Setting sail on a cruise holiday from the UK has never been easier. More options than ever are on offer as cruise lines cater for the growing desire to take to the high seas without taking to the skies.
With cruises leaving from ports in Scotland, Liverpool, the Tyne, Bristol, London, Dover, Portsmouth and Southampton, among many others, just about the whole country is covered.
Last year, 1.2 million holidaymakers opted for no-fly cruises, either casting off on voyages across the globe, staying in waters closer to home (especially along the coast of Norway), or simply pootling around the British Isles.
Setting sail on a cruise holiday from the UK has never been easier – cruises leave from ports in Scotland, Liverpool, the Tyne, Bristol, London, Dover, Portsmouth and Southampton, among many others
That’s double the number of a decade ago. Cruise Lines International Association, which represents the industry, puts this success down to the stress-free nature of travel (no airport hassles), being able to take more luggage, and growing environmental consciousness — i.e. not wanting to fly.
Another factor is the widespread introduction of door-to-port services offering passenger and luggage pick-ups, making cruises from UK ports more convenient than ever.
With choices continuing to grow, here’s a snapshot of what’s on offer . . .
P&O Cruises offers a cruise from Southampton to the Canary Islands with wine expert and foodie Olly Smith. One of the calling points is Madeira, pictured
Take a P&O Cruises sailing to savour from Southampton to the Canary Islands with wine expert and foodie Olly Smith, whom passengers can join for special events during the voyage. In Madeira, Olly leads a tasting tour to a quinta and shares the secrets of how the local wines are made, before sitting down to a lunch of Madeira delicacies.
La Palma is the first Canary Islands stop, where guests can dive into the rugged terrain on a dune buggy off-road adventure, while on Tenerife, a ‘trolley train’ tour unearths the attractions of its capital, Santa Cruz.
Highlight: Madeiran wine-tasting.
Departure port: Southampton.
Details: A 13-night round-trip Canary Islands cruise includes calls at Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Lisbon, departing October 5, from £1,399 pp. Visit pocruises.com or call 0345 355 5111.
A Norwegian fjords cruise on board Disney Cruise Line departs from Dover. The sailing includes a visit to Geiranger, where you can speed across the fjord on a high-thrills boat ride
Join Captain Mickey Mouse to sail past Dover’s White Cliffs with Disney Cruise Line into the make-believe land of Frozen — aka Norway’s dramatic fjords, majestic glaciers and thundering waterfalls.
Hunt for trolls in Alesund, whose city roots can be traced to the Vikings — after being destroyed by fire in 1904, it was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style.
At the old Viking port of Nordfjordeid, jump in a ‘troll-car’ to explore the Briksdal Glacier, or visit Geiranger, where you can speed across the fjord on a high-thrills boat ride.
Highlight: Norwegian fjords.
Departure port: Dover.
Details: A one-week round-trip Norwegian Fjords voyage departs August 30, 2020, from £3,434 pp. Visit disneycruise.disney.go.com or call 0333 696 4123.
BEST OF BRITISH
The accommodation on board Silversea Cruises sailing around the UK and Ireland. It takes in locations such as London, Falmouth and Aberdeen
There aren’t many cruise departures as memorable as this. Set off from the heart of London with Silversea in spectacular style to sail under Tower Bridge and down the Thames on a round-Britain cruise.
Falmouth is the first stop and famously the gateway to dramatic Poldark country, while Fishguard unlocks the glorious landscapes of Wales’s Pembrokeshire coastline.
In Belfast, trace the story of the doomed ocean liner Titanic at the shipyard where it was built and, on an excursion from Aberdeen, inject a sense of grandeur at the Royal Family’s summer residence, Balmoral.
Highlight: Sailing under Tower Bridge.
Departure port: London.
Details: A 12-night round-trip including stops in Dublin and Edinburgh costs from £5,490 pp, departing on May 13, 2020. Visit silversea.com or call 0844 251 0837.
INTO THE ARCTIC
A Viking Cruises sailing from Tilbury journeys deep into the Arctic Circle and if passengers are lucky, they get to see the Northern Lights
A winter wonderland and the promise of spotting the Northern Lights awaits those who take this Viking Cruises sailing from Tilbury deep into the Arctic Circle.
At the remote town of Alta at the top of Norway, daylight lasts for just a few hours, but adventures abound with dog-sledding and reindeer sleigh rides.
Tromso is all twinkling lights and snowy streets. From here, intrepid types can embark on invigorating snowmobile rides and snowshoe hikes into the Arctic wilderness.
Highlight: The Northern Lights (if you’re lucky).
Departure port: Tilbury.
Details: A 12-night In Search Of The Northern Lights voyage to Bergen including calls at Stavanger, Bodo and Narvik departs on February 27, 2020, and costs from £3,790 pp, including return flights. Visit vikingcruises.co.uk or call 0800 298 9700.
GO WILD IN AFRICA
Passengers can sail to South Africa to see magnificent wildlife such as lions and elephants on a Cruise & Maritime Voyages journey that departs from Bristol
Watch lions stalk their prey or elephants marching through the Bushveld on safari in South Africa during this sailing with Cruise & Maritime Voyages that departs from Bristol.
