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6 Fantastic Destinations You Must Visit By Cruise Ship From The UK (No Flying!)

If you live in the UK or are visiting the UK from another part of the world, you might be wondering which are the best itineraries you can take if you want to sail from a UK port.

In this article, we look at the most popular cruises you might want to take from the UK. I’ve taken most of the cruises mentioned below and share my personal thoughts on each.

A cloudy February day at the Mayflower Terminal in Southampton – boarding the Queen Mary 2


The Norwegian Fjords are a very popular place to visit from the UK by cruise ship.

olden norway cruise from anthem of the seas
  • You can easily visit the fjords in a week
    • However, longer itineraries to the top of Norway are available if you want to cruise for longer.
norway olden
  • Stunningly beautiful landscapes
    • The fjords are breathtaking, A fjord is a long, deep, narrow body of water that reaches far inland. In Norway there are more than 1000 fjords around the country.
    • There are rolling green landscapes, cascading waterfalls to snow-peaked mountains. You could never get bored of the scenery.
norway stavanager constitution day
  • No need to take expensive excursions if you don’t want to.
    • You can just get off the ship and explore the towns and villages by yourself.
      • (You won’t be docked in industrial container ports. If you arrive in a port such as Zeebrugge (for Bruges) for example, you might be disappointed as you are docked miles from the town in an ugly, industrial area. This won’t happen in Norway.)

Northern Europe/Baltics

A typical Baltic cruise will stop in several Capital Cities – Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and Warnemunde, for Berlin.

Longer itineraries may add Hamburg, Riga, and ports that are sometimes part of a Norwegian Fjords cruise, such as Stavanger, Norway.

A typical Northern Europe cruise will stop in places like Bruges, Le Havre, Rotterdam.

bruges northern europe cruise
  • It is wonderful to be able to visit so many capital cities in such a short period of time
    • If you don’t have much holiday/vacation time, you can tick a lot of places off your “bucket list”
    • Normally these cruises take between 10 days and two weeks, although longer and shorter itineraries may be available.
  • The only slightly confusing thing is that many of these countries have their own currency
    • In Denmark they use the Danish Kroner. In Norway, it is the Norwegian Krone, and in Sweden they use the Swedish Krona.
    • The Euro is used by Finland, Germany, Latvia and Estonia.
baltic cruise tallin rain bike tour
Tallinn in the Rain – I got soaked on my cycling excursion!

British Isles Cruises

I love a British Isles cruise – which you might find surprising as I live in Great Britain.

  • British Isles cruises give me the opportunity to see parts of the country I am unlikely to visit otherwise.
british isles cruise
  • Port stops often include Important/famous cities
    • Liverpool, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh for example.
  • Some “British Isles” cruises have stops in The Republic of Ireland and France too.
british isles cruise
  • The currency is the British Pound in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
    • If you stop in The Republic of Ireland the currency is the Euro – as it is in France if you visit there too.
Liver Building as viewed from Emerald Princess on my last British Isles cruise

I can use public transport to visit cities and places of interest – and in Liverpool, you are docked very centrally, very close to the famous Liver Building

Find out about all the interesting ports I visited in the UK, The Republic of Ireland – and in France here:


  • You can cruise to the Mediterranean from the UK
    • Normally these itineraries are two weeks long.
la spezia
  • You can visit so many different countries
    • Cruises typically stop in France, Portugal, Italy and Spain, but sometimes smaller islands such as Malta too.
    • Search for an itinerary that goes to the countries you wish to visit.
  • All the countries around the Mediterranean Sea use the Euro
    • This makes it very easy if you want to use the local currency.
I visited the stunning Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Find out all about my eventful trip from Southampton to Barcelona and back, onboard P&O’s biggest and newest ship, Arvia here:

Canary Islands

A trip to the Canary Islands is a popular way of getting some winter sun if you live in a colder climate like the UK.

  • The Canary Islands are a Spanish archipelago, but they are closer to Africa than Europe.
    • This offers warm weather even in the winter months.
canary islands cruise
  • Trips to the Canary Islands take around two weeks from the UK
    • Popular cruise stops include Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote – and often the wonderful Portuguese Island of Madeira.
    • Other stops may include the historic city of Cadiz in Spain or Lisbon in Portugal.
canary island cruise
  • The Canary Islands are many and varied
    • Some have mountains, some have volcanoes and deserts. There are also lovely beaches to explore.
  • To get to the Canary Islands you need to sail through the notorious Bay of Biscay.
    • It may be rough – or it may be absolutely fine, you just can’t tell!

