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From seal-spotting to cabaret - Why Orwell river cruising is growing in popularity

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 August 2019

Cruising on the River Orwell on board the Orwell Lady. River cruises are a growing attraction for the tourist trade. Picture: EMMA LIGHTFOOT

Cruising on the River Orwell on board the Orwell Lady. River cruises are a growing attraction for the tourist trade. Picture: EMMA LIGHTFOOT

Orwell River Cruises

The Orwell Lady river cruise ship is extending its 2019 season as exploring the River Orwell grows in popularity.

Dawn on the summer solstice 2019, on board the Orwell Lady on the River Orwell. Picture: EMMA LIGHTFOOTDawn on the summer solstice 2019, on board the Orwell Lady on the River Orwell. Picture: EMMA LIGHTFOOT

Already this season the Ipswich-based river craft has had sunrise cruises, Sunday buffets, cream tea afternoons and late night music and cabaret.

Director Emma Lightfoot said: "We are having a good season and are out five to seven days each week, depending on private hires. It is lovely.

"Our afternoon teas and Sunday buffet lunches are well booked and we have a range of other cruises.

"We are extending our season into October this year.

"And we are having an evening sightseeing cruise, on a Thursday, in September to see if it suits people who are at work during the day.

"They are chance for people to see the beautiful River Orwell and the wildlife.

"We have seen the seals again this year, and the peregrine falcons, and lots of other wildlife."

New this year was a dawn cruise to see the sunrise on the river on the Summer Solstice, June 21, which also coincided with Suffolk Day.

Ms Lightfoot added: "It was really magical and special."

"We were out at 3.45am in the morning.

"The boat was full and it was amazing. There was a solstice bell rung and the skipper Mike Seaney played the music from 2001 A Space Odyssey, which was just right.

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"We stopped just beyond Pin Mill, and there were a couple of yachts there as well.

"We had to wait for the sun to come up over the trees.

"A special poem was read too.

"It really was one of those special days. It was so nice we are going to do it every year."

The Orwell Lady will be out for sightseeing cruises over the Ipswich Maritime Festival weekend, she added.

There is a community of pleasure boats based in the Ipswich Waterfront.

Locally built Sailing Barge Victor cruises from its mooring in front of the Old Custom House, usually Wednesdays and Sundays for cream tea cruises, Friday supper cruises and other days for private charters on the river.

It also hosts events at the quayside.

Skipper David 'Wes' Westwood said trade had picked up after the poor weather at the start of the season.

"Over the Maritime weekend we have a cream tea cruise, the fireworks and a gin tasting event," he said.

Also sailing from Ipswich Waterfront regularly is the Allen Gardiner restaurant cruise ship, which is based here.

Thistle, another historic sailing barge from Topsail Charters, switches from its Maldon base for summer cruises from Ipswich.

Owners Topsail Charters said another barge, Hydrogen would be coming to Ipswich to work on a number of cruises during September.

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