A Thames River lunch cruise follows the historic waterway along its gentle curves, embracing vistas of palaces, cathedrals, and famous landmarks through the heart of London. When it comes to dining with a view in this great capital city, you certainly can't beat a floating restaurant with fabulous sights on both river banks.
Bateaux London Lunch Cruise
Sleek modern vessels are just the ticket for a memorable river cruise. Board the Harmony, with its picture windows and outdoor rooftop observation deck, or the all-glass Symphony for a 90-minute, three-course lunch cruise with audio sightseeing commentary. Child menus (ages 3-12) are available as well as a premier upgrade including wine with lunch at a guaranteed window table.
On London's only sightseeing vessels with an onboard galley, chefs prepare a set lunch menu (subject to change), typically served as a fresh summer vegetable and feta salad to start, a salmon main dish or roast chicken with potatoes and beans, followed by vanilla panna cotta or strawberry cheesecake and coffee/tea service. Vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free options are available on the day without pre-ordering.
Note that Bateaux London also operates under the name Thames Dinner Cruise where the same lunch cruise option described below may be booked.
TripAdvisor reviewers rate Bateaux London cruises overall at about 4.5 stars, earning the excursions a Certificate of Excellence. Comments about the lunch cruises in particular mention friendly staff, good food and service, and great views. Facebook reviews pertaining to lunch, dinner and afternoon tea cruises are similarly positive, praising the "great cruise" with its "nice food, good service" and "huge panoramic window." Reviewers on Virgin Experience Days rate the excursion very highly as well.
Know Before You Go
Visit the Bateaux London website to select a date for your cruise. Prices are £36 for adults and £24 for children (ages 3-12) for the classic lunch cruise. Children under 3 are not permitted to board. A premier lunch cruise at £65 per person for adults provides each guest with a half bottle of house wine, half bottle of mineral water, and a guaranteed window seat.
Cruises do not operate on Mondays; Tuesdays are available from June through September only; Wednesdays are available from April through December; and Sundays year-round are reserved for the Jazz Cruise. Lunchtime dress code calls for smart casual: no hoodies, flip flops, ripped jeans, leisure wear, shorts, or trainers (sneakers).
Both Bateaux London vessels, Harmony and Symphony, use Embankment Pier on Victoria Embankment. Easy to reach via Transport for London Underground, the nearest tube stops to the pier are Embankment (Circle, District, Northern, and Bakerloo lines), a 2-minute walk, and Charing Cross (Northern and Bakerloo lines), a 5-minute walk.
Allow 30 minutes for boarding; if you do miss the boat, an alternative date is offered. Refunds are offered only on cancellations at least three days in advance. On the Harmony, there is step-free access from the pier and accessible toilet facilities for the disabled reached via elevators.
Bateaux London Sunday Jazz Cruise
On Sundays, the Scandinavian-built Harmony and the Parisian Symphony extend lunchtime to 2.5 hours featuring a live jazz trio performing well-loved standards from the Great American Songbook. Choose a classic three-course lunch package or a premier package to include a half bottle of house wine per person, a half bottle of mineral water each, and a guaranteed window table.
A sample Sunday three-course lunch menu includes a salmon terrine starter, roast of the day with potatoes and vegetables, baked pear frangipani with clotted cream for dessert, and a tea and coffee service.
Jazz lunch cruise reviews on TripAdvisor are overwhelmingly excellent or very good. Five-star comments indicate "service was excellent as was the food and the wine," calling it "an enjoyable trip [where they'll] definitely return." On Facebook, top marks come from a birthday celebration passenger who writes, "Staff were friendly and efficient and food was excellent. The jazz musicians were also brilliant. Great experience and would highly recommend."
Jazz lunch cruise adult ticket prices are £50 for classic and £65 for premier tickets. The individual child price for ages 3-12 is £34, with a special kids menu and activity pack to entertain with fun quizzes, games, and crayons. Children under 3 are not permitted onboard. Jazz cruises operate every week throughout the year, other than on Christmas and New Year's Day.
The smart casual dress code and Embankment Pier departure information for the Sunday jazz cruise is the same as other Bateaux London lunch cruises described above. Book a luncheon cruise with jazz with two departure times, 11:45 a.m. or 12 p.m., depending on the boat and the date. Boarding times are 30 minutes prior to departure.
