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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Titantic memorial cruises attract the curious, relatives of victims

   Out to Sea column for March 31/12
   By Jim and Barb Fox

   In a year when there was a nautical disaster that could have rivalled that of the Titanic, people are clambering to be on board memorial voyages to hover over the shipwreck site from a century ago.
   Those with a morbid fascination to people who liked the movie and those who lost ancestors in the sinking have booked passage on the two sailings.
The Titanic being prepared for launching to begin its maiden voyage to New York from England.
   The ships will rendezvous in the mid-Atlantic for a memorial ceremony at the time when the Titanic hit the iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912.
   On her maiden voyage, there was the loss of 1,517 passengers and 706 survivors.
  Her eternal resting place is four kilometres beneath the surface 595 kilometres offshore from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland.
   “We’ve booked this once-in-a-lifetime event as we wish to commemorate our relative, Thomas Pears, who died on the Titanic,” said Jane Allen of Devon, England.

   Following the Titanic route
   The 12-night transatlantic journey, leaving Southampton, England on April 8 on Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Balmoral, will follow the route of the Titanic.
Miles Morgan’s British-based travel company arranged the Titanic memorial cruises.
   Olsen’s parent company, Harland and Wolff, built the Titanic that at the time was the largest and most luxurious ship afloat – and considered to be “unsinkable.”
   Balmoral will have to leave port two days earlier than the Titanic did to reach the spot of the sinking as modern cruise ships cannot travel as fast as the doomed vessel.
   It will visit Cobh, Ireland where the Titanic made its final port of call and will visit the wreck site and on to Halifax before ending its voyage in New York City.
   A few cabins have become available due to last-minute cancellations while anyone interested might do better finding a spot on the other cruise on the Azamara Journey.
   Only 70 per cent of the cabins had been sold as of a few weeks ago, perhaps because it is instead round-trip New York City leaving April 10 for eight nights, sailing to Halifax and then to the shipwreck site.
Miles Morgan
   Fares have been slashed to $999 US, down from $4,900, for an inside stateroom, $1,599 (from $5,550) for a veranda stateroom and $2,999 (from $6,750) for a suite. Oceanview cabins are sold-out.
   Miles Morgan, whose British travel company arranged the cruises, said Titanic “raises intense emotions in people – it’s such an emotive story.”
   Guests will have a “deeper understanding” of what the passengers experienced through a schedule of enrichment programs and memorials.

This historic photo shows the ill-fated RMS Titanic leaving Southampton, England on her maiden voyage in 1912.
   And, the band plays on
   The Balmoral’s historic journey with 1,309 paying passengers (the same number as on the fateful voyage that also had 900 crew) will be steeped in history.
   “The food served will match the sumptuous menus on the original voyage and the entertainment will include music and dancing in the style featured in those glorious times,” Morgan said.
   As well, there will be a chance to hear first-hand from historians who have studied the Titanic story, he added.
   While in Halifax, cruisers can visit Fairview Lawn Cemetery where 121 Titanic victims were
buried along with Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery and Hirsch Jewish Cemetery that also have victims’ graves.
The grave site in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, of Ernest Edward Samuel Freeman, a deck steward, who died in the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago. (Jim Fox photo)
   The Balmoral continues on to New York, the ultimate planned destination of the original voyage, “where it is set for an historic welcome,” Morgan said.
   “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,” said Sharon Willing of Arizona.
   “This trip will bring closure to many people and it’s going to be very, very poignant,” she added.
   For more information: www.titanicmemorialcruise.co.uk; 1-866-534-1748

   Costa Concordia shipwreck update
   Eight more bodies have been recovered from the Costa Concordia that struck a reef and partially sank off the Tuscan coast in Italy on Jan. 13.
   That increases the official death toll to 30, with two people still missing.
   Officials of Costa, owned by Carnival Corp., said it could take up to a year to remove the massive ship that carried 4,200 passengers and crew members.
   Captain Francesco Schettino, accused of causing the disaster by sailing too closely to Giglio island, is under house arrest charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship.
   No one was reported injured when the luxury Silversea Silver Shadow collided with a cargo vessel in thick fog in Halong Bay, Vietnam on March 16.
   The crash was called a “minor incident” by Silversea and the ship continued on its original schedule to Hong Kong with 350 passengers onboard.


Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at outtosea50@hotmail.com

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