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Thames River Cruises

Vicky Del Moral

Vicky Del Moral

Jun 12, 2021 • 9 min read

Thames River Cruises

©Shane Rounce

From the water you will see a different side of London while learning about its history. Thames cruises can be closed tours or operate as a sightseeing "bus" on the most important river in England.

What are the best cruises on the Thames?

Cruise on the Thames
Cruise on the Thames
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There are many tours organized on the waters of the Thames River, from the most economical to the most exclusive, with on-board services such as dinners and live shows. These are the three most popular cruises:

  1. One hour Thames cruise from Westminster to Greenwich - From $ 20
  2. One day Thames river cruise with free stops - From $ 30
  3. Thames River Dinner Cruise - From $ 154

2. Economy Option: One hour cruise on the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich

London Eye from the cruise ship | ©Gail Frederick
London Eye from the cruise ship | ©Gail Frederick

With departures every 30 to 40 minutes, the one-hour Thames river cruise from Westminster to Greenwich: is a one-hour closed boat tour, with a very economical price (it is the cheapest of the three I recommend here) and very practical to know the skyline of London and up to 13 of its major attractions located on the banks of the river.

What the tour consists of

Departing from Westminster Pier, you can relax on deck or inside the boat to admire and photograph the city's landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, among others, while a guide (available in 6 languages through a mobile app), will explain facts about everything you see.

Once you arrive at Greenwich, the end point of the cruise, you can disembark and visit, on your own, several of the attractions in the area, such as the Cutty Sark exhibition ship, Greenwich Park, the National Maritime Museum or the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. In addition, if you wish, you can return to the starting point, Westminster, on board the same cruise ship.

What does this Thames Sightseeing Cruise include?

  • Thames boat tour with choice of departure times throughout the day
  • Live commentary** of the history and interesting facts of the attractions in English (online commentary is available in Spanish for the smartphone).
  • Return ticket from Greenwich to Westminster if desired

What is not included in this Thames Sightseeing Cruise?

  • Food and beverages
  • Pick up and return to hotel
  • Possibility to disembark and embark as many times as desired during the itinerary

Thames Sightseeing Cruise Timetable

This cruise runs Monday through Sunday with departures every 30 or 40 minutes throughout the day, so one of the available times is sure to fit your plans.

  • Departures: Monday to Sunday from 10:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Returns**: Monday to Sunday: From 10:00 to 16:00

One-hour Cruise Itinerary
From the cruise you will be able to see many of the places of interest that the ship passes by:

  • Houses of Parliament.
  • London Eye.
  • Royal Festival Hall, venue for major international concerts since its construction in 1951 for the Festival of Britain.
  • Tate Modern, London's magnificent modern art gallery, located in the converted Bankside power station.
  • St. Paul's Cathedral, the impressive cathedral built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London.
  • Shakespeare's Globe Theatre**, the replica of the original Globe Theatre with daily backstage tours.
  • HMS Belfast, a splendid World War II warship with nine decks and converted into an exhibition space.
  • Tower of London.
  • Tower Bridge, London's most famous bridge and an excellent example of Victorian engineering.

What you will see in the disembarkation area of the tour

  • Cutty Sark**, the only ship dedicated to the tea trade that survives in the world and that today, converted into an exhibition space, you can tour to learn what life was like aboard the fastest ship of its time.
  • Royal Observatory Greenwich**, an astronomical observatory located on a hill that is still taken as a reference point of the meridians and from which you can enjoy beautiful views of London.
  • Greenwich Park, a beautiful park with stunning gardens and a rich history dating back to Roman times.
  • Old Royal Naval College, whose Painted Hall is one of the most spectacular and important Baroque interiors in Europe.
  • Greenwich Market, London's only remaining historic market, located in a World Heritage Site.
  • National Maritime Museum, the world's largest naval history museum and home to Britain's rich maritime history.

