Southampton (Photo:main: Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock)
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Southampton

Located on the south coast of England, Southampton served as the historic ocean liner gateway for the British Empire and the intense North Atlantic passenger trade to the U.S. and Canada. Today it is the U.K.'s - and indeed Europe's -- leading cruise port.

About Southampton


Pro

Excellent Titanic Museum; historic center; minutes from beautiful countryside and Isle of Wight

Con

Southampton was bombed heavily in WWII and much of the city is blighted by ugly architecture

Bottom Line

If you have just one day in the U.K. you are best off getting a train to London for the day rather than staying here


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Best known as the homeport of Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Southampton now hosts a wide variety of cruise ships in the booming European cruise market with the principal lines being Cunard, Fred. Olsen, Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and Saga Cruises.

For most cruise passengers, it's the first and/or last port on a European cruise or Atlantic crossing. But New York it ain't, and the first thing you see as you approach is not the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, but a giant IKEA.

A pleasant, bustling city of around a quarter of a million inhabitants, Southampton has several areas of interest, though much of its historic medieval character was destroyed during World War II. In 1620, the Mayflower left from just outside the existing city walls, and the waterfront recalls this historic voyage. From Mayflower Park, you can enjoy watching the container ships pass en route to and from the freight terminal beyond the Western Docks, cruise ships departing from three separate locations, and excursion boats and cross-harbor ferries flitting around the port. Today, it is a modern shopping destination, business center and university town (the University of Southampton is a major British research university; among its well-known alumni is QM2 designer Stephen Payne with a large commercial port in addition to its year-round cruise operations.

It's not somewhere you want to hang around (unless you want to pick up some flat pack furniture), and most visiting cruise passengers will use Southampton as a gateway to nearby London (an hour and 10 minutes away by train). It is also a good starting point for the Isle of Wight (reachable by ferry) and the surrounding county of Hampshire and Wiltshire, with their numerous attractions.

Where You're Docked

Southampton has four widely separated cruise terminals. Two -- Ocean Terminal and QEII Terminal, accessible via gate 4 -- are located at the Eastern Docks, while the others -- Mayflower Terminal and City Terminal, accessible via gates 8, 10 or 20 -- can be found at the Western Docks. Both are about a five-minute taxi ride from the Southampton Central railway station, which is close to the city center.

Good to Know

If you come from the U.S. and land here for the first time, please remember that people drive on the left-hand side of the road in the U.K. When crossing the streets, it is always best to look both ways. Drivers have the right of way, and they take it unless you cross at a lined or "zebra" crossing.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The local currency is the British Pound; for current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. You will find ATMs at many bank branches. Banks usually take a commission from exchanging currency, while some travel agents and exchange offices advertise commission-free exchange. Check the rates as they can vary) Credit cards are widely accepted, but please note that many taxis do not take them.

Language

This is England, so English, of course! But you'll hear many different accents by both native speakers and immigrants.

Shopping

Southampton is where Titanic set sail for New York and the town celebrates this link with a dedicated exhibition at the SeaCity Museum. You can pick up everything here from Titanic models to mugs, books and tea towels.