Cruising and entertainment events on the beautiful river Orwell

Orwell Lady, crusing on the River Orwell

Orwell Lady, crusing on the River Orwell - Credit: Archant

Orwell cruises are proving a great Ipswich tourist attraction

River Orwell Trip on The Orwell Lady

River Orwell Trip on The Orwell Lady - Credit: Archant

For those who sail, or who are in the local boating or marine community, the fact that the Orwell is a beautiful river is no surprise.

And for plenty of `townies’ and tourists too the river - and river cruising - is becoming a big attraction to Ipswich.

In the past few days I have heard of wedding celebrations, 90th birthday and 70th birthday parties all out on the lovely river.

I met up with Emma Lightfoot, director of family business Orwell River Cruises, to find out about plans for the Orwell Lady cruise boat this season.

River Orwell saturday trip on The Orwell Lady

River Orwell saturday trip on The Orwell Lady - Credit: Archant

“We have got our online booking system now, which is working really well.

“We are looking forward to a busy season,” she said, “We have a lot of bookings, but any business like ours in and around the Waterfront is weather dependent.

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“We are always dependent on the weather. It is going to be more of a challenge if it is bad.

“We want people to enjoy their visit, and really appreciate the river.

The Orwell Bridge from The Orwell Lady river cruise ship

The Orwell Bridge from The Orwell Lady river cruise ship - Credit: Archant

“It is absolutely lovely.

“People are fascinated to see it for the first time from the water.”

The river has had a key role in the history and commerce of Ipswich and a wider area, for centuries.

The Orwell Lady was part of a river cruising community which includes sailing barges Victor and Thistle and the Allen Gardiner restaurant boat, she said.

UCS University building, from on board The Orwell Lady

UCS University building, from on board The Orwell Lady - Credit: Archant

“People know about the Victor and the Thistle is doing trips now.

“We have a fantastic offer here - there is so much choice now. It is a real local economy down here, bringing in visitors.

“We are becoming a real tourist destination - destination Ipswich.”

The day we met up the Orwell Lady had been out on a private charter, for a coach company from Weymouth.

“They came to Ipswich, for a few days, as part of a package to see a few local attractions and a river trip.

“We are getting a lot of coaches from different parts of the country, it is great for Ipswich.”

The Orwell Lady provides the setting for lots of happy occasions, such as birthday and wedding celebrations, all sorts of provide charters and school parties.

“It is a great way for schools to introduce subjects such as rivers and local history.

“The children are always fascinated to see the lock gates and the Orwell Bridge, and there is a lot of history around the river.”

Throughout the season there are disco nights and themed music cruises, Sundowner cruises with jazz music, Adnams wine tasting and other special events.

“There is also a special Fathers’ Day cruise on June 19, which is always popular.”

There were afternoon tea cruises, new Suffolk savoury tea cruises and Sunday buffet lunch cruises.

A first for this year is the Shotley fish & chip cruise, on July 5.

“It is nice to do something different,” Emma added. “Usually our passengers don’t get off.

“With this one there is a fish & chips lunch at the Shipwreck (Shotley Marina), and a visit to the HMS Ganges Museum, then rejoining the Orwell Lady for the return trip to Ipswich.

“The museum is very good and there are lots of people with connections to HMS Ganges.

“If it goes well we will certainly repeat it.”

Orwell Lady sails from Orwell Quay.

Advance tickets can be bought from the Tourist Information Centre and Coffelink, on Nepture Quay, and online too.