LONDON—A cruise ship carrying descendants of some of the people who died on the Titanic set sail from a British port Sunday to retrace the doomed liner’s route on its maiden voyage 100 years ago.
The Titanic Memorial Cruise is carrying 1,309 passengers, the same number as were on the White Star ship, and departed from Southampton docks in southern England.
Many turned up to board the MS Balmoral in period Edwardian costumes, with some as first class passengers, others as steerage travellers and some as crew.
As part of the 12-night voyage, the cruise will also stop at the location in the Atlantic Ocean where the original ship hit an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, and those on board will hold a memorial service.
“It is still quite unbelievable what happened that night,” said Jane Allen, who was travelling on the memorial cruise with her husband Frank.
She said her great aunt and uncle left on the Titanic on their honeymoon. The aunt survived aboard one of the lifeboats, but her uncle stayed on board and was among the more than 1,500 people who died.
Around 50 of those on board were related to Titanic victims, organizers said.
Passenger Graham Free, 37, was dressed as a Edwardian gentleman but said he did not think the cruise was exploiting the tragedy.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Organizers are trying to recreate the experience of travelling on the Titanic — albeit safely this time — with food from the original menus and a band from Belgium to play period music.
The band is in honor of the musicians who played on the Titanic as it sank beneath the waves with the loss of 1,514 lives.
People from 28 different countries booked places on the voyage, which cost between £2,799 and £5,995 ($4,441/3,390 euros and $9,512/7,261 euros) per person.
However the Balmoral had to leave two days earlier than the Titanic did as it cannot steam as fast.
Cruise organizer Miles Morgan said it was a “very, very special cruise”, especially for the relatives of those who died.
“This cruise has been five years in the making and every step of the way we have sought to make it authentic to the era and a sympathetic memorial to the passengers and crew who lost their lives,” he said.
The boat will also stop at Cherbourg in France and Cobh in Ireland, just as the Titanic did.
Carmel Bradburn, 55, who is originally from Manchester in northwest England but now lives in Australia, said she was “fanatical about the Titanic.”
“It’s an amazing story and I have been reading about it but I’m not so keen on the film. Just think we are doing this 100 years later,” she said.
Her partner Andreas Storic, 51, added: “I don’t think the cruise is morbid. It’s like saying Gallipoli is morbid or commemorating the war. Remembering those who died is not morbid.”
A second cruise from New York is due to meet up with the British ship over the wreck site.