Category: Useful tips (Page 2 of 2)

A collection of our most useful travel tips. Learn how to save money and maximise fun on your next trip.

National Express Coach to Southampton Cruise Terminal Guide

Everything you need to know about catching a National Express Coach to Southampton Cruise Terminal.

Can I catch a coach to Southampton Cruise Terminal?

No, not directly. National Express coaches stop at the bus station in Southampton town centre.

How far is Southampton Coach Station from the cruise terminal?

It is possible to walk to all five cruise terminals, but you must consider the distances involved before setting off:

  • Mayflower Cruise Terminal – 1.4 miles
  • Horizon Cruise Terminal – 0.7 miles
  • City Cruise Terminal – 0.7 miles
  • Ocean Cruise Terminal – 1.2 miles
  • QE II Terminal – 1.9 miles

A taxi transfer to the docks is probably the smarter choice when dealing with large suitcases (see below).

Which is the nearest hotel to Southampton Coach Station?

Both the West Quay Premier Inn and the Moxy are a short walk away.

And no, you don’t have to walk around the second roundabout shown in the map above, saving some time and distance.

The map below shows some alternative accommodations. The cruise terminals are denoted by a flag in the image. You can see how few nearby options there are for the Mayflower and Horizon cruise terminals:

Can I get a taxi from Southampton National Express Coach Station?

Without pre-booking, probably not. There is a taxi rank just out the front of the coach station (see map below) but there is rarely a queue of waiting vehicles. 

You could call an Uber or book a West Quay Cars taxi by calling +44 (0)2380 999 999.

Big money baller? You could always book a private transfer from the Cruise Terminal all the way to London – but at £275 each we can’t comment whether the service is good value or not.

Can I catch a regular bus to the cruise terminal at Southampton?

No. None of the cruise terminals is served directly by a public bus route. Even if you do manage to struggle onboard with your suitcases, you will still have to walk quite some distance from the nearest bus stop to your ship.

What facilities are there at Southampton Coach Station?

You will find toilets and a small shop at the Coach Station – if it is open. There is a roof to shelter under if the weather is bad. There is also a small coffee shop, payphone and an automated ticket machine.

Is there a toilet at Southampton Coach Station?

Yes. But it is only accessible when the bus station is open. And if it is like the toilet at Victoria Coach Station, wear a mask – the stench is probably quite bad.

When is the coach station open?

The current opening hours are:

Monday – Thursday: 08:00 – 17:30 (8:00am – 5:30pm)

Friday: 06:45 – 17:30 (6:45am – 5:30pm)

Saturday – Sunday: 07:15 – 17:30 (7:15am – 5:30pm)

Note that coaches do arrive and depart outside these hours, but you will not be able to access any of the facilities inside the station – including the toilets. So if you need to go, use the toilet on the coach before disembarking.

Can I buy National Express tickets at the bus station?

Yes, there is an automated ticket machine – but you can only use it when Southampton Coach Station is open. Buying tickets online may be a smarter move though – that way you can guarantee your seat on the coach to London.

National Express also accept telephone bookings – but they will apply an additional £3 booking fee for doing so.

Is the coach station accessible?

Access from street to coach is completely step-free. But you will need to climb several steps once you are on the bus.

Is there a left luggage office at Southampton Bus Station?

No. And there are no luggage storage options at the nearby railway station either.

Instead you will need to consider using a service like CitySpareSpace to book baggage storage – prices start at £7 per bag. The nearest option appears to be the Maynards Store, a six minute walk away. We’ve not used this service, so cannot provide a personal recommendation.

UK hotels tend to store luggage free of charge which may be a better option if you are staying in Southampton overnight.

What about coaches from London Heathrow Airport to Southampton?

National Express operate several coaches daily between Southampton and London Heathrow Airport. The bus is a viable transfer option if you are doing a fly-cruise vacation.

And National Express coaches from Gatwick to Southampton?

Travelling between Gatwick Airport and Southampton Cruise Terminal is a two-leg trip. Ironically you must first catch a bus to Heathrow Airport, then change to reach your final destination. The same is true if you are hoping to connect with London Stansted Airport.

Probably not the best option if you’re already tired and jet-lagged.

