The 8 Best Thames River Cruises of 2019

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The Rundown

01 of 07

Best Basic Cruise: Westminster to Greenwich Sightseeing Thames Cruise

Westminster to Greenwich Sightseeing Thames Cruise

Viator

This simple cruise offers an affordable, simple way to see London’s skyline from the water without any particular muss or fuss. You board the sightseeing boat at the Westminster Pier at any number of daily boarding times (boats leave every 30 to 40 minutes) and choose to sit either inside the boat or on the outdoor sightseeing deck for your east-bound trip along the Thames. Live recorded commentary in six languages will help you keep a lookout for some of London’s most impressive landmarks as you cruise past: the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and so much more.

Your tour ends at Greenwich, where you can disembark and tour the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich Observatory, or Greenwich Market. The boat line does offer a return ticket from Greenwich back to Westminster, but you can also choose to save a few bucks and simply hop a city bus or the light rail back to Central London or wherever your London headquarters (or next destination) happens to be.

02 of 07

Best Hop-On/Hop-Off Cruise: Thames Hop-On Hop-Off River Cruise

Thames Hop-On Hop-Off River Cruise

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The Thames is not only beautiful, it’s (not coincidentally) pretty conveniently located adjacent to a huge slate of London’s most exciting points of interest. This hop-on/hop-off cruise works just like those networks of sightseeing buses: there are four separate piers stretching all down the river, and a rotating fleet of boats stops at each several times per hour. You can either ride the loop (about 2.5 hours) and just watch the city drift by, or jump on and off at your leisure, seeing the sights at each — or both! Feel free to take advantage of the fact that the ticket is good for a full 24 hours. This tour is wheelchair-accessible and the boats offer a bar and cafe, so it’s easy to get comfy and enjoy the journey.

03 of 07

Best Evening Cruise: London Thames River Evening Cruise

London Thames River Evening Cruise

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London is always beautiful, but it’s particularly stunning during the golden hour right around sunset, and then into the darker evening, as the buildings each light up, with the London Eye twinkling over the city and the many towers and church spires glowing through the darkness. Take advantage of this gorgeous time of day and enjoy this evening river cruise that departs from and returns to Westminster Pier.

Your romantic cruise is accompanied by a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and tasty canapés. On-board music adds to the atmosphere. The cruise lasts about two hours, departing at 6:30 p.m. and returning at 8:30 p.m., making it either an ideal evening out (for early birds) or a good warm-up to a fun night on the town.

04 of 07

Best Dinner Cruise: London Thames River Dinner Cruise

London Thames River Dinner Cruise

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Live music, a four-course gourmet dinner, one of London’s most luxurious river cruisers, and the backdrop of the gorgeous city itself, lit up for nighttime? There are few more romantic ways to spend an evening, really. Nibble on Severn and Wye smoked salmon while the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben drift past. Dig into a roasted chicken breast with butternut purée and braised leeks as the Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre rise up in the distance. Sip a digestif from the on-board bar or even boogie down to 1960s hits on the dance floor while the boat slowly returns on its long, round-trip pathway through the city. This tour embarks from Tower Pier in Central London, a particularly convenient location that’s close to many hotels and easy to access by public transport or taxi.

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05 of 07

Best Lunch Cruise: Sunday Lunch Jazz Cruise in River Thames

Sunday Lunch Jazz Cruise in River Thames

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If a dinner cruise is a bit too posh for your tastes (or pocketbook), consider this also-rather-swanky lunch cruise, which takes you out on the Thames for 2.5 hours around midday, complete with a hearty three-course meal of British-inspired gourmet fare and a fabulous live band playing everything from Dixieland and trad jazz favorites to smooth jazz jams to jazz versions of pop hits. While you eat and listen, the city skyline acts as a gorgeous living backdrop. Unlike similarly-programmed dinner cruises, this lunch cruise is comfy and smart-casual, and it’s also kid-friendly (ages four and up). Vegetarian meal requirements can be accommodated but must be declared at the time of booking.

06 of 07

Best Combo Cruise: London Ghost Tour with Thames River Cruise

London Ghost Tour with Thames River Cruise

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London is famously one of the world’s most haunted cities and has an undeniably dark past. This tour, ideal for both history-buff skeptics and amateur ghost hunters alike, takes visitors on a deep dive into just some of the city’s thousands of ghost stories and purported hauntings, as well as some historical events that are scarier than anything supernatural. The tour begins in Green Park and starts off with a walking tour of the Royal Parks, past haunted houses and the sites of some of London’s most horrifying historical incidents.

After your walking tour, you’ll board a boat and float down the Thames, with your guide telling you spine-chilling tales from the many famous (and infamous) buildings you can see from the boat. The tour concludes at the Tower of London, perhaps the most famous haunted landmark in London, if not the world.

07 of 07

Best Speedboat Cruise: High-Speed Thames River RIB Cruise in London

High-Speed Thames River RIB Cruise in London

Viator

Do you prefer your sightseeing accompanied by a bit of an adrenaline rush? Can’t blame you if you do. This tour straps you into a waterproof lifejacket, gives you a brief (but very necessary) safety briefing, and then zips you out on the Thames on an RIB (rigid inflatable boat) for a speedy 50-minute ride on the river, with guided commentary interspersed by high-velocity accelerations, wave jumps, and wild turns in your nimble little boat. From the water, you can see modern London landmarks like the Shard and the Gherkin, as well as historic churches, monuments, and administrative buildings, and you’ll be able to enjoy these fully on the leisurely ride back to your dock after you’ve had a bit of wild high-speed fun. This tour departs from and returns to the ultra-convenient London Eye Waterloo Millennium Pier in the heart of Central London.

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