The SS Shieldhall – the oldest passenger cargo steamship still active in Europe – has announced her cruise programme for 2015. The ship will be celebrating her 60th birthday with a special cruise in conjunction with her previous owners Southern Water on Sat 5 July, revisiting part of the route she followed whilst in her service between 1977 and 1985. Now, thanks in part to a £1.4 million HLF grant project ‘Saving Shieldhall: Learning through Conservation in Action’, Shieldhall is able to offer a varied and attractive cruise programme during the summer months. With MCA and ABP approval, Shieldhall will commence her 2015 programme on 30 May with a 2 hour Vikings! Cruise, remembering the 1000th anniversary of Canute being crowned King of England in Southampton. Other cruise highlights include a trip to see the Americas Cup World Series racing on Sun 26 July; a Cowes Fireworks Cruise on Fri 14 August and a Merchant Navy Day Cruise (Sat 5 Sept), remembering merchant seamen who lost their lives in World War 1 and World War 2. Once again, Shieldhall will be departing Southampton Waters for a week in Poole, from where she will make three trips to visit the Bournemouth Air Festival (Fri 21, Sat 22 & Sun 23 August).
Shieldhall HLF Project Manager Graham Mackenzie is looking forward to an exciting year. “We’ve designed our cruise programme to offer something for everyone, from family friendly 2 hour cruises, to Americas Cup World Series and Fastnet Races, music cruises and specialist interest trips. We will be offering commentary on board, so our guests can learn about the history of the docks and the sights and sounds of Southampton Water and the Solent.”
Guests on Shieldhall get a lot more than a conventional cruise along Southampton Water. Visits to the Engine and Boiler Rooms and the Bridge are actively encouraged by the team of volunteers who manage the ship. “We are told that the interaction with our volunteers is a highlight of everyone’s time on board’ said Graham. ‘We are also looking to improve levels of comfort for our passengers, with the inclusion of an awning on the upper deck proving a great success in 2014. We’re now much better equipped for whatever the great British weather can throw at us!”
Learning and participation activities are being developed for the 2015 season by Bristol-based Culture Force, whilst new interpretation by Henry Lyndsay will recall Shieldhall’s early dual role as a sludge carrier and passenger boat, carrying Glasgow residents ‘Doon the Watter’ during the summer months. Youth groups are not forgotten and are encouraged to visit the Shieldhall to experience a Training Day at Sea on Sun 28 June.
“Shieldhall is an excellent resource for local residents as well as enthusiasts” said Graham. ‘With the ongoing lottery work we are opening up Shieldhall to new audiences with a diverse cruise programme and also through her setting for ‘alongside functions’ where the ship regularly hosts theatre, quiz and film nights. Few people could have imagined 60 years ago that Shieldhall would still be in service, providing pleasure to thousands of visitors who can rightly still enjoy the experience of ‘steam at sea.”