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For a cruise project, I am researching the most cost-effective ways to reach a ship that departs Southampton from the different major points of entry in the UK, that are London airports and any train station where Eurostar calls at (I guess London St Pancras is the only one for now).

My first intuition was to look up the train connections, and I was surprised by the price. For instance, the same-day London-Southampton train ticket costs a whopping £70 in standard class! If arriving by air, I would add the cost of the train from the airport to London downtown... and Heathrow Express is also on the pricey side.

Which other options may be available? Ideally those that are not too difficult to navigate with a heavy suitcase.

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    As an aside, if you, for some reason, do intend to go from Heathrow Airport to London Waterloo train station for an onward train, taking the Elizabeth line and change at Bond Street for the Jubilee line is around 50% cheaper than taking the Heathrow Express. It is a step-free route, and the trains involved have a reasonable amount of space for baggages outside peak hours.
    – B.Liu
    Jan 25 at 13:49
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    Note: often cruise lines offers such transfer using coaches (and at a lower price): many passengers will arrive (and from different airports): if you have 3000 or 5000 passengers, you see that organized transfer can be cheaper. Jan 25 at 14:07
  • Consider flying directly to the first stop of the cruise instead. I did a cruise of Norway starting from London and later wished I just joined the ship when it reached Norway. How viable this is depends on where the cruise will stop first.
    – JonathanReez
    Jan 25 at 20:04
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    Not all cruise lines allow mid-voyage embarkation. MSC does; not necessarily sells all combinations of embarkation and disembarkation ports. Anyway, I would not miss those days at sea just enjoying my time on the ship! Regarding the cruise line-organized transfer, are you sure it is a good deal? I have seen upwards of €100 for a round-trip bus ticket to London from Southampton advertised by the shore excursions desk. Just the bus that drops you there and no actual guided tour!
    – DavGin
    Jan 26 at 4:05
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    Book your tickets ahead, and avoid peak times. Obviously it depends on your exact travel date/time, but a quick glance at thetrainline shows tickets from Gatwick->Southampton for less than €8 if you book now to travel in April. The UK's train pricing is utterly punitive to anyone trying to using at as a convenient means of travel but quite cheap if you can book far enough in advance. Jan 26 at 14:49

3 Answers 3

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Where are you coming from? You asked for London airports but there is also an airport in Southampton - with flights from Paris (Orly) and Amsterdam (as you mentioned Eurostar) - and from there you can either take a train and taxi or a direct bus (the U1) from the airport to the port.

The train from London isn't quite as expensive as you say - it's £52 single for a ticket valid on any train all day from London Waterloo, or £41 single for a ticket valid on any train leaving London after 12:01. However, if you arrive at Heathrow, there's a direct National Express coach to Southampton with tickets "from £18.70".

From Gatwick there are direct trains to Southampton - without travelling via London - for which a single ticket is £20, available on the day.

The other London airports (Luton, Stansted, City and Southend) are on the other side of London and you'd need to cross London for all of them - which as you have a heavy suitcase is probably less than optimal. If you have no choice but to fly into one of them, Luton would allow you to take Thameslink through London and change at East Croydon (or stations between there and Three Bridges) onto a direct Southampton train which, although slower than the Waterloo services, would reduce the number of changes you have to make with your suitcase.

For completeness, there are direct rail services from Birmingham International to Southampton as well, if Birmingham is better for your timings - however in almost all cases you'd be able to fly to either Gatwick or Southampton instead and those would be better gateways.

If you can commit to a specific train, you can probably also book an advance ticket which is only valid on one service (if you miss it the ticket isn't valid) but for which tickets are available from £3. It may make sense to book a couple of these for different trains as it will still work out cheaper than a flexible on-the-day ticket.

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    Pretty comprehensive, thanks! There are many options for my arrival/departure, most likely Luton or Gatwick airports (easyJet flies there, quite cheap and lots of departures from Geneva), and I always look for rail alternatives because I often use trains to travel through Europe when I have the time. Thanks for the tip of the advance booking for the train as well, did not realize that the price difference when doing so was so significant!
    – DavGin
    Jan 25 at 14:09
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    Luton is the "wrong side" of London to be useful for Southampton. There is a reason easyjet use it and it isn't because of it's proximity to London.
    – scotty3785
    Jan 26 at 10:25
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    If you are flying as part of a group then you can also look at the price of a taxi (or minibus taxi) from the airport to the cruise. It would almost certainly be more expensive for a single person but if you have a group of 4+ then £150 for a taxi (the first result I found on a quick internet search) works out at £37.50 (or less) per person which may be cheaper-per-person than individual train tickets bought on the day.
    – MT0
    Jan 26 at 14:31
  • Did you mean to write that there are direct trains from London Bridge to Southampton? I couldn't find any.
    – nekomatic
    Jan 27 at 15:57
  • Good catch - I meant the Southern ones but for some reason I thought they went to London Bridge rather than Victoria. I'll edit to replace London Bridge with East Croydon.
    – Edd
    Jan 27 at 16:25
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National Express operates non-stop buses from LHR Terminal 5 to Southampton Coach Station Harbor Parade for less than £20. See https://www.nationalexpress.com/en

A good website for this type of search is rome2Rio.com (no affiliation, I'm just a fan). You also book there.

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If you fly to Gatwick, per your comment on Edd's answer, then as that answer says, you can get to Southampton by train without changing for under £20. That's almost certainly the most straightforward way to go.

If you were to fly into Luton you can get to Southampton by train for £50.40 by changing at Luton Airport Parkway and East Croydon, but that's a 3h30 journey. You could maybe cut that time a bit by changing at Farringdon on to the Elizabeth line then at Reading, or even further by also changing at Paddington onto a GWR service to Reading, and the latter fare on one ticket is £61, but I'd question whether all those changes are worth any time saving.

If you did arrive at Heathrow, you can avoid going into London and out again by changing trains at Hayes & Harlington and then Reading. That fare shows up as £80, the same as via London.

If you don't see any advance fares coming up for your journey it's worth trying trainsplit.com which may be able to save money by splitting the journey into multiple tickets - however for some journeys I've found that site can only issue the tickets by post, which may eat into your savings if you need them posted outside the UK.

Using the random travel date/time I picked, the National Rail planner gave me rather short connections at Reading, e.g. 12 minutes, and you might want to allow more than that if travelling with luggage as it's a fairly large station.

Finally seat61.com has a page on transatlantic crossings from Southampton which includes some detail on how to get from the station to the port.

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    Just a note that if you absolutely must fly to Luton, then you can do the journey to Southampton with one change (not counting the transit train from the airport to the railway station) by taking Thameslink from Luton Airport Parkway to East Croydon and then a train from East Croydon to Southampton Central, for £50.40. However, this journey goes through Gatwick Airport station and takes around 3h30 so if you have the choice, Gatwick is definitely the way to go.
    – Edd
    Jan 26 at 13:14
  • @Edd good point - answer updated.
    – nekomatic
    Jan 26 at 19:25

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