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Over the winter I’ve been reading some interesting comments online about how P&O have started to make the check-in time real. Let me explain what I mean by that.

In our Cruise Information booklet there has always been a stated check-in time. We and everyone else have always ignored this, and just rocked up to the terminal whenever we felt like it. In the early days we drove down from Sheffield on the day of the cruise, arriving at Southampton somewhere around 1pm, and then going straight to the terminal. In recent years we’ve tended to drive down the day before, if possible, either all the way to Southampton or to some point close by. We’ve stayed at the Chieveley Services Travelodge (at the M4/A34 junction) several times; we’ve stayed at another Travelodge on the M4 near Reading a couple of times; we’ve stayed at a Holiday Inn near Fareham a couple of times; and we once stayed in Southampton, at the Grand Harbour. (This was for the Grand Event cruise 2012.). All of these have meant that we were near to or even in Southampton from early in the morning on embarkation day, and in these cases we were arriving at the terminal shortly after 11am. Usually this then entailed a wait in the terminal unit midday when check-in begins, but we were generally on the ship around 12:30.

Now, however, we understand that P&O are requiring passengers to stick to their check-in time. So if you have check-in time of, say, 3pm, and you arrive at 1pm, you will apparently be given a ‘3pm’ card, and you will have to wait until that card is called. To be honest, I can’t really complain about that. However, there have been reports of some problems with the new procedure. Coaches seem to arrive at random, and if one does so late, apparently the passengers on it are given priority. So apparently it is possible for our ‘3pm’ passenger to have waited a couple of hours, and then find that they’ve got to wait even longer.

Some people have asked online why people (like us) insist on arriving early – if you know your check-in time is 3pm then why not arrive then? The answer to that is two-fold. First, if you’re coming from a couple of hundred miles away (like us) then it’s foolish to aim for that time – you don’t know how the roads will be. Our only major holdup was for about an hour on the M27 on one of our early cruises, and we still arrived in plenty of time. I have read stories of people being stuck on the M42 for several hours, however. If you’ve planned to arrive at 3pm and you hit a 3 hour delay, you’ve missed the ship…. Secondly, if (like us) you travel down the day before, you’re already in Southampton on embarkation morning and the question of what to do until 3pm arises. Southampton may be a rewarding place for its locals to live in, but with the best will in the world it doesn’t take many visits to exhaust its attractions; and I feel we’ve done that.

You’ll have guessed that all of this has some relevance to our situation. We are on Britannia from Sunday 29th of May, and we have a 3pm check-in time. That date is a Bank Holiday, so we have already decided to drive down on the Saturday and stay in Southampton the night before. If the weather is good on the Saturday we’ll go over to the Isle of Wight for the late afternoon/early evening. Then on the Sunday we may try the following:-

  • have a leisurely breakfast and early morning;
  • drive to the terminal shortly after 11 o’clock and see if we can unload our bags – I’m told this is possible;
  • then drive somewhere out of town for a few hours – I quite fancy Calshot;
  • and return to the terminal at 3 o’clock.

I’ll report on how that goes after we’ve embarked.


8 Responses to “P&O Check-in times at Southampton”

  1. Carol Reed says:

    I read your blog with interest as we’ve been through this. Our checkin time was 3.30. We live in South Wales so it takes a good 4 hrs with a stop to get there. We don’t want to leave any later than we need to as there could be a problem on the way down. We arrived at Cruise Parking in Marchwood at about 2.30. As we were so early, I went to the waters edge (opposite City terminal on the other side of the water) to watch Ovation of the Seas coming in. While watching it, Cruise Parking rang me to see where we were as they were waiting for us so they could pack up and leave for the day. We were just outside as it happened. We arrived at ocean terminal at about 3.00pm and hung around, we went inside and got a card at about 3.20. There were so many people there. We noticed the coaches were getting priorty. We ended up queuing for security at 4.30. We were more or less the last people on board. Not happy campers. A great start to our holiday. So we had to rush to find our cabin and be back down for muster at 5.15. Having such a late checkin is terrible. The chaos of checkin was soon forgotten as our cruise on Britannia was amazing.

    Hope you both have a fabulous time and look forward to reading more of your great blogs.

    • Tom Burke says:

      Thanks for your comment, Carol.

      I’ve read similar stories from other people. We’re hoping that our experience is a bit better. Our parking is with CPS – we took free parking as our Select Fare freebie – so at least we only have to go to the one site.

  2. Matt B says:

    I’ve been on a few cruises since they intro’d this. It seems to work well if you have an early boarding time – in those instances we’ve been on when we should’ve been (or sooner) and it was evident those with late boarding times who turned up early did indeed have to wait some time and are given cards not from the current colour being called, but later ones.

    However, if you’ve a later boarding time, (say 2.30 onwards) you’d be best to turn up a bit ahead of that – in these instances we’ve found that anyway and tested it to see what they’ve been handing out to people arriving when they’re meant to!

    Example: Boarding time of 3.30, turn up at 2.45, get given a letter P, as is anyone else turning up at that time.

    In theory, if you then turn up bang on 3.30 when you’re meant to, and if the system worked as intended, you’d get a letter earlier in the sequence – you don’t – they carry on sequentially – and you might end up with a Z or the next batch of letters from the next colour. This has been the case the last few times.

    So, turning up earlier does still mean earlier boarding if you’re in one of the later windows…..

    • Tom Burke says:

      Thanks for the comment, Matt.

      I think we’ll do something like that. We have an embarkation time of 3pm. We were thinking of trying to drop off the luggage at 11’ish, and then driving away to do something else until early afternoon. We’d probably aim to arrive back at the terminal at about 2pm.

      Have you seen anyone successfully dropping luggage off early?

  3. Matt B says:

    Hi Tom, funnily enough yes, on our last Britannia cruise (late check in time) we walked to ocean terminal as our hotel was so close – we noticed a few people walking to the terminal too and thought it odd they had no luggage – turned out they dropped it off long before and were heading to check in… Mayflower a bit more in the middle of nowhere…so not sure people would drop luggage then come back to check in later….

  4. Chris G says:

    I’ve heard mixed things about the new embarkation process. Some people claim to have turned up at 15:30 and literally walked straight on. Others claim to have been waiting another few hours and have been last people on the ship.

    I’m on B619 and have a time of 15:30 so It’ll be helpful to read about your experiences. Hope it all goes well.

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