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Thames dinner cruise: a day-to-night perspective from the river

I looked into river tours while researching stuff to do in London with mum and dad. An evening cruise with dinner sounded good as being after hours it would give us more flexibility to squeeze in daytime activities to our very limited time, and I liked that it went up to the Thames Barrier (in fact that was quite a selling point for me). I booked three tickets for Sunday night – the same day we went to high tea. Call it a continuation of my London birthday.

We reported to Westminster Pier at bit after 7pm and found a bunch of others also waiting for the ‘Showboat’. Once onboard we were shown to our table in what was a large restaurant type space, and the dinner service began. I think we stayed moored until the meal was fairly well advanced.

Waiting. Would we be caught in the crush of a boarding frenzy?

The pier was just across from the London Eye and County Hall

Appreciators of the starter which contained icky seafood things

Once we were away and puttering downriver, mum and I were more interested in taking in the sights from the upstairs deck and would dart up and down in between completing the courses. I was surprised that the majority of people stayed inside for the whole trip.

That big clock tower thing

One of four Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) stations on the Thames

Under the Millenium Bridge

Southwark Bridge with the recently completed Shard, a new landmark on London’s skyline

Ahead is Tower Bridge as we approach the permanently moored HMS Belfast

The Belfast was on my to-do list

At some stage the ‘show’ part of ‘showboat’ cranked into gear. A covers singer. She was good, and I’m pretty sure there was dancing, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. There were lots of other partakers though.

I was more interested in not missing the sunset!

Me with my trusty point-and-shoot. It had served me well for the last couple of weeks after my other camera threw a hissy fit

Cruising through Greenwich where, somewhere nearby, are the sources for both Greenwich Mean Time and the prime meridian. The boat is the Cutty Sark, which had recently been reopened after a fire in 2007, and the dome houses one end of the Greenwich foot tunnel which goes underneath the Thames

These stunning buildings (best seen front on) are known as the Old Royal Naval College, which closed in 1998. In its former lives it was also a palace and hospital

Greenwich Power Station is 100+ years old but is still used as a standby electricity supply for the London Underground

The O2 arena

We sort of saw the Thames Barrier

This was disappointing. I was really quite interested to see the Thames Barrier and this tour seemed to provide a good opportunity. Luckily we were upstairs at the time our proximity to the barrier got a brief mention on the commentary as we were suddenly turning around to head back to town. My opportunity to see it was rapidly evaporating so I quickly snapped a few photos but they were rubbish. I felt the tour under-delivered (or over-sold) this feature and I gave them feedback accordingly.

About to go by The O2 again. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the pole in the top left corner is part of the Emirates Air Line, the cable car across the Thames which opened a month later in time for the Olympics

Me getting in the way of a perfectly good view of the Tower Bridge illuminated

And by now we were well ready for the tour to finish. It was worthwhile, the views from the river in daylight and dark outweighing any negatives. The meal was good and there was opportunity to both enjoy the food and nip upstairs for unobstructed city views. And we lucked out on the perfect night weather wise.

Bed was a couple of tube rides away so we lingered locally for a couple of uniquely London photos on our way to the station.

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great pics Hayley, looked like you had a great night and it was nice of the guys on the dinghy to pose for you!

    14 October 2012
    • Had to get them to loop around a couple of times 😉 … Thanks D.

      14 October 2012
  2. maryann fabich #

    London has changed in the 57 years that we were married there. I would love to see it but since I cant go back, I am thrilled with these photos, specially those that your and your mum and dad are on. Thanks Haley.

    14 October 2012
    • Thank you MaryAnn – I’m not sure I knew you guys were married in London!

      14 October 2012
  3. Ali #

    Great pics! Your point and shoot is doing a great job…my camera has thrown a most annoying hissy fit, too, so I’ve had to rely quite heavily on my iPhone camera of late! The shard looks amazing!!

    14 October 2012
    • hayley #

      Thank you. I kicked myself after publishing that post as I forgot I had taken a few night pics with my iPhone as well. I do love the convenience and versatility of it, though it does love chewing through battery!

      14 October 2012
  4. really great shots. I’ve always written off Thames River cruises but that actually looks pretty good (I could do without the show part though). I love that last shot of your parents with the bus whizzing past.

    23 October 2012
    • You can see so much from the riverbanks that a cruise doesn’t really add much value until you get down a bit further (though going under the bridges is kinda cool) – at least for someone like me who hasn’t spent much time there. In any case, it’s one of those things you never need to repeat!

      24 October 2012
  5. Does one have to be an actual visitor to ones own place in order to SEE certain thing? I am sure we all know this thought ‘……oh, I live here, there is still plenty of time to see this/that….tomorrow….. next week, etc….’ and then, bang, somethings happen in ones life, we move on, quite fast and then another thought, much later “….oh bother, I knew I really should have gone and looked at this……”. Now we look at everything like there is no tomorrow!! Thanks for showing me some sites of London I had not seen before.

    12 November 2012
    • It’s so often the way isn’t it. I’ve lived in Wellington for 10 years now and there are a couple of things in particular I haven’t yet got round to doing. Must try and remedy that over summer!

      12 November 2012
  6. Love the sunset pics, Hayley. I only use point n click and it’s surprising what you can achieve. Our variation on this cruise was a cheap as chips trip to Greenwich. I did a walking tour there which was excellent (most of the ladies languished in the pub) and we still had benefit of the informal chat from the pilot and a bit of history.

    19 January 2013
    • Thank you! And yes I’m quite fond of using the compact – not the least because it saves humping around a big bulky thing. I would like to go to Greenwich specifically next time, good to know about the walking tour.

      19 January 2013

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