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Southampton, England

Following Titanic's route

QMI Agency writer Jim Fox.

By Jim Fox, Special to Postmedia Network

The Titanic being prepared for launching to begin its maiden voyage to New York from England. (Handout)

The Titanic being prepared for launching to begin its maiden voyage to New York from England. (Handout)

In a year when there was a nautical disaster that could have rivalled that of the Titanic in the form of the Costa Concordia tragedy, people are clammering to be on board memorial voyages to hover over the shipwreck site from a century ago.

From those with a morbid fascination, to people who liked the movie, and those who lost ancestors in the sinking, many have booked passage on the two sailings.

The ships will rendezvous in the mid-Atlantic for a memorial ceremony at the time when the Titanic hit the iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912.

On her maiden voyage, there was the loss of 1,517 passengers and 706 survivors.

Her eternal resting place is four kilometres beneath the surface, 595 kilometres offshore from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland.

“We’ve booked this once-in-a-lifetime event as we wish to commemorate our relative, Thomas Pears, who died on the Titanic,” says Jane Allen of Devon, England. 

Following the Titanic route

The 12-night transatlantic journey, leaving Southampton, England on April 8 on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral, will follow the route of the Titanic.

Olsen’s parent company, Harland and Wolff, built the Titanic that at the time was the largest and most luxurious ship afloat – and considered to be “unsinkable.”

Balmoral will have to leave port two days earlier than the Titanic did to reach the spot of the sinking as modern cruise ships cannot travel as fast as the doomed vessel.

It will visit Cobh, Ireland where the Titanic made its final port of call and will visit the wreck site and on to Halifax before ending its voyage in New York City.

A few cabins have become available due to last-minute cancellations while anyone interested might do better finding a spot on the other cruise on the Azamara Journey.

Only 70% of the cabins had been sold as of a few weeks ago, perhaps because it is instead round-trip New York City leaving April 10 for eight nights, sailing to Halifax and then to the shipwreck site.

Fares have been slashed to $999 US, down from $4,900, for an inside stateroom, $1,599 (from $5,550) for a veranda stateroom and $2,999 (from $6,750) for a suite. Oceanview cabins are sold-out.

Miles Morgan, whose British travel company arranged the cruises, says Titanic “raises intense emotions in people – it’s such an emotive story.”

Guests will have a “deeper understanding” of what the passengers experienced through a schedule of enrichment programs and memorials. 

And, the band plays on

The Balmoral’s historic journey with 1,309 paying passengers (the same number as on the fateful voyage that also had 900 crew) will be steeped in history.

“The food served will match the sumptuous menus on the original voyage and the entertainment will include music and dancing in the style featured in those glorious times,” Morgan said.

As well, there will be a chance to hear first-hand from historians who have studied the Titanic story, he added.

While in Halifax, cruisers can visit Fairview Lawn Cemetery where 121 Titanic victims are buried along with Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery and Hirsch Jewish Cemetery that also have victims’ graves.

The Balmoral continues on to New York, the ultimate planned destination of the original voyage, “where it is set for an historic welcome,” Morgan says.

“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,” says Sharon Willing of Arizona.

“This trip will bring closure to many people and it’s going to be very, very poignant,” she added.

For more information: www.titanicmemorialcruise.co.uk; 1-866-534-1748. 

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