The joys of holidays afloat are once again tantalisingly close. Along with enhancing their already robust health protocols, many cruise lines are embarking on a phased return to service by boosting departures from ports all over Britain. I can think of no better opportunity than the 'Year of the Staycation'. But cruising from the UK needn’t mean you’re restricted to Blighty. The Mediterranean, the Canaries, Scandinavia and more can easily be reached without needing to set foot on a plane. Whatever you seek from your voyage, it’s never been easier to set sail from home shores.
All departures are in 2021 unless otherwise specified.
Best cruises sailing from UK
Round-trip, no-fly cruises from Southampton are offered by several of the larger lines. For guaranteed good weather, consider the Canary Islands with Royal Caribbean. As well as visiting Lanzarote, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, Anthem of the Seas will call at Madeira and Lisbon in Portugal and Vigo in mainland Spain. Beyond the huge range of onboard activities that make the ship so family-friendly, Anthem benefits from attractions such as North Star: the world’s tallest viewing deck on a cruise ship.
The 12-night cruise departs July 4 this year (from £1,789pp) or October 5, 2022 (from £1,539pp), full board (royalcaribbean.com).
Venture even further north into Norway with Aurora Expeditions, whose voyage aboard Greg Mortimer reaches all the way to Svalbard. This trip is all about the North Atlantic’s wildest island outposts, from Orkney to the Faroes and beyond to Jan Mayen, home to the world’s most northerly active volcano. Sailing on into perpetual daylight allows round-the-clock wildlife viewing: experiences that you’ll learn how to capture with specialist photographer Scott Portelli. Expect seabirds, whales, walruses and, above all, polar bears.
The 15-night cruise departs Aberdeen on June 5, 2022. From £8,396pp, full board, including excursions (auroraexpeditions.co.uk).
For a really action-packed voyage, this Southampton to Stockholm sailing ticks plenty of boxes. Calling into ports in no less than nine different Baltic Sea states, it’s a thorough immersion into the region’s varied cultures. The itinerary is particularly appealing to second-timers as several obvious ports of call (such as Helsinki or Riga) are replaced by less-visited options (Kotka in Finland, Liepaja in Latvia). Essentials, such as an overnight in St Petersburg remain, as do Tallinn, Copenhagen and other favourites.
The 12-night cruise departs June 2. From £8,409pp, all-inclusive (rscc.com).
Make it the Med
After replacing its planned summer schedule with a series of UK short-break cruises, Princess Cruises will resume its regular sailings in late September. This two-week trip to the Med is typical of the line’s well-balanced itineraries, with stops at favourite ports including Barcelona, Marseille and Gibraltar. Cadiz, Livorno and Civitavecchia provide access to Seville, Florence and Rome; and with six full days at sea, there’s lots of scope for indulgent relaxing as you make the most of this impressive tour.
The 14-night, round-trip cruise departs October 22. From £1,099pp, full board (princess.com).
We may no longer be in the EU, but Europe itself is no further away, so take advantage of the opportunity to get a taste for the Continent’s finest grapes. Sailing from Newcastle with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, join a two-week jaunt to the wine regions of Portugal, France and Spain aboard Balmoral, the line’s largest ocean-going vessel. As well as taking in La Coruna, Oporto and Honfleur, the intoxicating itinerary’s overnight in Madeira coincides with the island’s annual wine festival. Balmoral is also nimble enough to navigate the Gironde and Garonne rivers to reach Bordeaux for sampling Medoc and Merlot.
The 16-night cruise departs September 4. From £1,799pp, full board (fredolsencruises.com).
Southampton is a fantastic departure point for the Norwegian fjords. P&O Cruises has a round-trip departure next spring aboard the brand’s newest ship, Iona, in what will be its maiden season. With four swimming pools, a spa, 15 restaurants and 13 entertainment venues, passengers will find plenty of distractions to fill their time when not being mesmerised by incredible scenery on shore. The first port of call is Stavanger, after which waterfalls, glaciers, wilderness and the rawness of nature steal the show.
The seven-night cruise departs April 30, 2022. From £587pp, full board (iglucruise.com).
Tall ship touring
Beyond cruising’s resumption itself, this summer’s most thrilling news is the launch of Tradewind Voyages’ Golden Horizon. The world’s largest square-rigged sailing vessel will celebrate its maiden season with an eight-strong series of tailored voyages around Britain, as well as visits to Norway and Denmark. A replica of France II, a 1912-built ocean vessel, the ship combines contemporary comforts and all sea-view accommodations with nautical elegance and sustainability (she’s predominantly powered by currents and winds). An unusual itinerary combines Newcastle, Whitby and Berwick-upon-Tweed.
The five-night Eastern Coastal Contrasts voyage departs Harwich on July 1, From £1,049pp, full board (mundycruising.co.uk).
