Family Day out with MBNA Thames Clippers, Cutty Sark, Rivington Grill and Emirates Airline……Seeing London from a Different Perspective
When I was offered the opportunity to visit London with MBNA Clipper, I had some reservations. I don’t live in London so it would be a long day plus we were just back from a weekend camping at a festival so I was expecting my 9 year old to be tired. The itinerary sounded fun though, really fun and I hoped the day would be one of those memory making days that we both look back on fondly.
We travelled down to London the evening before making the most of the off peak fares and stayed overnight in a room booked last minute. We woke happy and refreshed ready to meet the team at the London Eye for the start of our day trip.
I travel to London fairly regularly with work and I am confident travelling round using the underground buses etc, I have also been down with Hannah before sightseeing. And whilst our day started in the usual way- walk and underground to Southbank to meet at the London Eye, once there we had our first experience of something new and different for us- as we boarded onto the MBNA Thames Clipper boat ( or bus boat as Hannah called it)
Wow. If you haven’t been on a MBNA Thames Clipper boat in London. Do it. Without wanting to sound like an over excited child, it is an amazing way to travel round London! Why had I never come across this before?? The service runs from Putney in the West Zone through the central zone to Woolwich in the East Zone and departs from every major London pier every 20 mins.
With this many stops it is possible to take in all the usual tourist destinations, normally just a short walk away from the Pier. Information guides of the boat tell you which pier you need for the different attractions and how long it will take to walk there from the pier.
No more jumping and squeezing onto an over crowded tube, hanging onto your child so they don’t get squashed or stood on. Plus, and this is a big plus for families with young babies and toddlers, there is a ramped access onto the boat and room for a pushchair once on. Did I mention there are toilets on board as well, and an outside deck? Ideal way to travel with the family!
Our first trip on the Clipper took us from Waterloo Pier (The London Eye) to Greenwich Pier. It took about 30-40 mins. Hannah and I reclined in the comfortable seats and whilst I marvelled at the wonderful views along the Thames and took in the amazing architecture along the river bank, Hannah completed the “Learning the Ropes” children’s activity pack which can be downloaded from the Clipper MBNA website. I jumped up and took photos of every landmark visible and for once envied the London commuters who are able to enjoy these views everyday on the way to work.
Once past the central zone there is announcement that the clipper is going to go fast and requests to stay seated, so with my cup of tea I had just got from the café on board (its Licenced bar and café ), I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the journey to Greenwich.
Once at Greenwich our day continued with a tour of the Cutty Sark, probably the most famous boat in the world. If I am honest this was me attempting to be a “good mum” and trying to bring history alive a little when she returns to school in September. Being a realistic mum however, I wasn’t sure how this tour would go down in reality.
The first views of this beautifully restored boat as you turn the corner are pretty spectacular. Once I got Hannah through the visitor shop we went downstairs and I am happy to say she was totally enthralled from the beginning. She loved being able to touch the underside of the boat and we spent a long time looking at the world’s biggest collection of figureheads and deciding which one was our favourite.
On this level there were toilets (with baby changing facilities) and a café, and although we didn’t have anything to eat there, the food did look good and reasonably priced.
Making our way up through the ship and onto the upper decks, Hannah took great delight in taking pics and looking around. There are lots of little interactive sections to immerse you in the ships history. The cook’s tour was especially fun, meet James Robson on the upper deck and he will engage and entertain the children with a fun tour telling them all about the different crew members and showing them where they slept and what they ate.
Hannah is 9yrs old, so we were able to climb up and down the narrow and sometimes steep steps from the decks and into the different cabins. There is a lift which provided access to all levels of the ship, but all the children I saw managed and enjoyed climbing and exploring on foot. Although we didn’t do this, if you go on line to rmg.co.uk there are also animal and ship shape trails for kids to follow on board.
I was delighted and a little surprised to be honest just how much Hannah enjoyed looking around the Cutty Sark and even though the entrance to the ship is via the gift shop she didn’t spend the entire tour harassing me to go back to the shop so she could buy something which speaks volumes !
After the Cutty Sark we were taken to Rivington Grill in Greenwich to sample their new children’s menu. Only ten mins walk from the Cutty Sark, it’s slightly away from the manic tourist area, and at 1.30 pm there were plenty of tables. The tables I should say at this point, looked lovely, white cloths, flowers, all beautifully laid with wine glasses and cutlery. Had I had my youngest with me, such beautiful perfection would have filled me with dread at the thought of food stains and knocked over glasses. Thankfully Hannah was happy to sit at table and colour and do word search puzzles (the menu also had some children activities).
Although the table looked a little child unfriendly, we certainly didn’t feel unwanted or uncomfortable at all. The waiter was lovely, and made us feel very welcome. The food was good, sorry we a little bit unadventurous here as both Hannah and I had burgers, followed by ice cream. Hannah enjoyed her burger (she has very high standards and not much lives up to world acclaimed school dinner burger, so that’s a definite thumbs up!) The new editions to the kids menu are fish cake fingers, mini chicken schnitzels with garlic mayonnaise and cheese toast fingers alongside the classic Rivington dishes – Heap’s sausage and mash and their delicious beef burger and home-made chips. They also distinguished the menu between big kids and little kids which I thought was a good idea.
Hannah and I both enjoyed the meal and as I said I thought the staff and waiters were wonderfully patient and sweet with all the children young and old.
If I am honest because it looks so nice I not sure I would return if I had a very big brood of young kids / toddlers, but if your children are a bit older 4-5 upwards or babies it’s a good call, especially with their children eat free offer (with paying adult) which runs Monday- Friday.
If I was on my own or with husband I would definitely go back especially for the jazz evening they had advertised!
Back to the Clipper and for our next stop, we travelled further up river to the Emirates Cable car. Wow. Another amazing way to view London. At just under 300ft, the Emirates Air Line cable car is the highest observation point over the Thames, spanning just over 1km across the River between the Greenwich Peninsula (near The O2) and the Royal Docks (near ExCeL London). We had a lovely clear day and the views were spectacular.
Just some of the sights and attractions that can be seen on a clear day include Canary Wharf, St Paul’s Cathedral, historic Greenwich, the Shard, The O2, the Thames Barrier, Royal Docks and Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park.
Hannah’s homework challenge was to have a photo of her reading a book in an interesting or challenging place. Thanks- homework ticked off after week one of holiday! She has never been on a cable car before and she loved her first experience! It was she said her favourite part of the day.
Back on ground we messed around in their photo-booth taking photos’ of us around the world, then headed back to the MBNA Clipper “bus boat” for a chilled out return journey back into heart of London. This time we got off at Embankment and took a stroll up to Trafalgar square, watched the street entertainers, and after a lovely hot choc jumped back onto the tube to Kings Cross.
I had a smiling happy 9 year old the whole day, even at 11 pm as we rolled into Harrogate we were tired but full of lovely memories. Job done- See London from a different perspective, I would highly recommend it. Thank you Mini Travellers for the opportunity to review this trip!
NB: Liz and Hannah were guests of MBNA Clipper, Cutty Sark, Rivington Grill and Emirates Airline but all views and opinions are their own.