The Orion

Rachel Bailey got a taste of what it’s like to use the Thames as a primary way to travel around London at the recent launch of MBNA Thames ClippersThe Orion.

Last week MBNA Thames Clippers launched its new ship The Orion. Built for private hire by small groups, the ship is a miniature embodiment of the company’s approach to group travel in London. It’s been designed to make group travel around the capital more exclusive, less stressful, and more tailored.

I was on board at the vessel’s launch to find out more about the practicalities of traversing the capital by water.

Of course, as might be expected at a launch event, I had the warmest welcome onto The Orion by the MBNA Thames Clippers team.

I was given a glass of Champagne as soon as I stepped onboard, which you might think would be out of the ordinary for regular groups using the Thames to travel around London. But it doesn’t have to be.

Packages are available that allow you to up the luxury of your experience, and glasses of fizz come as part of one of those packages.

The Leisure, Fizz and Moonlight cruise can come complete with afternoon tea, or a glass of bubbly on the open terrace – it’s really up to you. Alternatively, for groups just wanting to use the hop on hop off option to travel around London, there’s a bar onboard all ships that serves wine and beer, as well as Costa coffee.

MBNA Thames Clippers has a fleet of ships that can be privately hired by groups of 12, 62, 138, 150 or 220 passengers. Vessels such as Aurora, Typhoon and Tornado have the larger capacities.

The route, length and speed of journey, stop off locations, style of catering, use of facilities onboard and time of travel are completely down to the organiser. As an added bonus, if you’re organising coach travel but want to drop the coach off, a Park and Glide deal means you can receive free coach parking at The O2 when you pre-book river roamer tickets on MBNA Thames Clippers as well.

The MBNA Thames Clippers route runs from Putney (west) to Royal Arsenal Woolwich (east), and the boats stop at all the major piers.

These include Greenwich, where you can visit famous tea clipper the Cutty Sark, take a wander through the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, or visit The Planetarium. Getting off at Canary Wharf around lunch time is a good idea; hubbub of restaurants and pubs that it is.

The London Bridge Embankment, Chelsea Harbour or the Coca-Cola London Eye are ideal stops for London attractions further west, like The London Bridge Experience & Tombs, Chelsea Football Club, Madam Tussauds or the London Sealife Aquarium.

Other stops along the river include Blackfriars, Millbank, Cadogan and Vauxhall.

The reason I was onboard The Orion in the first place was because I was making my way to the National Television Awards at the O2. Traffic around the O2 can be tedious, and making your way down the Thames is a laidback way of getting there – and there is a river bus express service for O2 events so you won’t even have to stop along the river.

My conclusion is this: making your way around London via the Thames is a hassle-free method of transport. Forget cramming your group onto the tube at rush hour like extra books into an overfull holiday suitcase; travelling with MBNA means a spacious and restful journey from one tourist hotspot to another.

Groups of ten or more will receive a ten percent discount on single, return and river roamer tickets when they book in advance. GTOs can also choose from a variety of joint tickets with popular London attractions like the Emirates Air Line and the London Transport Museum, so further discounts can be enjoyed.

For further information call 020-7001 2201 or visit