AN OPERATOR of pleasure trips around Poole Harbour has been taken over by a cruise company based in San Francisco.

City Cruises, which runs trips from Poole Quay and Swanage as well as being the largest tour boat operator on the Thames, has been acquired by Hornblower UK Holdings Ltd.

Hornblower is the biggest river and harbour cruising company in the US. It has been operating for 35 years and runs river and harbour cruises, whale watching trips and ferries throughout North America – including trips to such landmarks as Alcatraz in San Francisco, the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls.

City Cruises, formerly owned by chairman Gary Beckwith and chief executive Rita Beckwith, says the deal will mean investment in 2020 and beyond.

Staff will be kept on and the Beckwiths will stay on as consultants for several months to help with the transition.

Gary Beckwith said: “We believe the sale of City Cruises to the Hornblower Family of Brands will take the brand to the next level of success.

“We have always been at the forefront of change and believe our growth and success over the years is testament to our commitment to embracing innovation, constantly investing in our vessels and our customer experiences, and our dedication to providing outstanding customer service every day of the year.

“We have been honoured to be at the helm of City Cruises and believe the business we started will further flourish and grow under the new ownership of Hornblower.”

Founded in 1985, City Cruises consists of the River Thames operation, City Cruises York, City Cruises Poole, ThamesJet and RS Hispaniola. It carries more than three million passengers a year.

Its trips in Dorset include a 45-minute Poole Harbour cruises, a Jurassic round cruise, a Swanage day trip and a day trip from Swanage to Poole. The cruises include commentaries on local landmarks such as Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks.

The Beckwiths entered the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame last year.

Terry MacRae, chief executive of Hornblower in the US, said: “We are incredibly excited to acquire City Cruises which we believe to be the best leisure cruise operator in Europe today. We have long had the ambition to enter the European market and it makes perfect sense to start our journey in one of the most iconic cities in the world.

“Under the expert stewardship of Gary and Rita Beckwith, City Cruises has earned an enviable reputation and we are honoured to build on their legacy in 2020 and beyond.”