With Christmas just around the corner, I've been thinking about alternative gifts for my friends and family. I've always wanted to buy an experience day voucher but often hesitate as I'd ideally like to try it myself first, so I have confidence in knowing that I'm giving a gift to remember! You just never know when you read and purchase these kind of trips online, so when I was kindly contacted by the lovely people at Virgin Experience Days, I could not pass on the opportunity for a Lunch Cruise on the Thames. It was a great chance to see what I thought, but also if we could #MakeGivingFun with an experience day, as I for sure do not like christmas crowds and the stress of what to buy!
I arrived at the Embankment Pier on Saturday 29th November, completely unaware of what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Reception floating on the water, beautifully presented like a hotel with very friendly staff. There was a short queue and waiting area, which was absolutely boiling and lacked seating for everyone to wait before boarding. I was booked onto the Harmony, a boat with an open viewing deck and picture frame windows offering fantastic views. You do however get the choice of either the Harmony or The Symphony, which has an all-glass structure and roof. If I'm honest, it sounds a little bit nicer so if I had the choice, I'd probably go for The Symphony.
I enjoyed the day with fellow blogger Sarah from Daisy Chains & Dreams. We'd never met before but have many mutual friends from back in Bournemouth, so plenty to chat about. She was super warm and friendly, so thank you so much Sarah for making the experience extra lovely! I originally thought this would suit couples and people like my parents, but after enjoying it with Sarah, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the day with girlfriends too.
Available as a lunch, afternoon tea, sunday lunch jazz and/or dinner cruise, there's a real variety to suit everyone. I'd love to take my mum and grandma for afternoon tea one day. We were booked for a premier lunch cruise, which is £68.00 for two people and includes a three course meal, guaranteed window seat, half a bottle of house wine, a bottle of water and fairtrade tea/coffee. It lasts an hour and a half and also includes commentary as you pass the famous landmarks and sites of London. Personally, I couldn't hear the commentary clearly enough and would have prefered some background music instead, although I'm sure there were plenty of other people enjoying it.
I didn't think an hour and half would feel very long, but I can confirm that the timing was just right. Our waiter Sarah was very professional and friendly, topping up our wine and clearing our plates in a timely manor. Our food wasn't rushed either which I really enjoyed. It actually felt like we were just in a normal restaurant, but our view was constantly changing. At one point I even thought, why haven't I done this before?! I've grown up on boats so I never get seasick or anything, but was very pleased that the boat glided through the water so you could hardly feel any swaying. It was honestly lovely.
On to the food and I only have praises and good things to say! Our starter was presented on a black slate of smoked and poached salmon roulade with pickled cucumber. Absolutely delicious. The main was chicken en croute, sweet potato mash and french beans with thyme jus. It felt like a very 'safe' choice that most people would like; I managed to clear my plate and it wasn't too bland or dry. The dessert didn't disappoint either, vanilla pannacotta with almond biscuit base. Again, no surprised I finished this too, YUM. We went for white wine during the meal and a cup of tea at the end, and it felt well worth having the premier upgrade for these privileges. I would have been disappointed if anyone was sat next to us too, the window seat was perfect.
Luckily, we were blessed with the weather and as you can see from the photos, had a truly wonderful experience. I said to Sarah after that it weirdly almost felt like we weren't in London. We got to appreciate the beauty of the city, enjoy our food in peace with excellent service, but leave the hustle and bustle of tourists and crowds on the bridges. I honestly really enjoyed it and would 100% purchase this experience for my loved ones.
What do you think? Have you ever been gifted an experience day? You can view all Virgin Experience Christmas gifts & experiences here.
*I was kindly gifted this experience for free for review purposes. I'd like to take this opportunity to once again thank Virgin Experience Days, Bateaux Cruises & the lovely Sarah for a great day.