Can you travel by coach to Southampton on the same day you sail?

If your cruise leaves in the afternoon or evening, you could arrive in Southampton in the morning. Just remember that coaches are subject to the same traffic conditions as cars, so if there is a traffic jam anywhere along the route, it will affect arrival times.

And don’t forget – you must also factor in the time required to get from the coach station to your cruise terminal too.

What is the phone number for the National Express Southampton Coach Station?

You cannot call the Southampton bus station direct. However, you can contact customer services for more information on 08717 81 81 81. Calls cost an eye-watering 13p per minute however.

BONUS TIP: You can avoid sky high call charges by using the local-rate number instead: +44 (0)371 781 8181

Is there anything else I should know?

  • Southampton Central railway station is a short walk away, as is the Westquay Shopping Centre
  • There are three coach bays – make sure you board the correct bus if travelling away from the cruise terminal.
  • Speak to the agent at the gate if you have mobility issues. They may be able to board you first, saving a lot of the hassle and discomfort of boarding with the other passengers.

Read our review of the London to Southampton National Express journey.

Would we recommend catching National Express to Southampton Cruise Terminal?

Yes, absolutely. There are several reasons to consider catching a coach to Southampton: 

  • National Express coach tickets are much cheaper than port parking. 
  • You don’t have to worry about where to leave your car on a one-way cruise.
  • Coach travel is also much cheaper than train travel.
  • Speed limits, one-way systems and traffic are all someone else’s problem – much more relaxing than driving yourself!

Do you have another question? Leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to find an answer.


Please note that we use sponsored links on this blog. Although we may earn a referral fee or bonus points on some of these products and services, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.

Avios air miles comes to Revolut (sort of)

Another day, another email regarding loyalty schemes, this time our favourite international card provider, Revolut. The headline change is the addition of RevPoints, a loyalty currency like air miles that can be spent and traded within the Revolut ecosystem.

Of greatest interest is that RevPoints can now be swapped for airline loyalty points, most importantly, British Airways Executive Club Avios. Also cool is that points are convert 1:1 . 100 RevPoints = 100 Avios.

Nice.

Why has Revolut introduced air miles?

Historically, Revolut customers on Metal or Ultra plans would receive cash back on card spend. Typically this was as low as 0.01% (1p for every £1 spent). There was also a monthly cap of £12 cash back earnings to prevent churners making a healthy profit with manufactured spending.

RevPoints should offer a better deal, right? Not quite. Metal subscribers will receive 1 RevPoint for every £2 they spend. Standard subscribers will get just 1 point for every £10 spent.

What’s the problem? Most third party air miles experts value Avios at roughly £0.01 each, equivalent to the old Revolut cashback rate. With a 1:2 earning ratio, RevPoints will be worth £0.005 each. The ability to switch points to another program at 1:1 will help to offset some of that devaluation, but the reward feels a little less rewarding because you receive less of them.

Currently RevPoints can be swapped for Avios or Flying Blue air miles, offering plenty of redemption options. You must transfer a minimum of 100 points each time and the transfer cannot be reversed.

A screenshot from the Revolut app showing how to swap RevPoints for air miles - and other redemption options
Screenshot from the Revolut app outlining RevPoints redemption options

It’s worth noting that RevPoints can also be used as part-payment for hotel stays or travel experiences. Given that we never use our air miles in this way, I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s good value or not.

Currently there are a few ways to accelerate your air mile earnings. Certain products and services bought within the Revolut app will pay rewards at a 1:1 rate. And if you make 150 card transactions within 3 months of the program going live, you’ll receive a 3000 RevPoints bonus.

Air miles hides bad news

Air miles will (probably) be more useful than the laughably low cash back rates previously offered. However, there have been some very unwelcome updates to the Metal subscription plan:

Travel insurance changes

Metal subscribers used to receive annual multi-trip travel insurance for themselves, their partner and their children as part of the plan. The policy was pretty decent, providing medical cover for travel, including cruises, and a host of mid-tier benefits. Best of all, it covered ALL your trips. For some people, this would be worth the £140 annual fee alone.

Unfortunately, that will all change on 25th July 2024 when Revolut switches insurance provider. From that date, only trips purchased using your Revolut card will be covered. This is annoying for us double-dippers who like to earn transferable air miles from American Express at a 1:1 rate for instance. 

