Titanic Memorial Cruise Preview
One of the most poignant commemorations of Titanic’s one hundredth anniversary and the centenary of her sinking will be performed at the site where she sank in mid Atlantic. It forms part of the Titanic Memorial Cruise
, a specially chartered voyage which will replicate Titanic’s route to the United States.
The cruise has been organised by Bristol-based travel agency, Miles Morgan. 1309 paying passengers (the same number as were on Titanic) and around five hundred of a crew will sail aboard the Fred Olsen liner, Balmoral. The main difference obviously is that the tribute vessel gets to reach her destination and dock in New York harbour.
On-board discussions and debate
Once it leaves Southampton, the ship follows Titanic’s route and passes Cherbourg in Normandy. On 9 April, Balmoral will call at Cobh, County Cork, which was Titanic’s last stop before she headed out into the Atlantic. During the journey to Titanic’s final resting place, the passengers will have a choice of lectures to attend, all of which will be recorded for the ship’s in-house broadcast system. Esteemed Titanic experts and authors such as Phillip Littlejohn and Senan Moloney will be amongst those imparting their knowledge and, no doubt, prompting discussion and debate between Titanic enthusiasts. Specially commissioned memorabilia is being provided by County Antrim company, White Star Momentos
. The food and entertainment on board will reflect the style of the era.
Service of remembrance
The service of remembrance will be held between 11.40pm on the 14 April, the time when Titanic struck the iceberg, and 2.20am on the 15th, the time when the ship slipped below the surface of the water. At this time the Balmoral will be joined by a second ship, the Azamara Journey, which leaves New York City on 10th. The US Coastguard International ice patrol will also conduct a ceremony on behalf of the Titanic attractions in Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Since July, visitors to these museums have been dropping rose petals into a container in the memorial rooms. These will be scattered by the coastguard crew. As Miles Morgan says, 'Who knows who else will turn up under their own steam at the wreck site?'
Nova Scotia to New York
From there, the ship diverts from Titanic’s intended route to take in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is here that the bodies of around 200 Titanic passengers and crew were brought ashore and buried in local cemeteries. Passengers can spend two days in Halifax before continuing down the coast to New York. Balmoral arrives there on the morning of 20 April. Susie Millar, the great granddaughter of Titanic engineer Thomas Millar
, is lecturing on board the ship and will be providing TV and radio coverage for BBC Northern Ireland. She says, 'For me the big moment will be our arrival in New York Harbour. To be able to complete Tommy’s journey for him a hundred years later will be such an emotional thing. I am sure he never imagined his great granddaughter would be honouring him in this way.'
Remembering Titanic's passengers and crew
People from over 24 different countries have booked their places for the voyage. Places were sold out twenty months before departure. A handful of the passengers come from Titanic’s homeland, including Belfast Titanic Society member, Sean McMichael. 'When I first considered buying a ticket for the Titanic memorial cruise in the summer of 2009 I was just becoming aware that a Titanic victim, James Blaney, was listed as coming from my own hometown of Ballycastle on the North coast of County Antrim. Nothing was known about him so I set about discovering him and his missing story.
'Like others, I am looking forward to the act of commemoration over Titanic's resting site. I have two pieces of coal to cast overboard: one from Ballycastle mines, recalling James Blaney's blacksmith background, and another from Titanic itself. Conjoined together, these small black diamonds will, at last, reconnect a forgotten Titanic fireman with his home town, Ballycastle,' says Sean.
There will be more about James Blaney’s story and the Titanic links to Ballycastle in future articles on this website.
Jill Kirby’s great uncle Alfred Albert White was a survivor of Titanic. She has been researching more about her relative since making the decision to go on board. She says, 'Alfred White was the only known survivor from the generator and engine room…It also says that he was an 'electrician' oiler of electrical equipment and not a 'greaser' proper, which would account for why he is listed on some records under both. Alfred was sent up to see what was happening after the collision with the iceberg. This undoubtedly saved his life.'
Jane Allen from Devon in England will remember her relative, Thomas Pears. He was a first class passenger, part of the Pears soap dynasty, who had branched out to run the family’s rubber plantation business in Malaysia. He did not survive but his wife, Edith was saved in lifeboat number 8.
The cruise organisers decided to link up with the Mission to Seafarers
charity. A contribution will be made for each passenger on board and there will be other activities on board to support the charity. The Mission to Seafarers operates in 230 ports around the world to provide practical and moral support to merchant crews. Miles Morgan said he wanted to find a charity which operated around the world so that he could reflect the international make-up of passengers and crew on board Titanic. The remembrance service on 15th April will be led by Reverend Canon Huw Mosford, the Mission’s director of chaplaincy.
Arrival in New York
Balmoral will arrive in New York Harbour on 19 April. Preparations are being finalised for how the ship and its passengers will be greeted at the port Titanic should have reached. Many will recall the scene from the 1980’s film, Raise the Titanic
where the ship, in one piece, sails proudly past the Statue of Liberty and into berth. The film was produced before the discovery of the wreck and the realisation that it was in two pieces. So while that movie scene could never be recreated, Balmoral’s arrival into New York City will be the next best thing.
Images reproduced courtesy of Fred Olsen cruises.
Visit the Titanic Memorial Cruise
Event Date(s) : 9 April - 19 April 2012
How to get there
Tel: 01926 678097