Southampton is not just a port of call but one of England’s most active cruise departure ports. It is only eighty miles from London and is also London’s major seaport. Located on a major estuary on the English Channel it experiences an unusual double high-tide.
The area has been settled since the Stone Age and was an important port in medieval times, experiencing several hundred years of invassions and attacks until it was expanded by the Victorians. As a centre of commerce, an industrial town and an important military embarkation point, Southampton was a strategic target for the Luftwaffe and was severely damaged in World War II. Southampton was awarded city status by Queen Elizabeth II in 1964 .
Where Your Ship Docks
The are a number of piers servicing various cruise lines with the Port Authority being only a few blocks from the Old Town. There are no terminals at most piers and public facilities are sparse. There is no problem with walking out of the port and taxis are common at the cruise ships..
The Old Town is a short walk from the port’s piers and the city has a good metropolitan bus system. Rental cars are moderately priced and Europcar and Enterprise have offices very near the port entrance.
The UK is now back on the English Pound with the exchange rate averaging around 1 Pound = 1.30 US$. Most major credit cards are welcomed and ATMs are easy to find.
Sights and Attractions
To introduce yourself to the cities history start by “Walking the Southampton Walls,” which leads you around the 1.25-mile perimeter of the old medieval trading town. The walls encompass 13 remaining towers, six city gates, and half mile of thick stone walls and arcades. Most existing features were built in the 1360s by a population attempting to defend against French and Genoese Privateers. The area also incorporates the ruins of a 14th century church and the cities old main gate.
SeaCity Museum – Take a journey of discovery through Southampton’s history and browse exhibitions from the city’s ancient past, covering thousands of years of archaeology. You can also enjoy fresh local food and great coffee surrounded by Southampton history and culture. Find out more here.
Solent Sky Museum – Spitfire Solent Sky – Let your imagination take flight learning about Southampton’s history in aviation. Sit in the cockpits of a Supermarine Swift or Harrier Jump Jet and explore the legendary Spitfire and largest flying boat operation in the world.
Tudor House & Garden Museum – If you’re near Westquay and Southampton’s Old Town, don’t miss a unique visit to Southampton’s oldest Museum. At Tudor House & Garden Museum you’ll be able to soak up over 800 years of history in one location. Discover King Johns Palace at the bottom of the garden, which forms part of the outer medieval wall of Southampton.
God’s House Tower – This is the cornerstone of Southampton’s Old Town and a heritage site with a colorful history. Experience its stories brought to life with the Stories Behind the Stones exhibition found throughout the historic Tower.
John Hansard Gallery, part of the University of Southampton, is one of the UK’s leading contemporary art galleries.
MAST Mayflower Studios – A multi-cultural center presenting theatre, dance, musicals, music, comedy, circus, cabaret, spoken word, visual arts and family shows at the heart of Southampton’s Cultural Quarter.
Attractions close to Southampton
A number are based around the New Forest, in the Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst areas. Popular attractions include Beaulieu and its enormous National Motor Museum, the spectacular Exbury Gardens, with its azaleas and Marwell Zoo in nearby Winchester.
Less than 60 miles away is Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. There are a number of Southampton tour companies with half and whole day tours and if you’re cruising passengers will usually be offered shore excursions to Stonehenge. For disembarking passengers often transfers to London will also include a tour to Salisbury Plain.
Southampton is also near to the Isle of Wight , a large island just a few miles to the south. Regular Red Funnel ferries link the city and the Isle of Wight, with both day trip and short break tickets being reasonably inexpensive.