Southampton is Britain’s premier cruise port. It traces its maritime heritage back to Roman Empire days and greatly increased its prominence in medieval times with commodities trading to France, Iberia, and Italy. Heavily bombed during World War II, it was quickly rebuilt to be Northern Europe’s busiest ocean liner port once again. The city has lots of attractions, many related to its long history. London is 70 miles to the northeast, and four trains an hour make the journey in as little as 75 minutes.
What We Love
The Titanic Trail: Many of the crew members on the doomed liner, which sailed out of Southampton, were local. There are memorials scattered around the city center, while the SeaCity Museum tells the story of the voyage and its aftermath.
The Isle of Wight: Take the Red Funnel Line ferry to East Cowes to see Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer retreat. Or cross the river via the Floating Bridge (a chain ferry) to West Cowes to walk its charming main street.
Best Known For
Harbor Trips: The Shieldhall, a historic former passenger-cargo boat, makes long trips into the Solent estuary system, and several times a year the paddle steamer Waverley visits the port for cruises that circumnavigate the Isle of Wight.
Medieval Connections: There’s much to see on land, too. Parts of the 13th-century city walls still stand near the waterfront. St. Michael’s Church has portions going back to 1070, and the ruins of Holy Rood Church date from 1320.
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Who It's Best For
Maritime History Buffs: Whether you have a casual Titanic fascination or make model ships in your spare time, there’s much to see in this bustling, modern city with a long heritage tied to the maritime world.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Don’t Just Pass Through: Many cruise passengers simply use Southampton to embark their ships, and they miss yesterday’s and today’s connections to this great port city. Consider arriving a day early and seeing the sights.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.