The below map shows a journey I took through the Bay of Biscay:

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Find out why the Bay of Biscay is famous for its weather here:

Cruising Through The Bay Of Biscay: What to Expect (Real Experiences)

The cruise I took from Southampton to the Canary Islands in December was very rough – but not in the Bay of Biscay, we ran into storms off the coast of Portugal.

Find out all about that cruise here:

Transatlantic Crossings

A Transatlantic cruise is a cruise that – rather unsurprisingly – crosses the Atlantic.

  • Transatlantic Cruises are Often Repositioning Cruises
    • Repositioning cruises provide some great opportunities to experience unique itineraries for cheaper prices.
    • Cruise ships usually come from the USA to Europe in spring and then return to the USA in Autumn/Fall.
    • The cruise lines usually find it more profitable for their ships to be in warmer climates during the colder months.
  • Many transatlantic cruises will extend their itineraries at either end to provide guests with a chance to either see the Caribbean or parts of Europe.
    • Itineraries might typically include Southampton, Madeira, Antigua, St Kitts, St Lucia, St Vincent and Barbados OR Southampton, Zeebrugge, Portland, Le Verdun, Bilbao, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada and Fort Lauderdale.
  • Transatlantic cruises typically take 14-16 days – but they can be completed in as little as 7 days.
    • The amount of time depends on how many port stops they make on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

A typical transatlantic cruise with no port stops will have between 6-7 sea days.

Cunard offers Transatlantic cruises year-round on the last Ocean Liner, the Queen Mary 2.

Queen Mary 2 is the last Ocean Liner at Sea, and travelling on her is a very unique experience.

Although I haven’t yet taken a transatlantic sailing trip on Queen Mary 2, I have taken a shorter one on her. Find out about that here:

Popular UK Cruise Ports

You might be wondering which are the most popular cruise ports in the UK. The largest ports are in the South of England – Many thousands of passengers sail from Southampton and Dover each year.

Some cruise companies sail from other regional ports, like Newcastle or Liverpool.

  • Southampton
    • The Port of Southampton has been welcoming passengers for over 100 years. Southampton Port has four dedicated cruise terminals; City Cruise, Mayflower, Ocean and QEII – different cruise lines tend to use different terminals.
  • Dover
    • Dover is the second-largest cruise port in the UK. It has two passenger terminals and welcomes over 200,000 cruise passengers per year.
    • Dover Port is mostly dedicated to shipping and ferries, but has the capacity to accommodate three cruise ships at once during peak season 
  • Liverpool
    • Liverpool Cruise Terminal welcomes visiting ships into the heart of the city.
    • Its cruise terminal was opened in 2007 but Liverpool has a long maritime history and was welcoming Ocean Liners to the city as far back as the 19th Century.
  • London (Tilbury)
    • Tilbury is a port that has served passenger ships since 1916.
    • Tilbury is a smaller port on the River Thames, used by cruise companies such as Ambassador, Fred Olsen and Saga
    • Tilbury operated as London’s passenger liner terminal until the 1960s. For many, Tilbury was their point of emigration to Australia under an assisted passage scheme established and operated by the Australian Government.
    • The “Ten Pound Poms” as they were known in Australia, sailed on ships such as RMS Mooltan heading for a new life “down under.”
tilbury port building
tilbury port building
  • Newcastle
    • The Port of Tyne in Newcastle is one of the UK’s most popular cruise and ferry ports.
    • Its International Passenger Terminal has two purpose-built, lock-free cruise berths. This caters for up to 2,000 passengers in a turnaround call.
    • Fred Olsen, Marella Cruises and Saga all sail from Newcastle to destinations including the Baltics, Canary Islands and Norway.
  • Portsmouth
    • Portsmouth is only around 70 miles from London.
    • Portsmouth’s dramatic harbour creates a spectacular arrival and departure for cruise ship passengers.
    • Portsmouth’s history can be traced to Roman times and has been a significant Royal Navy dockyard and base for centuries.
    • Known as the “Great Waterfront City” Portsmouth has been building a reputation for its cruise port in recent years.

Ports in Scotland

  • Leith (Edinburgh)
    • Leith is Scotland’s largest enclosed deep-water port.
    • A UNESCO World Heritage site, the port is three miles from Edinburgh, providing direct access to world-famous visitor attractions.
    • Crystal Cruises, Silversea and Oceania Cruises all sail to Iceland, Norway and Northern Europe from Edinburgh.
The sun does sometimes shine in Southampton – Departing onboard P&O’s Aurora

Before You Go

Find out what cruisers said they wish they had known before taking their first cruise below:

15 Common Mistakes – Things Cruisers Wish They Knew About Before Their First Cruise

Find out the most common destinations for people to cruise to here:

Top 10 Must-See Cruise Destinations: Discover Where Everyone’s Cruising To in 2024!

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

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