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Titanic memorial cruise diverts due to medical emergency

Chris Helgren / Reuters

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter evacuates an ill passenger from the Titanic Memorial Cruise ship MS Balmoral on April 10 in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland.

It's more rough waters for a cruise ship retracing the Titanic's doomed voyage 100 years ago this month.

One day after the MS Balmoral arrived late for planned festivities on Ireland's coast, the ship was forced to turn back Tuesday due to a medical emergency on board.

Rachael Jackson, public relations manager for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, which operates the Balmoral, told msnbc.com that a passenger had fallen ill.

"The ship is turning around and heading approximately 20 nautical miles east to bring it nearer to the coast and within reach of a helicopter," the cruise line said in a statement. "Fred. Olsen and Titanic Memorial Cruises are working with the Irish Coastguard to co-ordinate the relevant arrangements, and making sure that all agencies involved are being kept informed." 

Miles Morgan, Managing Director of Miles Morgan Travel which chartered the journey, told Reuters that "the passenger's condition is not thought to be life-threatening."

The ship, which departed Southampton, England, on Sunday, is currently traveling to New York. After a brief port call in Cobh on Ireland's south coast, the Balmoral sailed again late Monday night.

The ship is carrying 1,309 passengers on a 12-night cruise. Among them are relatives of those who lost their lives, relatives of survivors and historians.

The Balmoral's itinerary includes a memorial service at the spot where the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, in international waters in the North Atlantic. More than 1,500 people aboard perished.

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Also on Tuesday, the cruise ship Journey, carrying 440 passengers, left a New York City pier for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Titanic Memorial Cruise, which arranged the cruises on both the Balmoral and the Journey, says the passengers will visit a cemetery where 150 victims of the Titanic are buried. The ship also will feature lectures about life on board the doomed ocean liner and will hold a memorial service at sea.

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

Meanwhile, the Balmoral continued to be plagued by bad weather on Tuesday afternoon, forcing the cancellation of a floor show due to safety concerns for the performers. 

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

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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. 

The Balmoral was set to resume its voyage once the passenger was evacuated.

Like the Balmoral, the Titanic also experienced several delays, Jeff Jensen of Living Titanic Lectures told msnbc.com. After the Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic, collided with a ship in New York's harbor in 1911, workers were pulled off the Titanic to make repairs, which postponed the Titanic's maiden voyage by three to four months.

“Even the morning it left, there was a two-hour delay,” Jensen said, referring to an incident in which the force of the Titanic's engines snapped the mooring lines of the liner New York in Southampton’s harbor, resulting in a near collision between the two ships.

In Southampton, England, hundreds turned out to remember the 100 anniversary of the Titanic's departure on its maiden – and what turned out to be final – voyage.

While at sea, the Titanic's radio broke down on the day before the ship's fateful collision with an iceberg, Jensen said. As operators tried to catch up on a communications backlog, they neglected to deliver ice warnings to the captain. “Right up until the day of the disaster, they were still feeling the effects of some of the delays.”

Despite the current holdups aboard the Balmoral, Jensen said he hopes the ship will soon be able to get back on course and stay true to its its focus: "to remember and honor the Titanic."

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was included in this report.

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