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Getting To Know Portsmouth – Cruise Port Guide
Portsmouth is largely known for its maritime heritage and, of course, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which is home to HMS Victory and the Mary Rose, among others. This dockyard gave Portsmouth immense wealth and power, as well as making it the most heavily fortified town in the world and the greatest naval port at the height of the British Empire. The docks also provided the main point of embarkation for the D-Day Landings in June 1944, as well as the majority of the task force sent to the Falkland Islands in 1982. Home to the Royal Navy, you just cannot come to Portsmouth and not be encapsulated by the maritime history past and present. It’s a great place for a day visit on any cruise itinerary that calls to the city. This is our Portsmouth cruise port guide.
Port Location and Facilities
Portsmouth International Port is where cruise ships can dock in the city. This is also where ferries to Europe depart from and is a busy area of the city to the north of the centre. You can walk from the port to the centre of the city in around 25 minutes, with plenty of safe paths to guide you to the main attractions. There is a terminal building which is well serviced by taxis and public transport, as well as housing amenities.
What not to miss
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
A part of the HM Naval Base that is open to the public, this is where you will find the historic ships on display. It is also home to the National Museum of the Royal Navy, situated opposite HMS Victory, and houses various naval artefacts including the only surviving original sail from HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The flagship of Lord Horatio Nelson and the oldest commissioned warship in the world. HMS Victory was launched in 1765 and played a pivotal role in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, which confirmed the naval supremacy of Britain over rivals France and Spain but resulted in the death of Nelson. She is now a museum ship and part of the National Historic Fleet.
The flagship of Henry VIII which sank in the Solent in 1545 and was rediscovered in 1971. A milestone in the field of marine archaeology, the Mary Rose acts as a time capsule of the Tudor era, with numerous artefacts preserved in the Mary Rose Museum, which sits atop the surviving wreck.
The first iron clad warship built for the British Navy; she spent her active naval life as part of the Channel Squadron in the 19th Century before being decommissioned in 1883. Part of the National Historic Fleet, Warrior is now a museum ship.
The D-Day Story
Located in Southsea, this is the only museum in the UK that is solely dedicated to the Allied Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The museum provides insight into the lives of those who took part and contains many exhibits that have not previously been displayed to the public. There are also displays featuring uniforms, vehicles, maps and even a LCVP landing craft.
For the best views of Portsmouth, the Solent and the South Downs, head to the observation deck of the Spinnaker Tower, standing 170m (560ft) tall and dominating the Portsmouth skyline. The name spinnaker relates to the maritime heritage of Portsmouth, as the structure is designed to resemble a spinnaker sail.
The designer outlet of Gunwharf Quays is the ideal stop for those who want to shop until they drop. Outlets include several major high street brands, alongside some of the higher end designer labels, such as Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and Coach. There are plenty of dining options also available, including fast food giants such as Burger King, to chain restaurants including Pizza Express and Las Iguanas. A visit here could easily fill your day.
NoFlyCruises recommends http://www.visitportsmouth.co.uk the official website of Visit Portsmouth.
The currency in the UK is the British Pound Sterling.
Portsmouth is one of the sunniest locations in the UK and temperatures in the summer months can reach over 30 degrees Celsius.
Most of Portsmouth is easily accessible on foot. There is an extensive bus network operated by First Bus and Stagecoach which services the city centre and areas surrounding the city. For more information, prices and routes check out https://myjourneyportsmouth.com/
Safety whilst ashore
As a working city, Portsmouth can get very busy, especially during peak summer season. It is wise to take care of your personal belongings in crowded areas.
Where to Eat
NoFlyCruises recommends the following eateries:
Key highlights of Portsmouth
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
- The National Museum of the Royal Navy
- HMS Victory
- Mary Rose
- HMS Warrior
- The D-Day Story
- Southsea Castle
- Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum
- Spinnaker Tower
- Gunwharf Quays
- Spitbank Fort
Regular Cruise Line Visitors
- Viking Ocean
Cruise Expert Insider 🔎 Portsmouth Cruise Port by James Cole
Very few people know that Portsmouth is actually located on an island. Although measuring just ten square miles, Portsea Island has the largest population of any island in the British Isles, after Britain and Ireland.
Portsea Island’s diminutive size means that its many historical attractions can be reached in less than ten minutes from the cruise terminal. If you are starting or ending your cruise in Portsmouth and you want to extend your stay by a day or two, all of the city’s attractions are therefore close to hand.
With significant investment in Portsmouth’s cruise terminal, tipped to make it the UK’s second largest after Southampton, cruise passengers will be able to reach the city’s many attractions more easily thanks to plans for free shuttle buses, electric rental scooters and new cycle paths.
Portsmouth’s long and distinguished history as a maritime port and the home of the Royal Navy, make it a fascinating place to explore. Portsmouth’s world famous Historic Dockyard museum is less than three miles away. Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, King Henry VIII’s flagship Mary Rose and the many other exhibits will easily occupy an entire day.
Nautical historians will also want to take the short crossing to the other side of Portsmouth Harbour to Gosport, home to several museums of which the centrepiece is the Royal Navy’s Submarine Museum. Tour the Royal Navy’s first ever submarine and the last remaining WW2 era British submarine. A water bus service operates between Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard and the Submarine Museum in Gosport and takes less than 10 minutes.
When visiting the Historic Dockyard, many people completely miss HMS Warrior which is located adjacent to the Portsmouth Harbour railway station. The first armour-plated and iron-hulled warship, Warrior is just a short walk from the entrance into the Historic Dockyard and is a great attraction in its own right.
Gunwharf Quays is a short walk from HMS Warrior on the other side of the train station. A multi-million Pound regeneration of HMS Vernon (the former Royal Navy weapons storage facility), this award winning leisure complex features over 100 designer retailer outlets, a large number of restaurants plus a multiplex cinema and a bowling alley.
The star feature within Gunwharf is the Spinnaker Tower which affords stunning views across the Solent and the very beautiful Isle of Wight. Standing at 560 feet (170 m) above sea level there a three viewing platforms one of which features a glass floor with a 100 metre vertical drop underneath.
No stop-over in Portsmouth is complete without a strip to the nearby Isle of Wight by hovercraft. Taking only 10 minutes, the Southsea to Ryde hovercraft service is the last remaining commercial hovercraft service in the world. It is a unique experience which people travel large distances to witness. Classed as a flying experience not a nautical one, be one of the few to take a ‘flight’ to the Isle of Wight!
Nature lovers will absolutely love a visit to Portsmouth’s Natural History Museum in Southsea (Portsmouth’s very own seaside resort). The best time to visit the museum is May to November when the Butterfly House comes alive with hundreds of vibrantly coloured butterflies. You can actually walk through the greenhouse and meet many of the centre’s winged residents in person.
When in Southsea, you might want to walk along the long sea-front promenade up to the Royal Marines Museum in Eastney or stop for a cup of tea and a slice of cake on South Parade Pier. There is a nice coffee shop on the pier plus a selection of funfair rides and amusement arcades for younger members of the family. Golf enthusiasts can also enjoy a game of ‘pitch and putt’ in Southsea, which boasts the oldest pitch and putt course in the world.
Portsmouth’s excellent transport links are helping its rapidly growing cruise port to attract more and more cruise lines. A number of the mainstream cruise lines operate cruise itineraries from Portsmouth including Norwegian Cruise Line, Ambassador Cruise Line, and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. The city is also becoming an increasingly popular terminus for luxury and ultra-luxury cruise lines too including Viking Ocean, Saga Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd, Noble Caledonia, Oceania Cruises, Quark Expeditions, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and Ponant.
London Waterloo railway station is just a short walk from many of London’s finest attractions including the London Eye, the London Aquarium, Big Ben, Royal Festival Hall and the Houses of Parliament. Waterloo is also on the Underground metro railway providing easy access to all of London’s museums and attractions.