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Sail through unspoilt countrysid­e and historic cities on a cruise that’ll leave you . . .


OLDER people tend to be keen on cruising — and on this luxury river sailing, fellow passengers are in their 70s and 80s. My partner Mike and I are 60, work full-time and worry we have arrived 15 years too early.

Not a bit of it. It’s easy to think our generation invented everything. But these elders are cool. Every night over supper, we hear stories about teaching in Uganda in the 1950s; or leading chemical engineerin­g projects in Russia and Iran. Our favourite couple have been married 50 years but retain separate houses.

All are independen­t travellers, who now want a holiday where someone else makes the decisions. And the four- star Edward Elgar, the largest capacity inland hotel boat (still with only 22 passengers) in the UK, is designed for comfort.

The cruise attracts travellers who want a staycation which offers a new destinatio­n every day. Our one takes in the River Severn, inland waterways, the Cotswolds, the Malvern Hills and the historic cities of Worcester and Gloucester.

We join the three-deck vessel near Worcester Cathedral, part-way through a trip. Sun glints on the water as swans glide by.

It is operated by English Holiday Cruises, a family business specialisi­ng in small vessels that are all-inclusive. There are deck games, a pianist and the young crew go the extra mile. So if big ships don’t appeal, this could be the way to fall in love with cruising.

There’s something wonderfull­y meditative about travelling at 4 mph through unspoilt countrysid­e, while reading on deck and watching runners and cyclists flash along the river bank.

Every cruise starts and finishes near Gloucester. All 11 twin cabins are en suite with shower, and have a porthole and just enough room for suitcases under the beds.

The chef prepares traditiona­l English food. Breakfast might be eggs Florentine, with chicken Caesar salad for lunch, then at 6.30pm a four- course dinner of soup, fish and chips, banoffee gateau and cheese.

You dine at tables of four or six, which help guests mingle. ‘House pour’ wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks are compliby mentary. That means Gordon’s Gin but not a premium gin like Hendrick’s (we all make sacrifices).

The 88ft Elgar is the biggest ship capable of passing the smallest locks. You have the thrill of watching the crew navigate Thomas Telford’s historic bridges — without any of the work.

And the excursion choice is inspired. We loved wandering through the romantic ruins of Witley Court, a Worcesters­hire country house gutted by a fire in 1937.

It was used as the setting of Procol Harum’s 1967 A Whiter Shade of Pale video. The next day, we moored at Up to nuponSever­n, Worcesters­hire, once a camp for Oliver Cromwell. And after lunch, we were driven to Tewkesbury’s Norman abbey.

Our favourite outing was to Woodcheste­r Mansion in the Cotswolds, an unfinished Gothic Revival masterpiec­e. It featured in the BBC’s 2006 Dracula and as Gordonstou­n in The Crown).

Back on board, our fellow cruisers took a nap but were restored by supper. One evening we had a moonlit ramble to a riverside pub. And on our farewell night, we had a dinner party with English wine tasting.

The wise octogenari­ans retired early and smiled knowingly when they saw us hungover at breakfast.

The Edward Elgar clientele is unashamedl­y older and well-heeled (and it’s suitable for guests who can still manage stairs). But parties also include friends on holiday, mothers and daughters.

Families take over the whole boat for big birthdays. It’s a break where no one needs to drive, cook or clean. What better place to catch up with family and friends, ‘housepour’ gin in hand?

 ?? ?? Serene: The Edward Elgar hotel boat on the Severn. Right, Liz and her partner Mike
Serene: The Edward Elgar hotel boat on the Severn. Right, Liz and her partner Mike
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