Flying into London Heathrow Airport for a cruise from Southampton? Are you wondering what the best way to do that transfer is? Getting from Heathrow Airport to Southampton Cruise Terminal can be a little confusing if you have never done it before. So this guide is going to explain what options you have and what option we think is best.
Southampton Cruise Terminal is the UK’s premier cruise hub and is nestled on England’s scenic south coast, about 80 miles from Central London. With five terminals—City, Horizon, Ocean, Queen Elizabeth II, and Mayflower—it’s a busy departure point for many major cruise lines.
We’ll explore what transportation services are available to you, including cruise line shuttle bus, coaches, trains, private shuttles, and cars. You’ll get a rundown on costs, travel times, and the upsides and downsides of each choice to help you decide the best fit for your plans.
I’ve been cruising since the early 90’s so this is a journey I’ve made more than a few times. I’ll be able to give you clear practical advice as well as a few insider tips. So read on to find out how to navigate the journey from Heathrow to Southampton Cruise Terminal with the ease of a seasoned cruiser.
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Heathrow Airport to Southampton Cruise Terminals – Table of Contents
Plan To Arrive a Day Before Your Cruise if You Can!
First things first, let’s talk about the Elephant in the room! If you can at all avoid it, Do not plan to fly into London Heathrow on the same day as your cruise. This is just asking for trouble. All it needs is one missed connection, or flight delay and your cruise vacation plans could be all at sea!
Take my advice and arrive a day early and plan to stay overnight in Southampton or even one of the Heathrow hotels. Better still, if you have the vacation days available to you, plan to spend a few days at a London hotel for some sightseeing beforehand.
I know for some of you that just might be impossible, I get that. But just make sure you have good travel insurance just in case!
How to Travel from Heathrow Airport to Southampton Cruise Terminal By Cruise Ship Transfer Service
If your cruise line offers you a shuttle service from the Airport to Southampton then you might be in luck. The reason I say “might be” is for two reasons:-
- Their Southampton transfer shuttle usually only runs on Ship embarkation day – therefore if you travel in a day or two early, you’ll need to head back to the airport on embarkation day to use the shuttle.
- Unless they offer a complimentary transfer, then the price could be excessive – Cruise lines typically charge anywhere from $75 to $100 one way per person. So if there are four of you traveling that could be up to $800 just getting back and forward to the airport.
Given that I don’t advise traveling on the same day as your cruise, and I find the amounts charged by the cruise lines excessive, I do not recommend this option.
However, if you do happen to be traveling the same day, and you are lucky enough to be offered a complimentary or low-cost transfer with your booking, then it might be worth taking the cruise line’s shuttle.
How to Get From Heathrow Airport to Southampton by Coach
So we’ve established that the cruise line’s own shuttle service only operates on embarkation day and is usually expensive. So what other options do we have?
Well, probably the simplest and least expensive option is to use the regular direct service operated by National Express. National Express is the UK’s largest coach operator and runs a regular daily service between the Terminals at Heathrow and Southampton Coach Station (which is a stone’s throw from the Cruise Terminal).
The National Express buses are air-conditioned, modern, and comfortable and your ticket includes a luggage allowance of one large suitcase and one “soft” carry-on. The buses also offer free WiFi and charging points. Your luggage is stored safely in the hold of the bus.
The direct buses run daily from 6:30 in the morning through to 00:40. The journey takes typically around two hours, to two and a quarter hours, depending on which Terminal you board the bus at. Depending on your incoming flight, pickup is from Terminals T2 & T3, then Terminal 4 and on to Terminal 5.
|Pick Up Point Times*
*Always check the latest times at National Express
How to Book With National Express
Booking with National Express is a bit like booking with your favorite budget airline. You’ll see them adding extra charges to the cost as you progress through the booking. Standard ticket prices range from £17.30 ($22) to £20.40 ($26) per person each way. depending on your time of travel.
Additional luggage is priced at £10 ($13) per item and if you want seats reserved together it’s an extra £2 ($2.50) each. Once you book your ticket, your seat is guaranteed.
Despite these additional charges, it is a very budget-friendly and convenient way to get to Southampton. Once you arrive at Southampton Coach Station, you are just a short taxi ride to the Cruise Terminal. The coach station is also close to many of the local hotels as well.
It’s a popular route, so booking in advance is highly recommended.
Where are the National Express Coach Pickup Points at Heathrow?
The National Express Coach pickup points are relatively easy to find at Heathrow as they are well sign-posted after you leave the Arrivals Hall.
For Terminal T2 and T3, you need to follow the signs to the “Central Bus Station” which is just a short walk away and is clearly signposted all around the Airport.
For Terminal T4 look for the signs that say Buses / Coaches (it’s outside the main building) – Once there you will see several different bus parking bay’s / stops – National Express can be found on stands number 13 and 14.
For Terminal T5 it’s a similar situation. Just follow the signs for Buses / Coaches and you will find National Express on stands 13-16.
Be aware that bus operators can change the stand numbers from time to time for operational reasons, so if you are in any doubt ask any member of staff at the airport and they will be able to direct you to the correct location.
