Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Titanic memorial cruise sets sail

People wave at the Balmoral cruise ship wave as it leaves Southampton docks on the official Titanic centenary voyage
Passengers onboard the Balmoral cruise ship wave as they leave Southampton docks on the Titanic centenary voyage
The New York Times front page on April 16, 1912, covering the sinking of the Titanic (AP/The New York Times)

Descendants of those who died in the Titanic disaster 100 years ago were some of those who set sail today on a memorial cruise to the site of the wreck.

The MS Balmoral will leave Southampton on the 12-night cruise to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the liner that hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage.

The same number of 1,309 passengers - not including crew - are aboard the MS Balmoral as on the ill-fated ship with around 50 having a direct family connection to the sinking. A service will take place at the time it sank.

The organisers have even hired a band - the five-piece Grupetto from Belgium - to play era style music in honour of the Titanic's musicians who are said to have played until the ship sank.

People from 28 different countries have paid between £2,799 and £5,995 per person to travel and retrace the liner's original route. Many turned up in Southampton wearing period costume dressed as first class passengers, crew or steerage passengers.

Passenger Graham Free, 37, a telecomms manager from Bolton, was dressed as a Edwardian gentleman. He said: "I have been a fan of the Titanic since I was nine years old and this cruise is the closest you are going to get to it. The trip has cost a considerable amount but I wanted to do it."

When asked if the trip was exploiting the tragedy, Mr Free said: "I don't agree at all. We are not here to mock. We are here to enjoy and remember those who were unfortunately lost. I think it's going to be emotional when we get above the wreck site and have the service."

The menu has been created by executive chef on the Balmoral, Dirk Helsig, who has researched the menus that were served on board. A formal dinner on April 13 will have a menu made up entirely of dishes which were served on the Titanic and guests will enjoy a daily Titanic-inspired dish.

The Rev Canon Huw Mosford, director of chaplaincy from the Mission to Seafarers, will lead the memorial service.

Another cruise from New York is due to meet up with the British ship over the wreck site. The ship will sail on to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where many of the victims are buried before arriving at New York.

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