That’s not all. The coverage window shrinks from 90 days per trip to 30 AND delay expenses are only payable after 8 hours. Under the current policy you can make a claim after waiting for four hours.

No more SmartDelay

More of a gimmick than a feature, Revolut Metal subscribers used to be able to pre-register their flights in the app. If there was a flight delay, the app would auto-generate two free airport lounge passes, providing somewhere to relax and chill while everyone else stressed out at the gate.

We’ve only ever been issued with SmartDelay passes once – on a trip where we were flying BA business class, so we already had lounge access.

The SmartDelay perk will be removed from 19th July. In future, you will have to pay for the lounge privilege. There are Priority Pass discounts available in the app, but if you have already been rinsed by the airport once, are you really going to throw more money at them for your inconvenience?

A picture of a Revolut Metal card which can now be used to earn air miles
Revolut do not allow you to add company logos on their custom metal cards. Thankfully mine can be easily recreated with text art!

Time to downgrade?

We have been Revolut subscribers for many years and would never hesitate to recommend the service. But as of these most recent changes, we’re a little more reluctant.

The addition of air miles to Revolut is welcome. However, the changes to the travel insurance policy are not.

The annual subscription fee for Revolut Metal continues to rise – as does the American Express card. Given the overlap in services, a time is coming where we will probably have to choose between Revolut and Amex.

Where Revolut wins out is the banking side of things. If you make or receive payments in foreign currencies, the card is quite useful. Lloyds Bank charges £7 per transaction to receive a payment in Euros for instance.

Amex Gold is the big winner when it comes to rewards. The 1:1 points earning facility along with the option to transfer points into virtually any airline or hotel loyalty program is incredibly valuable. As is the ability to earn bonus points and statement credits through the various cardholder deals each month. However, the annual travel insurance policy included with the card is quite weak and lacks much of what we would consider ‘standard’ requirements.

Our Revolut Metal plan doesn’t renew until November, so we have until then to decide what we’re going to do.

Interested in having your own Revolut or Amex Gold cards? You can use our sign-up links below to activate special bonuses:


Please note that although we may earn a referral fee or bonus points on some of these services, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.

Wembley Stadium Accessibility – The Complete Guide 

This guide will answer all of your Wembley Stadium accessibility questions. Note that the experiences we have written about are for someone who is still partially mobile, who can get around a little with crutches a stick.

With 90,000 seats, Wembley Stadium is the UK’s largest. It is the home of English football and the chosen for venue for the world’s largest music acts – Taylor Swift and AC/DC are due to play here soon.

There are plenty of reasons to visit Wembley. But what issues do wheelchair users face?

Underground to Wembley Park

Wembley Park is one of the few London Underground stations that is properly wheelchair accessible. This means you can wheel a chair straight off the train and onto the platform without crossing steps or gaps.

Once you have disembarked, you will have to find a lift from the platform up to the ticket hall. You must then catch another elevator down to Wembley Way. This means crossing to the right-hand corner of the station – fortunately the wider wheelchair-friendly gate is on that side of the station.

Verdict: Step-free access to trains is good – when there aren’t any crowds.

Boxpark

We like to stop at Boxpark when visiting Wembley Stadium (or the Arena) because they have a good selection of food and drink. However, the venue tends to get jam-packed quite early in the day.

Getting around the crowded food hall is impossible, so we found a quiet(ish) corner and plumped for German Doner Kebab. There’s Indian, Chinese, Jamaican, Thai and many other street food choices to consider too.


Top tip: Wheelchair users get to jump the Boxpark entrance queue.


The queues for the ladies toilets are crazy long and the cubicles are tiny. There is a disabled cubicle at the back of the ladies toilets, but you will still have to queue with everyone else. And then fight your way through the crowded toilet.

Our recommendation: Skip the toilets and wait until you get into the Stadium.

Verdict: Good food, crap accessibility.

Accessible entrance to Wembley Stadium

There are two long, sweeping ramps that flank the Stadium taking you up to the entrance level. Wheelchair users can find four elevators hidden under the front stairs next to the VIP entrance (marked with a purple X in the map below). Follow the signs for the Accessibility entrance.

