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April 13, 2012

Ships on opposite sides of ocean on Titanic trips

NEW YORK — Two cruise ships on opposite sides of the Atlantic have embarked on journeys to visit the spot where the Titanic sank, but one that departed after a short stop on the Irish coast returned briefly when a passenger became ill.

With the sickened passenger needing to be airlifted for medical care, the European memorial cruise on Tuesday interrupted its trip retracing the path of the Titanic's doomed maiden voyage 100 years ago.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, the cruise ship Journey left from a New York pier on Tuesday night.

Both memorial cruise ships were packed with history aficionados, many dressed in period costumes, including a boy in a fake white beard on the New York ship dressed as the captain of the doomed ocean liner. In April 1912, the Titanic left Southampton, England, bound for New York. The vessel struck an iceberg and sank into the watery dark. More than 1,500 crew members and passengers died.

The cruise ship Journey, operated by Azamara Club Cruises, and carrying 440 passengers who boarded the ship at a pier on New York's West Side, will stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where more than 100 Titanic victims are buried. It will then continue on to conduct a memorial service at the spot in the Atlantic where the Titanic sank. Along the way, passengers will listen to lectures about life on board the Titanic and dine at a costume-themed dinner.

Ticket prices dropped in recent weeks from about $5,000 per person to $1,000 per person.

"It's just such a human tragedy that just resonates through the years," said Carol Owens Campbell, 61, of Long Grove, Ill., who was on board with her husband. "What would any of us do if that happened to us?"

There was a festive atmosphere above deck as passengers sipped champagne and explored the ship, which was not decorated in any way to resemble the Titanic and looked like an ordinary cruise liner.

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