‘I went on a night-time cruise of the Thames on an Uber riverboat and it was eventful in all the wrong ways’ – Anna Highfield

After the extortionate cost of living well and truly hit my bank account last month, I have had to re-think my definition of a “night out” in London. Finding myself living in the bleak new age of 30p Freddos and £10 pints (I’m looking at you Soho), I decided an Uber boat ride had the potential to be the new nightclub.

When the ad, for a night-time “Illuminated River Cruise” along the River Thames on an Uber boat, dropped into my inbox, my head filled with romantic ideas. At the bargain price of £12.90 for an adult ticket, the 40-minute ride promised “unparalleled views of London sparkling in the moonlight,” and “murmurs of half-light dance across the surface of the Thames.”

Frankly, the advert made what is essentially a floating taxi along the city river sound like a fairy-tale gondola ride. Images sprung to mind of a sleek Uber-branded vessel gliding through the moonlit water, shimmied gently through the waves by a handsome tax-driver singing “A Whole New World” as the Shard and the London Eye sparkle invitingly in the background.

I was so sold on my romantic vision of this trip that I actually invited my girlfriend along for “date night,” thinking it would be the cherry on top of the first half of the evening – a half-price dinner at Wagamamas. So when the Uber boat barrelled noisily down the murky water to stop at Tower Pier ten minutes later, at 9.40pm, my hopes and dreams were already beginning to fade.

At £12.90 per ticket and with a reasonably cheap bar, at first the Uber night boat seemed like a great night out

READ MORE: The hidden entrance to Brixton Tube station commuters have no idea about

Within minutes they had faded altogether. The Uber boat trundled noisily along the Thames, stopping what felt like every few feet, at which point the name of the stop would be loudly broadcast over the Tannoy. A baby screamed at the back of the boat, and a ludicrously drunk Essex woman with a bottle of Budweiser in each hand stumbled over to tell me and my girlfriend we were a “cute couple.”

3 Uber ride

At least the views from the river were pretty spectacular

Within 10 minutes the evening got even more eventful, when a rapper and his friend started loudly making a music video on the back of the boat. This activity quickly attracted the ire of the Uber security staff, who warned him to get off at the next stop or they would be calling the police, escalating the situation into a full-blown stand-off between rapper and security.

Naturally, every single passenger on the boat stopped what they were doing to watch this spectacle, wide-eyed and sipping their drinks like a West End audience. And no-one was more shocked than me when the police actually did turn up, in a tiny little blue and yellow police boat (I didn’t even know these existed) with its lights flashing and siren wailing.

0 Police boat

This little blue-and-yellow police boat came speeding along the river to deal with the ruckus on board the Uber

While the Uber boat lingered awkwardly at Bankside Pier, refusing to budge, two surly police officers leapt onboard to shoo the troublemakers off. After a fair amount of grumbling they eventually left the boat, and on we went. In all fairness, seeing the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, and St Paul’s lit up at night from down on the river was was pretty spectacular.

1 Police drama

Police usher the troublemakers off the Uber boat

Unfortunately, I got a bit too wrapped up in the pretty views, and forgot to check where we were stopping. I had assumed the “Illuminated River Cruise” would be a round trip. It was only when the Uber boat was about to arrive at Woolwich that I realised my fatal error. As the Tannoy announcement cheerfully informed us this was where our trip terminated, one of the guards unhelpfully suggested trying to “hail a taxi” back home while ushering us off.

1 Woolwich

I ended up hungover, exhausted, and stranded in Woolwich at midnight

As the clock struck midnight and we wandered through a deserted Woolwich, my hangover was already beginning to kick in. One DLR, one Overground, and two tube trips later we were finally back home in North London, grumpy and exhausted. The one good thing I can say about the night-time Uber river ride is that the bar is pretty affordable – which means you can at least get drunk enough to make the experience itself bearable.

I’m Anna, a north-east London based News Reporter with a special interest in immigration, social equality, and social housing issues. I’ve been with MyLondon since January 2021. You can follow my Facebook page here.

Here are some of my recent articles:

I love London for its rich history, iconic areas, and incredible diversity. When I’m not writing stories I can usually be found exploring new areas of the city.

I read all my emails (and try to respond to most of them!), so please get in touch with me at [email protected]

Is there an unusual method of transport in London that we need to try out? Let me know at [email protected]

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