A picture of Wembley showing the location of the Wembley Stadium accessibility lifts
The purple X makes the location of the Wembley Stadium Accessibility elevators

Follow the signs to the turnstile printed on your ticket. Each gate has its own disabled entrance – look for the steward standing by the door. You pass through a double airlock-style system, which includes a half-hearted security search. It is much faster and more efficient than the standard turnstiles.

Verdict: Security works quite well for wheelchair users.

Park your wheelchair

Wembley Stadium has 301 dedicated wheelchair ‘spaces’, located on Level 1. They are easy to access and well staffed – but they also have terrible views when watching concerts.

If you have booked a regular seat, you will have to climb or descend some stairs. You cannot take your wheelchair to your seat.

You will need to find one of the Information Desks on your level (we used the one opposite entrance 137). The stewards will label your wheelchair and lock it away securely in a storage room. You can ask the stewards to meet you at your gate with your chair at the end of the gig/match.

There are two Information Desks on each level (1, 2 and 5).

In theory, you could also take (and leave) a mobility scooter, but you will have a much harder time navigating the Underground.

Verdict: The Wembley Stadium accessibility team are friendly and the option to store a wheelchair securely is really helpful.

Take a RADAR key

Wembley Stadium has plenty of accessible toilets but you will need a Radar key to access them. The queues are shorter, the cubicles larger and the experience much more comfortable for wheelchair users.

Lokko Radar Key

This key grants access to thousands of accessible toilets across the UK. Wheelchair-friendly, these bathrooms tend to offer much more comfort and room for anyone experiencing mobility issues.

We believe one of these keys is a “must-have” for your accessibility travel toolkit.

Wembley Stadium accessibility stewards also have spare Radar keys if you need assistance. Just speak to the nearest person wearing a hi-vis jacket.

Be warned that as queues grow in the regular toilets, plenty of people will try and push their way into a disabled cubicle.

Getting around Wembley Stadium

It is possible to have a steward wheel you to your gate if you need help – just ask at the Information Desk.

We found the stewards to be incredibly helpful – a real credit to the Stadium.

After the gig – wheelchair recovery

This was where everything started to go wrong. We had asked to be met at our gate with our wheelchair – but it wasn’t there at the end of the gig.

It was a long walk back against the flow of the crowd to the information desk. We also had to pass through several gates that had been locked to help manage foot traffic.

Thankfully, retrieving our wheelchair was relatively straightforward.

Verdict: The first and only time the stewards failed. But with 80,000 concert-goers to look after, mistakes will happen.

Exiting the stadium

Leaving the Stadium, head back towards there front of the building.  You are looking for the accessible lifts that will take you back to ground level. Be aware that lifts are much busier after the gig.

Verdict: Going against the flow makes this particular part of the evening quite daunting.

Back to Wembley Park station

At ground level you face a choice. Head straight ahead to join the foot traffic going down Wembley Way. 

Alternatively, bear right under the stairs and keep heading along the road in front of the Stadium, then take the first road on the left. A few hundred metres down on the left you will find the Accessibility minibus which ferries wheelchairs back to the station.

A picture of Wembley Stadium showing where to meet the accessibility minibus transfer back to the station
The red X shows where to meet the accessibility minibus transfer back to Wembley Park station

The minibus only holds 10 wheelchairs, so you could be waiting for a while.


Top tip: The bus is free. If you’re not planning on a stop at Boxpark, you can use the transport to get from the station to the Stadium too.


After seeing the minibus queue we opted to walk. It took nearly half an hour to get back because of the crowd management system in place to prevent the station being overwhelmed. 


Top tip: Head for the left-hand side of Wembley Way. Otherwise you will have to try and cut across 80,000 people to reach the lift.


Verdict: Claustrophobic and uncomfortable.

Problems in the station

The lift and the wheelchair accessible ticket barrier on the left-hand side of the station. The elevator to get back down to the platforms is on the right. This means trying to cut across the crowds which may take a while (and bruise a few ankles). 


Top tip: Lift door won’t close? The problem is almost certainly caused by someone leaning against the ‘door open’ button.