How to Travel by Train From Heathrow Airport to Southampton Cruise Terminal
This is where things get a little complicated. There is no direct train service between Heathrow Airport and Southampton. It’s not possible to make the journey without changing trains at least twice. That’s why I recommend taking the National Express Coach to travel from Heathrow to Southampton Cruise Port.
There are two basic routes you can take:-
- Take the Tube into Central London and then the Train to Southampton
- Take the Train from Heathrow changing at Hayes & Harlington and Reading Stations
Each route has its pros and cons. With either route, you’ll also need to take a Taxi or Uber from Southampton Train Station to the Cruise Terminal. Depending on what specific Terminal you are leaving from you may be able to walk it Let’s look at them in a bit more detail.
Option 1 – Heathrow to Southampton Cruise Terminal via Tube and Rail
Taking the Underground / Tube into Central London allows you to connect with the fast express train that runs between Waterloo Station and Southampton (Which is the train we recommend taking if you are traveling from Central London to Southampton Cruise Terminal). However, it will involve a couple of Tube line changes on the way. Travel time is around 2 hours and 30 minutes.
If you have never traveled on the London Underground this can sound quite daunting. But it’s relatively simple.
Each train travels on a set “Line” e.g. Northern Line, Circle Line, Victoria Line. These lines have a set color on the London Underground Map. When you switch from one Tube train to another it’s usually because you have to switch on to another line. Fortunately, that switch of trains is usually done within the same Tube station or an adjacent station, so there isn’t too far to walk.
The “lines” are always well sign-posted – once you reach the line you are switching to, you come to the point where you decide which direction you are going – just look for your next destination on the map on the wall when you reach this point in the station.
The best way to plan this route is to use the Transport for London Website for the planning side of things and then use Trainline.com to do the actual booking:-
- Visit the Transport for London Website
- Click on the Plan a Journey Option
- Click in the “From” Box and enter the Terminal you are arriving at – just start typing “Heathrow” and the options will come up.
- Enter “Southampton Central Rail Station” in the “To” Box
- Click on the “Change Time” option below the To box and enter your planned Journey time. You can set your date of travel and whether you want to plan the journey based on your departure time from Heathrow or your arrival time at Southampton.
- Click on the Plan My Journey button and it will give you an initial suggestion.
- Now click on Edit Preferences – here you can adjust what the travel suggestions are based on. For example, you can untick the option to travel by bus, or you can ask for the minimum changes. Additionally, to avoid the many steps that can be found in Tube stations, you can select your preferred accessibility options.
- Click Update journey and it will give you a very detailed travel plan for your route.
One quick “Gotcha” – the journey planner may suggest a route that includes the “Heathrow Express“. This is a premium line that can save a bit of time, but with so many other changes on your route, it will have little benefit for the additional cost that it involves. It’s best to select one of the options that doesn’t use the Heathrow Express.
- The London Underground Tubes run every few minutes so you will rarely wait more than 5 minutes for a connection
- Great signposting – easy to navigate
- Limited Luggage Space
- Trains can get crowded
- Can get hot and sticky in the Summer months
Option 2 – Heathrow to Southampton Cruise Port via Train
If you want to avoid Central London and take the more direct route, you can travel by overground Train. This will also involve a couple of changes and travel time will be just under two hours usually.
When you arrive at Terminal 2,3,4 or 5, follow the signs for the Train Station.
The best way to plan this route is to use Trainline.com
- In the “From” Box start typing “Heathrow Terminal” and the options will be shown – select the terminal you are arriving at and ensure you select the option that includes “(Rail Station Only)”.
- On the “To” Box enter “Southampton Central”
- Click on the option for a “One Way”, “Return” or “Open Return” journey. An “Open Return” simply indicates that you are not sure what date you will be returning. If you are returning to London after your cruise it is worth comparing the prices of One Way and for Return tickets as they can vary.
- Enter your planned departure time from Heathrow. Remember to allow time to get through immigration and baggage collection – it can take over an hour!
- Click on the button below “Get Cheapest Tickets“
- It will now display the trains available around your preferred time. What you should take note of is the number of changes – select an option with 2 changes rather than 3. If you see a yellow triangle on the route, this is a warning of some disruption on the line or things to be aware of.
- Once you decide on the specific time and train, click on the fare (either Standard or 1st Class) and then click Continue. You’ll then be asked for some seating preferences before the system proceeds to the checkout.
Most Train tickets are issued as eTickets now, but occasionally you may be given a reference to collect the tickets at a train station. This can be done automatically by visiting one of the electronic machines that you will see at UK Train Stations – there is an option on the screen to “Collect Pre-Paid Tickets“
- Trains are more spacious than the Tube
- Usually have some space for luggage
- Less crowded than the Tube
- Switching Trains will usually involve changing to a different platform. This can be confusing as the information displays are small and they only display the train’s end destination, which may not be where you are heading.
