Departure port: Southampton
Destinations: Ponta Delgada, Antigua, St Maartens, Grand Turk, Fort Lauderdale
Cruise Line: Princess Cruises
Today’s journey to Southampton will be different – we’re using National Express coaches to get from Braintree to the South Coast because we won’t be coming back to the port. Instead, we will be flying back from Miami to Heathrow, which means we can’t just leave our car in Southampton like we normally would.
Annoyingly, there are no direct National Express coach links, so it’s a two leg trip. First, Braintree to London Victoria via Stansted Airport and Stratford. The second goes from Victoria to Southampton city centre with a stop in Basingstoke.
It’s a long day and not hugely exciting, so here’s a few observations:
- The coaches are not too crowded, which is nice.
- The seats by the rear emergency exit have extra legroom.
- London Victoria Coach Station is busy and hectic, but there’s a Sainsbury’s across the road where you can buy sandwiches and drinks.
- There is a Greggs bakery inside the departures terminal – and the hot sausage rolls are very good.
- Arrivals and departures take place in different buildings and you will need to cross a road between the two.
- The journey into and out of London takes in some of the biggest landmarks – Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Olympic Park etc – which is great news for any one who has never seen the city.
Top tip: When travelling with a mobility scooter you must email National Express head office in advance to inform them. You can contact the assisted travel team at email@example.com. Doing so will ensure that the driver knows to expect you – and they will provide additional assistance in loading your luggage and scooter.
Bonus tip: Don’t try to dodge the additional luggage charge. If you are travelling with two suitcases, make sure you pay for the second one. Otherwise you can expect to be embarrassed by the driver charging you extra at the roadside.
Just how important is this advance notice? Extremely. The driver on our London to Southampton leg initially refused to load Linda’s mobility scooter citing concerns about exploding batteries. It was only after I showed him the email from head office that he changed his mind. After that, he couldn’t do enough for us, boarding us early and helping load our suitcases neatly.
The journey from Braintree to Southampton takes 5.5 hours in total. This is just under three hours longer than making the drive ourselves, so it’s not an ‘express’ option. However, Linda says that she thinks the coach is preferable to the equivalent train journey which requires multiple changes and a lot more stairs and walking between connections. It’s also a little cheaper.
Anyway, tonight we’re staying at the Moxy Southampton which we have used a couple of times before. It’s just a few hundred metres walk from Southampton Coach Station. The hotel is comfortable enough and close to the centre of the city, which means we have plenty of places to eat when we’re ready. And as always, it’s full of people waiting to join a cruise tomorrow. Feel free to strike up a conversation in the bar if you want to start making new friends early.
Top tip: Room 505 provides a good view out towards the Ocean Cruise Terminal – which means we’ll be able to see Sky Princess when we get up in the morning!
One other detail of note. Because Linda is unable to pull a suitcase, I am having to manage three. This could have been a nightmare – until I discovered the Wisdompro luggage strap. Easy to fit, the strap allows me to connect the two larger cases and drag them together. Yes it’s heavy, but also surprisingly manoeuvrable – which will be very important for our return journey in a few weeks time.
The strap is ideal for those situations when you can’t find a luggage trolley because you can link cases by their handles and pull them in a ‘train’.
This pack includes two straps, so you could conceivably attach a third suitcase too if needed.
The Wisdom Pro strap performed brilliantly, making the short walk from Coach Station to hotel much, much easier than expected. A good travel accessory investment in my opinion.