In 2010 "no fly" cruises have become one of the fastest growing sectors, but from how many ports in the UK would you think that you can start a cruise? I'm sure most people would come up with an answer of four or five, naming Dover and Southampton as the obvious big too, and then perhaps also adding Harwich and Liverpool. In fact there are a staggering eighteen different UK ports where you can embark on a cruise, well we are an island after all!
Let's start with the main ports for UK cruises, the so called "London ports", i.e. Dover and Southampton. Okay neither are exactly in London, but of Luton and Gatwick can claim to be "London airports" then I guess Dover and Southampton can take an equally creative licence. I guess what is closer to the truth is the fact that these two ports are the major gateways for customers emanating from London. In my opinion Dover still has connotations of being a ferry port, but when you discover that upmarket cruise lines such as Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, Princess, Crystal Cruises, and Yatchts of Seaborn all operate cruises from Dover, you realise that such perceptions of down market ferries is way off the mark. In addition, popular cruise lines such as Fred Olsen, Costa, and MSC also operate from Dover. In August 2010 there are over 20 cruises departing from Dover. At a recent cruise event a learned cruise agent asked a cruise line why they operated from Dover and not Southampton, as the latter was "more popular". The answer was based on the fact that cruises to the Norwegian Fjords from Dover could be neatly wrapped up as 7 day cruise itineries, whereas if they commenced from Southampton they would spill over in to 9 day cruises. So there you go! This fact is supported by the fact that a great majority of the cruises during the summer from Dover are northern Europe oe Baltic cruises. Holland America have an unusual transatlantic itinaerary from Dover to Boston on 03 August 2010. Princess are operating cruises to the Arctic in summer 2011 from Dover. Quite often to encourage early bookings, cruise lines will offer free car parking at Dover, which can save you around £50.
Southampton is seen as the flagship embarkation port for "no fly" cruises ex-UK. There are four cruise terminals, the Queen Elizabeth II, the Ocean, the City, and the Mayflower terminals, spanning two miles of waterfront. The regal Cunard line operates out of Southampton, as does the UK's biggest cruise line P&O, and the increasingly popular Royal Caribbean and it's five star sister Celebrity, collectively offers a wide selection of cruises to the Mediterranean, northern Europe and transatlantic trips. By the summer of 2011 there will be well over 40 departures per month from Southampton, and Royal Caribbean's super liner Independence of The Seas will be based there on a year round programme. Southampton's definitely in vogue and with fast trains from London Waterloo taking only 75 minutes, plus rail access from the following towns across the country: Brighton (direct every hour); Oxford; Birmingham; Salisbury (2 trains per hour); Bath; Bristol; Cardiff; Chichester (2 trains per hour); Gatwick Airport; Weymouth (2 trains per hour); Bournemouth (3 trains per hour); Winchester (4 trains per hour); Fareham (4 trains per hour) and Portsmouth (2 trains per hour)
Now for those who live in London and don't even want to travel down to Dover or Southampton, you can actually take a cruise from the heart of London, on what used to be the main artery of England's capital city, the river Thames. Silversea offer a series of cruises this summer departing from Tower Bridge, to a range of destinations in the Med and Northern Europe on it's Silver Cloud. In addition upmarket cruise line Oceania operate from London, as do Holland America with their beautiful five star ship the MS Princendam which anqors in the middle of the Thames and accessible by launch from Greenwich Pier. In addition at the end of the river Thames in the Thames estuary is the Port of Tilbury which houses the London Cruise Terminal, the city's only deep water purpose-built cruise facility. Specialist cruise line Cruise and Maritime is operating a number of cruises on it's Marco Polo ship to a range of destinations in the Med, the Baltics and the Fjords this summer. The Tilbury cruise facilities are being developed to handle an uplift in capacity in time for the 2012 London Olympics.
Moving anti-clock wise or Eastward up the coast the next port of call is Harrwich which in summer 2010 features a selection of cruises from Royal Caribbean, Costa and educational cruise line Voyage of Discovery.
The family friendly and action packed Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas will 12 night roundtrip Scandinavia and Russia cruises, whilst Voyages of Discovery will operate no-fly cruises from Harwich during the summer months to the Baltic's, Norwegian Fjords, Norway's North Cape and far flung Greenland.
Up the East cost further and Hull in 2011 will be featuring Cruise and Maritime's Ocean Princess, a relatively smaller vessel that will operate to some interesting cruises during the spring and early summer to the Fjords and the Baltics. The same ship will also be operating out of Newcastle in 2011 with similar itineraries, along with Fred Olsen's Boudicca with cruises to Scandinavia and Iceland. Can you imagine the irony of taking an ex-UK cruise to go and see the now imfamous Icelandic vulcano shooting out it's ash! Further again up the East coast and over the border in to Scotland and we have Edinbrugh port. Again it's Fred's Boudicca and C&M's Ocean Princess running out not surprisingly to the Baltics, Russia and Norway, which is a lot quicker than if you're starting out from Dover, so those in the South East don't reap all the benefits. Also for Edinburgh's rich bankers (yes the bonuses are back) there's the super slick Silversea operating a one off cruise in the Whitsun 2011 bank holiday week enticingly entitled "In the Footsteps of the Vikings", and for anyone who's not been on Silversea, I can assure you it's a tad more comfortable than a long-boat!
Staying in Scotland, you can cruise from Inverness with Lindblad Expeditions around the Scottish Highlands on their Lord of the Glens ship. For the Glasswegians amongst our readers, they will probably know that you can cruise from Greenock next summer three times to the Med or the Canaries witgh Fred Olsen. Finally in Scotland, the little known port of Scrabster operates just one cruise this summer on the Hebredian Princess to the Northern Isles, but you'll have to hurry as it departs on 15 July 2010, and the same ship also operated 4 cruiese around the Hebredies this autumn from Fairlie.
Completing the Scottish options,Fed Olsen's Boudicca operated a few Fjord and Icelandic adventures from Oban and Rossyth.
Moving down the west coast we come to the historic port of Liverpool, where again it's the double act of Cruise & Maritime and Fred Olsen serving up a variety of Fjord, Iberian and Canary Island options, including the Canaries over the Christmas period. There's also a Christmas Canaries cruise from that great marine town of Falmouth and a few itineraries to Northern Europe & the Med from closely Plymouth with Cruise & Maritime's Ocean Countess. Finally from what is probably England's most famous naval port, Portsmouth, there are a good variety of cruises ranging from six-star Silversea, specialist brand Swan Hellenic and the ship that has to get around the most UK ports in a year, Fred Olsen's Boudicca which again offers some Christmas cruising around the Canaries.
So there you have it, all 18 ports in the UK from where you can enjoy a "no-fly" cruise.
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