The tourism sector has changed drastically over the past year, with businesses scrambling to stay afloat as they feel the impact of COVID-19. What once was simple is now complicated, forcing many people to adapt to the situation. One such example is Captain Paul Derham, an English ferryman who has come up with the unique idea of offering tours of moored “ghost cruise ships” that are currently sitting idle in the English Channel due to coronavirus. As well as having a day on the water, visitors can get up close and personal to see the vessels from a different angle.

Paul operates Mudeford Ferry near Christchurch, a service that goes from the local quay to a sandbank every 15 minutes during summer time and at the weekends in the winter months. As well as that, he runs adventure voyage fast boat rides, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, Paul found it difficult to continue operating as he had before. “Having worked in ferries for 27 years, from cadet to deputy captain, times [have suddenly become] slow. So I thought passengers might like to see cruise ships up close,” he told Lonely Planet.

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Paul came up with the idea after his business slowed down due to COVID-19 © Dr. Kate Dingley

Paul came up with the idea of running two-and-a-half-hour trips that take guests up close and personal with the gigantic vessels that are anchored in the English Channel. The ferry comes within 50 meters of the ships, allowing visitors to appreciate the sheer size of them from the water. Throughout the journey he shares stories of his past adventures, including one about a rescue at sea. Some cruise ships that are still operational have already become accustomed to seeing Paul and his guests, with the officers coming out on deck to wave. 

According to Paul, the unique experience has proven extremely popular, with the first two tours selling out completely. “So many people want to go, we ended up with a lot of applications,” Paul said.

Tours are due to operate through September and October. More information is available at the Mudeford Ferry Facebook page.

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