Titanic cruise ship forced to turn back briefly

ON BOARD MS BALMORAL, April 10 Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:05pm EDT

ON BOARD MS BALMORAL, April 10 (Reuters) - A cruise ship retracing the Titanic's fateful voyage 100 years ago was forced to turn back towards Ireland on Tuesday after a passenger developed heart problems.

The Balmoral is carrying 1,309 passengers, about the same number as were on the Titanic. Among them are relatives of those who lost their lives, relatives of survivors and historians.

The Titanic Memorial Cruise had departed from Southampton, England, on Sunday to follow the doomed ship's route to New York.

The passengers had intended to hold a memorial service at the spot where it sank on the night of April 14-15.

The Balmoral had left the port of Cobh in Ireland late on Monday night and was sailing through heavy weather when Captain Robert Bamberg announced on Tuesday afternoon it would have to turn back to return within helicopter range of Ireland to allow the sick passenger to be evacuated.

Miles Morgan, Managing Director of Miles Morgan Travel which chartered the journey, told reporters the ship would go back about 20 nautical miles to get within helicopter range.

"The passenger's condition is not thought to be life-threatening," he said.

Morgan was unable to say immediately whether the delay would affect the ship's ability to reach the location of the 1912 sinking on time.

Meanwhile the bad weather which hit the ship as it sailed from Southampton to Brighton was continuing on Tuesday afternoon, forcing the cancellation of a floor show due to safety concerns for the performers.

The cruise has been five years in the making and organisers have tried to make it as authentic to the era as possible.

Passengers from 28 countries, who have paid between around 2,600 pounds ($4,100) and 8,000 pounds each, are being offered dishes served on the Titanic and on-board lectures about the famous ship. (Writing by Stephen Addison; editing by Andrew Roche)

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