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Irish sign up to retrace Titanic's fateful journey

A CRUISE ship voyage commemorating the Titanic will halt over the ship's wreck exactly 100 years after its sinking.

More than 100 people from Ireland will be among passengers from 24 countries seeking to re-create the fateful journey of the doomed luxury liner.

In the early hours of April 15, 2012, those on board the cruise ship Balmoral will hold a nighttime memorial service for the victims. Some 1,517 people drowned after the Titanic, bound for New York, hit an iceberg five days after leaving Cobh, Co Cork.

The memorial cruise is almost sold out 20 months before its departure date. It will start in Southhampton and will anchor at Cobh for a full day.

The ship will re-trace the original route through the north Atlantic before halting at the site of the sinking for the memorial service.

Relatives of victims and survivors are among those who have booked.

The Balmoral is operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, whose parent company Harland and Wolff built the Titanic in Belfast.

Experts will deliver lectures during the voyage, including Irish journalist Senan Molony, a former Herald reporter who has written books about the tragedy.

Other speakers include Philip Littlejohn, grandson of survivor Alexander James Littlejohn and the only Titanic relative to have made the dive to the wreck site. He said: "It will be an emotional moment when we are over the wreck site, where my grandfather left Titanic rowing Lifeboat 13."

Miles Morgan, managing director of the Titanic Memorial Cruise, said: "It has really captured the imagination of people all over the world. We've had requests from musicians who want to audition to be part of the famous string quartet."

A string quartet played Nearer My God To Thee as the Titanic sank into the icy waters. The cruise will continue on to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where passengers will be able to visit the graves of several of the people who died in disaster.

aokeeffe@herald.ie