Full throttle ahead for voyage of the Titanoraks

Some are in period dress, some have come to learn about its history. In all, 1,309 passengers are about to recreate one of history's most infamous journeys

Fifteen years ago James Cameron's blockbuster film asked: "Are you ready to go back to Titanic?" For the 1,309 passengers who lined up at Southampton yesterday to retrace its ill-fated journey on a 12-night memorial cruise, the response could not have been clearer.

Standing on the concourse waiting to board the MS Balmoral, some were clad in Edwardian tea dresses, while others clutched newspaper covers from 1912. Misty-eyed couples bade farewell to their friends and well-wishers. In a global recession, coupled with recent cruising tragedies such as the Costa Concordia, a fee of as much as £5,995 for the opportunity to relive one of the world's deadliest peacetime disasters might seem a tough sell. Yet tickets have been sold out for months.

As the departures queues spilled all the way into the car park of Southampton's Eastern docks yesterday, the organisers denied they were profiting from "disaster voyeurism".

Jacki Free, an IT consultant from Bolton, was preparing to board with her husband, three children and in-laws. Standing behind her husband, she defended wearing her self-proclaimed Edwardian "Kate Winslet arrival dress". "If I came wearing 2012 attire people might say I'm being disrespectful. This is a Titanic memorial cruise so it is about putting yourself in that time and era. It's about respecting those we have left behind," she said.

Miles Morgan, the British travel company behind the excursion, has promised an "authentic" and "sympathetic" flavour of Titanic life (without the iceberg-induced interruption). Food on board is from the original menus of the White Star Line ship, and a Belgian band will play the same selection of music as in 1912.

There will be 10 specialist lectures and two memorial services at the point off Newfoundland, Canada, where the ship collided with an iceberg. The first will be on 14 April starting at 11.40pm – the time of the original collision – and the next at 2.20am the next morning, when it finally sank.

David Holmes, 63, from Taunton, Somerset, works behind the check-out counter at Tesco and has saved for two years for a ticket. "When I saw it advertised, I just knew I had to go," he said. "I know it's not cheap but it'll never happen again." He insists he's too excited to worry about meeting the same fate as the Titanic. "To be honest I'm far more nervous about arriving in New York by myself – I've never been to America before."

Sarah Haynes, 31, from Stowbridge in the West Midlands, received her tickets as an engagement present. "I've never sailed before and feel like I could be tempting fate. A few people have asked if it's just morbid curiosity. But I think that's unfair. This is an opportunity to learn about other things like history, the value of life and the class system."

Unlike the original voyage, there will be no class divisions on board this time. That doesn't worry Howard Owens, 55, who flew over with his wife from Moreno Valley in California (the trip is costing him more than $50,000). "A lot of our friends have lost homes and marriages in the recession. But we can't let that stop us from achieving our goals," he said.

However, he did not approve of those in Edwardian attire. "Period clothing is an insult to those who lost their life. I'm not going to impersonate someone who died on that ship. We're here for the right reasons; the presentations, lectures and accumulating knowledge. But I'm not here to make a mockery of their death."

Among those on board the MS Balmoral are relatives of victims and survivors of the Titanic, including Philip Littlejohn, the grandson of Alexander Littlejohn, who was a steward in the first-class section of the vessel and survived by rowing away one of the 16 lifeboats on board.

If you're a bit uncomfortable about the direction of disaster tourism, be warned: this is only the start. Plans are already afoot for an underwater tour of the Titantic wreckage in a Russian-built submarine. And after that? Mr Owens adds: "We could well do the same thing for 11 September in 90 years' time. In fact when we arrive in New York we have reservations booked for the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. It sounds awful; but it is important to pay respect."

But among the crowd there were a few less moved by the moment. Heather Hutchinson, 25, flew in from New South Wales in Australia with her grandfather. Boarding in a pair of flashing Easter bunny ears, she said: "I have always been fascinated with Titanic; it has a mystery that is still being discovered"

Engineer's letter revealed after 100 years

By Karrie Gillett

A letter written by a Scottish engineer exactly 100 years ago as he prepared to board the Titanic will go on show for the first time next week.

Robert Douglas Norman, a 28-year-old electrical engineer from Glasgow, wrote the letter from his half-sister's London home on 9 April 1912, the eve of the ship's departure from Southampton.

He died when the Titanic sank six days later, leaving an estate of more than £8,500 (worth more than £650,000 today) to his half sister, step-niece and cousin. The letter was discovered by the National Records of Scotland.

Mr Norman was travelling to Vancouver, where he had a brother and a share in land. He was a second-class passenger, paying £13 10s for his ticket.

The documents will be shown from 16 April as part of a display at the Scotlands People Centre in Edinburgh to mark the centenary of the sinking of the ship.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss