Record season for the Orwell Lady
- Credit: Archant
River cruise ship is proving a popular attraction
It is not quite a life on the ocean wave.
Yes, the River Orwell can get a bit choppy when the wind is high, but the Orwell Lady is up to it.
The Ipswich Waterfront-based boat, which can carry a party of up to 118 people, has had a very busy 2013 season.
The family run business, Orwell River Cruises, has been here since 1999 though it seems longer to many of us, as she has become part of the fabric and character of the area.
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In fact she has taken on a tourist trade which had been run by another pleasure boat, The River Lady, way back in the 1950s.
Although Ipswich is a river town and port, for a lot of local people there are few opportunities to get out on the water.
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As a college student I had the chance to canoe and sail dinghies on the Orwell, a real privilege. I have also been out on Thames barges to enjoy the views since then.
Emma Lighfoot, who looks after new business and marketing for Orwell River Cruises, said: “It is a beautiful river and there is so much to see.
“The historical places that can be pointed out in the commentary, and the wildlife. We do special trips to see the wildlife which have been successful.
“We see seals, and even porpoises and there is lots of birdlife including swans and the peregrine falcons at the bridge.
“The Tuesday and Thursday afternoon cream tea cruises have been very popular, and we have had a lot of walk-on customers as well as those who had pre-booked at the tourist information centre. We will be selling gift vouchers for Christmas.
“We have worked closely with the festivals, the Maritime Weekend and the Food & Drink Festival, and other initiatives.
“It has been a good year. We feel a bit chipper.
“Everything is up seven per cent over last year.
“We have been helped enormously by the weather. Although June was pretty rubbish, since the school summer holidays it has been fabulous.
“We saw an increase in walk-ons up the gangway.
“Visitors are finding out about the Waterfront. It is a lovely part of Ipswich, people are surprised to find it in Ipswich.
“The Waterfront is tremendous and it is a good backdrop for us.
“It looks absolutely glorious on a fine day like today. Business are developing and growing down here.”
The Orwell Lady can be out on the river every day at peak times of the year, sometimes more than once.
There are trips down river to Harwich and Felixstowe, and a variety of themed nights, with live bands or disco music.
“Motown nights always sell out and we have 60s, 70s and 80s nights.
“We are already planning our programme for 2014.
“We will probably have more live jazz nights. Perhaps we ought to have a Barry Manilow night, as he is coming to town.
“We are talking about doing something for Hallowe’en, There are a lot of stories associated with the river.
“This year we also introduced shorter 50 minute trips, down to the Orwell Bridge, for families particularly with young children who could get bored.
“We tested it with our own children. (her daughter Scarlett is now five) and it went well. We felt it was too long for little ones.”
The Orwell Lady is used by school and college groups, for educational work involving the river or water, for business meetings, by tourist coach parties who are coming to Suffolk from distant parts, and has even been used for wedding celebrations - though not the actual marriage.
There are plenty of days you can just buy a ticket and get on board.
The Orwell Lady is run by a team of operations director Carl Webb, who has always worked on the water, and Liz and Paul Magnus, their daughter-in-law Emma Magnus (who is married to son Olly), and daughter Emma Lightfoot.
Carl said the vessel, built in 1979, was originally a cruise boat on the upper reaches of the Thames.
She later moved to Poole and worked there until purchased by Paul Magnus and brought to Ipswich in 1999.
“Some people think she replaced the River Lady, I think it was, which finished in 1958. We get a lot of groups and coach parties now,” added Carl.
He knows the river very well.
Carl has been involved in this business for a number of years, and always worked on the water.
The boat will e lifted out of the water for rountine maintenance of the engines, full repairs and redecoration, ready for the 2014 season to start at Easter 2014.