IN a scene befitting the legacy of the most infamous ship in the world, the band played and emotions ran high as the MS Balmoral pulled alongside Cobh quayside yesterday.
Thousands of wellwishers, some dressed in period garb, broke into spontaneous applause as the cruise liner, which is re-tracing the voyage of the Titanic, reached the town which from which the ship set out on its ill-fated journey.
"It's quite emotional to be here," said Nigel Lingard, from Suffolk in the UK. "My wife Sonja and I found it very tear-jerking to see the crowds as we came into port. It gives one a huge sense of what it must have been like 100 years ago as the Titanic pulled in.
"The atmosphere on board the Balmoral was wonderful last night, with a lot of old stories being told by relatives of those who were on board the original ship."
James A Flood, dressed in the uniform of the Titanic's captain, had travelled from Dory Beach, Florida, to make the trip across the Atlantic with his wife, Tina.
"I'm a maritime artist and I was asked to paint a picture of the Titanic while on board the Balmoral, which will be auctioned off at the end of the trip," he said.
"Both Tina and my great grandparents were from the midlands in Ireland and had to emigrate at the start of the 1900's from here in Cobh. They weren't on board the Titanic, they were a few years before that, but this trip is sort of in honour of the journey that they had to make."
Some of those dressed in the clothing of the time were self-confessed 'Titanoraks', such as the Udbye family, who are from Norway.
"We've always had a huge interest in the Titanic," said Anne Isobelle Udbye. "It's really the most famous ship in the world. We are so happy to be made very welcome on our arrival here."
The Titanic 100 festival continues during the week in Cobh, with more than 30,000 people expected, including President Michael D Higgins, who will visit on the actual centenary of the Titanic's visit on April 12.
The well-dressed visitors were joined by several locals who went the extra mile to welcome the Balmoral's passengers, such as the staff of Wilson's Pharmacy.
Regina Aherne and Stephanie Finucane said it was the "least we could do to be part of this historic celebration".
"We wanted to get into the spirit of things," said Regina. "We'll be wearing our costumes all during the festival."
The Balmoral's captain, Robert Bamberg, joined Cobh's town mayor, Jim Quinlan, at a short reception in the town square shortly after the vessel berthed and described it as "a huge honour to be here in Cobh".
The Titanic Memorial Cruise organiser, Miles Morgan, said that he was "overwhelmed by the turnout" in Cobh.
The MS Balmoral sets sail again today on its journey to New York and on its way will stop at the exact spot where Titanic struck an iceberg, exactly 100 years from the fateful day on April 15, 1912. Descendants of some of those who were on board will lay wreaths on the ocean.
There are 28 nationalities on board the cruise liner, with passage on the voyage costing between €3,390 and €7,261 per person.