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A smarter departure at Southampton

Southampton new terminal

City steps up to match Queen Elizabeth II cruise terminal’s smart new look

Southampton’s Queen Elizabeth II Terminal refurbishment appears to have started something.

The whole city is having a makeover – and that includes the WestQuay Watermark, an £85 million leisure-led development due to open this winter. And soon a project near the pier will create a permanent home for the Southampton Boat Show, which is a big event in the calendar every September.

Queen Elisabeth II
The Queen, pictured with Captain Paul Brown, returned to Southampton to christen P&O’s Britannia, almost 50 years after she opened the terminal in 1966

Meanwhile, back at the terminal, the layout and flow of the sheltered drop-off area has been improved; the inside layout aids passenger flow through check-in and, with an enlarged security area moved upstairs, passengers can breeze through the clean, bright terminal in comfort.

The larger baggage hall has a 46-person lift, creating an efficient alternative to stairs and the escalator, and the investment continues with the installation of a ship-to-shore walkway, which will be introduced this winter.

Clive Thomas, port manager, said: “We are continually making improvements to our facilities; this is vital in ensuring Southampton remains the UK’s top cruise port.

“We have upgraded the terminal in anticipation of growth to improve passenger flow and experience.

“The investment will ensure passengers have a seamless start and end to their holidays, and that a greater range of cruise ships can utilise the terminal.”

The terminal project was the latest in a series of investments made by Associated British Ports into improving the city’s cruise facilities.

Cruise ship in Southampton
Southampton accommodates some truly vast vessels

Significant investment was made into upgrades at the City Cruise Terminal (berth 101) in conjunction with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 2014/15.

An investment of £1m at the Ocean Cruise Terminal (berth 46) followed and, in April 2015, the Mayflower Cruise Terminal (berth 106) reopened after a multi-million pound revamp.

Steven Young, director of port services and government affairs for Carnival UK, said: “Given the long history Cunard and P&O Cruises have had with the terminal, especially with QE2’s use of the berth, we welcomed this joint investment and look forward to Carnival UK and other Carnival brand ships using these facilities for many years to come.


For hundreds of years Southampton was contained within the medieval walls built to protect it from over-enthusiastic raiders. Centuries have rolled by and the city has outgrown its stony embrace to undergo one of the most radical transformations since the 14th century.

Standing next to the WestQuay Shopping Centre and dwarfing the walls is WestQuay Watermark, an £85 million Hammerson leisure-led development due to open this winter.The complex, the first phase in the City Centre Master Plan, is supported by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund. It will include a 10-screen cinema, a Hollywood Bowl and around 20 restaurants.


There will also be a public plaza, which will open up views of the medieval walls and unite the Old Town, so often out of the loop, with the newer developments and the city centre.

“Our commitment to Southampton becoming the destination city of the south coast is illustrated by the development of WestQuay Watermark,” said Dawn Baxendale, chief executive, Southampton City Council. “It reinforces the fact that the city is one of the UK’s key areas of economic growth.” At the other end of town work continues on the Cultural Quarter. Restaurants, cafes and bars framing Guildhall Square are already open.

Completing the picture will be Studio 144, the £25 million arts complex due to open next year.
There are also plans to transform the area around Southampton Pier. Built in 1833, it fell into disrepair and was destroyed by fire in 1987. The £450 million scheme includes shops, offices, leisure venues and apartments linked by pedestrian promenades and piers.  It will also provide a permanent home for the Southampton Boat Show held each September.


The terminal was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1966 at 38/39 berth. Southampton is one of the UK’s busiest deep-water ports with a unique double tide which allows unrestricted access for the world’s largest vessels.


Tudor House
An exhibit in itself: the Tudor House and Garden Museum

Leading down to the waterfront is Southampton’s Old Town: quiet streets and alleys where you can pick up echoes of the past.

Follow the Walk the Walls signs or join a See Southampton guided walk which begins at the Bargate, the 12th-century entrance to the town. Around 1km, or half the original medieval walls, survives, making the Southampton walls the longest, second only to York in the UK. Pass through the Westgate and you are following in historic footsteps: Henry V left here for the battlefields of Agincourt in 1415, and in 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set off for the New World. The walks are also an opportunity to get inside some of the ancient wine vaults that lay under the city.

Don’t expect the museum to be filled with exhibits; the entire building is the exhibit. The floors are drunkenly crooked and creaky, nothing is perpendicular, walls and timbers bow, bulge and lean wearily, as if worn out from standing still for so long.

Although the city’s maritime history began thousands of years ago, most people come to SeaCity Museum to hear about RMS Titanic.  She sailed from Southampton on April 10, 1912 en route for New York.  The rest you know – she hit an iceberg and sank five days later; of the 2,214 people on board, only 710 survived.

Most of her crew were from Southampton. The scale of the loss is displayed simply with a wall of cards – a card for each crew member. Those from Southampton have red cards; all others are blue. There’s a sea of red. Of the 897 crew, 714 were from Southampton – all desperate for work – and only 165 survived.


The port of Southampton played a huge part in the early days of aviation, when sea-planes were developed – and then swiftly superseded.

The term ‘airport’ originated here. With new-fangled sea planes taking off and touching down on Southampton Water, it was no longer just a sea port; it was an air port, too.

The museum houses the Beachcomber, the last of the giant flying boats that flew on week-long journeys to all corners of the Empire, and an even more important plane – the Spitfire, which was developed and produced at the Supermarine factory in Southampton.


Catch a ferry across to Cowes on regular crossings from the Town Quay. The high-speed Red Jet gets to West Cowes in 25 minutes, while the Red Funnel ferry takes an hour and goes into East Cowes.

From East Cowes visit Queen Victoria’s home, Osborne House. West Cowes has lots of shops and places to eat. It’s quaint – and if visitors get the timing right in the summer they can watch the world-renowned Cowes Week regatta.



The five star, 85-bedroom Southampton Harbour Hotel is due to open in Ocean Village in summer 2017, and the yacht-inspired architecture will sit nicely in the marina. The luxury hotel will also feature private mooring for those guests who like to arrive with the tides.


This hotel is designed to look like a ship at sail. The lobby opens into a soaring glass-sided atrium with views over Mayflower Park to Southampton Water and across to the Old Walls. There are 173 rooms, which are a good size, with modern furnishings. It is close to the cruise terminal so ideal for pre- and post-cruise packages (some include free parking).


A Mercure property, the 99-bedroom Dolphin looks like a Georgian coaching inn but dates from 1454. Queen Victoria and Admiral Lord Nelson stayed here during Southampton’s time as a spa town, and Jane Austen danced in the hotel ballroom on her 18th birthday in 1793.

The Dolphin also offers pre- and post-Stay and Cruise deals, which include parking and transfer options.


  • Southampton Port was named Best UK Port at the 2016 Wave Awards
  • Easy parking at the port: visit
  • Passenger  numbers are  expected to  increase to 1.8m by the end of 2016

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