For a different take on Scottish cruising, how about navigating the Caledonian Canal? Connecting Fort William on the west coast to Loch Ness and Inverness, the canal is one of the world’s great (albeit lesser-known) waterways. It traverses the heart of Scotland via pepperpot lighthouses, Castle Urquhart and the series of locks known as Neptune’s Staircase, all under the brooding gaze of Ben Nevis and epic Highland scenery. This season is already sold out, so book ahead for next year.
The six-night voyage departs Oban or Inverness between April and October. From £2,080pp, full board (themajesticline.co.uk).
Best of British
To explore home turf more thoroughly, circumnavigate the nation. This voyage from Southampton takes in Falmouth (for coast walks and Cornish cream teas) before crossing the Irish Sea to drop anchor in Dublin and Belfast. Then it’s up via Oban and into the Minch to seek minke whales, basking sharks and other marine life. After Orkney, Silver Spirit calls at Dundee and Edinburgh (with an overnight stay) and culminates with a leisurely sea day before docking back in Southampton.
The 11-night cruise departs September 3. From £5,990pp, full board with butler service (silversea.com).
There’s more of a West Coast focus on this departure from Dover with Hurtigruten. The highlight is the voyage’s mix of unusual ports of call. On Rathlin Island, spot cliff-nesting seabirds and the isle’s unique golden hares. In the Hebrides, see Iona’s abbey and Islay’s whiskey distilleries, plus the Isle of Lewis’s Callanish Stones. Stops on the way back include the Isle of Man and Scilly Isles alongside lovely Fowey in Cornwall and Dorset’s unspoiled Jurassic Coast.
This 15-night British Isles cruise departs July 4 and August 1. From £3,569pp, full board (charitable.travel).
Departing from the heart of London’s naval heritage in Greenwich, Hebridean Princess calls at Bruges and Ostend before hopping down the French coast to visit Dunkirk, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Dieppe, Caen and Cherbourg. Wartime tales are commemorated all along these shores: see where 300,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo and the beaches where the D-Day landings took place. Delve deeper into history by visiting the Bayeux Tapestry before arriving back in Blighty, disembarking in Portland.
A nine-night cruise departs July 31, 2022. From £7,380, full board (mundycruising.co.uk).
Another small-ship operator serving the Scottish isles is Hebridean Adventures, whose sailings have an emphasis on wildlife. The big draws here are whales and dolphins, with a quarter of the world’s species found in Hebridean waters. Guides help to spot and identify anything from harbour porpoises to humpback whales. Inspired? Then turn your observations into sparkling prose with nature writer Karen Lloyd, who’ll teach participants how to record this magical experience.
A three-night Whale & Dolphin cruise departing August 1 costs £795pp. The three-night Nature Writing cruise (20 June, 2022) costs £975pp. Both depart Stornoway, full board (hebrideanadventures.co.uk).
Lord of the isles
Scotland’s Western Isles can be covered even more intimately on a specialist sailing. Argyll Cruising sails the Inner and Outer Hebrides aboard Splendour, a former fishing vessel that’s been converted for comfortable cruising. Departing from Dunoon, try a three-night Kyles and the Isles taster cruise around Arran, Bute and Lock Fyne, or upgrade to a six-night Inlets and Islands discovery of the region’s distilleries, deer and golden eagles (with no supplement for single travellers).
The three-night cruise, from £1,010pp, with departures in September and October. The six-night cruise departs September 18 and costs £2,040pp (argyllcruising.com).
Ice and fire
Expedition-style cruises are becoming ever more popular, so plan ahead for next year when Hurtigruten begins sailing from Liverpool to Iceland. The line’s state-of-the-art hybrid ship, MS Fridtjof Nansen, features green technologies that reduce emissions and fuel consumption to leave a lighter footprint wherever it ventures. This itinerary goes big on Nordic heritage with a stop at Stornoway (originally a Viking settlement) before voyaging around Iceland’s north coast via waterfalls, fjords, volcanic peaks and brightly-painted villages to disembark in energetic Reykjavik.
Eight-night voyage departs on May 24, 2022. From £2,890pp, full board (hurtigruten.co.uk).
River cruise specialist Riviera Travel’s first ever British Isles voyages includes two departures to Ireland aboard the refurbished MS Seaventure. Sailing from Greenock, they combine the urban edge of Dublin and Belfast with the rolling hills of Connemara and sheer Slieve League Cliffs, the tallest in Europe. Other famous sights to tick off include Dublin’s Trinity College, Galway Bay, Kylemore Abbey and medieval Kilkenny Castle.
The seven-night cruise departs July 12 or 19. From £1,999pp, full board (rivieratravel.co.uk).
Overseas holidays are currently subject to restrictions.