City Cruises Lunch
This hop-on, hop-off river cruise line has a large fleet of boats operating from piers at Westminster, Waterloo, Tower, Greenwich, and Bankside (April through October) with commentary along the way. This means you can enjoy a lunch cruise plus 24-hour access to the vessels calling every 40 minutes at five piers, allowing easy sightseeing on both banks of the River Thames.
Lunch Menu and Audio Guides
The 1 hour, 45 minute cruise offers a two-course set lunch and a cash bar, plus live sightseeing commentary. Free audio guides are available in seven additional languages: Italian, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese. Guests have views through panoramic windows on the dining level and can wander an open air upper deck for even better views.
The lunch cruise menu typically features roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables followed by a chocolate truffle cake with raspberry sauce and tea or coffee. A vegetarian or gluten-free option must be pre-ordered and other dietary restrictions can be catered to on request with at least 24 hours' advance notice.
On TripAdvisor, over 90 percent of customers rate the City Cruise lunch as excellent or very good. Satisfied passengers say that the attraction is "very well organized" and offers "excellent value for money." A Facebook reviewer writes, "We were lucky enough to see the Tower Bridge raise its decks... the boat waited to allow us a fabulous photo opportunity." On Facebook, overall City Cruises including sightseeing, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea options are rated at over four stars.
Book your City Cruise lunch cruise for any day other than Christmas Day. Prices are set at £32 per adult, £34 per person for a window table accommodating two, and £22 for children ages 5-12. A weekend supplement of £3 applies. Pre-order online from the cash bar to save 10 percent on alcoholic beverages.
Departures and Accessibility
Lunch cruises depart from Tower Pier for which the nearest tube is Tower Hill (Circle and District lines) with its new elevators and step-free access. Tickets must be pre-booked and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Some boats are fully accessible and advance notice is requested. General boarding arrival is recommended at least 15 minutes before departure.
Other Names and Additional Deals
These lunch cruises are also known online as River Red Rover and Jewel of London, after the name of one of the fleet's vessels.
If you visit the River Red Rover website, during the booking process you'll be prompted for optional deals on sightseeing attraction add-ons. For example, visit the Crown Jewels and the Tower of London (adults £21.50, children 9-15 years £9.70) or be whisked up Western Europe's tallest tower for The View from The Shard (adults £25.95, children 4-15 years £19.95). These deals represent a 10-15 percent advance purchase discount.
Your basic 24-hour hop-on, hop-off Red Rover ticket is priced at £16.88 for adults and £10.80 for children ages 5-15. A family ticket covers two adults and three children for £33.75. Thames lunch cruises are an optional add-on, so you can spend the whole day sightseeing, dining, and relaxing on the river.
Helpful Tips and Information
Enhanced by an enjoyable meal, a Thames River lunch cruise provides a chance for London visitors to rest their feet and soak up history lessons while being rewarded with exceptional sightseeing from an exciting perspective. For the best possible experience, keep a few key points in mind.
Prices and Foreign Exchange Rates
The prices quoted above are accurate as of mid-summer 2017. Always check with the companies directly for the latest information. Visitors should know that US dollar (USD) to pound sterling (GBP) exchange rates can fluctuate daily as well. To convert prices, use an international currency exchange provider like Travelex, which has an online tool, or the Bureau de Change desks at UK airports.
Top Attractions on the Thames
Thames River cruise passengers are treated to a richness of sights that define London, gliding under bridges and drifting by a mix of old and new: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Cutty Sark, and Royal Greenwich Observatory, home to the Greenwich Meriden Line.
Cruises depart from several piers and some cruises do not go beyond Tower Bridge to Greenwich before turning around, so check the map details for each. The Thames is a tidal river, so conditions can sometimes affect the captain's course.
Save With the London Pass
Purchase the London Pass for free admission and fast track entry to dozens of museums and attractions, including a Thames River sightseeing cruise. You will also benefit from a 15 percent discount on your classic Bateaux London lunch cruise, Sunday jazz excursions included.
See London From the River
In London, as in many European cities, rivers served as the main artery for centuries. Medieval structures such as Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London were designed with river access in mind. To this day, a magnificent collection of important Central London landmarks can be best appreciated from the water.