Titanic memorial ship visits Cobh

Tuesday 10 April 2012 13.27
One of the last photographs of the Titanic, departing Cobh, on display at the Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast
One of the last photographs of the Titanic, departing Cobh, on display at the Titanic Visitor Centre in Belfast

Thousands of people turned out in Cobh, Co Cork, this evening to greet the arrival of the MS Balmoral as it follows the original itinerary of the Titanic 100 years ago.

It is one of a number of events taking place in Cobh, which was the last port of call for the luxury liner in 1912.

The Balmoral, carrying descendants of some of the more than 1,500 people who died aboard the Titanic, cast off from Southampton port in England.

Those on board are to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the White Star liner at the location in the Atlantic Ocean where it hit an iceberg and sank on 15 April 1912.

Many of those who turned up to board the MS Balmoral were dressed in period Edwardian costumes, with some as first class passengers, others as steerage travellers and some as crew.

"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, organisers said.

Passenger Graham Free, 37, was dressed as an 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."

Organisers 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 honour 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 €3,390 and €7,261 per person.

However, the Balmoral had to leave two days earlier than the Titanic did as it cannot steam as fast.

Cruise organiser 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.

Over the course of the voyage, passengers will attend lectures by Titanic experts such as Philip Littlejohn, grandson of a Titanic survivor.

Mr Littlejohn said he is sure his grandfather would be proud to know his story would be shared with passengers on the Titanic Memorial Cruise.

"It will be an emotional moment when we are over the wreck site, where I dived in 2001 and where my grandfather left Titanic rowing Lifeboat 13," he said.

The MS Balmoral is operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, whose parent company, Harland and Wolff, built the Titanic in Belfast.

A second cruise from New York is due to meet up with the British ship over the wreck site.

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