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It depends how early but as soon as the Cunard terminal starts checking you in you proceed to the lounge on the first floor and there you will find reasonably comfortable seats and a supply of free coffee or squash until they are ready to board you, from memory I think that the checking in starts from about 9-30 but I am not sure and if you can't get into the desks it can be draughty and chill in the arrivals area. Hope that helps. .......Neil.
This will depend upon which terminal you go from. The first floor option will only be open to you if you are going from the QE2 Terminal at Dock Gate 4.
If you are driving Southampton you should consider using the Hilton Hotel option if it is not fully booked up already. You would arrive there the day before and spend thew night in the Hotel. They will look after your car during your voyage and take you by coach to and from the ship. You would arrive at the checkin at around 1pm after which you will be able to go straight on board.
For the small extra cost, we travel to Southampton the day before sailing, and stay overnight in a hotel. There's plenty to choose from in the £40-60 range... just take a look at web sites like booking.com or laterooms.com.....
The Dolphin hotel is "interesting" - don't expect the most modern facilities, but it is a hotel with a lot of character and a super location just a couple of minutes from the shopping centre.
We are protected against any travel hiccups, and dinner in Southampton the night before cruising starts the holiday early. Take a leisurely breakfast, browse the shopping centre, then take a taxi to the ship at leisure.