Other services available on the Thames sightseeing cruise from Westminster to Greenwich

Once you book your cruise you will receive immediate confirmation and a ticket that you can download and carry on your mobile device. Cancellation is free of charge, as long as you do it 24 hours before the start date of the activity.

  • It is wheelchair accessible and pets are allowed.
  • It is possible to travel with baby carriages.
  • Inside the ship there are bar and toilets available.
  • There can be 300 travelers maximum on the cruise.

Vicky's Traveller Tip

Try to take the cruise in good weather. If not, bring warm clothes to enjoy the views outside the ship.

3. Flexible Option: One day cruise on the River Thames with free stops.

Aerial view of the River Thames
Aerial view of the River Thames
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Another way, the most flexible, to take advantage of a cruise on the River Thames, is to use it as if it were a tourist bus. Just as the previous cruise was a closed tour, in this one day Thames river cruise with free stops: you buy your ticket to use it in a flexible way for a full day.

That is, you can board at the various docks available in central London and get on and off as many times as you want at any of its 12 stops around points of interest such as the Tower of London, the Greenwich district, the Old Royal Naval College or the large business complex Canary Wharf.

You can also choose to stay aboard its deck or its glass-enclosed interior lounge during the hour-long crossing and enjoy the city's skyline while a guide explains the areas you will see, in English only.

What is included in the Thames River Day Cruise?

  • 1-day pass with free stops at up to 12 points of interest and with a total duration of 1 hour.
  • Live commentary on board, in English.

What is not included in the Thames River Day Cruise?

  • Food and beverages
  • Pick up and return to hotel

Itinerary of the Thames Day Cruise

This cruise departs every 40 minutes from up to four piers in central London:

  • City Cruises Westminster Pier
  • City Cruises Tower Pier
  • City Cruises Greenwich Pier
  • London Eye Pier

Places of interest that this cruise ship passes through

Specifically in these places, you will be able to disembark to see them up close (entrance fees are not included):

  • Tower of London, one of London's greatest attractions and a symbol of terror and oppression as it served as a prison and execution site for prominent names from history to royalty.
  • Greenwich, a district on the south bank of the River Thames well known for its maritime history and for giving its name to the Greenwich meridian.
  • Shakespeare's Globe Theatre**, the replica of the original Globe Theatre with daily backstage tours.
  • Old Royal Naval College, whose Painted Hall is one of the most spectacular and important Baroque interiors in Europe.
  • Houses of Parliament, the home of British democracy and the famous Big Ben.
  • Cutty Sark**, a former ship converted into an exhibition space that you can visit to discover what life was like aboard the fastest ship of its time.
  • Canary Wharf**, a large business complex in London where the three tallest buildings in the UK are located behind The Shard.
  • The View, in 'The Shard'**, the tallest skyscraper in the UK, from which you can see a magnificent skyline of London.

Other services available on the Thames River Day Cruise

Once you book your cruise you will receive immediate confirmation and a ticket that you can download and carry on your mobile device. In addition, you have free cancellation up to 24 hours before the start of the activity.

  • It is adapted for people in wheelchairs.
  • Inside the ship, bar and toilets are available.

4. Exclusive Option: Dinner Cruise on the River Thames

Cruise with dinner included
Cruise with dinner included

This is the most premium cruise of the three and logically, also the most expensive. This thames river dinner cruise is ideal if you want to treat yourself to a romantic evening with your partner or a moment of relaxation while admiring London and its illuminated monuments at dusk. You will enjoy a dinner with live music show on board of a luxurious boat.

What this cruise consists of
You will board the River Room, an elegant Scandinavian cruise ship equipped with a dining room and a spacious outdoor terrace, or the recently refurbished Glass Room, with some of the best panoramic views of London and attractions such as Tower Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral and Big Ben, among the 7 totals it crosses. In addition, you can upgrade your cruise by choosing the Premier Dinner option, which entitles you to half a bottle of wine.

It is not the most recommended cruise for families because, although you can travel with small children, children under 12 years of age are not allowed to enter.

