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.