Magna Carta Steamship Co Limited was formed in 1999 following the sale of Voyages Jules Verne & Serenissima. These were companies that were founded/owned by Philip Morrell in 1978. Morrell was a Barnardo's boy who had variously & previously worked as an apprentice stone mason, Covent Garden Flower Market worker, a dresser at Drury Lane (1960's My Fair Lady) a travel clerk, a Benidorm representative later progressing to be responsible for Thomson operations world-wide (outside Spain). In 1975 Morrell stayed a week in the company of Lord (Roy) Thomson of Fleet in Tenerife. Thomson shortly afterwards had been invited by Chou en Lai (the then much revered Chinese Vice President) to accompany him and much of the Chinese leadership to a spa close to Canton.
Thereafter exploiting this Chou/Thomson connection Morrell successfully managed to convince the Chinese to accept regular tourist groups and went onto dominate the 'China' market right up until 03 June 1989 (Tian an Men Square) with the formation of Voyages Jules Verne and more particularly the inauguration of a regular train schedule from Victoria Station to Hong Kong (Kowloon) - with the aptly named 'Central Kingdom Express'.
During the Voyages Jules Verne period a number of innovative travel concepts were launched, including in 1991 the first 'London to Peking Motor Challenge' and later the 'London to Saigon Motor Challenge'. Perhaps more relevant here though was the development of tourism on the waterways in Europe & Egypt which was to go on to form the basis for the post Tian an Men recovery in the company's fortunes. In 1999 Morrell developed the concept of the accommodation vessel for the Caledonian Canal & the Highlands of Scotland with the construction of the deluxe passenger cruise vessel 'Lord of the Glens. Later there was the construction of the 'Lord of the Highlands' now in the Galapagos Islands.
Various projects for the Thames were explored and then abandoned due to the complexities of the river.