Thames Rockets review: See iconic London sights at 35mph on a thrilling boat trip
I’ve long recommended a boat trip down the River Thames as a ‘must do’ to friends and family visiting London from abroad. It’s a great place to get an overview of the capital and some of its most iconic landmarks. such as the Tower of London, the London Eye and Cleopatra’s Needle. Personally, I’ve been down the river many times over the years on the Thames Clippers, party boats or the tourist cruises. However, the one Thames experience missing from my personal history was a speedboat ride… until now.
I had occasionally seen Thames Rockets on the Thames over the years as a pedestrian on dry land. Finally, last week, I got the chance to experience a trip on a Rocket myself. The company, which launched in 2006, offers six different experiences, ranging from a 15 minute ‘Thames Taster’ to the 80 minute Thames Barrier Explorers Voyage. I was on the Ultimate London Adventure, which aims to provide a “fun-filled adrenaline-fuelled 50 minute” journey. Ahead of my trip, I was intrigued how they would combine a sight-seeing tour and speed.
Arriving 15 minutes before departure, I was greeted by the friendly Thames Rockets team, who fitted my lifejacket at the pier just by the London Eye. Next, we were given a safety briefing before climbing in. The Thames Rockets boats are speedboats with seats for about 12 people, each with a driver and guide abroad during your journey. I managed to get a coveted spot at the front of the boat, which was perfect for me as I was planning to photograph and video a lot of the journey. We were introduced to our driver Doug and our guide Bill and prepared to set off.
The first part of our journey was a musical trip past some of London’s most famous sights, such as Shakespeare’s Globe, Waterloo Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. We slowed down a bit just before Tower Bridge so we could get some good photos. Soon after we passed under Tower Bridge and passed the River Police Station at Wapping, it was time to crank things up a gear. With this eastern passage of the Thames being wider and less busy than central London, Doug was free to increase the speed. Soon enough, we were holding on tight to the railings as we twisted, turned, and jumped over the waves at speeds of up to 30 knots (35mph). There was plenty of whooping and screaming as the group reacted to the various stunts. Sitting by the port side of the boat, I did get a little wet from the spray, but I was well prepared in a raincoat and it was all part of the fun. As we raced towards Canary Wharf, there were times I couldn’t even see the skyscrapers as the bow rode up in front of us as we leaped over the waves. The side turns were particularly hair-raising and certainly showed our skipper’s impressive skills at the wheel.
After our high-speed adventure, things slowed down again as we returned past Wapping to head back to the centre of London. This is were our guide Bill could show off his knowledge – and quiz us on ours – of the capital. He pointed out various familiar sights along the river and accompanied them with little-known, interesting facts, as well as injecting some comedy along the way. One constant throughout our journey was a themed soundtrack, with music from the 1960s to today. Many tracks were inspired by water or speed, such as the Baywatch theme tune and My Heart Will Go On from Titanic, which I found particularly funny when we were travelling at breakneck speed.
If you’re looking for a sightseeing tour with a difference, or perhaps you’re an adrenalin junkie looking for an adventure fix then Thames Rockets is a great choice. I really enjoyed the whole trip and was a great way to see my hometown. The central London parts of the journey were relaxing as we enjoyed the city without having to deal with the crowds. However, it was the speed increase between Wapping and the Docklands that I really enjoyed. The boat’s tricks were thrilling and certainly got my heart racing. I have to commend our skipper Doug for some amazing spins and turns. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and would certainly ride with Thames Rockets again.
- Thames Rockets depart from Boarding Gate One, the London Eye Millennium Pier, The Queen’s Walk, Waterloo, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo. Departures usually daily (weather dependant). Adult tickets range from £26.50 to £54.50 depending on experience. Child tickets range from £26.50 to £39.50. (Minimum age applies for Break The Barrier: 10 years and over, Thames Lates: over 18s only). For more information and booking, visit the Thames Rockets website.
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