Heritage: the volunteers sharing the best of Southampton with visitors

Heritage: the volunteers sharing the best of Southampton with visitors

by Martin Brisland.

For more than ten years, a band of volunteers have been quietly promoting Southampton, by helping the passengers from cruise ships calling in for the day, mainly German – Aida and Mein Schiff,  and Italian – MSC. They call themselves “The Cruise Welcome Team”.

Jack Wilson, the group’s founder, explains: “When ships dock for the day, some passengers go on organised tours. The remainder – anything up to 4,000 – come into Southampton for a look around. As a cruiser myself, I was used to being offered maps and advice at ports – there was no such provision at the terminals in Southampton, and no Tourist Information Office in the city either.

“In 2012 I gained permission to hand out maps and information to these passengers, and in 2013, I was joined by Ian Lawford. An associate of Ian’s, Glen Gardner, arranged with ABP to run a pop-up souvenir shop at the terminals, while Ian and I ran a “Welcome Desk”, both under the name of Glen’s business “Oceans”.

“In 2014 “Oceans” closed, so in 2015 I agreed with ABP to run the Welcome Desk under the name of See Southampton, the Tourist Guides’ organisation to which I belong.

“As all other sources had stopped producing city tourist maps, one of my colleagues, Godfrey Collyer, undertook to gather sponsors, and produce our own maps.

“From 2016 to 2019 we increased the number of volunteers, and so the number of ships we could meet. In 2019 we assisted Laura Campbell, who was appointed to run a project looking into south coast cruise ship activities. That year we won Gold at the Southampton Stars Awards, and many volunteers obtained the Welcome Host Gold Badge qualification. 

 “The total number of ships we met from 2012 to 2019  was about 350,  and the number of passengers was over a million.

“From early 2020 to the end of 2021 no ships called, due to covid. Early in 2022, as cruise ships returned, volunteer David Hornsby who was determined to re-start the welcome desk, staffed some desks on his own – a very exhausting business!

“Go! Southampton gave us a grant, so we now have equipment and storage in four of the five terminals. 

“Our volunteers are returning, plus six recent recruits, but we can always use additional members! The ‘work’ is unpaid – not even expenses – so you have to enjoy doing it. No experience or knowledge is needed – it’s easy to pick up, and the language barrier is soon overcome with goodwill on both sides. We aim to give a professional and personal service, and volunteers are encouraged to use their own experience, knowledge and initiative, to make a direct connection with the passengers. The most important thing is the desire to make people feel welcome. The response from passengers is tremendous and heart-warming- they are grateful for our help, and we know they are impressed by the city. 

“It is a pleasure to feel connected to the docks, and to their tremendous heritage.”

If you want to help promote Southampton and help its visitors, please contact Jack Wilson at jack@seesouthampton.co.uk.

 If you decide to join, there is no formal obligation or commitment. The dates we are meeting ships are announced, and volunteers attend or not, as they choose.





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