Thames Clippers review (Feb 2015)
This is an old review Read my most recent review here
I felt like a boat ride today so I'm getting a day ticket on a Thames Clipper ship. There's nothing like a boat ride in the winter. Forget the sun. Forget the summer. Forget the heat. Cold wind and rain in your face is where it's at. I want my eyes to freeze up and fall out. That is what I call a fun day out.
Let me start off by saying that these aren't my favourite boats in London because they are aimed at commuters really, rather than tourists; and you are supposed to use like them like a bus. They go from Putney in the west, all the way though central London to North Greenwich in the east, which sounds like quite a nice run -- it's nearly 15 miles long. But unfortunately there are about fifty million stops inbetween, so they are forever stopping and starting to let people on and off. And there's no one single boat that encompasses the entire stretch either. I'm waiting for the Putney boat at the moment, which takes in Chelsea and Big Ben, but then you've got to disembark at Victoria Embankment and catch another one to Greenwich. And you know how lazy I am (very), so the thought of having to stand up and walk somewhere halfway through the journey doesn't exactly fill me with glee.
But anyway... I quite like Putney. I think it's quite a nice stretch of water, but there's no real reason for a tourist to come here. There are no attractions or landmarks or anything like that -- just a high street full of shops. If you're a tourist then you'll probably want to board the boat at the London Eye or Embankment instead; but I've got a whole day to waste so I don't care. I am here from sunrise to sunset. I am here forever. I will ride the boat until the water boils off the face of the earth. If I could catch a boat to the edge of the world and drop off the end then I would do it. I don't think the Thames Clippers go that far though -- not for sixteen quid fifty.
Most of the Thames Clipper ships are totally enclosed, like a glass box on water, but this one has got a few seats at the back where the noise of the engines is a grumbling, rumbling thunder. Imagine a farm tractor coughing up blood. It is spluttering and chuntering and spewing out fumes and the boat is certainly complaining about something. What's wrong with it? Maybe the boat can't swim. When the captain kicks open the motors it's like being thrust into the face of a force ten gale. I feel like I'm inside an avalanche roaring down the mountainside.
There's something very relaxing about sitting on a boat with the cold wind and seagulls. They are all wheeling around the riverside flats, probably pecking at the dustbins and rubbish dumps.
A lady has just got on with a troop of dogs (no joke). She's taking them for walkies on a boat. That's what this service is like -- it's a floating bus, not a sightseeing boat. The rest of the crew are made up of mums and dads and pushchairs. I'm sure Nelson didn't allow pushchairs and prams onboard HMS Victory. The dogs are quite cute though, I suppose. Not as cute as the owner though.
We are passing Chelsea Embankment now, which is where the London landmarks start. You can see the Royal Hospital on the left and the Peace Pagoda on the right -- a big golden Buddha at the edge of Battersea Park. Then you pass Battersea Power Station, which seems to have a chimney missing -- I think they've taken it down to restore it, which sounds a bit counter-productive to me. Then the riverbanks start to fill up with posh flats and mansion blocks as you get closer to Big Ben and Westminster. I'd hate to think how much these riverside apartments cost, but I'm guessing that it's a bit more than 10p a week, which is all I can afford. I'm not a big fan of all this glass and steel architecture because it makes every building look the same. Architects don't have the money to build anything in stone. Can you imagine what Stonehenge would look like if we built it today? It would just be twenty-five steel girders rammed into the dirt. The pyramids would be fifty feet high and made of breeze-blocks.
We have just passed Tate Britain and Lambeth Palace, and are coming up alongside Big Ben. That's the best reason to get this boat: so you can enjoy a close-up of Parliament from the water. It sails right past the side of Parliament and gives you a good view of the exterior.
Here comes the Victoria Embankment, which is where I have to get off (end of the line). You can either stay on the jetty and catch the next one to North Greenwich, or you can cross over the bridge and catch it from the London Eye instead. It doesn't matter which one you choose because there are boats to Greenwich from either. I decided to have a nosey on over to the London Eye and catch it from there.
This next boat has only got a few seats at the back and they are already filled with camera clicking tourists. Luckily I managed to squeeze into the last one left, otherwise I would have had to chuck one of them overboard. (Don't worry, I would have thrown them a life jacket too -- I'm not a complete ahole.)
On we go... past Cleopatra's Needle and Shakespeare's Globe. Tate Modern too, and a so-so view of St. Paul's dome. You can get off here if you like, just past the Millennium Bridge.
Then we come to my favourite part of London -- The City. You can glimpse the golden urn at the top of The Monument if you know where to look, disembark at The Shard, or just carry on past Traitor's Gate at the Tower of London (you can get off there too -- there are so many stops!). After that it passes under Tower Bridge and heads into the rough water towards Canary Wharf.
There are no real sights along this stretch of the Thames so you might want to sit inside for a while before you die of frostbite. I'm a man so I braved it (because I'm an idiot). It's worth sticking around for a little while though, so you can can stare back down the river and see The City, the Shard and Tower Bridge all in the same shot.
The boat certainly doesn't hang around; we must be going about three thousand miles an hour at the moment. The TRS boats are much more leisurely and you can have a nice relaxing ride to Greenwich, but on the Thames Clippers you are pulling 3G. When we pulled away from Greenland Pier it felt like we were taking off in a plane.
There's a flock of gulls following along behind and they are doing some formation flying. It's like a flock of World War II bombers. They must be attracted by the water churn and smoke coming out of the back, because they don't want to let us go. I feel like a fighter pilot with a load of heat-seeking missiles on his tail. We need to let out some chaff (some breadcrumbs) to lose them.
I've had a quick look inside the cabin and it's all families chatting and people queuing for coffee at the counter. They've got a TV playing non-stop adverts as well. The seat backs have got big cards in them saying what we should do in an emergency. I love cheery things like that.
The final stop before The O2 is at Greenwich, which is probably where you'll want to get off, unless you want to try the cable car by the O2 Arena.
So is it worth doing? Hmm... well... I don't think so. If all you're after is some sightseeing then I would definitely recommend a TRS boat first -- because they are more leisurely and have got more outside seats. The Thames Clipper ships are too pricey as well. If they are trying to encourage commuters to use this boat as a bus then they need to drop the price considerably. You can get a day pass on the bus for ten quid, but a 'Daily River Rover' will put a big dent in twenty. It's not cheap enough for a bus, and it's too expensive for a sightseeing boat.
Guest – Hi I am staying on sunburn floating hotel newham e14 near excel. I am visiting meeting friends at white chapel. Algate station to be sure can I get clipper boat near me to white chapel area think tower bridge is close but I don't know London that well thanks
Admin – Better to get the DLR train to Tower Gateway. The excel centre and the boat you're staying at are not on the riverbank, they are on the side of an inland dock. The closest thames clipper pier is north greenwich, but thats on the opposite side of the river -- by The O2. You can either swim across the river (i dont recommend that) or ride the cable car over there, because the cable car station is very close to the excel. Tower millennium pier would be the closest one to whitechapel, but it might turn out to be a long walk, depending on whereabouts in whitechapel you are going
Here are some more boat journeys…
|Guided tours in March|
|Guided tours in April|
|Guided tours in May|