Relatives of passengers who died aboard the Titanic have set sail on a trip to retrace the journey of the doomed liner.
Critics of the voyage, who thought the cruise was macabre or in poor taste, were silenced after all 1,309 berths on the MS Balmoral – the same number on board the Titanic – were snapped up.
The Balmoral left Southampton docks today, and is due to reach the North Atlantic wreck site next weekend for a memorial ceremony.
Once there, passengers will leave wreaths and family artifacts in memory of those who died.
Passengers making the journey come from more than 20 countries and include relatives of survivors, authors, historians and people who are fascinated by the Titanic story.
A five-piece band will recreate the soundtrack from the era for passengers.
The Balmoral will follow the Titanic’s exact route – via Cherbourg in north-west France and Cobh on the south coast of County Cork, Ireland – to the spot where the liner sank.
The Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912 and sank the following morning, claiming 1,517 lives.
On the anniversary, passengers will gather on deck for a memorial ceremony at 11:40pm – the exact time ship the hit the iceberg exactly 100 years on.
Another service will be held at 2.20am to mark the moment it sank.
From the wreck-site, the Balmoral will go on to Nova Scotia, where some of the bodies of those who died are buried, and then onto New York, the destination Titanic never reached.
Philip Littlejohn, grandson of survivor Alexander James Littlejohn, and the only Titanic relative to have made the dive to the wreck site, said: ‘I’m sure my grandfather, a 1st Class Steward on RMS Titanic, would be proud to know his story will be shared with the passengers on this historic cruise.
‘It will be an emotional moment when we are over the wreck site, where I dived in 2001, and where my grandfather left Titanic rowing Lifeboat 13.’
Passengers have paid up to $10,000 to join the commemorative voyage.
Miles Morgan, managing director of Miles Morgan Travel, which chartered the journey, said: ‘This cruise has been five years in the making and we have sought to make it authentic to the era and a sympathetic memorial to the passengers and crew who lost their lives.
Dozens of artifacts from the world’s most famous ship have emerged since it sank on April 15, 1912.
Numerous events have also taken place in the lead up to the 100th anniversary of its sinking.
The Belfast shipyard where the Titanic was built has been revitalised in time for the landmark date, while an eye-catching, dockside centre opened just weeks before the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking.