Liverpool (Photo:SilvanBachmann/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

Jamey Bergman
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Liverpool

Liverpool is a small but thriving city that is poised to flourish, quietly but steadfastly winning back its reputation after a half-century of struggle and economic decline. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2004) and the European Capital of Culture (2008), the last decade has seen Liverpool's fortunes greatly improved. The recipe for success has been a heavy investment in development, both leading up to and following on from the plaudits of the mid-2000s, and the city is now reaping the rewards of that investment in increased tourism and retail.

Shore Excursions

Liverpool features shore excursions that cover an array of landmarks, activities and experience.

About Liverpool


Pro

Take in the Albert Docks, browse the many gorgeous shops and admire the architectural beauty of this maritime city

Con

While the city has plenty of chain restaurants, its independent food scene is lacking somewhat

Bottom Line

A charming city with a fascinating history and vibrant fashion, culture, music and scene


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Fortunately for cruise passengers, much of Liverpool's redevelopment and revitalization projects have taken place in the city center, alongside the waterfront where cruise ships dock. Serving as prime examples, the revitalized Albert Dock houses numerous restaurants and attractions -- like the Beatles Story -- and the adjacent billion-pound Liverpool One retail park is the U.K.'s largest open-air retail complex.

In terms of infrastructure dedicated specifically to cruising, in 2013, the city began a feasibility study on the Cunard Building -- one of the elegant edifices making up the "Three Graces" on Liverpool's Pier Head waterfront -- for use as the new Liverpool Cruise Terminal in 2015. Also in 2013, Liverpool achieved "turnaround status" -- allowing cruises to start and end at the city's docks. This combination of the potential new cruise terminal, along with Liverpool's moves to woo passenger vessels back signal a strong commitment by the city to continue its long, rich maritime history.

Liverpool's favorable position on the River Mersey, along with its direct canal and railway links to the industrial Midlands allowed it to develop as a major international trading port as early as the 17th century. In the early 20th century, shipbuilding yards and docks stretched for miles along both banks, and more than 100 passenger ships were Liverpool-registered. In the days before air travel, these passenger liner companies such as Cunard and Canadian Pacific carried millions of immigrants to new lives in North America, while a host of other steamship lines connected Liverpool with South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

And the history of Liverpool's shipping success is reflected in its architecture. At Pier Head, just prior to WWI, Cunard Line began construction on its brand-new headquarters. The third of the Three Graces was completed in 1916, standing between the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board building (now called the Port of Liverpool Building) and the Royal Liver Building.

Just inland from Pier Head other shipping line headquarters, mercantile trading companies and civic buildings set up shop, creating an architectural legacy now recognized with UNESCO World Heritage status. The city boasts some 2,500 grade listed (historic) buildings and 250 public monuments. The Albert Dock alone (built in 1848), makes up Britain's largest group of Grade I listed buildings.

Conveniently, nearly everything of interest to the visitor is within a 10- to 30-minute walk or a short train under or boat ride across the River Mersey. And cruise passengers arriving in the city will find a warm welcome from Liverpudlians who are enjoying renewed confidence that their city has overcome the difficulties of its recent past.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships dock at Princes Parade in a temporary tent-like building near the Titanic Memorial. The site is adjacent to the famous skyline trio of the Royal Liver Building, the Port of Liverpool Building and the former Cunard headquarters. As noted, in 2013, Liverpool City Council bought the latter building, and plans are now afoot to potentially turn it into a permanent cruise terminal as soon as 2015.

It is a ten-minute walk upriver to the Albert Dock for the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Beatles Story and several good lunchtime restaurants. Buses, including the hop-on-and-off sightseeing services, are a five-minute walk, while the ferries across the Mersey depart from an adjacent upriver landing stage. The UNESCO-designated Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City is one block inland.

