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City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Illinois
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City Cruises New Year's Eve report

I couldn't find much on this when I searched in advance, so I thought I would post about our experience for NYE 2011. We took the Stargazer Cruise from City Cruises (the cheapest one) which cost 69GBP per person. I wanted one without dancing as I was going with my 14 y/o daughter, and the only difference I could see between the Stargazer and Galaxy cruises (the next cheapest at 99GBP) was an extra 30 min of time on the river. All of the cruises sold out, so if you know you want to go, book early. I booked ours in mid Nov.

We were supposed to be at Tower Pier at 22:00 for boarding, and arrived about 21:40 or so. The loading was not very well organized, as they had several cruises which leave close together timewise but there was nothing to tell you where your boat left from. Therefore everyone was afraid they would miss their boat, so they were all pushing forward. I think they were just pushing forward for nothing though, as at 22:00 (when I think they opened the gate) the queue started moving and it was fairly simple to find where to go. The boat we were on (for the Stargazer Cruise) was mainly enclosed, but did have a small outside area at the back. When we pulled out of the pier, it was raining, but considerately it stopped just before the fireworks.

The cruise starts at Tower Pier, goes under Tower Bridge and down to the Canary Wharf area, turns around and comes back up under Tower Bridge and then stops on the other side of Westminster Bridge. It then turns around so the front of the boat is facing Westminster Bridge. They do a little commentary, but it's not really a guided cruise. If it is not raining, they retract the roof when you get under Westminster Bridge, so you do get a great view of the fireworks. The last 7-8 rows of seats will still be under the roof as it does not retract all the way. Most of the fireworks come from the London Eye side, so the right side of the boat is better to sit on. I would recommend sitting farther forward than the last 8 rows or so and right by the edge of the boat if possible as people all stand up, blocking your view if you’re sitting. However, I think if you were at the edge you could see around them. There are some that are shot out of the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, but (this year anyway) they were only at the very beginning.

The cruise ends at Westminster Pier, so you do have to fight your way through the crowds when you get off. It would be nice if it went back to Tower Pier as that way you could avoid the crowds. I’m not sure why they don’t do it that way. The cruise itself was very family friendly (although it was mostly adults). They give out a bag with a water bottle, mini champagne bottle, bagel with salmon, and crisps. For the kids they have a bag with coke instead of champagne, and I don’t think DD got a bagel, but I’m not sure what she got instead.

Getting off was ok until you get up the steps to Westminster Bridge. At that time (about 0030, I think), the police had barricades up so the people on Westminster Bridge could not leave. I heard someone say they don’t open it up for an hour after the fireworks, but I don’t know that for a fact. For some reason, there were a bunch of people pushing to go towards the bridge, but I don’t know why they were going that way. I just grabbed DD’s hand and sort of bulldozed our way through the crowd, keeping her behind me. I would not recommend this part for small children or people who are claustrophobic. However, it didn’t stay that way for very long, and before we had gotten all the way past Parliament it started to open up a little and we could walk normally.

We ended up walking to Green Park because I knew where it was and that it wasn’t a bad walk since I’d done it before. The Picadilly line was actually fairly uncrowded, and even had extra seats. It looked like the platform going the other way (towards Heathrow and Uxbridge) was much more crowded than ours going towards Cockfosters. Overall, I found it fairly manageable, although I was glad there were only 2 of us to keep together, and I’m not sure I would have wanted to be packed in with all those people for all those hours. I was glad I had paid for the cruise. Also, there are toilets on the boat which were not the nicest ever, but not the worse either, and there are few enough people that there was never a queue that I saw.

Overall, people were fairly well behaved (London in general, not the cruise, there were no problems on the cruise with overly intoxicated people). We did see one young man on the ground behind a police car. DD says he was in handcuffs, but I didn’t see that. There were also a couple of drunks on the tube, one yelling that no one better stand in front of him, although his language was not that polite. There was also one that got on at Holborn who could barely stand up. He was not being threatening, though. I was more concerned that he might fall over on us. Fortunately, we were getting off at the next stop. There were also some groups we passed when walking to the station who appeared fairly intoxicated, but they were not interfering with anyone else or being threatening.

The only places I could see that might have had a better view than we did would be on the London Eye side of Westminster Bridge or Jubilee Bridge (Westminster being closer and probably better) or on the Victoria Embankment if you can get towards the edge of the Thames between those two bridges. I think then you would have a better view of the ground level fireworks as our view was partially blocked by Westminster Bridge. I would suspect that those viewing areas would fill up pretty early and would be very crowded, so for that I think the cruise is better.

Rome
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21. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Thanks for your detailed report,i m trying to buy the cheapest tickets this year at £85 but i m meeting some troubles with their systems! I believe the better solution is a cruise for me with back problems..

