NEW YORK – A century after the Titanic set sail on its fateful cruise across the Atlantic, an historic recreation of the journey has almost sold out – 19 months before it hauls anchor.
The Balmoral sets sail from Southampton, England, on April 8, 2012. Aboard will be 1,309 paying passengers – exactly the same number as boarded the original cruise.
It will follow the Titanic’s exact route, passing by Cherbourg on the French coast and stopping at the Irish port of Cobh before steaming across the Atlantic. On April 14 – the day the original ship struck an iceberg 100 years earlier – passengers will take part in a special memorial ceremony.
The Balmoral will continue its journey to Halifax, Nova Scotia – the burial place for many who lost their lives – before docking in New York City on April 19.
Among the history buffs, academics and passengers seeking a unique vacation experience will be relatives of the Titanic’s passengers, eager for the chance to finally say goodbye.
“For me, it’s about being able to stand above the wreck exactly 100 years after my great grandfather died, and to be able to throw a flower down for him,” said Sharon Willing, from Arizona.
Her relative, Herbert Fuller Chaffee, went down with the Titanic. His wife, Carrie Toogood Chaffee, escaped in a lifeboat. “I have grown up with this knowledge that my great grandfather died in that ship. This trip will bring closure to many people and it’s going to be very, very poignant,” said Sharon.
The Balmoral’s cruise-goers come from 24 countries including the USA and Canada, Europe, Australia and South America.
“My great-grandfather had tickets for the Titanic, but did not go,” said passenger Julie Cox, from Louisiana. “The Titanic has been a lifelong interest to me and my family.”
During the 12-day trip, cruise-goers will eat dishes that would have been served in 1912. Music and entertainment will reflect the era, and passengers are planning to dress in period costume. World-renowned experts will give lectures, telling the story of the Titanic throughout the cruise.
New Jersey author Charles Haas, a co-founder of the Titanic International Society will be one speaker.
He became one of the first academics to dive to the wreck of the Titanic in 1993.
“Seeing the wreck was like nothing I have ever experienced, a mixture of many different emotions that have changed my life,” he said.
“Being where the Titanic went down is a very powerful, emotional spot to be in.”
Miles Morgan, managing director of the Titanic Memorial Cruise, said, “The 100th anniversary is such a significant milestone in the history of the Titanic and it has really captured the imagination of people all over the world.
“We’ve heard stories from guests who are having dresses created especially for the event, and requests from musicians who want to audition to be part of the famous string quartet.”
That quartet continued to play as the Titanic sank below the waves.
The last remaining twin cabins are available for $5,185 per person, double occupancy, with superior suites selling for $10,195 per person. Prices include all on-board meals, lectures and entertainment.
The Balmoral is operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, whose parent company Harland and Wolff built the Titanic.