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Clarence couple sets sail on 100th anniversary cruise

Early Sunday morning, two Western New Yorkers plan to mark the wreck of Titanic at the precise place and time the ship sank in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, 100 years ago.

Bill and Karen Weber of Clarence will be joining others on deck of a Titanic-themed cruise in mid-ocean at 2:20 a.m. Sunday, at 41* 43'N, 49* 56'W, the location of the ship's final descent.

"It's exciting to be there. It's good to relive a bit of history," said Bill Weber.

The Webers are taking part in a "Titanic anniversary" cruise that set sail on Tuesday from New York harbor.

Their route is tracing, in reverse, a path similar to that of Titanic's victims a century ago -- beginning with a stop in Nova Scotia at the graves of unknown dead of the disaster, then across the ocean to the location in the Atlantic where the ship sank.

At 2:20 Sunday, the Webers are scheduled to take part in a shipboard memorial service to mourn the passing of the wreck's 1,500 victims -- including two men from Western New York.

"We wanted to get the entire feel of what happened out there, as much as possible," said Weber, 69, the former owner of Gibraltar Industrial, a Town of Tonawanda-based heavy machinery relocation company. "When this opportunity came up, we jumped on it."

The ship they are traveling on is one operated by the Azamara line, a line that does some specialty cruises, Weber said. The cruise cost the Webers $15,000.

On the cruise, passengers are hearing lectures about Titanic from authors, maritime artists and historical researchers, including one who has visited Titanic where it rests on the bottom of the ocean.

Meals served on board the cruise ship are like those served on Titanic, and the passengers were encouraged to dress in period clothing for some fancy-dress occasions, Weber said.

"It's fascinating, the amount of fine, fine food that was available to upper-class guests," said Weber. "You can rent clothes from that period, as well."

Weber and his wife -- neither of whom have any family connection to the 1912 shipwreck -- are not stepping into something new with the Titanic cruise.

They've been passionate about the Titanic disaster for years.

"What [rivets] me, is the insanity of it," Weber said. "Fifteen hundred lives -- and it didn't have to happen."

At home, the Webers collect Titanic items. Sometimes they dine off of Titanic-themed china that replicates the dishware used on board the ship for upper-class passengers.

"It's white, with blue. They've taken pictures of it underneath the water, and redid it," said Weber. "If you are interested in that, it's very interesting to have dinner off of it."

As for the cruise, Weber said he will be trying to learn all he can from the experts he will meet.

"There's probably 10 speakers on it, they've written books and there are film people," he said.

He was also looking forward to paying his respects to the victims at the place they died.

The ship is scheduled to return to New York harbor Wednesday.

The only thing that might distract Weber is trying to calm the nerves of his wife, who has been the slightest bit nervous about taking the 100th anniversary cruise.

"We've never sailed on a ship like this before," Weber said. "This is our first -- and maybe last -- trip.

"Watch out for icebergs, is all I say."

email: cvogel@buffnews.com