Editor’s note: After over a year of waiting, cruise lines are finally resuming operations with a mini-season of ex-UK itineraries around the British Isles being unveiled. You can see a list of 2021 coastal sailings and British Isles cruises here.
One of the great benefits of an ex–UK cruises – that is, a cruise that departs from a British port – is the ease in which you’re able to board. With no airport queues, no long waits in departure lounges or luggage restrictions, it’s just a case of getting to the port, unpacking and enjoying the holiday. Although some of these cruises head on epic voyages across the world, we’ve focused our attention on cruises that call at British ports, often with a stop or two in the Republic of Ireland.
Nigel Blanks, managing director of Saga Cruises, has recently suggested that, before restrictions on international cruises lift, the line will consider running itineraries around Britain “with and without ports of call” in 2020, “taking in sights such as the Jurassic coast-line, the puffins on Staffa and Giant’s Causeway to name but a few.”
With details of these types of cruises yet to be ironed out, we’ve picked six British Isles cruises for 2021 and 2022 – while Hurtigruten’s upcoming mini-cruises are also worth a mention.
This 14-night Springtime in the British Isles cruise heads from Greenwich to Edinburgh on board the luxury expedition yacht Crystal Endeavor, which carries just 200 guests and will be more often found exploring polar regions. Departing May 25, 2022, highlights include navigating the Isles of Scilly, the isolated St Kilda archipelago and exploring the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and Shetlands – plus an overnight in Edinburgh. This being Crystal, it’s not cheap: prices start from £10,619pp for 14 nights in a deluxe suite with veranda with all meals and drinks, most excursions, port taxes and gratuities.
Another luxurious option, this time on Silversea’s 294-guest Silver Spirit. The ship departs from and returns to Tower Bridge, docking next to HMS Belfast, making for an unforgettable beginning and end to the journey. As well as two overnights in London, the cruise takes in the pretty harbour town of St Peter Port, Guernsey; Fort William, flanked by the UK’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, on one side and Loch Linnae on the other; as well as the Isle of Lunga, the largest island in the Treshnish archipelago, which lies west of the Isle of Mull. The cruise lasts 14 days and fares start from £6,930pp for a twin share room.
Targeting the traditional over 50s British cruise customer, Cruise & Maritime Voyages has made a name for itself by utilising ports across the country. While the overwhelming majority of ex-UK cruises depart from Southampton, CMV regularly sails from Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle, Bristol, as well as its homeport in Tilbury. Its newest ship, Amy Johnson will sail from the Essex port on July 12, 2021 on a round-trip Grand British Isles Discovery calling at the likes of Lerwick in the Shetland Isles and Kirkwall in the Orkney Isles. The 10-night itinerary also includes a brief sojourn to France, with a stop at Honfleur. Prices start at £1,019pp for a superior twin inner room.
Occupying the same space in the market as Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines also makes fine use of Britain’s overlooked ports. Departing on July 29, 2021, this cruise on the 804-guest Black Watch heads from (and returns to) Liverpool, sailing out the city’s historic port. The cruise takes in Tarbert and Fort William, Scotland, where there is also a cruise of Loch Linnhe – as well as Stornoway, where there is scenic cruise by Bac Mòr, one of the Treshnish Isles, sometimes known as the Dutchman’s Cap. The cruise lasts five nights and fares start from £799pp for an inside cabin.
Hurtigruten tends to stay away from the word ‘cruise’; it’s true it offers something a little different to other options on this list. The operator started out delivering mail and transporting people across the west coast of Norway in the 1890s, but has since branched out to expedition voyages. On May 2, 2021, the 335-guest Spitsbergen will depart from Greenock (Glasgow), and take in the islands of Arran, Islay, Mull, St Kilda and more over 10 nights. The price is from £2,384pp for an inside cabin and includes drinks with lunch and dinner, selected excursions and wi-fi.
Regent Seven Seas has a British Isles cruise with a good focus on cities, as well as a trip to the Republic of Ireland. The 12-night roundtrip voyage on the incredibly luxurious Seven Seas Splendor departs from Southampton on May 20 2021. The cruise calls at Edinburgh (New Haven), Kirkwall, Portree, Glasgow (Greenock), Liverpool, Dublin, Belfast, Holyhead, Waterford and Portland before returning to Southampton. Fare are from £8,859pp for a double suite with veranda and include all shore excursions, unlimited wi-fi throughout the ship, unlimited beverages, including fine wines and spirits, transfers between airport and ship, if needed, and free pre-paid gratuities.
Produced in collaboration with Clouded Hills, a new resource for holidays in the UK