“The concept of being on a cruise had aged well. People still envision this very 80s image of it,” explained Pierre-Louis Phelipot of Bateaux London Cruises. The Frenchman took over the company as general manager a few months ago, steering the French fleet of cruise boats on the Thames in a new direction.
If the images and concept are familiar, it’s because Bateaux London Cruises is owned by Sodexo, which also owns Bateaux Parisiens that cruise the Seine in Paris. So far in Phelipot’s efforts to bring the French bateaux touch across the Channel, two of Sodexo’s London boats have received a complete makeover (another 40-passenger boat docked in Windsor is set for renovation). A final touch — the opening of a new bar — was just added to one of the two boats.
Interior designer Tom Dixon was appointed to revamp the boats, down to the last detail. The process began in November 2017 and took a little over a year for everything to be finalized. Glass Room, previously named Symphony, was the first boat to undergo a complete renovation. The boat began operating last November, but it wasn’t until the beginning of April this year that the old antechamber, which had previously been a simple reception area, was transformed into a modern-looking bar. And for the first time, walk-in cruise hopefuls will be accepted from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.
The renovation project means a great deal to Phelipot, who was hired by Bateaux London a few months ago to manage their team and operations. His previous experiences, particularly at customer service for Eurostar, have helped him a lot in this project that Sodexo chose him for specifically.
The French company entrusted him with the launch of this ambitious project, whose aim was to revolutionize the cruising experience on the Thames. With its two boats, which are the second and third largest on the London river, Sodexo wanted to break the rules by offering “a unique and extraordinary experience” far from the outdated image of the dinner cruises from the 80s most people are still envisioning.
With their brand new concept, contemporary decor, and a new menu that showcases modern British cuisine and incorporates local and seasonal produce, both old and new customers are in for a charming surprise. But it’s the panoramic view from the Glass Room that steals the show. “The space is walled completely with glass, so people who come for lunch, dinner, or afternoon tea can take in the breathtaking view of London the entire time on the cruise, regardless of the weather,” adds Phelipot.
Prices are still reasonable for a cruise with food and an unbeatable view: the lunch menu starts at £39 and a 5-course tasting dinner at £80 (price inclusive of 1.5 hour cruise ride). “The Glass Room can accommodate up to 230 guests. It can even be booked out for private events, and we are lucky to have a huge outdoor deck and balconies, where guests can also enjoy the view of London.”
“Since re-opening at the end of 2018, feedback has been extremely positive,” says Phelipot. “It’s been a busy year for us, and renovation aside, we really wanted to prepare our staff for this new environment. The investment was obviously significant, whether it was for the renovation or the staff training [of about 100 employees] to make sure that customer service is perfect, but it was worth it.” For Phelipot, Bateaux London proves that “one can be innovative and offer the best at the same time,” and that “top-of-the-line services can be made accessible to everyone.”
The next step for the company will be the renovation of the second boat, River Room (formerly named Harmony), which boasts a 500-square-meter deck. This cruise ship will target a more local audience. “It’s conceptually a gastronomic experience that takes place on a boat,” explains Phelipot, “and there will be a fun range of activities for the guests.”
This article was originally published on our sister site French Morning London.