I am a Londoner and I am ashamed to say that I rarely take advantage of visiting our iconic and internationally-appreciated historic and cultural sites, unless I just happen to be passing. The Thames is our ancient thoroughfare, but now work vessels are mostly a thing of distant memory – that watery road is these days the domain prominently of pleasure craft.
There are commuter services, but for the most part the river is a playground for visitors. It’s a shame that more of us Londoners don’t take a look at our city from the vantage point of the river. The Thames is steeped in history, legends and stories and it’s all spread along the banks of this famous river.
MBNA Thames Clippers offers services into central London from 20 piers across the capital. They start from Woolwich in the east and continue to Putney in leafy west London. They have convenient schedules with departures every 20 minutes. The MBNA Thames Clippers’ River Roamer ticket is particularly popular with tourists, who can take advantage of unlimited hop-on/hop-off service to and from more than a dozen piers.
These new and stylish boats now offer their passengers a unique service: a daily traditional cream tea. It’s a couple of fresh-baked scones, a pot of jam and even the indispensable clotted cream. There is a cup of tea which will be replenished as often as you like, and there is even coffee, although that wouldn’t be at all traditional. For those in a celebratory mood one can upgrade with a glass of Champagne. Sit and sip and watch London drift by.
This floating tea is sight-seeing in comfort. One gets to view London from another perspective and from a warm and cosy sitting position. The trip takes an hour and travels past the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London and The London Eye. There is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern and the dome of St. Pauls, and you will cruise under some of London’s most celebrated bridges such as Tower Bridge and London Bridge. A blue-badge guide will provide a commentary during the sailing whilst pointing out interesting landmarks. Even locals will likely learn something new and fascinating about the river and those who have lived, worked and died along its length.
Any keen photographer will love the opportunity to take pictures of different aspects of famous buildings without the heads of fellow travellers getting into shot. You are at the same level as other river traffic and looking up at buildings and bridges, so one can truly appreciate the architecture.
The Cream Tea Cruise departs from London Bridge Pier at 15:30 and lasts for one hour. Prices start from £16.90 for the cream tea and sightseeing cruise. Champagne upgrade is extra.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018