During the last two weeks, I’ve had to travel from London to Dover twice. So I’ve conducted a little experiment, as getting to Dover to join a ship has always been a pain, unless you happen to live in Kent.
Last time I did the journey by train, it was a two-hour trek across country from London Victoria with multiple stops. But everything’s changed now. You can still choose the scenic route from Victoria but I tried the new, high speed service from St Pancras International. I can’t believe Dover port or the local tourist board hasn’t made a bigger fuss about this, as it makes a huge difference to getting to the port and would completely change the experience of a day trip to London for visiting cruise passengers.
The new, super-speedy trains use the same fast track as the Eurostar trains and make the journey in just an hour and a quarter. No changes, no fuss, and just four stops. It cost me £35 return (£5 more than the slow train), plus a fixed £8 each way for a cab in Dover from the station to the cruise terminal. The trains are air conditioned, spotlessly clean and spacious – and travelling that fast felt like flying.
In contrast, I took Crystal Cruises’ courtesy coach from central London to Dover yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the idea of a courtesy coach, but it took two and a half hours, the first hour of which was spent sitting, frustrated and bored, in snarled-up London traffic.
So if your ship is calling at Dover and you want to visit London independently, or if you’re travelling from beyond the capital to join a cruise at the port, do yourself a favour and try the train. It’s what I’ll be doing in future.