There is just one lift to serve the London-bound train so you will probably have to queue for a while just to reach the platform. Whether travelling Metropolitan or Jubilee line, you will also find it incredibly hard to get onto a train because they are packed.

You may have to push and shove a little (or a lot) to get on board.


Top tip: The Jubilee line runs through the night on Fridays and Saturdays so you won’t have to rush – unless you’re planning on catching another train at a mainline station.


Verdict: Complete nightmare – as was the entire Tube ride home in the crowded carriages.

When should you NOT visit Wembley Stadium in a wheelchair?

  • You have to make a train connection elsewhere after the gig
  • You do not have an able-bodied helper

Consider staying over

The sheer volume of people heading back to the station can make the journey long, slow, tiring and stressful. There are several hotel options in the immediate vicinity of the Stadium:

Just remember to book early as prices increase dramatically nearer to the date.

Disabled parking

Another option would be to drive to Wembley. There is an official Blue Badge parking zone offering discount prices – and a connecting bridge to the Stadium entrance level. 

A picture of the official Wembley carparks. The disabled parking section is denoted by the blue square.
The blue square denotes the official Wembley Blue Badge parking section

Bear in mind that your car will be subject to the much-hated ULEZ congestion charge which could significantly increase the cost of your visit – especially if you don’t leave the charging zone until after midnight.

Did we miss anything?

Hopefully we’ve answered all of your Wembley Stadium accessibility questions. Feel free to drop us a comment if we missed anything.

Visit details

  • Date of our most recent visit: 29th June 2024
  • Gig: Green Day

Please note that we use sponsored links on this blog. Although we may earn a referral fee or bonus points on some of these products and services, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.

Rating the Holiday Inn Express Wall Street

During our brief sojourn in New York City we stayed in the Holiday Inn Express Wall Street. Here’s what we thought:

The low-down

Cost: £220.40 for two nights
Fair cost: £100 per night
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
How accurate are the website pictures? 4 out of 5

Key considerations

I spent ages choosing a hotel, making and cancelling several bookings as the prices fluctuated wildly in the months in the run-up to our visit. Here are the factors that influenced my final decision

  • Proximity to Pier 11 – to catch the ferry from Manhattan to Red Hook Cruise Terminal
  • Price
  • Accessibility
  • Breakfast

Eventually I booked the Holiday Inn Express Wall Street via Booking.com because the price, including breakfast, was ridiculously low compared to other nearby options. So low, I suspect it may have been a mistake <shrug>.

Location

Just off actual Wall Street, the hotel is located in the oldest part of Manhattan – the Financial District. Although handy for the ferry terminal at Pier 11 (more on that tomorrow) there isn’t much touristy stuff in this area.

This may not actually be a bad thing. My New Yorker friend believes this is a much more civilised, safer part of the city than say, Times Square.

On the flip side, with the exception of Battery Park and Ground Zero, there’s not a lot to see in this district. Not ideal when travelling with a scooter and trying to avoid the subway.

A picture of the Continental Hotel from the John Wick movies
John Wick fans may recognise this nearby building which provided the externals for the Continental Hotel

Check-in

Once inside and enjoying the air conditioning, check-in wasn’t too bad. The young man checking us in was very polite and efficient. 

Initially we were offered a room on the 5th floor. We asked the man for something higher and he countered with the 19th. 

‘Yes please!’ said we. 

‘Are you ok with a bath?’ he asked, looking doubtfully at Linda’s scooter.

‘Oh yes, I’d quite like a bath,’ said Linda.

Tap tap tap.

‘Fine, your room is on the 7th floor.’

Huh?

The room

Our room is not on the 19th floor. It does not have a bath. I offer to call down to reception to have us moved, but Linda says no. So we make the best of what we have.

It is quite small, quite dark, quite brown, quite cold and quite noisy. At least we know the air conditioning works. In fact, we can hear the air conditioning units for the whole building through our (closed) window.

A picture of the view from our room at the Holiday Inn Express Wall Street
The view from your Holiday Inn Express Wall Street room may be underwhelming

The bed is nice and comfortable, the bedding clean and crisp. I like it. Linda says the bed is more comfortable than the one at the Thistle yesterday.

The bathroom is large, but the walk-in shower design means that the whole room gets soaked. I hate that.

