Sunday, 20 April 2014

A Thames Cruise

Back in February I was contacted by Activity Superstore and asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their Gift Experiences.

After some backward and forward with the company; I finally settled on a Thames dining cruise.

Within a couple of days I received a gift certificate, this certificate entitles the holder to go along to the experience but you still have to phone and book it up.

Phoning and booking was pretty straightforward, although I did have roughly an 8 week wait to go on the cruise as the earliest Saturday I could get was the 12th April. Once booked, I received a confirmation email with the date and time of the cruise 12.15pm and telling me that I would receive an E-ticket 24 hours before the experience date.

Fast forward to the 11th April; by 3pm, I hadn't heard anything from Activity Superstore so gave them a ring.  I spoke to a friendly and helpful lady, who told me that they were sending the E-tickets out now but if I hadn't received anything by 4.30pm to phone again.

4.30 came and went and still no email; so another phone call, this time I was told that I should receive the
 E-ticket soon but if not they would give me the information I needed there and then. The information was that we would be on Harmony at 11.15am, the time contradicted the confirmation and I double checked the time with the operator and also whether I needed the E-ticket or not. I was again told 11.15 and you should be O.K. without the E-ticket.

Luckily, the email and E-ticket arrived just after 5pm because the next day I DID need the E-ticket and the ticket confirmed the time was 11.45 not 11.15.

Personally, I would rather see the E-ticket sent out 48 hours before in case there is a problem receiving it, especially for a weekend event.

The actual dining cruise is run by a company called Bateaux, and they run the cruise form the Embankment pier.  We arrived at the reception area for the boat at about 11.20 and this was already quite full with passengers, there wasn't a great deal of seating so we (and most others) had to stand until they started boarding at 11.45.

Bateaux run two boats for the dining experience; the Harmony and the Symphony, the Harmony (which we were on) has a large open viewing deck, whereas the Symphony has an all glass structure but no deck.

Harmony interior 

Once boarded and seated; the waiter came to take the food and drink order, drinks were not included in the the price and had to be paid for separately (apart from tea or coffee).  The meal was a set 3-courses, there was a Vegetarian option but as neither of us are vegan, I don't know what that option was.

We were in the main part of the restaurant, and here the tables were arranged in rows of 3 or 4, we were in a row of 3 and in the middle, so we had reasonable views out on to the river but it did feel as though you looking at the people sitting in the window seats.

By 12.15 we were ready to sail and the 1st course was already being served. The 1st course was smoked and poached salmon roulade with pickled cucumber.


While the meals was served there was also a pre-recorded commentary being play but it was not easy to hear with the noise of diners eating and talking; we were chatting also, so I guess its difficult to have a happy medium with a commentary and allowing the diners on board to talk to each other.  

Main Course

The Main was chicken en croute, celeriac mash, french beans and a thyme jus, and from memory we were served this around the Tower of London on the outward journey. Personally I thought the service was good and the time between the course was ok, although my wife felt things were a little rushed.

Both the starter and main were well prepared and looked nice on the plate, the chicken was cooked well and melted in the mouth.

Between the main and dessert; I decided to go on to the upper deck, this meant a walk back through the boat and out at the rear to locate the stairs up.

Although the weather wasn't brilliant; it wasn't bad either, just a typical London day in April, a bit overcast but warm enough.  I thought more people would be on the upper deck taking in the views but I had it to myself.

Upper deck, Shad, Tower Bridge and the Walkie-talkie

There were a few people that came up after I'd taken the above picture, but it seemed that most were happy to stay down in the restaurant. Personally I felt there wasn't a great deal of time to go up on to the deck, after finishing dessert the boat was almost back at the Embankment pier.

Vanilla Pannacotta

Dessert was Vanilla Pannacotta with a macaroon biscuit and raspberry coulis.  This was the most disappointing part of the whole meal, I found the pannacotta to be very bland and the macaroon biscuit was very hard, so hard is fact that it was difficult to break without shards of it trying to escape across the restaurant.

The whole cruise lasted 1 1/2 hours and best part of the time is taken up dining, the views form inside the boats are O.K. but like I said at time you do feel as you looking across at others.

The commentary wasn't great but that's mainly because hearing it wasn't that easy,  for me that isn't a problem as I know the history of the areas we sailed through quite well having walked most of the Thames path along here.  For a tourist who wanted a commentary of the history on the Thames I would choose one of the normal river cruises.

If you want a pretty good meal and a cruise down the thames with some different views of London this would be ideal.

The initial booking was straightforward but up to 8 weeks waiting time does seem long to me and I guess through the Summer months this could be even longer.

The company not sending out the E-ticket until 24 hours before the event is not ideal especially with the problems I encountered, and not knowing if the phoneline would be manned on a Saturday, if I still had to chase up the problem.

The Gift experience voucher was supplied free of charge by Superstore Activity.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Vintage Fair

Yesterday was spent at a Vintage Fair on the Southbank.

Mainly Muscle cars, 40s chicks and Mods

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Rotherhithe Ramble

Another day, another urban walk.

This time a local one, around Rotherhithe and the Surrey Docks (or Surrey Quays as its now known)

Most of the route following the Thames Path, and has a lot of historical interest in the area, from the place where the Mayflower first set sail from to the first tunnel known to have been constructed successfully underneath a navigable river.

Although this side of the docks has been re-developed, it is mainly with housing and not the towering buildings of Canary Wharf and this helps to show how big the docks really were.

Rotherhithe Ramble
Greenland Dock
Tide Gauge House
Canary Wharf
Lavender Pumphouse
Rotherhithe Tunnel Shaft No.2
Brunel Museum
Hope (Sufferance) Wharf
St. Mary's Church
Thames and City of London