Geelong, Australia
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22. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Great info, can you tell us if you can see the face o fBig Ben from were any of these boats stop for the fireworks or is it pot luck?

Illinois
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23. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

We could see the face of Big Ben from an angle. Some of the fireworks came from there. There's a photo of it in one of the ones in the photobucket link in post 17.

Geelong, Australia
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24. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Thank you btgm, becasue of your detailed advice we have felt more confident about our booking.Wasn't able to access photo but thank you for your generous descriptions. Looking forward to our New Year cruie now! Cheers!

Illinois
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25. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Glad it helped. Hopefully someone will report back on their experience this year as City Cruises are returning to Tower Pier instead of Westminster Pier. I think this should be much easier.

Moscow, Russia
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26. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Hey, guys. Personal thanks to btgm for such a wonderful detailed report that inspired me to join Stargazer this NY)))

Here’s a little inf. on 2012-2013 organization:

Departure time from Tower pier was supposed to be 22.15 and in information letter we were asked to be there 1 hour before. Upon arrival on 21.15 we found a HUGE crowd of people, occupied almost all space of the Tower square. There were CityCruises staff members walking around and shouting out the names and times of departures – that was the only way to find the end of line you needed.

At around 22.10 the first part of our line started boarding… And we were in great hope to follow soon, but it took them extra 30 minutes to organize our boat! So the real departure time from the pier was 22.50!

Thank God rain stopped and the roof was removed))) As btgm mentioned, first 5-8 rows and last 8-10 rows of the boat are non-removable, so bear it in mind. And yes, the right side of boat is perfect for Fireworks)))

Pretty fast we’ve moved along Thames banks with a very short information on buildings around us. And at 23.25 arrived to Westminster. We were in the front row, just before the bridge, so the view was perfect!

Then the fireworks started)))) Music was not well heard from water, for there obviously no speakers turned to that direction, but anyway the show was fantastic)

20 minutes later it was all over and first of all other boats we even in faster speed moved back.

There were NO sailing under Tower bridge and NO Canary Wharf area, we’ve just went directly to the pier to disembark, so that was pretty disappointing(.

Pros: a nice place for fireworks display)

Contras: No Night Thames excursion at all!!! At least a decent one, because a fast swim to and from Westminster is no excursion!

So I’d say it was 6 out of 10.

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27. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Hi, I know this is a really old post- but does anyone know the approximate price? Also when can you book and do bookings sell out quickly?

Thanks!

Illinois
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28. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

As I mentioned, it was 69GBP when we went. The prices will eventually be on the CIty Cruises website, although I don't see them there yet. They were good about responding to questions via email,though, so you could always ask them when booking opens and what the price will be. I'd book as soon as you are sure you want to go. I booked mid Nov, and I think all the cruises sold out within a few weeks after that, so by mid Dec. That year, the cheaper ones sold out first.

Telford, United...
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29. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Here is this years 2013/14 experience..

We arrived at the 9:30 requested time and found lots of queues for various boats and cruises, we waited for over an hour before boarding, we were the last stargazer boat to board and so it was on board for 11, not really acceptable having waited patently in the queue for one and a half hours. Thankfully the rain held off but there were other people suitably dressed for a 'smart' night out who where not expecting to stand in the cold so long.

The boat, this was the most disappointing part ( partly our fault as we had previously been on the star cruiser which had a large outside area) this was the star gazer with steamed and dirty windows and what can only be described as football terrace/bus stop type ROW seating for 260 people, everybody was crammed in, half the boat of families and groups were unable to sit together.

Not once were our tickets checked. In the queue, or boarding or aboard.. Not once! But we were counted on.

Then we get a bit of a commentated tour which wasn't supposed to happen "'as were not tour guides but we will tell you a bit about the river anyway" from the boats mate - not wishing to sound ungrateful but it was a joke in as much as you could NOT see out of the dirty smeared windows (260 people x £90+ = clean the bloody windows!) feeling ripped off and packed in like sardines We immediately left our seats and decamped to a small outside area at the rear in the cold and now rain to ensure we see and hear the action.

So we saw the fireworks which were fantastic as usual and that made the great occasion in itself, this was in no way thanks to 'stargazer' tours. We never went inside but heard they retracted the roof for the fireworks but there was limited views as the fireworks were behind the boat, so the back section that didn't retract restricted half the boat.

We docked and were not counted off.

My advice is not to do the stargazer with the glass viewing roof type vessel - ensure you are on a boat that has a deck or large outdoor area. Having done this tour with this company 3 years ago on a smaller decked boat... It seems that have got blasé about the experience and it is all about the numbers, it certainly wasn't an experience we will repeat as I'm sure there are more spacious ways of seeing the fireworks on the river.

Italy
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30. Re: City Cruises New Year's Eve report

Thanks for the report as it sounds pretty awful and will be a heads up for anyone planning this trip next year.