I thought a short review of our experience on the National Express Bus from Heathrow to Southampton might be useful for some other travelers.
We booked our tickets online approximately two weeks before our trip. One option was to select seats, which cost 2 GBP per person. Since I wanted to make sure that my husband and I could sit together, I added that option to our ticket. I'm not sure it is commonly purchased, but I am glad that I did it.
We arrived at Terminal 3 after an overnight flight from the US. There was quite a long walk to the immigration area and there were very long lines to go through immigration but the actual process was automated and very quick. It did not take long to get our bags and proceed through a short hall which was customs and then into the terminal There were signs to the Central Bus Station which was again, quite a long walk, this time with our luggage. It was completely doable but those with mobility challenges should keep that in mind.
The Central Bus Station was quite busy with many local and regional buses arriving and departing but there was a board which clearly showed the times for departure and bay numbers for the buses. Southampton was not the final destination of our bus so it's important to know the departure time so that you can see which stops for which bus. Within the station, there was a small convenience store with drinks, snacks and pre-made sandwiches and there was an Italian coffee shop with pastries and meals. There was a very clean restroom by the station. We had to wait almost two hours for our bus, scheduled to depart at 9:45am. The board said to wait in the bus station, then the comment changed to the bay number at about 9:40. When we went out to the bay, there was a very long line of travelers to get on the bus, so obviously, all do not wait inside the station.
Since we had pre-booked seats, I was not nervous about getting a seat, but I believe the bus was almost full. I was a bit concerned about the mountains of luggage getting stored beneath the bus by only the bus driver. We departed about 15-20 minutes late due to the stowing of so much luggage. I booked the seats 2A and 2B which were behind the first seats, which I believe are for disabled passengers. We had a lot of extra leg room and comfortable seats. The bus also offered Wi-fi.
There was a lot of traffic on the road and the driver explained that there were four cruise ships in the port that day. Since we were sailing the next day, we were not concerned about delays but there were other cruisers on the bus who got nervous as due to the traffic, we arrived in Southampton an hour late. The bus ride is not particularly scenic so it's a good time to take a nap until Winchester which was a charming town and I might chose to stay there if I ever sail from Southampton again.
The Southampton bus station is very small and there were no taxis there when the bus arrived and it was a bit of a scrum to get your luggage through all of the people. I think many of the other travelers used Uber to get transportation but I'm not sure as we walked with our luggage to the Premier Inn.
I would definitely do this again as an economical transfer as it cost about $50 for the two of us. We did arrange for a private transfer after the cruise as we were flying out the same day.