Cruising home

With restrictions hitting overseas cruises, it’s time to explore our native waters



For cruise lovers, the past year of lockdowns and travel bans has made their favourite holidays all but impossible. But while bookings have started once more for overseas voyages, this summer sees a host of exciting new UK cruises.

With major cruise lines sending their ships to explore the British Isles, there’s a chance to head back aboard the ocean wave once more, with departures from ports across the UK.

They’re already proving hugely popular: the six short cruises from Portsmouth aboard Scarlet Lady this August, the newly launched adults-only cruises from Virgin Voyages, have been snapped up, despite being only for fully vaccinated travellers.

The new addition, focusing on millennial travellers, with boutique hotel-style cabins featuring seabeds which transform and solo options, is far from the only choice though. Several other new ships are also making their maiden voyages this summer: here’s our pick with six of the best UK cruises.

Marella Cruises to Scotland and Ireland

There are seven new UK itineraries to choose from this summer from Marella Cruises. Marella Explorer sails from Southampton to ports including Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool from June 25, while adults-only Marella Explorer 2 will be cruising from Newcastle from July 10.

The itineraries are designed to discover Britain’s history and culture, with options including the three-night Sail the South Coast, visiting Dover for Canterbury Cathedral and Portland for Abbotsbury Swannery and Gardens.

But there are longer breaks including Sail the Irish Sea in August, travelling to Dublin and Cobh in County Cork, along with cruises to Scottish ports such as Kirkwall, Leith and Edinburgh, plus the usual on-board temptations such as the Champneys spa.

Three-night sailings are priced from under £450 per person all-inclusive. Anyone aged 18 and above will need to have had both Covid-19 vaccinations at least seven days before sailing, while under 18s will be required to have a lateral flow test.

All guests must also provide proof of a negative lateral flow test before boarding — infants under two will not be able to sail, as they are exempt from testing.

MSC Virtuosa launches in the UK

The latest MSC Cruises flagship, MSC Virtuosa, is following her maiden voyage around the British Isles with a series of UK cruises this summer, departing from Southampton, Liverpool and Greenock (Glasgow), plus stops in Belfast.

Designed to be one of the most environmentally-friendly cruise ships currently at sea, it also has some high-tech temptations on board. The MSC Starship Club bills itself as an immersive entertainment experience rather than merely a bar, so you can virtually journey across space as you sip a cocktail made by a humanoid robotic bartender. The ship will also have the largest shopping area at sea with over 250 brands in 11 boutiques.

If the sun shines, there are five pools including a waterpark, with space for 1,000 guests or more, plus the usual award-winning family offering from the kids’ club including their partnership with Lego.

Priced from £299 per person for a two-night cruise, all the departures, including UK mini cruises, are available for both non-vaccinated and vaccinated British-only guests of all ages.

Any unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers aged two and above will need to take a lateral flow or PCR test within 72 hours of departure, with proof required for boarding, as well as additional testing for all guests upon embarkation. 

Princess Cruises UK Seacations

Hop aboard Regal Princess and Sky Princess for a luxurious way to explore the UK this summer, with celebrity speakers on board too. The Princess MedallionClass holidays use technology designed to personalise your experience, but which also helps reduce physical contact thanks to touchless systems.

Using the OceanMedallion wearable devices, you can board touch-free, as well as ordering all-inclusive drinks via the app (or whatever else you might fancy) — plus there’s contactless payment and unlimited WiFi. You can even use it to track down friends and family on board.

Princess also has a celebrity speaker line-up as part of the Encounters with Discovery at Sea programme this summer, including Rob Rinder, Sally Gunnell and Tessa Sanderson among others, plus destination experts and a maritime lecturer to give insights into travelling the world and what it’s like working at sea.

Departing from Southampton, the cruises include stops in Belfast, Liverpool and Greenock (Glasgow), as well as Portland.

All-inclusive balcony cruises cost from £389 per person. All passengers on the UK-only Seacations cruises must be residents of the UK or CTA (Common Travel Area, including the Channel Islands and Ireland) and be fully vaccinated, with a minimum of seven days since the second dose.

A negative Covid-19 test is required at the port before embarking, with testing included in the cruise fare. 

Tall ship cruise around the South West

For a UK cruise with a difference, step on board the world’s largest tall ship, the 272-guest Golden Horizon. A near replica of the 1913-built ocean vessel France II, there’s a ten-night cruise sailing around the South West peninsula this summer from Liverpool to Harwich, for the romance of an old-fashioned wind-powered voyage.

There are plenty of modern comforts though; all cabins are outward facing, many with balconies, along with single cabins.

Departing on July 25, the cruise stops at the Isle of Man, Holyhead, Fishguard, Ilfracombe, the Scilly Isles, Dartmouth and Lyme Regis before arriving in Harwich, with all meals included, as well as free drinks plus a free cabin upgrade for the ship’s maiden season.

Priced from £2,249 per person, book with specialist cruise agent Mundy Cruising. Guests are not required to have had a Covid vaccination for domestic voyages but will have to complete a health screening questionnaire and have pre-boarding temperature checks, among other precautions.

Fred Olsen ‘Welcome Back’ cruises

There’s a new series of cruises to showcase the best of the British Isles this summer from Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, dubbed the ‘Welcome Back’ programme. Focused on cruises to soak up the scenery from the sea, with no ports of call, or those visited by the line’s smaller ships, there are 11 cruises to choose from.

Departing from Dover and Liverpool, new ship Borealis will be among those sailing the British Isles, with her three-night maiden voyage from Liverpool on July 5, followed by Bolette departing on her maiden voyage from Dover on August 16.

Unlike some other cruise lines focusing on the main UK ports, the programme will be exploring smaller islands including the Shetland and Orkney isles, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands, spotting sights such as Fingal’s Cave in the Inner Hebrides, the Old Man of Hoy and the Needle in Orkney, as well as some scenic cruises with views of the Faroe Islands.

There’s also a chance to see wildlife including puffins and orca, with experts from marine wildlife charity ORCA sharing tips on how to spot the sea life and giving passengers the chance to help in conservation research.

Priced from £529 for a three-night cruise. Travellers are not required to be vaccinated at present for UK destinations, but lateral flow tests are needed eight days and three days before sailing, with a further test taken immediately before boarding if both previous tests are negative.

Viking’s scenic welcome back

Viking’s newest ocean ship is also making her maiden voyage around the UK this summer, after Viking Venus sailed into Portsmouth in May. The first cruises were booked up in a week, so new dates have already been added for late June, sailing from Portsmouth and calling at Liverpool, the Isles of Scilly, Falmouth and Portland.

The itinerary, called England’s Scenic Shores, features various excursions; four are included, such as a chance to explore the subtropical Tresco Abbey Gardens, plus there are ‘privileged access’ options including a visit to a Cornish tea plantation, along with other tours and chances to visit some of the country’s historic houses.

Priced from £1,690 per person, Viking’s cruises are currently available exclusively for vaccinated guests, with a lab on every Viking ocean ship for frequent PCR tests, as well as new air purification technology on all Viking ships.


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