Coastal steamer set to return to Welsh coast after three-year lay-off

A much-loved coastal steamer will return to passenger service around Wales this month after a three-year lay-off.

The newly restored MV Balmoral cruise vessel will embark on its first “Celebration Cruise” this weekend, with its first call at Penarth and a cruise down the channel to Ilfracombe.

Under Captain Steve Mallett and his crew, the ship has been transformed over the last few weeks after Balmoral supporters raised over £300,000 on top of a £344,000 Coastal Communities Grant awarded in January this year.

Owned by the Balmoral Fund Ltd, the ship will be operated by White Funnel Ltd, a name which is synonymous with passenger ships on the Bristol Channel.

‘A miracle’

Laid up at Bristol in 2012, Balmoral was the last of the famous PA Campbell/White Funnel Fleet which became a traditional sight around the South Wales coast.

The company is now trying to raise vital funds to cover the large operating costs and to lay the coaster up over the winter before it sets sail again next year.

Paul Doubler, spokesperson for the Balmoral said: “It has been something of a miracle to return Balmoral to cruising this summer, but we are not home and dry yet.

“We have to have great public support to run a very costly ship. It would be tragic if in this, our first season back a combination perhaps of poor weather and low passenger numbers affected her long term future.”

Sailing schedule

Short cruises will be running throughout Father’s Day and Monday will see a trip from Porthcawl to Minehead and Ilfracombe.

On Tuesday, June 23, Balmoral will make its first call at Swansea with a trip to the Exmoor Coast, Porlock Bay and Ilfracombe.

It will then sail up to North Wales to re-open Llandudno Pier on July 2, with further calls at Menai Bridge and Caernarfon.

The coastal steamer, which can carry 691 passengers, will then return to the Bristol Channel on July 8, for a regular season of cruises around the Bristol Channel and Penarth, whose council donated £1,000 to the restoration of Balmoral.

There will also be many calls from Porthcawl and Swansea with a special cruise from Briton Ferry on July 19.

For tickets and for full sailing details, prices and times throughout June, July, August and September go to www.whitefunnel.co.uk or call 0117 325 6200.

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/coastal-steamer-set-return-welsh-9464119