Heathrow or Gatwick?

Feb 18th, 2007, 10:53 AM
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Heathrow or Gatwick?

If I have a choice which airport to fly into, is one preferable to the other? We'll probably be heading right to Dover to pick up a cruise, though we may be able to spend a few days in London beforehand.
Also: Any strong opinions about which airline is "better"? I believe a number of carriers fly from our gateway city (Phila) to London. And I think U.S. carriers don't have meal service and others do, but I don't know of other differences.
poss is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 10:55 AM
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If you don't stop in London, I'd choose Gatwick (all other things being equal), because it's about 2 hours away from Dover by train, and Heathrow is 4-5 arduous hours.

If you go to London first, it's about a tossup (with a slight bias towards LHR, because the transfers are cheaper and usually easier).
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 10:56 AM
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If you're going to Dover, Gatwick. If you're going to London, either (although Heathrow is a slightly better experience IMHO)
sheila is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 11:05 AM
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Only two carriers serve PHL-London. British Airways to LHR, and USAirways to LGW.

All airlines serve 2 meals on a US-Europe flight. On the PHL-London red-eye, it'd be dinner and then breakfast. British Airways give you free booze, not sure about USAirways.

But like others are saying - LGW if you're going to Dover. Either one if you going to London for a few days.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 11:20 AM
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Unless the cruise starts in the evening of your day of arrival I wouldn't recommend arriving on the same day as the start of the cruise - too many things that could go wrong some of which couldn't even be fixed by flinging money at it.

I'd also see if you can get a car service as it's a couple of hours quicker by car to Dover and a lot less hassle.
alanRow is offline  
Feb 18th, 2007, 07:44 PM
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We're based in the Philadelphia area, too, and have flown both BA to Heathrow and USAir to Gatwick. I prefer BA, and if you're staying in London for a day or more before your cruise, I'd opt for BA. Both airlines feed you (US carriers don't serve food on domestic flights, but they have to compete on international flights, so they do serve meals).
That said, we'll be flying USAir to Gatwick this August. We're also taking a cruise (leaving from Harwich), but will stay in London for four days ahead of time. We had frequent flyer miles on United, which is in the same alliance as USAir, so that was our deciding factor.
I'd also recommend arriving in the UK at least a day before the cruise. There are too many possibilities for delays on a flight from the US, not to mention transportation to Dover. And it helps you adjust to the jet lag, too.
MacThespian is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 05:00 AM
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Thanks for the good replies.
Mac: I was thinking about coming to London a day or two before, but then I thought that'd make us even more tired. I.e. all the moving from here to there, getting on yet another mode of transportation, etc. That's why I thought we'd just bite the bullet and land in London and do some sort of transfer with our cruise line (Regent Seven Seas) straight from the airport to the port in Dover. More expensive, but seems somehow so much more simple (We're in our 70's and more tired than we used to be hauling all over the place.) Our cruise doesn' embark until 5:00, so I figure there should be ample time to travel from London (either airport) out to Dover. (I hope we can stop in Canterbury!)
Does this make sense, do you think? (Do you think it helps more to adjust to jet lag-- which we always suffer terribly-- to stay in a hotel rather than getting right on ship?)
Thanks very very much for your help!
poss is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 08:45 PM
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Just a suggestion. I would fly into Gatwick, get a minicab to Dover (or somewhere nearby) and stay there for a day or two before the cruise. A minicab is expensive but not so bad if booked ahead and it is great to know that your flight will be met. I think you will enjoy your cruise much more if you have a day or two to get over the jetlag.
Good luck,

Carolina is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 01:17 AM
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In Dover you could visit the Castle and/or stroll along the tops of the white cliffs to get some air. Here's a view of the castle:

and a couple of walking along the cliff path:
PatrickLondon is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 01:23 AM
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Gatwick to Dover stopping at Canterbury is messy if you're on a train (yet another train change, and you have to fuss with your luggage) and expensive if you've booked a car (at least two hours extra waiting time while you're looking at the Cathedral, plus diversion time, payable to someone working in Europe's richest city).

Book a car (eg from justairports) to Canterbury, stay there then get the train direct to Dover. Don't stay in Dover unnecessarily: it's hideous and unpleasant, though the Castle, its immediate surroundings and the cliff walks are wonderful.
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 11:20 AM
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Jet lag seems to hit me hardest when I fly east (that is, to Europe), so I'd recommend a day of acclimating yourself to the time zone.
I generally sleep well on a plane, so on one trip I arranged to rent a car at Heathrow and drive immediately north to our first destination. It was a mistake. Even though I initially felt completely rested, I had to stop at least twice on the trip to take a "power nap."
You don't have to stay in London. You could take a train down to Dover directly (as long as you're not driving yourself, it shouldn't be a problem), then just check into a hotel there for a day. I agree that Dover isn't the world's most glamourous city, but we'll be staying just outside it for a few days after our cruise; we'll have a car, and can visit other areas in Kent. The advantage of staying in the town, of course, is that it's closer to the cruise terminal when you do board.
If you really want to visit Canterbury, I'd recommend adding another day to your visit; that is, arrive, travel to Dover, and veg out on the first day, maybe doing some minor sightseeing. On the second day, head to Canterbury (maybe do a one-day car rental to get you there and back). You'll want to be onboard the ship before 4:00, of course, since it leaves at 5:00, and you'll have to judge for yourself if the "quick" trip to Canterbury would be worth it for you. Otherwise, there are plenty of things to keep you busy, even in the immediate Dover area.
The idea of a car service or minicab from the airport to Dover is nice, if the expense isn't overwhelming (I've never taken them, so can't offer any advice). It does take a lot of hassle out of the trip. But if you're arranging your air through the cruise line, they may be able to work something out for you if you arrive a day or two before the cruise.
And I'll second the general advice: if you're going to Dover, fly into Gatwick. It saves at least a couple of hours.
Enjoy your trip!
MacThespian is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 01:02 PM
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Thanks for the very very thoughtful advice.
I looked into accommodations in Dover, and there's nothing too terrific. I'm afraid that if we don't have a hotel/inn that's really very pleasant, the stay will be more stressful/tiring rather than less. I keep thinking what's wrong with just going straight to the ship, vegging out there for a while. Try to turn in early. We'll desperately need to get some exercise after the plane trip, but I'm hoping we can do that for a couple of hours before we board. I do wish that Dover were an appealing place, with fine accommodations, but everything I've read says no.
Thanks again!
poss is offline  

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