Always Check For Any Potential Industrial Action on UK Railways Before Traveling
In recent times, the UK’s rail and London Underground systems have faced some challenges. A series of strikes, part of ongoing industrial disputes, have been disrupting travel schedules. Fortunately, they come with a heads-up, thanks to British regulations requiring unions to declare strike intentions at least two weeks in advance.
You can find updates on planned strikes here.
Good news for London Underground travelers, though! The trade disagreement that was causing some hiccups on the Tube has been put on hold for now. To keep tabs on the Underground’s operational status, a quick visit to their official website should do the trick.
How to Get From London Heathrow to Southampton Cruise Port By Car or Private Shuttle / Private Taxi
Another option is to travel by Car or Private Shuttle to Southampton. Traveling from London Heathrow to Southampton Cruise Terminal by car or a private shuttle will take around 90 minutes for your journey down the M3 motorway. It’s a good idea, though, to allow a bit of extra time in your schedule to navigate any unexpected traffic snarl-ups.
Private Transfer Services
Opting for a private transfer means you’ll enjoy a tailored experience, with the convenience of being picked up right from the airport. This option can be surprisingly cost-effective, especially for a medium to large group.
These services offer the luxury of door to door transportation and take you directly to the cruise port. Some providers even include options to add sightseeing stops like Stonehenge or Windsor Castle to make your journey more of an excursion.
Remember, do your homework before booking. Look for a reputable company with a substantial fleet. You don’t want to be stuck with a breakdown on the day of your transfer with a small company with only one or two vehicles.
For comparing private transfer options and prices, Viator is a fantastic resource.
Car Rental Options
Prefer the autonomy of driving? Car rental lets you travel at your own pace. Many companies offer one-way rentals, allowing you to pick up the car at Heathrow Airport and drop it off in Southampton.
For car rentals, I use Rentalcars.com.
Uber / Take a Taxi
As an alternative to traditional private shuttles, Uber operates in both London and Southampton. Keep in mind, Uber’s variable pricing can make it tricky to nail down a specific fare. However, for groups, it might be a viable choice.
Taxis are a tricky one at Heathrow Airport. The Black Cabs are licensed to maintain set fares in a set area of London. Once they go out of that area, they basically charge what they want! So always agree on the fare with a black cab driver before leaving Heathrow.
Arriving into Southampton by Coach or Train – How to Get To Southampton Cruise Terminal
Upon your arrival at Southampton Train Station or the Bus Station, you’ll have the choice of either walking or catching a taxi to reach your cruise terminal.
Southampton is home to five cruise terminals: City Cruise, Horizon, Mayflower, Ocean, and Queen Elizabeth II.
If you’re headed to the City or Horizon Terminals, you’re in luck – they’re conveniently located within walking distance from both the train and bus station. This is a great option if you’re light on luggage and keen for a brief walk.
For those bound for the Ocean, Queen Elizabeth II, or Mayflower terminals, walking might be less practical due to their slightly farther distances.
Opting for a taxi is your most versatile bet. Taxis are readily available from both the bus and the train station. The fare to the cruise terminals usually hovers around £10 or $13, and the ride typically takes about 10 minutes.
It’s important to note that many taxi drivers prefer cash payments, and not all of them accept card payments. Also, remember to have British Pounds on hand, as US Dollars are generally not accepted.
Recommended Southampton Hotels for an Overnight Stay
My preference when cruising from Southampton is always to spend the night there before the cruise. It means I am less stressed getting there, giving me a relaxed start to my cruise vacation.
There are a few local hotels that other cruisers have recommended over the years.
The Holiday Inn is a stone’s throw away from the cruise terminal, offering a comfy bed for a good night’s rest. It’s also right on the edge of the town, so nice and local if you want to explore.
For a trendy vibe, check out Moxy Southampton, which is just around the corner from the Holiday Inn. It’s got a youthful energy and all the essentials, ideal if you’re seeking style without the hefty price tag.
If you are on a budget, don’t overlook Travelodge. This is a bit further into town and not really walking distance to the port. This is where we have stayed the past couple of times we have left from Southampton. It’s cheap, clean and comfortable.
Getting From Heathrow Airport to Southampton Cruise Port – A Summary of Your Options
When planning your cruise holiday from Southampton, selecting the right transport between Heathrow airport and Southampton Cruise Terminal is crucial for a stress-free start to your trip. Here’s a quick roundup:
- By Cruise Line Transfer Service: This can be expensive and usually only runs on embarkation day.
- By Coach: The National Express bus offers amenities like Wi-Fi, with trips around 2 hours 30 minutes. A budget-friendly choice for the cost-conscious traveler and is definitely our preferred choice when traveling via Heathrow.
- By Train: Expect roughly 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes of travel time with some changes on the route to navigate.
- By Car Rental: Ultimate freedom with the ability to sidetrack off to see other Tourist areas on the way
- Using Private Transfers, Uber, or Taxis: The go-to for direct, stress-free rides to your destination, but they could prove expensive.
To avoid delays and ensure a smooth trip, always check schedules in advance and allow extra time for traffic or unexpected hiccups. Remember, starting your cruise relaxed beats a last-minute crazy dash to the port.
Have you had experience with these options or have any tips to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.