LONDON — A cruise carrying relatives of some of the more than 1,500 people who died aboard the Titanic nearly 100 years ago is setting sail from England on Sunday to retrace the ship's voyage, including a visit to the location where it sank.
The Titanic Memorial Cruise, carrying the same number of passengers as the Titanic did, is set to depart from Southampton, where the doomed vessel left on its maiden voyage. The 12-night cruise will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the White Star liner.
As passengers gathered to board, many self-professed "titanoraks" wore period costumes as first-class passengers, crew members, steerage passengers and stewards.
Dressed as an Edwardian gentleman, passenger Graham Free described his excitement.
"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," said the 37 year old. "The trip has cost a considerable amount, but I wanted to do it."
Fellow cruiser Carmel Bradburn, 55, who lives in Australia, described herself as "fanatical" about the Titanic and struck back at accusations that retracing the doomed voyage is in poor taste.
"I don't think the cruise is morbid. It's like saying Gallipoli is morbid or commemorating the (Crimean) war," she said. "Remembering those who died is not morbid."
With 1,309 passengers aboard, the MS Balmoral will follow the same route as the Titanic. Organizers are trying to recreate the onboard experience — minus the disaster — from the food to a live band playing music from that era, in tribute to Titanic's musicians who reportedly played their instruments until the ship sank.
Organizers said people from 28 countries have booked passage, including relatives of some of the more than 1,500 people who died when the Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, in international waters in the North Atlantic. Other passengers include relatives of the around 700 survivors, along with authors and historians.
The tickets varied in cost from 2,799 pounds ($4,445) to 5,995 pounds ($9,520).
Over the course of the voyage, passengers will be attend lectures by Titanic experts such as Philip Littlejohn, grandson of a Titanic survivor. They will dine on meals based around dishes served in April 1912, with a formal dinner on April 13 made up entirely of dishes served aboard the Titanic.
Cruise organizers have set up a special memorial service on April 14 to start at 11:40 p.m. to mark the moment Titanic hit the iceberg, and later at the exact moment when the ship sank.
The cruise is among an abundance of commemorations and memorials to the reputedly unsinkable ship that have sprung up to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's doomed voyage.
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