Sail southwards, stopping at the remote British Atlantic territory of St Helena, where Napoleon was exiled, before arriving in Cape Town, the first of five South African stops. Next are the sultry islands of the Indian Ocean, and an opportunity to visit the old spice trading centre of Kochin in the state of Kerala.
Highlight: Rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
Departure port: Bristol.
Details: A 78-night Grand Africa & Indian Ocean Voyage leaves and returns to Bristol, departing on January 6, 2020, and costs from £4,599 pp. Visit cruiseandmaritime.com or call 0844 998 9556.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines chases the sun as it cruises to the castaway isles of the Caribbean from Liverpool. In Barbados, passengers can swim with turtles
Say farewell to Liverpool on this transatlantic voyage with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines that chases the sun as it cruises to the castaway isles of the Caribbean.
It combines island favourites such as Barbados and St Lucia with the lesser-known Mayreau and Bequia in the Grenadines and stylish French Martinique and Guadeloupe. There’s no shortage of beautiful scenery. Swimming with turtles, hiking through rainforests and snorkelling in the Caribbean are just some of the experiences that await.
Highlight: Swimming with turtles.
Departure port: Liverpool.
Details: A 32-night Idyllic Islands Of The Caribbean round-trip departs on November 6, 2020, and costs from £3,699 pp. Visit fredolsencruises.com or call 0800 084 6778.
A Marella Cruises voyage departs from Newcastle and heads to Norway. It takes passengers to the country’s biggest fjord at Sognefjord
Swap the buzzing streets of Newcastle for the peace and majesty of Norway on a voyage with Marella Cruises that takes passengers to the country’s biggest fjord at Sognefjord, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and brimming with Viking legends.
Olden is the gateway to awe- inspiring scenery, thundering waterfalls and creaking glaciers, while Haugesund unlocks the key to the country’s past as the birthplace of Norway amid myths of ancient kings and Norse gods.
Highlight: Waterfalls and glaciers in Norway.
Departure port: Tyne.
Details: A seven-night round-trip Wonders Of The Fjords sailing departs on May 30, 2020, from £902 pp. Visit tui.co.uk or call 0871 230 2800.
Hebridean Island Cruises allows guests to discover Scotland’s highlands and islands. It departs from Oban, pictured
Discover Scotland’s highlands and islands with Hebridean Island Cruises, whose ship Hebridean Princess has hosted the Royal Family on summer sailings.
This former car ferry, which styles itself as a floating high- end boutique hotel, spends the months of March to November cruising the beautiful Hebrides, showcasing the area’s culinary, natural and historical delights — from fine malt whisky and superb seafood, to grand castles.
Highlight: Whisky tastings.
Departure port: Oban.
Details: The seven-night Footloose Through The Inner Sound walking-themed voyage combines calls at the isles of Rum and Skye with a chance to visit Raasay whisky distillery and Inverewe botanical garden on the mainland. The round-trip voyage departs on April 28, 2020, and costs from £4,330 pp. Visit hebridean.co.uk or call 01756 704 704.
French boutique line Ponant in partnership with National Geographic Expeditions sails from Glasgow to the Svalbard archipelago high in the Arctic Circle – home to polar bears, walruses and whales
The icy realm of the polar bear awaits on this expeditionary voyage — with the French boutique line Ponant in partnership with National Geographic Expeditions — from Glasgow to the Svalbard archipelago high in the Arctic Circle.
Nature calls the shots on this outing, with opportunities to survey the vast seabird colonies of the Outer Hebrides and Orkney Isles, before encountering the rugged volcanic landscapes of Iceland. After crossing the Arctic Circle, the Svalbard isle of Spitsbergen holds the promise of polar bear sightings, along with reindeer, walruses and whales.
Highlight: Polar bears, walruses and whales.
Departure port: Glasgow.
Details: An 11-night cruise to Longyearbyen (Spitsbergen) departing on June 16, 2020, costs from £7,018 pp, including return flight. Visit en.ponant.com or call 0871 230 2800 or +33 4 88 66 64 00.
Passengers can sail to St Petersburg, pictured, on a Baltic voyage from Edinburgh with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
St Petersburg’s imperial splendours take centre-stage on this Baltic voyage from Edinburgh with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.
The sailing ticks off three Scandinavian capitals, with calls at Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm, plus Latvia’s charismatic capital Riga, whose medieval old town is dotted with Gothic spires and ochre-roofed houses.
But the jewel in the crown is St Petersburg, whose ornate palaces add magnificent grandeur to a city overflowing with cultural riches, from the magic of the Hermitage Museum to world-class opera and ballet.
Highlight: The palaces of St Petersburg.
Departure port: Edinburgh.
Details: A 14-night round-trip Baltic cruise departs on June 8, 2020, and costs from £1,999 pp. Visit fredolsencruises.com or call 0800 035 5130.
PROS AND CONS OF SAILING FROM THE UK
Avoid the airport queues and hassles.
Take as much luggage as you can fit into your cabin.
Your holiday starts as soon as you step aboard.
No jetlag if you’re returning from distant climes.
Ideal for older travellers, families with young children and those scared of flying.
. . . AND THE CONS
Less choice of destinations and departures.
It takes longer to get anywhere: two days to the Mediterranean, a week to get to New York and so on.
Little scope for cruise-and-stay holidays, where a hotel stay is combined with sailings.
Beware of the Bay of Biscay, which has a reputation for rough conditions.