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.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe gives a strong performance in Horns
film

Review: Alexandre Aja's film is a Twin Peaks-style mystery

News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
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

Management Accountant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful events and hospital...

The benefits of Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Are you looking for a...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £100,000: SThree: If you would like to work fo...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes