Jane Archer selects the best cruises around Britain for different clients
How can you visit four countries, unpack only once and never change any money? That’s right – take a cruise around the UK.
It’s a region often overlooked by British cruisers, but it has a lot going for it, not least the choice of lines.
Round-Britain itineraries are offered by companies including Princess Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, Saga Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, P&O Cruises and Cunard, while Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises are joining the line up in 2016.
Although many circumnavigate the UK, a growing trend is to focus on the west coast, sailing to Scotland and back the same way. Swan Hellenic, for instance, is operating a 12-day round-trip from Portsmouth next July that sails the west coast as far as Stornoway before returning via Oban in Scotland, Douglas in the Isle of Man and Waterford in Ireland.
MSC Cruises’ debut round-Britain voyage next May on MSC Splendida sails anti-clockwise from Southampton and focuses on Scotland and Ireland, although there is also a day in Hamburg.
Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 is running two 10-night cruises next summer that clients can combine to make a circumnavigation. The first leg, from July 20-29, will transport passengers from Hamburg to Dublin via Southampton, the Channel Islands and Isles of Scilly.
The second leaves Dublin the same day and calls in Northern Ireland and Scotland, before reaching Hamburg on August 7.
Most itineraries call at St Peter Port in Guernsey – because it is outside the EU, ships can sell duty-free onboard – where tours visit the German Occupation Museum and Castle Cornet. Dublin, Liverpool, Belfast and Edinburgh (accessed from the ports of Leith and Rosyth) are among popular port calls.
Several ships visit Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands for visits to the ancient Ring of Brodgar.
Best for families
Eat your heart out Nessie, as all eyes will be focused on a far more famous (and less elusive) critter next year as Mickey goes to Scotland. Disney Cruise Line’s British Isles cruise is a first for the company and takes Disney Magic on an anti-clockwise tour of the UK, visiting England, Scotland, Ireland and Guernsey, as well as a day in Le Havre for tours to Paris.
Departing on June 5, the date is no good for school-age kids, but with a nursery and playroom onboard, it is an ideal choice for new parents looking for a hassle-free break.
Book it: The 12-night British Isles itinerary starts at £7,137 cruise-only, for two adults and two children aged four and under.
Best for exploring
Luxury line Crystal Cruises is bringing its style of long port days and overnights to the UK for its first round-Britain cruise for several years. Sailing clockwise, Crystal Symphony will remain in Waterford, Liverpool and Belfast until 7pm, and stay overnight in Dublin and Edinburgh (accessed through Queensferry).
In Dublin there are walking tours, museums on everything from Jewish history to the city’s heritage and, of course, whiskey tasting. In Edinburgh, tours visit the castle and Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith. The itinerary even offers a day in Tilbury, for day-trips to London.
Book it: The 14-day Grand Britannia round-trip from Tilbury, departing July 23, 2016, starts at £4,191, on a cruise-only basis, including drinks and gratuities.
Best for islands
Why bother with the mainland when you can hop your way around the UK onboard Voyager, visiting wild landscapes, wildlife havens and ancient sites?
Voyages of Discovery’s island fling starts in Harwich, and visits the Shetland Islands and Orkney Islands, before ticking off Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis, Portree in the Isle of Skye and Tobermory in the Isle of Mull, in Scotland.
Voyager then heads south for a day in St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly, and St Peter Port in Guernsey, before finishing in Harwich.
Book it: The 12-day Britain’s Beautiful Isles itinerary, departing June 9, 2016, starts at £1,277 on a cruise-only basis.
Best for variety
Celebrate the Union in six-star style with Seabourn, as the all-suite Seabourn Quest takes passengers on a port-rich journey that ticks off England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Sailing up and down the west coast of the UK, passengers will visit old favourites such as Liverpool, Dublin and Belfast, as well as less visited harbours, including Torquay in Devon, and Ullapool and Oban in Scotland.
Also on the itinerary are Milford Haven in Wales, where passengers can learn local history on a cruise along the River Cleddau or kayak around the Pembrokeshire coast; Londonderry, where there are museums and galleries; and Cobh, where passengers can go on a Titanic-themed walking tour or take a trip to Blarney Castle.
Book it: The 16-day Celtic Quest round-trip from Dover, departing August 4, 2016, starts at £7,800, including drinks and gratuities.
Best for castles
Passengers can visit fortresses at almost every port of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines’ UK Castles itinerary onboard Balmoral.
As well as Balmoral, Dover, Dublin and Edinburgh, in St Peter Port, Guernsey, there’s the 800-year-old Castle Cornet, which stands guard over the harbour and now houses maritime and military museums.
From Falmouth in Cornwall, tours visit the 12th-century St Michael’s Mount. There’s even a choice from Invergordon – medieval Cawdor or the magnificent 19th-century Dunrobin Castle. The sailing will also take in Fingal’s Cave, famous for its cathedral-like basalt columns and natural acoustics.
Book it: The 10-night round-trip from Newcastle, departing June 18, 2016, starts at £1,199.
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