In addition to the scheduled packet services between Southampton and Cowes, Red Funnel operated a wide variety of popular excursions. The map from the early 1900's below shows many of the popular steamer excursions along the South Coast which ran until the late 1930's. The Company's lengthy name perfectly illustrates the choice of trips available.
Cruises were operated around the Isle of Wight from the outset, stopping at one of the resorts like Yarmouth, Totland or Alum Bay. Where no piers existed, landings were made using the ship's boats or via the services of local longshoremen. As more and more piers were built and the paddler's got faster, longer trips were possible including excursions to France.
To extend coverage further, the Solent Queen and others were based at Poole and occasionally Bournemouth, so intensifying competition with local operators like Cosens & Co. Ltd.
The outbreak of war in 1914 signalled the end of many of the piers, and so with it, many of the excursions, some of which had been running for more than 100 years.
A number were revived after WWI including Torquay, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis, In 1934 a day trip to Cherbourg from Southampton cost 12s 6d. Departing at 7.15am, calling at Southsea, Sandown and Shanklin, the ship was alongside on French soil by late morning, typically not departing for England until 4.15pm. By special agreement with the French Government, British excursion passengers were allowed to go ashore with landing cards rather than passports.
Excursions from Southampton
- Ryde, Southsea
- Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor; the Needles or Round the Island
- Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor; Bournemouth, Swanage, Weymouth, or Bognor
- Ryde, Cowes, Yarmouth, and Bournemouth
- Yarmouth, Bournemouth, Swanage, and onto Weymouth, Torquay, or Dartmouth
- Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin and Brighton
- Ryde, Southsea and Eastbourne
- Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin and Cherbourg
- Bournemouth and Cherbourg
Excursions from Bournemnouth
- Yarmouth (or Totland Bay)
- Yarmouth, Cowes and Southampton
- Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde, Southsea and cruise in Portsmouth Harbour
- Yarmouth, Round the Island (with stops at Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor or Ryde)
- Yarmouth, Ventnor, Shanklin, Sandown and cruise to the Nab Tower
Sadly all good things come to an end; in 1939 the last cross channel trip had been run and also the final excursions to Brighton, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Weymouth, Torquay and Dartmouth. Never again were pleasure steamers to call at Seaview or the Victoria Pier in Cowes and never again would Lorna Doone or Balmoral be seen going about their summer duties - a sight that had been part of the Solent scene for more than 40 years. This time it really was the end of an era.
Or was it? After WWII some of the piers were repaired by 1945, and the Company attempted to restart its excursion business using less suitable second-hand ships. An innovation was trips round Southampton Docks and excursions to witness the arrival and departure of the great liners. However, the holiday market was changing fast and after a few years these fell victim as did sailings to Bournemouth and Swanage in 1952. Remaining excursion sailings decreased year on year until they were phased out completely at the end of the 1968 season.