One hundred years ago a ship that will live in infamy sank dramatically in the cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic carried 1,309 passengers and went down at 2:20 a.m. ship time on April 14, 1912. Amid the myriad centennial memorials and remembrances marking a tragedy that still fascinates the world is the Titanic Memorial Cruise.
The chartered voyage, which has been retracing the Titanic’s ill-fated path since April 8, was the brainchild of U.K.-based Miles Morgan. It was five years in the making.
Morgan’s travel agency actually chartered two ships, the Azamara Journey which set off from New York on April 10 with a stop in Halifax, Canada before setting out to sea to converge with the Balmoral, which set off from Southampton, England. The ships were set to converge at sea above the Titanic’s wreckage for a midnight memorial service late on April 14.
“The idea came up five years ago—a gentleman came into my travel shop in the U.K. and I thought it was a great idea,” said Morgan of how he conceived of the venture. He said that the process of bringing the idea to life was more complex than he anticipated, but just meeting Titanic history buffs and those interested in the ship’s history has made it worthwhile.
“I could write a book on the interesting people I’ve come across [who booked a trip],” he said. When all was said and done, he had passenger bookings from at least 28 countries.
“When we started we had a couple of meetings with the [last] living survivor of the Titanic, Millvina Dean, and after the second meeting she passed away,” recalled Morgan. “You’d never have believed she was 97.” Dean, who was an infant at the time the ship sank, was in a lifeboat rowed by a grandfather of one of the lecturers on the memorial cruise.
Part of the cruise’s draw for Titanic buffs, or “Titanicophiles” as they are sometimes called, have been the opportunities to hear lectures by experts while on board, dress in period costume, and dine on the same food that Titanic passengers did.
But the high point of the memorial cruise will be when both ships converge on the spot where the Titanic sank 100 years later to hold a memorial ceremony and throw three wreaths into the water.
The memorial service will be conducted between 11:40 p.m. on April 14—when the Titanic struck the iceberg—and 2:20 a.m. on the 15th—when the ship sank below the surface of the water.
“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,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,” passenger Sharon Willing from Arizona, was quoted as saying on the Memorial Cruise website.
Morgan says that he was able to recreate the ship’s fateful voyage to a willing audience simply because it’s still a fascinating story even after a century.
“You had the richest people in the world at the time on the ship, and the people in steerage class; you had the fact that the whole ship was unsinkable; you have the conspiracy theories,” said Morgan. “It has every element of an interesting story.”
But he notes that of the passengers who booked passage on the ship, only one group is Titanic enthusiasts. A second group of passengers are descendents of people who were on the Titanic. The third group of passengers is the most surprising: fans of the film Titanic.
“A number of people who loved the film and danced to Celine Dion’s theme song for the movie at their wedding [are onboard],” said Morgan.