Titanic and that we want to meet them. At that time, I already had a project manager who then was doing this for free. He told me that I was crazy, that I could not just come there with my bare arse. I said that at least I had know-how, and at least I have ship plans and I know how to do it down to the last detail; not just the project but also the ship itself. Finally we went - I, my colleague Ivan Samák, the Director of the largest Czech Shipyard from Chvaletice and the translator. To our astonishment, the Vice-President of the Company immediately welcomed us because he was interested in it personally. I knew that in order to succeed, we needed a big player and that it was a shipyard. The plans for the vessel alone cost 600 thousand Euros. I was 17 years old and I went to school. Because he believed my idea, and he likes the Titanic, he told me he would do it for us for 40,000 Euros.

So hunting for investors started.

Yeah, we did a big PR in 2011. Investors were found. But then Clive Palmer, a billionaire from Australia, came with the news that he also wants to build a new Titanic. We came to see that it was just a canard to get into the local politics. But we did not know it at the beginning. This put the project on ice for two years

You said you have a sophisticated 3D model. What tweaks, for example, are there?

So maybe you come into the cabin, there’s a picture, you snap it and it turns into a television. You have everything there. From the original third class, which does not work anymore, no one wants to sail in the Titanic Museum with another three families in the same cabin, so we will be creating a super modern class-line that does not have any comparison at sea. There will be the state-of-the-art cabin equipment and at the same time it will also be an upgrade for the ship.

So when will it be ready?

The Plans are now complete; during the autumn there will be a big presentation for investors who are interested in investing in the second part of the project. We have three phases - one behind us, the second constitutes the detailed plans of the Titanic together with the financial strategy. Then we will begin to sell. Theoretically it will be built in 2023. There is a seven-year waiting list for you to obtain a place in the shipyard. But I found a way in which to do it faster, and in 2023 we could already take off.

This is a terribly long time. What do you do when you do not work on the Titanic?

For half a year now, I spent 19 hours a day on the Titanic, so I do not have time for anything else.

What did you do during the two years in which the Titanic was then in the ice?

I wrote several screenplays. Originally, I wanted to go to the conservatory, but my parents did not approve it. I had to go to study civil engineering. I also worked in the bank. I have to do something, I cannot just do nothing.

What do you like, apart from the Titanic?

Overall, I like business and challenges, because even if you do not reach your goal, it will move you further ahead than the others. After the Titanic, my lover is a car that has character and she is something exceptional, whether a Mustang or a European Supersports. Like every good Czech I also like beer. That’s why I preferred the brewing business and with my friend I set up a REZON mini-brewery rather than the petrol station, which we had also considered.

Do you have a Captain’s Exam?

No, that’s what anyone has today. I’d rather take a Pilot’s Exam. But there is no time and no money. I paid one analysis from my own resources. We did crowdfunding. It is how you learn whether or not there is an interest in the project. We also shot a video, but I had to pay for it, and it cost about a million crowns.

Where did you get half a million?

I had to earn it in the banking sector, where I worked as an investment specialist. But I knew I was not going to earn enough money to feed Titanic.

Well, finish the idea...

I always wanted ordinary people to touch it, because I’m also just an ordinary person. If someone had told me ten years ago that I could be part of something so big, I was going to do it immediately. And there are millions of such people. So we started selling tickets for the first voyage or for hand-forged rivets. Replicas of those that were on the Titanic. It will come to you on a pedestal on which the number will be engraved. And the other part of the rivet with that number will really be on the Titanic. This is how we present our work on the Titanic to our fans. We have people from all over the world, even one Czech has bought a cruise.

For how much?

For two thousand dollars. We have also sold cabin names for $ 500. One cabin will be named after the Czech actor and stuntman Martin Huba.

How much will the ticket cost?

The ticket starts at $ 1100 up to $ 150,000, for a week cruise of the Caribbean, for example. Or they will be all over the world.

That’s what I’m looking forward to. Thanks for the interview.

Fast confession:

Which subjects did you graduate from?

Building construction and building renovation.

Which scene from Titanic would you cut out?

Here’s how it sinks to make it once finish up well.

Would you buy an electric car?


What’s your favourite shoe brand?


A favourite politician?

Daniel Herman.

Who is your life support?

Inspiration - Steve Jobs, definitely.

Blonde or brunette?


Are you in favour of the introduction of the euro?


Who would you like to ask Donald Trump about?

Putin or Zeman.

In which country would you like to live?

In our country, in Czechia

Your most favourite place in Prague?

Charles Bridge.

What would you never eat?


The name of your first love?


What makes you 100% laugh?

A stupid man.
The interviewee is asking the Editor:

Would you take a trip on the Titanic?

If I’m invited, yeah.
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Rychlá zpověď: Patrik Saudek
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Rychlá zpověď: Sára Saudková
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