08/04/2012 07:18 BST | Updated 07/06/2012 10:12 BST

Ms Balmoral To Recreate Titanic's Voyage 100 Years After The Sinking

Descendants of those who died in the Titanic disaster 100 years ago were some of those who set sail today on a memorial cruise to the site of the wreck.

The MS Balmoral will leave Southampton on the 12-night cruise to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the liner that hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage.

The same number of 1,309 passengers - not including crew - are aboard the MS Balmoral as on the ill-fated ship with around 50 having a direct family connection to the sinking.

A service will take place at the time it sank.

The ship also has the same port of departure in an effort to recreate the voyage of arguably the most famous ship of all time at a cost of between £2,799 and £5,995 per person.

Scroll down for pictures of the memorial voyage

Mary-Beth Crocker Dearing and her husband Tom dressed in Edwardian costume at Southampton docks before boarding the Balmoral cruise ship

But the Balmoral had to leave two days earlier than the Titanic did as it cannot steam as fast.

In keeping with the theme, food on board is from the menus of the White Star Line ship that sank on April 15 1912 with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

The organisers have even hired a band - the five-piece Grupetto from Belgium - to play era style music in honour of the Titanic's musicians who are said to have played until the ship sank.

People from 28 different countries have booked to travel and retrace the liner's original route.

Many turned up in Southampton today in period costume dressed as first class passengers, crew or steerage passengers.

All must be hoping this particular ship makes it to New York - unlike its predecessor.

There will be a special memorial service for passengers above the wreck site on April 14 starting at 11.40pm, when the ship hit the iceberg and another at 2.20am on April 15 when it sank.

Then and now: A car-carrying ship sits at 44 berth in Southampton docks, the same berth from which the RMS Titanic sailed from on April 10th, 1912

Those who have paid to go are from Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, South America and the USA - testament to the worldwide appeal of the story made famous by the 1997 film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines operated MS Balmoral has been chartered for the event by Miles Morgan Travel, which specialises in tailor-made holidays.

A line up of 10 specialist lecturers - some of the world's leading experts on the sinking - will be on board including Philip Littlejohn, grandson of Titanic survivor Alexander James Littlejohn, and the only Titanic relative to have made the dive to the wreck site.

Mr Littlejohn 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."

More than 1,500 people lost their lives after the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank

Passenger Graham Free, 37, a telecomms manager from Bolton, was dressed as a Edwardian gentleman.

He said: "I have been a fan of the Titanic since I was nine years old and this cruise is the closest you are going to get to it. The trip has cost a considerable amount but I wanted to do it."

When asked if the trip was exploiting the tragedy, Mr Free said: "I don't agree at all. We are not here to mock. We are here to enjoy and remember those who were unfortunately lost.

"I think it's going to be emotional when we get above the wreck site and have the service."

He added that he wasn't an expert on the disaster and would be attending many of the lectures by experts onboard to find out more.

Retired policeman Peter Hill, 61, from the Isle of Man, was going with his wife Lynda, also 61, and he said he had a personal link to the ship.

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"My grandfather was a Lloyd's underwriter of the ship and lost a lot of money when she sank. He was a very wealthy man and had to sell one of two farms to pay for the losses.

"I'm a big fan of the story and I have 38 books about it and it's always been part of my family history.

"I think the cruise has been tastefully done. It's not a cheap cruise by any means."

Carmel Bradburn, 55, originally from Manchester, but now living in Adelaide, Australia, has bought her partner Andreas Storic, 51, on his first foreign trip and it is the couple's first cruise.

"I'm fanatical about the Titanic. It's an amazing story and I have been reading about it but I'm not so keen on the film. Just think we are doing this 100 years later."

Mr Storic added: "I don't think the cruise is morbid. It's like saying Gallipoli is morbid or commemorating the war. Remembering those who died is not morbid."

Miles Morgan, managing director of Miles Morgan Travel, said the cruise had become a "global phenomenon".

"This cruise has been five years in the making and every step of the way we have sought to make it authentic to the era and a sympathetic memorial to the passengers and crew who lost their lives," he said.

The food on board will be based on the dishes served in April 1912.

The menu has been created by executive chef on the Balmoral, Dirk Helsig, who has researched the menus that were served on board.

A formal dinner on April 13 will have a menu made up entirely of dishes which were served on the Titanic and guests will enjoy a daily Titanic-inspired dish.

The Revd Canon Huw Mosford, director of chaplaincy from the Mission to Seafarers will lead the memorial service.

Another cruise from New York is due to meet up with the British ship over the wreck site.

The ship will sail on to Halifax, Nova Scotia where many of the victims are buried before arriving at New York.