River Thames tourist boat operator City Cruises as been taken over by a US river and harbour cruising firm.

San Francisco-based Hornblower Holdings, a dining and excursion cruise operator, secured the deal for an undisclosed sum.

The sale of City Cruises will mean greater investment opportunities for the brand in 2020 and beyond, the company said.

All staff will be retained and former owners Gary and Rita Beckwith will stay on as consultants for several months to assist with the transition.

Hornblower has been operating for 35 years and runs river trips, harbour cruises, whale watching and ferries throughout North America including trips to Alcatraz in San Francisco, the Statue of Liberty in New York and Niagara Falls in Canada.

City Cruises was founded in 1985 and comprises the operation on the River Thames, City Cruises York, City Cruises Poole, ThamesJet and RS Hispaniola in London.

Founders Gary and Rita Beckwith are widely acknowledged in the tourism industry as pioneers championing domestic tourism and they entered The British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame this year.

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.”

Terry MacRae, CEO of the Hornblower parent in the US, added: “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.”