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UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 30, 2007

LONDON — With a rumble and roar from its powerful motors, the riverboat slowly pulled away from the narrow Tower Pier out into the River Thames.

Floating in the shadow of Tower Bridge, the riverboat made a 180-degree turn and began to cruise upriver toward Westminster Pier. A handful of tourists snatched up their cameras to take some shots of the London landmark fading away in the background.

A crewmember then came over the PA system and started to brief passengers on the double- decker riverboat about the upcoming sights. All that there was to do now was to sit, relax and gaze at the sights.

River cruises are a unique mode of public transportation afforded to London visitors who want to try out their sea legs, or in this case, river legs. It also beats traveling on cramped buses or claustrophobic underground trains to your tourist destination.

Many top sights and the chance to venture underneath the city’s network of bridges could be seen on this outing offered by City Cruises. It was somewhat of a lazy man’s tour of central London.

Notable sights along the 20-minute journey were the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, HMS Belfast, the British Airways London Eye, the Clock Tower, the Houses of Parliament, Ministry of Defense headquarters and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. An additional cruise takes passengers to Greenwich Pier, where the National Maritime Museum and Cutty Sark, a famous British ship that recently caught fire, are located.

City Cruises, as well as other cruise companies, have open-air decks that allow passengers to see anything and everything during the voyage.

On this particular cruise, many passengers took to the upper deck of the red and white riverboat where they were welcomed by a cool breeze and somewhat musky river smell. Others sat downstairs in more comfortable seating surrounded by large tinted windows.

The cruise even catered to those who were parched and hungry by offering snacks and beverages. Sandwiches, pastries, crisps and candy ran from 70 pence to three pounds. A cup of tea or coffee, soft drinks and juice were about a pound. Beers sold for 2.80 pounds, wine for 3.20 pounds, and spirits started at 2.20 pounds.

The cruise on this day was relatively smooth, so there was no need for motion-sickness pills.

City cruises

Location: Riverboats depart about every 40 minutes from Westminster Pier, Waterloo Millennium (London Eye) Pier, Tower Pier and Greenwich Pier.

Prices: Single and return tickets can be purchased for less than 10 pounds. If you are taking more than two trips, you can purchase a River Red Rover ticket that gives unlimited access to the cruises all day for only 10 pounds. Discounts are available to children and London Travelcard holders.

Hours: Riverboat cruises run from 10 a.m. to 6:50 p.m., with later hours in the summer.

Web site:www.citycruises.com

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