Thames River Services allows visitors to cruise through the heart of London and see the sights from a different angle. With over 50 years of experience, they offer stunning views of the city’s famous landmarks with enough history and information to complete a history report on the capital! Last week I had the pleasure of boarding one of their vessels and seeing my beautiful city from the water.
The river boat cruises start from Westminster Pier, to Greenwich Pier and vice versa, going through St Katherine’s Dock. There are options to begin your tour from St Katherine’s, if this would be better for you. While you get to see some of the highlights of London on board the boats, the Thames River Services is ideally located so you can see London at it best, before, during and after your tour.
I started my journey at Westminster Pier, and it is just a stone’s throw away from structures that grace London’s skyline, such as Big Ben and Parliament. A little further away lies the London Eye, and if you are looking for something indoors, Westminster Abbey is just right around the corner.
I started my day pretty early, so it is possible to enjoy a little sightseeing before you climb aboard! Once you arrive at Greenwich Pier, you get your fill of all things maritime. From the world famous Cutty Sark, the Royal Naval College, and you can take a walk around Greenwich University’s luscious grounds.
I would recommend ending your trip in Greenwich, as this little section of London feels like a city within a city. Great choice of restaurants, pubs and high street shops that you may want to check out. Plus, when I was there, there were stalls out selling food and goods. As everything is conveniently self contained, you don’t need to travel too far to see something new.
Thames River Services takes you through some of the most famous bridges in London, including Tower Bridge. And introduces you to some lesser known parts along the way. You learn the history of the OXO Tower, and why it has that name. You pass a structure along the way that is actually older than London itself! I won’t reveal the answer, but it was definitely something I had walked by many times without stopping to check out the history.
One thing that I can tell you is, you can see St Paul’s Cathedral twice on the tour to Greenwich. As any London child can tell you, the cathedral was done by the architect Sir Christopher Wren. However, when you get to Greenwich, on the University campus you see a structure that looks exactly like St Paul’s. That is because it was another building by Sir Christopher Wren! The more you know, eh?
On the day that I went on my cruise, the weather was was perfection. Not a single cloud in the sky, and while it was pretty cold, the sun definitely hooked me up in terms of taking excellently lit pictures. Of course, I live in London and can wait the weather out. When planning your itinerary for the Thames River Services, or any outdoor activities, try to pick a day where it is not raining.
It will save you the hassle of having to alternate between getting soaked, or protecting your expensive phone or camera. Going on the cruise on a weekday and as early as possible means that you should avoid large groups, and have more space to move about and get different views.
The staff on board are friendly and very helpful and should be able to help with any queries you have. Each vessel is different but the Sarpedon has a multi lingual commentary system that allows you to listen to your tour in six languages! Do remember to bring your headphones so you can really enjoy the tour. To find out about the different amenities available on each boat, check out the Thames River Services website and ‘meet the fleet’.
The starting points of the Thames River Services are ideal for those with reduced mobility like myself, as they are well served by accessible public transportation. Westminster station has the Jubilee, District and Circle lines and has a lift available in the different sections.
It is wheelchair accessible from the train to street level. Maritime Greenwich station (not to be confused with Greenwich station) is on the DLR line and is also accessible from the train to street level, with lifts available. Thames River Services uses a number of different boats for their sightseeing tours, and some are older than others. On the Sarpedon boat, there was a ramped entrance to the lower deck seating area.
As well as one with steps on the opposite side, for those that can use them. Ramps are available to assist wheelchair users aboard the vessels, and the staff are always more than happy to help. Please do give them a call to let them know of any access needs you may have. To get to the top deck you have to climb some stairs, but the lower deck has great views without the risk of catching a cold! There is a bump on the entrance/exit ramp to exit Greenwich Pier that may require a bit of maneuvering by wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility.
I had an amazing time on my trip with Thames River Services, and was especially blessed by the beautiful weather, without a single cloud in the sky. The tour was informational and I learned some new things about places that I had regularly been, but never really knew anything about their history.
The guides may sometimes joke that they are not professional tour guides, but trust me, they know their stuff! In typical me fashion, I neglected to take my gloves with me on my river tour in the middle of November, so I nearly froze my fingers off! But I just couldn’t miss out on seeing London during a sunny day. It is such a rarity after all…
There are many, many companies that offer boat cruises in London, but Thames River Services has over half a century of experience with a fleet of 12 boats available. As they have so many vessels, you can choose which one best meets your access needs, or if you require a large selection of refreshments while out on the river.
Plus, they offer a 1/3 off standard price tickets bought on the day at their booths if you have a valid Oyster/Travel card for that day. Or 35% off, if you book online for trips during the weekday. They have different packages available, if you are looking for something a little extra with your tour.
So obviously, I had a great time with Thames River Services, but you need not just take my word for it. You can check out what other people had to say about Thames River Services!