Southampton has a good selection of hotels but it is worth noting that the city centre has been largely rebuilt in concrete since large scale destruction in 1939-45 so, IMO, it’s well equipped but not particularly picturesque. You could either stay there or perhaps nearby, it’s also very easy to make day trips by train - places to go/stay would include Portsmouth, Winchester and Salisbury all only a short distance away. There is also good touring in the New Forest National Park but you will need a car/tour for that.
Thanks this information is really helpful!
If you are departing from Southampton on your cruise then staying in Southampton would be ideal as you would be here and saves a lot of hassle uprooting on the day off departure.
Southampton has a lot to offer and has some lovely bars and restaurants plus lots of history but you could use it as a base to travel as the train station is central.
The Dolphin Hotel on the High Street have special cruise deals but Oxford Street would be a nice base to stay with a few options including The Grapes , Cargo and The Flying Dutchman .
Winchester is indeed a charming place and the old capital of England (Wessex). It is a 15-20 train ride to Southampton Central (then a short taxi ride to your cruise terminal - check which one there are many).
As already pointed out Southampton has been rebuilt in a modern style and there are not many parts of the city with the same charm. I would mainly recommend Southampton for its transport links, shopping, cultural events, live music scene, clubs and beautiful parks.Edited: 07 November 2017, 09:10
If you do decide to stay in Southampton, a new five-star hotel opened last month. It is not cheap.
If you want a budget hotel try the popular Premier Inn in West Quay Road/Harbour Parade. Note there is another less well located PI in Southampton and soon there will be another. Book direct on PI's website for the best price. These increase as the date of stay approaches. Because there can be well over 10,000 people embarking on cruise ships when four or even five are in port it pays to book ASAP to avoid disappointment.
Southampton is a good base from which to explore the area but the city itself, while a good shopping centre, does not have a huge amount of interest. It is well served by trains with Portsmouth and Salisbury only about 30 minutes away and Bournemouth a little longer.
Lots of ideas about places in the area around Southampton in a similar recent thread here:
I'm a fan of Sherborne in Dorset ( posts #17, 20 and 22 on the thread), but would also recommend Salisbury or Winchester. Or Portsmouth if you're interested in naval history, or Brockenhurst in the New Forest if your main interest is country walks, or Weymouth or Poole for the seaside, or Dorchester as a small county town with a jumble of historic interests including Neolithic-henge-cum-Roman-amphitheatre (Maumbury Rings), Iron Age hill fort (Maiden Castle), Roman walls and town house, medieval, Tudor, Victorian bits, plus associations with Thomas Hardy.
You're spoiled for choice really, and all these places have rail links to Southampton. Enjoy researching!