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Harwich, on London's east coast, is the quietest of the three main ports of embarkation that service London (and it's never featured as a daylong port-of-call stop). Only Holland America, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean base ships here -- and there's not a whole lot to see and do in the immediate area.
On the other hand, it's a pretty easy 70-mile trip from London, and so most travelers who embark here pass through the area.
Still, the nearby cities of Ipswich and Colchester do offer sights to see, so a trip out of Harwich can be a good excuse to get off England's well-trodden sightseeing path.
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Other British Isles & Western Europe Cruise Ports:
Amsterdam • Antwerp • Basel • Belfast • Brugge (Bruges) • Brussels • Dover • Dublin • Dusseldorf • Edinburgh • Ghent • Harwich • Holyhead • Invergordon • Le Havre • Lisbon • Liverpool • London (Tilbury) • Newcastle (England) • Paris • Rotterdam • Rouen • Southampton • St. Peter Port (Guernsey) • Vigo
English is understood and spoken everywhere.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The national currency is the sterling pound (quid in slang). Currency exchange can be made in most banks, post offices and train stations (for the current rate exchange, go to www.oanda.com or www.xe.com). Traveler's checks should be exchanged at banks or exchange offices since very few businesses will accept them (ATM's and credit cards make them nearly obsolete). For the best exchange rate, use ATM's.
Note: Some ATM's in England require a PIN to be only four digits long, so plan ahead. Also, many display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers.
Where You're Docked
At Harwich International Port. Services are pretty much limited to money exchange and a cafe. For (forgotten) essentials, there's a huge Morrisons Supermarket about a five-minute drive away. Taxis are readily available outside the terminal to take you there.
There is a Tourist Information Centre (Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday - Sunday until 6 p.m.; October - March, closed Sunday) not far from the port that sells stamps, phone cards and offers photocopying and fax services.
Heathrow and Gatwick are each more than a two-hour drive to Harwich. This is one of those embarkation ports where it really is useful to purchase cruise lines' own transfers, whether you buy their air or not. Plan to pay about $100 each way.
The best way to get to London airports is by train via London. Options for traveling to/from London include frequent trains to/from Harwich International Station (it's adjacent to the cruise terminal) to/from Liverpool Street Station (£13 one-way/£33 return; up to 1 hour 17 minutes) via www.nationalrail.co.uk. You will then need to either take a taxi or the Tube (not advisable if you have a lot of luggage) to either Paddington Station to catch the Heathrow Express (15 minutes, every 15 minutes; £20 one-way) to Heathrow; or to Victoria Station for the Gatwick Express (35 minutes every 20 minutes; £19.90 single). Trains to Stansted Airport run from Liverpool Street on the Stansted Express (40 minutes every 20 minutes; £23.40).
If you opt to go by taxi it will cost you at least $100 to London or airports and will take up to two hours depending on traffic. Try Harwich Taxis.
Cruise lines also offer transfers (again, not necessary to purchase their air) from various points in London.
Coach Hire Booking offers transfers to and from U.K. airports to ports around the country and passengers are given priority disembarkation and will be picked up and dropped off right at the gangway. Prices range from £25 for a single transfer to £40 for a return.
There is one car rental agency in Harwich: Europcar which is based within the port terminal (Tel. 0871 384 1065).
Located in nearby Ipswich, Christchurch Mansion is a 16th-century house in a historic park. Excellent collection of paintings by Gainsborough and Constable. (Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. & Sunday 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Christchurch Park, Ipswich)
Colchester boasts the Colchester Castle Museum, an award-winning museum. The castle is the largest ever built by the Normans -- constructed on foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius, which can still be seen today. The castle was built in 1096 by William I. (Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. & Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. High St, Colchester)
Ha' Penny Pier Bistro: Try the baked haddock. Per-person cost for a three-course meal including wine will run about $31. (The Quay)
Harborside Restaurant: Good seafood and very nice views of the sea. Try the Roast Cod. Per-person cost for a three-course meal including wine will run about $38. (The Quay)
Best Choice for London Lovers: London Sightseeing. Duration: 8 hours. Price: $82.
Best Choice for Luxe Living: Full day for two for custom-designed tour by private car. Duration: 8 hours. Price $1,150.
Best Choice for Culture Vultures: The English Countryside & Tea. Duration: 4.5 hours. Price: $59.
Staying in Touch
There are no Internet cafes in Harwich.
For More Information
On the Web: www.harwich.net and www.harwich.co.uk
Cruise Critic Message Boards: British Isles/Western Europe
The Independent Traveler: England Exchange
--Updated by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor