You might find that your cruise itinerary mentions London as the starting point of the cruise and might see Dover in parentheses next to London. Although some smaller ships do depart from London proper, you will find that many of the cruises leave from either Dover or Southampton, a short ways south of London.
From London to Dover
There are several options for reaching Dover from London. You may arrange transport directly from the airport with a ship transfer, private shuttle, bus or train. The bus and train options require that you start your journey in London.
Getting to the Station
To get into London from the airport, there are several options as well including cab, express bus, train and tube(subway). Always looking to save money, we decided to book our connections via National Express Bus. Searching for the discount fares, we found none that left from Heathrow, but could find significant discounts by getting to Victoria Station on the tube and then walking a few blocks to the National Express Station.
Our best laid plans backfired when our flight arrived so late that we missed our bus, even though we had allowed 4-hours to get to the bus station. In the end we ended up paying more for our bus because the discount tickets are non-refundable. Nevertheless, we found the service to be efficient and even paying full-fare, we saved significantly compared to what we would have paid for the Princess transport or a private car.
We heard grumblings about Dover having absolutely nothing for the visitor and found that not to be true at all. On one visit, we hiked to the lighthouse above the famous White Cliffs of Dover. As members of the National Trust – in the US, join the Royal Oak Foundation- we gained free admittance to the lighthouse and had a guided tour as well.
Much closer to town is Dover Castle.
Perched high atop a hill overlooking the port, we could see our cruise ship and many others at the terminals. We visited both the castle itself and took the guided tour of the Secret Wartime Tunnels. Including the tunnels with the rest of the grounds makes a visit here a full-day endeavor or at least one that can be done before boarding your ship.
The Cruise Terminal
Our visit to Dover Castle and its grounds offered the perfect vantage point to get the lay of the land. From here, we could see both the ferry terminal and the cruise terminal which are at opposite ends of Dover’s shoreline. The cruise terminal is the smaller area and known as the Western Docks. It is easily accessible from town and within walking distance, although it is at least a mile from the town center to the terminal. We walked from the ship when we visited Dover as a port on another itinerary and found the walk pleasant enough.
The terminal is not huge, but does have a waiting area with seating. Registration was efficient, but as we have noticed on recent cruises, the lines for past passengers are longer than those for new cruisers. We arrived later in the afternoon, so quickly completed the process and were on board in less than half an hour. We found the service in the terminal very efficient and the workers there quite welcoming.
We follow our own advice and arrived a few days early to meet the ship. We knew that Canterbury is just a short bus ride from Dover and decided to spend our pre-cruise days exploring the area. We settled on the Chaucer Hotel, where we got a good rate by searching on a discount hotel site.
We visited the Canterbury Cathedral, the Canterbury Tales exhibit and a farmer’s market. Our time spent in Canterbury passed too quickly by.
Taking a short punting tour on the river helped us get our sea legs for the cruise.
It was easy to get one of the regular buses that headed to Dover. Buying a bus pass is a great idea if you want to spend time in the different communities that the buses service.