How To Spend Your Day in Southampton When Cruising

If you are sailing from England, it’s highly likely your port of embarkation will be Southampton. You can catch an evening flight from New York, arrive in the early AM the next day and take your cruise line’s connection to your ship sailing the same day. This is almost a guaranteed way to raise your blood pressure if there are any delays in your journey. You don’t want to miss your ship!  You will likely plan to arrive a day or two early. Some people stay in London, taking the train but others head directly to Southampton. What is there to do in Southampton?

Three Worthwhile Activities We Have Discovered in Southampton

When we sailed on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to New York, we arrived two days early.  We took the National Express bus from Heathrow to Southampton. Why?  Because we were required to take a Covid test at the pier before boarding the ship!  We figured it was easier to stay germ free if we spend a day or so in the port city instead of the nation’s capital.

  1. Shopping. Southampton has a huge shopping mall built a short distance from the port area. It’s the Westquay Shopping Centre. The last time we saw this indoor mall was January 2020. Its footprint has greatly expanded since then!  The anchor tenants include:
    • Marks & Spencer. It is an iconic brand in the UK. The store has both a department store section (over a couple of floors) and a Food Hall (supermarket) section. I bought a wax jacket to replace my Barbour, which is wearing out. The jacket cost about 110 GBP or $144 USD.
    • John Lewis. This is an upscale department store also featuring boutiques selling famous brands. They have a Barbour boutique. A similar was jacket was about 210 GBP, but there was a problem: The 210 GBP version was the right style, but the wrong color. They had another version (I think it was 260 GBP) which was the right color, but not the iconic style. On the plus side, they have the most innovative greenhouses and garden sheds you have seen in your life!
    • Waitrose. The UK is not a big country. They have several national newspapers and several national supermarket chains. Waitrose is considered the most upscale. It’s part of the John Lewis organization. FYI: John Lewis is an employee-owned company. This is a great place to buy that bottle of champagne or premium wine you want to bring aboard the ship.

The Westquay Shopping Centre has 90 stores and 30+ restaurants. We headed out spontaneously on a Saturday evening and found it literally impossible to get a table anywhere. Book a reservation in advance as the restaurant scene is Southampton has roared back to life.

  1. Lunch at Southampton Harbor Hotel and Spa. British friends we met on a previous crossing drove to Southampton to join us for lunch. Since one person had difficulty walking, we researched our options ahead of time and suggested TGI Friday’s, the closest restaurant in the above mentioned shopping mall. They gave us a look that silently communicated “We are not going there” and put us into their car, driving to the only five-star hotel in Southampton. We had lunch at the rooftop restaurant, HarBar on 6th. It was elegant and not very expensive. As I recall, fish and chips cost 17 GBP. Bear in mind prices in the UK are usually inclusive of tax and tip. When we next find ourselves in Southampton, that’s where we are having lunch. Perhaps all our meals!
  2. The Above Bar Pedestrian Shopping Street. Many European cities have a pedestrian only zone with no traffic. This area is located about one of two short blocks from the Westquay Shopping Centre. Actually, one of the extensions of the shopping Centre runs over the street behind and fronts onto the pedestrian street. There is plenty of interesting stores to explore. There is a Primark. If you haven’t experienced one yet, Primark does for clothing what Ikea did for furniture. There is a Boots Pharmacy, Lidl Supermarket and even a TK Maxx (the European version of TJ Maxx/HomeGoods from the US.

Here’s the bottom line. There is plenty to explore in Southampton. You will be comfortable knowing your ship is nearby, so you won’t miss the boat!

Cover photo courtesy Bryce Sanders: Westquay Shopping Centre

See Cunard voyages here

Queen Mary 2  voyages here

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