I spent the afternoon on a floating restaurant where the captain led a conga line

It wasn’t long before a calm and tranquil afternoon on board a floating restaurant was a party in full swing.

The Floating Grace, located on the stunning Salthouse Dock, is a unique venue which offers customers the best views of Liverpool’s historic docklands whilst they enjoy food on board.

It's 3:15pm and an afternoon tea cruise is about to set sail, it is the Floating Graces' second journey of the day following its morning tea and sandwiches cruise. It's set to be a busy session for the crew as 48 passengers climb below deck to take their seats.

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Josephine Roper, 86, from Wigan, is one of the 48 passengers on board The Floating Grace. She has organised the private function for residents of Kildare Grange Sheltered Accommodation in Hindley.

Josephine has lived in the retirement housing complex for four years and has a big hand in making sure all the older residents can get out. She said: ''Older people need to get out, a lot of these people live on their own so they need to mix and have company.’’

Known to her friends as ‘Josie’, Josephine says the main reason for planning days out like the river cruise is to give the residents ‘'something to look forward to.’'

Josephine Roper (Right) on board The Floating Grace
Josephine Roper (Right) on board The Floating Grace -Credit:Liverpool ECHO

The boat is only small inside, yet staff seem to be appearing out of nowhere. Up and down the boat, the crew are ensuring customers are comfortable and drinks are topped up.

Standing at the rear of the boat near the kitchen area is Lloyd Reynolds. The 21-year-old, from Maghull, has been working on The Floating Grace since August 2023.

Lloyd lives on his own boat near the Salthouse Dock, so this is the perfect job for him. He says: ''I am always happy to be on board there is not one day that is the same as the next, you never know what group of people you're going to get.''

Lloyd says the age groups vary every day and the boat has even become quite popular with hen do's. ''There is always a party atmosphere on board no matter who the group are,'' Lloyd tells me.

And he thinks what makes the whole experience special is the perfect family setting the boat offers. The customers and staff are in close proximity for over an hour so it all just feels like "family".

Lloyd Reynolds, 21, from Maghull
Lloyd Reynolds, 21, from Maghull -Credit:Liverpool ECHO

The boat slowly makes its way into the Albert Dock and the views are breath-taking as the Royal Liver Building peaks out from behind the row of shops and basks in the late-April sun.

The group from Wigan are just beginning to tuck into their three-tired afternoon tea with scones, cakes and sandwiches. There are a variety of drinks being served and plenty of prosecco flowing as a couple of birthday celebrations take place.

It is a unique dining experience and this is something many of the passengers mentioned. Sally and Graham Knight, both from Wigan, say they have done plenty of activities with the other residents at the sheltered accommodation, including afternoon tea on a steam train, but never anything as unique as dining on a boat.

Other passengers told me they were having a fantastic time and how great it was to be able to experience Liverpool's famous docks in such a unique and fun way. There was a lot of hugging and catching up between friends and a homely atmosphere could be felt as tables bounced off each other.

The Floating Grace
The Floating Grace -Credit:Liverpool ECHO

Captain of The Floating Grace, Peter Kenny, was a popular figure amongst passengers, with many praising him for his warm hospitality. A couple of tables came together to raise a tip for Peter and his staff as they thanked them for their fantastic experience - and this was before the party had even began.

Peter Kenny, 60, and wife Carol Kenny, both from Rock Ferry, purchased The Floating Grace in 2016 and Peter says: ''It's been hard work to build it up over the years'' but insists it is the customers that make the boat work. Peter told the ECHO: ''We want to look after our passengers, people come back time after time once they have visited.''

As captain of The Floating Grace, Peter gives a lot of credit to his ''hard working'' staff and says they are a very tight knit crew who come together to make the whole experience work for the customers.

Peter says The Floating Grace is going from strength to strength and hasn't ruled out any plans for bigger boats in the future but says he is happy with the way things are at the moment.

One of the biggest compliments Peter gives is to his chef, Jayne Serajudvy. Jayne has worked on The Floating Grace for a year and a half now and is responsible for providing delicious food for all customers. She "loves" her job and says she "skips to work".

Jayne's favourite part of the job is seeing all the customers singing and dancing. She says ''I don't feel like I'm going to work it feels more like a hobby for me.'' And despite spending most of her time in the kitchen she says this doesn't stop her from feeling a part of the atmosphere.

All staff members agree that what makes the whole experience work is they see themselves as "one big family" rather than colleagues.

Peter Kenny, captain of The Floating Grace
Peter Kenny, captain of The Floating Grace -Credit:Liverpool ECHO

After the food is cleared from the tables it marks the beginning of an electric shift of atmosphere onboard The Floating Grace as the group from Wigan start mingling with each other and the volume turns up a notch.

But it is the upbeat playlist playing as the boat makes the journey back towards Salthouse Dock that turned the rest of the experience into a memorable one for those on board.

With a selection of hits from YMCA to Dancing Queen playing over the speakers it wasn't long before passengers decided to turn the narrow passage of room between the tables into a dancefloor. And at one point a Conga line led captain, Peter, makes its way up and down the boat to the sound of Proclaimers hit, 500 miles.

’'It has been beautiful today, everything has made it so special. The captain, the food and the weather has been kind to us’’ Josephine tells me. She says that it will be a day she remembers for a long time and everything has just ‘flown right.’

There was laughter, singing and dancing from the passengers as they left the boat, with one customer who had been the life and soul of the spontaneous boat party saying: ''We'll all sleep tonight.''

Earlier this year The Floating Grace was listed for sale on Right Move but Peter said it is "definitely not for sale" and the listing has since been deleted.

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