The Thames at Night – A City Cruise to remember

Andy Kyriacou, vocalist for 80’s Pop band Modern Romance, puts down the microphone long enough to take a trip on the Thames. He gives us his views on the service.
City Cruises Fleet at Night

City Cruises Fleet at Night

Canary Wharf and the old City Hall

Canary Wharf and the old City Hall

Shard and the Millenium Wheel

Shard and the Millenium Wheel

O2 Arena and Canary Wharf

O2 Arena and Canary Wharf

A mild Tuesday evening in early September was the setting for my trip on the Thames, along with my fiancé Anna. The evening was billed as a showboat experience, on board the vessel Millenium of London, operated by City Cruises.

After initial arrangements were made for this trip, an email confirmation/voucher arrived, with instructions to print the email and present it at Westminster Pier. This sounded simple enough, and surprisingly, it was indeed, that straightforward. On presentation of the voucher, we were invited on board, and subsequently greeted by the staff who had lined up to meet all who were taking in this experience. The formal greeting was accompanied with the presentation of a glass of champagne, (or in my case, “Diet Coke sir? Not a problem”). If only everything was this simple and civilised!

Anna and I were escorted to our pre-booked table, and were childishly pleased to find it was table No.18. Even at our so-called “mature” age, we enjoy the supposed luck associated with coincidences which can be linked to something significant in our lives – we share a birthday on April 18th, so we saw this as a good sign.

Settling down, we were in the care of several waiters (our main one was the excellent Barney), and shortly afterwards, found ourselves sampling the delights of the first of four courses. Out of the blocks came an exquisite smoked salmon mousse, accompanied by king prawns with lemon, and a mesclun salad. A perfect start. I absolutely loved this course, and was almost tempted to ask nearby diners if they were sure they wanted theirs!!!!

By this time, the entertainment for the evening had begun, albeit it in a laid back mood, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances. Our hostess for the evening was the twee, Amanda Hawkins, who began her set with softer classics and show tunes at a sympathetic level, allowing diners to chat freely. (She would go on to increase the tempo and the volume gradually, introducing Motown classsics and ending in a disco set, all with excellent timing).

Meanwhile, back at our table, we were presented with the second course – a tomato soup, with basil and red pepper. This too, was very good, although I felt it could have done with a little more red pepper, but it was quite acceptable nonetheless and did have a lovely texture.

The main course was roasted supreme of chicken wrapped in Parma ham, served alongside Dauphinoise potatoes with a mushroom sauce, and also seasonal vegetables. The chicken was just a smidgeon overcooked for my liking, but I was impressed overall. The vegetables surprised me – they were crunchy, as opposed to the soggy mess you are liable to receive when a large number have been catered for. Well done that chef!

The dessert looked perfect, but unfortunately not the kind of thing I tend to eat, as I am not too fond of chocolate flavoured sweets. Therefore, the white, dark, and milk chocolate truffle cake with raspberry sauce does not get the fair acknowledgement here which it probably warrants. The soft crumbly base was lovely, (I did scoop up a spoonful or two) but it was the general “chocolatiness” which didn’t appeal to me. However, it was eagerly devoured by all around me, including Anna, so I knew it was more than edible – it was just me.

Whilst all this was going on, and the likes of waiter Barney and company were bringing bread rolls, drinks, and checking we had everything we needed, the lovely Amanda was soldiering on. I happened to catch her in conversation as I was taking photos on the outer deck during her break, and we briefly discussed the performance conditions. It is indeed, a lonely gig, as she has no-one to “bounce off” whilst performing solo to backing tracks. Additionally, it is a most difficult task to sing to people whilst you are staring primarily at the tops of their heads, as they tuck into their food. Trying to maintain an enthusiastic outlook is extremely difficult under these conditions, and I do commend her on her utter professionalism. She did extremely well, never losing her enthusiasm despite the apparent indifference and lack of attention by the diners. All the while, despite these odds, she gradually became entwined with her audience, eventually enticing them onto the dance floor for the last 40 minutes or so prior to our return to dockside, and turning that last part of the evening into a mini-rave! As a fellow professional, I paid particular attention to her, and could not help but admire her resolve. She never became ineffectual or allowed her standards to drop, despite the muted response after each song, (understandably, to a degree), from people eating and generally relaxing. I do indeed, doff my hat to thee, m’lady.

Overall the experience was a very pleasurable one – lovely surroundings, well thought out ambient lighting, extremely courteous, helpful staff, a good standard of food, with a carefully thought our music programme, all set to the main theme of “The Thames at Night”. This is one of the most beautiful and historical river settings in the world, and to be able to view it under such calm and civilised conditions by night, is marvellous. I would strongly recommend this as a date to impress, whether it be for your long term partner, a new person in your life, friends from abroad, or even for clients in the corporate world. You absolutely cannot go wrong.

Contact City Cruises for details: www.citycruises.com

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