Cruising Between Empty Cruise Ships? Why Not?

Nina Slawek, Open Jaw

There’s not a lot of entertainment about these days, so any novelty is welcome. Even taking a cruise to see gigantic cruise ships bobbing idly along the English Channel. 

With no passengers on board and nowhere to go, they are referred to as ghost ships haunting the horizon.

While these ships, taken out of service because of the coronavirus pandemic, are no longer carrying tourists, the eerie spectacle they've created has generated its own mini-tourism industry, thanks to an entrepreneurial local, Paul Derham.

Derham worked on cruise ships for 27 years, travelling the world as a deputy captain for P&O Cruises, but now runs two local ferries in Mudeford, a small beachside parish in England's Dorset region.

Derham noticed that some of the world's most famous cruise ships were being laid up near his ferry routes, as the cruise industry ground to a halt amid the pandemic.

Then he had an idea -- using his ferries to offer tours of these hulking vessels that would get passengers as close as possible. 

Advertising via the Mudeford Ferry Facebook page, he began running 2.5 hour "ghost ship" tours that sail within 50 meters of some of the vessels, while he uses his intimate knowledge of the cruise industry to entertain his customers. 

It's become an overnight success, and Derham has been inundated with interest from locals and regional tourists alike. 

Meanwhile, cruise fanatics from across the world -- mostly barred from joining in due to continuing travel restrictions -- have also let Derham know how excited they are by the idea.

"I am completely overwhelmed with the attention," Derham tells CNN Travel. "And a little bit proud, without being big-headed, that we managed to pull it off.”

Ships sometimes spotted off the coast of Mudeford include Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas and Allure of the Seas -- gigantic floating cities that normal carry thousands of people.

A little farther west, the Carnival Valor and Cunard ships including Queen Mary 2 can be found

"They look spectacular, because even when they're in the ports of call, like Southampton or wherever, you can't get that close to a ship, with a good view," says Derham.

Many of those who book on the tour are keen cruisers. Recently, he hosted a couple who'd been on board the Allure of the Seas earlier this year.

"As we went past, one of them said, 'Blimey, I can still get their Wi-Fi,'" laughs Derham.

Nina Slawek

Nina Slawek President

The visionary co-founder of Open Jaw, Nina handles everything at OJ from the purse-strings to the talented but eccentric staff. She is frequently spotted hobnobbing with industry leaders and making glamorous appearances in the Open Jaw TV Room.


Brenda - September 10, 2020 @ 15:04
Thanks for sharing . You know there are many many people who are just waiting to get back on board! We love our guests and can hardly wait to see them all back on board soon! Thank-you Nina and OpenJaw for sharing .

Leave a Comment...

(will not be published)