The wall mounted air conditioner is very effective and it takes a few attempts to find a comfortable temperature. It is also ridiculously loud – particularly when it fires up in the middle of the night.

—-

Top tip: Take some ear plugs. Or ask to be moved to a higher floor – there are 27 to choose from.

Breakfast

One of the big draws for the Holiday Inn Express, other than its location, is the free breakfast. 

The food choice is relatively ok. Bagels, bread and English muffins for toasting. Hot options include omelettes, pork sausages, turkey sausages and cubed potatoes. There’s three cereals, fresh fruit and yoghurts. Annoyingly, the pancake machine is out of action for our entire stay.

The breakfast is good and filling – a definite plus.

Check out

This is the point at which everything starts to go wrong. The weird layout of the building means that there’s a tight turn into the elevator with a scooter, particularly on the ground floor. Factor in three suitcases and it’s almost impossible to fit anyone else in.

As we leave, there are already three people in the elevator. We do manage to squeeze everything in – and then the alarm goes off. For no reason at all. The elevator refuses to move. We’re stuck on the seventh floor.

Our fellow passengers disembark in annoyance. Eventually I manage to reset the alarm and the lift shoots us up to the 25th floor. By the time we finally make it back to the lobby, we have acquired another six passengers. It’s cramped, uncomfortable and bad tempered.

Check-out itself is simply a matter of throwing our keycards in a bowl and sprinting for the door. We have less than ten minutes to make out ferry to the Red Hook Cruise Terminal

The run

Pier 11 is just a six minute walk from the Holiday Inn Express Wall Street. Pulling three suitcases across New York’s poorly maintained roads in 30ºC heat makes it feel like a six-hundred mile run – and that’s before a wheel falls off the other suitcase.

A map showing the walking route from the Holiday Inn Express Wall Street to Pier 11
It’s a short walk/run from the Holiday Inn Express Wall Street to Pier 11

We reach Pier 11 and I hesitate as I find my bearings. It costs us 30 seconds – long enough for the ferry team to close the access gate and stop us boarding. It’s now a one-hour wait for the next ferry.

Top tip: Walk down the Pier, past the ticket office/café and you will find Slip C on the right-hand side. 

Bonus tip: Download the NYC Ferry app and buy your tickets in advance. It will save you time queuing at the dock.

I say we made it in time. Linda disagrees. I guess the fact we’re still sitting on the dock proves she is right.

Other options

During our last NYC visit, we stayed just around the corner at the Wall Street Inn. I quite liked the slightly dated charm of the hotel, but the cost (prices fluctuated between £350 and £750 in the months running up to our trip) and the poor quality breakfast counted against it.

The good news is that there are plenty of other hotels in the Financial District – most hugely over-priced. Other cruisers on our adventure stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton or the AC Marriott which are also close to Pier 11.

Overall

The Holiday Inn Express is quite bland and faceless – it is part of chain after all. However, the breakfast and slightly closer position to Pier 11 means we think it just beats out The Wall Street Inn.

How to fix cold showers on Island Princess

No hot water in your cabin stateroom? Here’s how to fix cold showers on Island Princess:

Method 1: Fix It Yourself

  1. Twist shower head to face wall and pull shower curtain closed – you don’t want to flood your bathroom.
  2. Turn on shower and set temperature to 38ºC or hotter.
  3. Leave shower running for one minute.
  4. Flush the toilet.
  5. Enjoy your hot shower!
Step 2 of how to fix cold showers on Island Princess - set temperature to 38ºC or warmer
Set temperature to 38ºC or higher

We have no idea why this works, but after four days of cold water, this seems to have fixed the problem for us. No more cold showers on Island Princess for us.

Enjoy!

Method 2: Get Help

  1. Call Guest Services from your cabin stateroom phone or use CrewCall on the Medallion app.
  2. Report an issue with no hot water.
  3. Vacate your cabin for several hours while Maintenance engineers tinker around inside the walls of your bathroom

We strongly recommend trying Method 1 first if only to save yourself some time and inconvenience.

Note: We don’t know if this technique works on other ships or cruise lines. Your mileage may vary.


Please note that we use sponsored links on this blog. Although we may earn a referral fee or bonus points on some of these products and services, we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves.

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