This winter the Lake Geneva paddler Italie is rostered to be in service operating a lunch cruise every Sunday in January, February, March and on up to 10th April leaving Geneva at 12.35pm for Nyon returning at 3.05pm followed by two one and a half hour cruises at 3.55pm and 4.55pm. And on Fridays from 4th February until 8th April she is running short cruises from Geneva at 3.30pm and 4.30pm and an evening cruise from 7.45pm back 10.15pm.
Built in 1908 Italie is one of ten paddle steamers ordered between 1900 and the First World War for service on Lake Geneva in the expanding market of the Belle Epoque era and was a repeat of Vevey which entered service the previous year.
As part of a modernisation programme her steam machinery was replaced by diesel electric in 1958 and in this guise she was much associated with the summer daily circuit of the lake from Le Bouveret to Geneva and back for the next forty five years. Withdrawn in 2005 she languished in the Lausanne shipyard for nearly a decade before sufficient funds were raised to rebuild her for a return to service in rejuvenated form in November 2016.
So if you want to get afloat for a paddle steamer ride right now then Lake Geneva is the place to do it. And whilst overseas travel is a bit more burdensome than in more normal times it is still very much doable. As things stand as I write this, those who have received their last vaccination or booster within the last nine months can enter Switzerland by showing proof of that vaccination status and by completing in advance a Swiss Passenger Locater form. There is currently no testing requirement. And for return to the UK you have to fill in a UK Passenger Locator form and up to 11th February need to do a Lateral Flow test within two days of your return. The testing requirement no longer applies after 11th February.
After two very difficult years paddle steamers everywhere now need all the help they can get so you would be doing a real kindness to the Lake Geneva Company if you book up to take advantage of these winter sailings. And oh how refreshing it is to be aboard a paddle steamer sailing down a lake in winter.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.