When Miles Morgan first revealed his plans to organise a Titanic memorial cruise he got some odd looks.
But after five years of planning, negotiating, brainstorming, selling and plain hard graft, the owner of 12-shop independent agency chain Miles Morgan Travel now earns only looks of admiration.
Morgan is constantly juggling calls from worldwide media organisations, taking bookings in the middle of the night and making last-minute preparations for pre, post, and on-board events.
"When I mentioned it to people a few years ago, they looked at me like I had three heads because they wondered why people would want to go on it. Nobody wanted to give me a minute of their time," said Morgan. "That's flipped on its head now. The sheer volume of requests from both TV and print media companies is proving difficult to handle."
Fast approaching are what will be some of the most memorable days of Morgan's career. Two ships will set sail from either side of the Atlantic to meet where the Titanic sunk, exactly 100 years on. "It will be the most amazing feeling on the day, but after five years' effort you want to make sure it works."
Morgan has chartered Fred Olsen Cruise Line's Balmoral. Cabins went on sale three and a half years ago and sold out within 18 months.
The strong demand prompted Morgan's decision to negotiate a second sailing, on Azamara Journey, out of New York. This went on sale last summer and is 80% sold.
Morgan also met the Titanic's oldest surviving passenger, who was due to wave off the ex-Southampton cruise, but died in 2009, aged 97. Millvina Dean was just nine weeks old when she boarded the Titanic. "We were going to support her because she was in a care home and couldn't afford it," recalled Morgan. "She was a real character and thought the memorial cruise was great."
Morgan, well known for his years at Tui Travel, never imagined he would be organising two historic sailings. What started off as an interesting challenge and a good earner has become one of the most fulfilling projects Morgan has ever taken on. "It's been the most fascinating thing I have ever worked on. The whole project never ceases to amaze me."
Morgan credits his time at Tui with giving him experience of how to run a large-scale project successfully, even though he has had a team of only two for much of the time – and has sometimes run the project single-handedly.
Inevitably, the demands have dominated much of Morgan's home life. "You do need a supportive family. Working averagely hard is not good enough. But underlying it all is the fact it's been so enjoyable," said Morgan, dad to George, 13, and Joe, five.
"When the phone rings my son says 'Titanic Memorial Cruise'. It comes to something when your son starts saying that!" he added.
But Morgan has kept his feet on the ground. "It's work at the end of the day. For me success has always been much more about the achievements than the money. I am still focused on my retail business. The Titanic cruises will sail into the sunset come April and my business will still be here."