What is included in the Thames River Dinner Cruise?

  • Live entertainment.
  • Views of illuminated London and some of its major monuments at sunset.
  • Dinner with coffee and tea.

What is not included in the Thames River Dinner Cruise?

  • Gratuities.
  • Transfer to the cruise departure pier.
  • Itinerary of the Thames River Dinner Cruise.

Monuments visited during the itinerary

  • Tower Bridge
  • Tate Modern
  • Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
  • St. Paul's Cathedral
  • South Bank, the district at the heart of London's cultural scene
  • Houses of Parliament
  • Big Ben
  • Thames River
  • London Eye

Details of interest about this Thames River Dinner Cruise
Once you book your cruise you will receive a confirmation email and boarding instructions. In addition, you have free cancellation up to one day before the departure of the cruise.

To take this cruise you must have good weather and a minimum number of passengers, with a maximum of 15 passengers per cruise. If the cruise is cancelled due to bad weather conditions or not reaching the minimum number of passengers, you will be offered another date to enjoy it or a full refund of the amount paid.

It is recommended to dress casually but elegant for this cruise. Vegetarian and other adapted diets are also available, but must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.

How to get to the embarkation areas of the Thames River Cruises

Views of Tower Bridge from the River
Views of Tower Bridge from the River
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Most of the Thames river cruises depart from the central London docks and have public transport nearby and in the case of the flexible cruise you can also access from any of its stops at the above attractions.

Embankment Pier

  • Embankment Underground
  • Charing Cross train or subway

Westminster Pier

  • Westminster Underground
  • Tower Pier
  • Tower Hill Subway
  • Tower Gateway DLR light rail
  • Fenchurch Street Railway Station
  • Bus lines 15, 15H, N15 and RV1

Greenwich Pier

  • Cutty Sark Light Railway (DLR)
  • Greenwich Train
  • Bus lines 188, 199 and N1

London Eye Pier

  • Waterloo and London Waterloo Underground
  • Bus Route RV1

6. Why a Thames cruise is worthwhile

Sailing under Blackfriars Bridge
Sailing under Blackfriars Bridge
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For me, one of the great advantages of taking one of the various cruises on the River Thames is that you will be able to rest your exhausted legs a bit after traveling tirelessly through a city with so much to see and do.

In addition, they are a saving from the traffic jams that you can suffer on the bus or from the crowds of people crowding their subways.

These cruises are ideal to get a global idea of the physiognomy of the city or to see its monuments from another perspective. I recommend them especially if you are traveling with children as it is a fun and comfortable way to get an overall idea of what London is like and visit some of its main points of interest.

It also links two of the city's main tourist attractions: the Westminster Abbey area, where the famous Big Ben and London Eye are located, with the areas of the City and St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London.

7. Other interesting attractions in London

If you have already decided to take the cruise, my advice is to take the opportunity to know the whole area of Westminster Abbey, from where you can embark to start the boat tour. Right there you will find the London Eye (this is the article I wrote about London Eye Tickets:), a few meters away the Westminster Abbey (here all the information about Westminster Abbey Tickets:) and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

If what interests you is to walk around the city and enjoy it understanding what you see, you can take a look at my article on London Tours:, which can help you choose a good guided tour of the city where you can also learn the best kept secrets of the big city.

Frequently asked questions

  • How long do Thames River Cruises usually take?

    Generally they take about 2 hours, since most of them are return cruises. Dinner cruises and other experiences might take a bit longer, so some good advice is to plan your evening accordingly.

  • Do Dinner Cruises have vegetarian and gluten free meals?

    Yes, but you will have to notify your desired cruise provider for a specific meal at least 24h in advance. Also, it is not guaranteed that products are suitable for all allergies and are free from nuts.

  • What London landmarks will I see from a Thames River cruise?

    You will get the chance to catch a sight of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Eye, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, along with some other minor landmarks.

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