Port Facilities

The song "Ferry Across the Mersey" is played when you board and leave one of Liverpool's historic boats that sail between the city and the opposite bank. During rush hours, the ferries carry commuters between Liverpool and Seacombe, a suburb, but it's the off-peak hours (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) that will interest most visitors. The roomy boats, built in the 1960's, have lots of indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a snack bar. Departing the landing stage, the boat heads down the Mersey past the former docks, warehouses and new housing construction, then crosses the river stopping at Seacombe (Wallasey) for the aquarium and an attractive riverside walk to New Brighton, an old-fashioned resort town. The second stop is Woodside (Birkenhead) for the city's heritage trail. Birkenhead had the first publicly funded park, serving as a model for what would become New York's Central Park. Ferries leave Liverpool on the hour from Pier Head, adjacent to the cruise ship landing stage. To make the 50-minute cruise, buy a River Explorer ticket that costs ?12 for adults; ?9 for seniors and students; and ?6.50 for children.

Mathew Street, four blocks inland from Pier Head, is the site for much of Liverpool's live DJ and rock and roll entertainment, including the famous Cavern Club and the Cavern Pub, both with early Beatles connections. Next door, the Hard Day's Night Hotel, offering Beatles-themed rooms and holiday packages, also has a themed restaurant called Blake's named for Sergeant Pepper album cover artist Sir Peter Blake. A free music festival takes place in Liverpool every August Bank Holiday.

Getting Around

Two hop-on-and-off bus operators are City Sightseeing and City Explorer Bus Tour. The latter's website gives details for mini-break passes that include such attractions as City Explorer, the Beatles Story, Mersey Ferries, Seacombe Aquarium and the Tower Experience at Liverpool Cathedral. Both operators, plus local buses, stop at Pier Head. The nearest Merseyrail (local trains) stop is two blocks inland at James Street Station behind the Port of Liverpool Building.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The local currency is the British Pound. For current currency conversion figures, visit Oanda or XE online. You will find ATMs at many bank branches. Banks usually take a commission when exchanging currency, while some travel agents and exchange offices advertise commission-free exchange. Check the rates they offer. Credit cards are widely accepted, but please note that many taxis do not take them.

Language

When in England, English is always your best bet.

Food and Drink

Several popular lunchtime eateries (open by 11 a.m.) are located within walking distance of the landing stage in the mid-19th century World Heritage buildings that make up the Albert Dock warehouses. Est Est Est is an Italian/Mediterranean-style restaurant located next door to the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Blue Bar & Grill offers an eclectic menu with grilled specialties, and dining is inside or outside on a balcony overlooking the waterfront.

One restaurant with an ocean liner theme is the Seven Seas Brasserie at the Liner Hotel, Lord Nelson Street, just to the left of Lime Street (railroad) Station and one block up. The lobby, bar, restaurant, function rooms, corridors and bedrooms are attractively decorated with shipping posters, prints and photographs. Fresh fish menu items are a good choice. The Liner is also a moderately priced and well-located hotel option.

Hope Street (along the way to the Gothic-style Liverpool Cathedral and the starkly modern Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King) is the city's "restaurant row," and two choices are the London Carriage Works at No. 40, which offers brasserie-style food at lunch (around ?10 per person) and more refined fare at dinner (at least ?30 per person for three courses without wine) along with the city's largest wine list, and the pan-Mediterranean Ego restaurant and bar serving tapas and meze options as well as pasta, fish, steak and pizza mains, all for under ?15, apart from the steak.

Just a few streets up from the Chinatown gate and relatively near to the restaurants on Hope Street, on Bold Street, is a delightful little eatery called Italian Club Fish, which serves a simply delicious Italian take on fresh seafood. Oysters, prawns and langoustine are regularly on the menu along with more traditional Italian fare. Prices for mains are between ?15-20.

Shopping

Beatles souvenirs of any kind -- post cards, photos, refrigerator magnets, mugs, glasses, tea towels, ties, socks, books and of course music. Purchases may be made at the Beatles Story, Albert Dock and several Mathew Street stores, located four blocks inland from Pier Head.