Despite its small size, the UK is able to boast one of the world’s largest and strongest cruise industries. It may be our island status, or our proud maritime past, or the fact that other countries get countless more hours of sun — but Britons can’t seem to get enough of holidaying out on the open ocean. Thankfully, there’s a strong cruise infrastructure to help UK cruise fans take to the seas and explore the world aboard some of the world’s best-loved and most cutting edge cruise ships.
Without stepping foot on an airplane, UK holidaymakers can explore almost everywhere in the world, from the sun-soaked Mediterranean to the paradise islands of the Caribbean Sea, and the enigmatic east coast of the USA to the pure beauty of the Norwegian Fjords. Boarding a cruise ship from the ports of the UK can open up a whole world of freedom and opportunity, exploring some of the planet’s most majestic regions and enjoying incredible experiences.
The only problem is, this freedom can make it difficult to decide where to cruise. With almost endless cruising options, where do you decide to voyage with friends and family? To make life a little easier, we’ve put together a list of seven of our favourite cruise itineraries which start and end in the UK.
These are the seven best round trip cruises from the UK.
QM2’s Transatlantic Voyage
Cunard, Queen Mary 2
Perhaps the most celebrated and mythical cruise route of them all, Southampton to New York has long been Cunard’s flagship course. Heading east across the Atlantic, this voyage may not have the daily port visits offered by other entries on this list, but Cunard have packed the QM2 with luxurious features and amenities to ensure the week-long stay at sea is always enriching and always intriguing.
As one of the few liners offering this route, the Queen Mary 2 sails this itinerary regularly in both directions, giving you the freedom to select one leg of the journey or both. By booking individual legs, you can give yourself some time to spend in the Big Apple, exploring everything that New York has to offer.
Although the voyage is available almost all year round, we’d recommend heading over to New York during the festive period. Few places in the world are as magical as the Big Apple when the snow is falling and merriment is in the air. Plus, New Year celebrations aboard the QM2 are an unforgettable experience.
Sunshine of the Canaries
Royal Caribbean, Independence of the Seas
The Canary Islands have long been the Briton’s winter sun getaway of choice. As the dark nights close in around much of the northern hemisphere, and even the Mediterranean nations suffer spells of dismal weather, the southerly position of the Canary Islands provide a wonderful respite from the wind, rain, snow and chills suffered by the rest of the continent.
Royal Caribbean’s Southampton-based Independence of the Seas cruises these delightful islands throughout the year, providing one of the liner’s most enduringly popular itineraries. Stopping off at Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote in the Canaries, you’ve got the chance to enjoy the best of the islands’ beaches and chilled-out vibes.
The itinerary offers much more than just a trip to the Canary Islands, with stops in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon as well as the wonderful volcanic island of Madeira and a couple of wonderful Spanish cities. As with all Royal Caribbean cruises, this trip is ideal for families – heading over towards fun destinations with a huge range of on-board activities for all ages and tastes.
The Norwegian Fjords
Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Cruises
The beauty of the Fjords defies superlatives, offering some of Europe’s most breath-taking views and experiences. Dramatic, ice-capped mountains flank winding waterways with row upon row of indigenous ferns looking out over your ship protectively. Cruising through the Norwegian Fjords really is one of the great cruise experiences.
The Celebrity Eclipse tour of the Fjords takes you through the very heart of the region, visiting many of Norway’s most charming coastal towns. From the fairy tale city of Ålesund to the sleepy village of Flåm; the Norwegian Fjords cruise by Celebrity Cruises plots a course which allows you to experience the rich personality of Norway. And if you’re lucky enough to book passage during the colder months with a clear night’s sky overhead, you may be treated to a top-deck performance by the Northern Lights.
Celebrity Cruises’ well-earned reputation for providing luxurious passage should not be understated, either. After a day exploring the cold reaches of the Fjords, let the on-board team take care of you in the delightful restaurants, bars and entertainment venues provided on Celebrity Eclipse.
Northern Cities of Europe
Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Cruise Line
From the Celts to the Vikings, the Germanic Tribes to the Anglo Saxons, Northern Europe has long been defined by nomadic civilisations travelling across waters to settle new lands and conquer old foes. This has led to a unique and eclectic selection of culture dotting the coastal regions of countries in the north of the continent.
The Northern Cities of Europe cruise aboard the Norwegian Jade gives you a chance to explore some of the most beautiful and enigmatic cities which are practically on our doorstep. From Southampton, a short cruise across the North Sea will take you to Scandinavian capitals and centres of European culture.
Explore Rotterdam, one of the world’s proudest maritime cities; then head to Oslo, Norway’s capital of Viking intrigue; from there, Denmark’s super-stylish capital, Copenhagen, is just a day away; and then onto Hamburg, Germany’s jewel from the Middle Ages. This exploration in the lap of NCL luxury provides the chance to learn a lot (or relax a lot) through the most enchanting stretches of the continent.
Balmoral, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Who’d have thought that it would be possible to journey from the UK to the wonderful islands in the Caribbean Sea without even stepping foot on a plane? The quintessentially British line, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines offers one of the most amazing itineraries departing from the UK’s capital of cruising, Southampton, the Caribbean Discovery.
This 32-night cruise takes you from our humble shores across the Atlantic Ocean (stopping off in beautiful Madeira along the way) to the delightful islands of the Caribbean Sea. Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia and St Kitts & Nevis are just a handful of the paradise islands you’ll get to explore as part of this amazing itinerary aboard the Balmoral.
With white sandy beaches, deep blue seas, lines of palm trees and rum-based cocktails aplenty, you’ll be amazed how quickly you can get into the Caribbean spirit with the help of Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
Crown Princess, Princess Cruises
Always one of the most popular routes from our fair shores, the Mediterranean is absolutely blessed with wonderful cities and regions, absolutely ripe for exploration. The best of Spain, France and Italy can be enjoyed following just a short cruise journey from the UK’s south coast.
One of the most comprehensive and popular routes is traversed by Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess, taking in Barcelona, Corsica, Rome, Florence, Genoa and Marseilles on a non-stop tour of the continent’s highlights. There’s even a chance to explore the unique island of Gibraltar on the return leg of this unforgettable cruise.
We’d recommend enjoying this amazing itinerary during the warmer months of the year, when you’ll get long, sunny days to explore the best of the Mediterranean. And once you’re back on the ship for the evening, Princess Cruises’ much-loved Movies Under the Stars is the perfect place to while away the night, watching old classic films and modern blockbusters on the top deck of the ship.
The Beauty of Iberia
Ventura, P&O Cruises
Criss-crossing between Europe and Northern Africa, the 14-night Iberia cruise aboard P&O Cruises’ Ventura is a chance to explore the very best of this charming part of the world. With stops in Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Morocco and the Portuguese island of Madeira; this cruise provides a wonderful blend of culture, beauty and opportunities to soak up the sun’s rays on a beautiful beach.
Following two days at sea, this cruise will take you straight to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where you’ll be able to explore one of the oldest cities on the continent. Then it’s onto Cadiz, Cartagena and Malaga, three beautiful Spanish cities all offering unique cultural experiences and intrigue.
But perhaps the highlight of the trip is the chance to venture into Morocco’s enigmatic city, Casablanca. Few cities have been romanticised as much as Morocco’s largest city, offering visitors the chance to explore palaces, bazaars and much more in this clash of cultures.
Although we’ve highlighted just seven, there are an abundance of cruises departing from the UK, journeying to every corner of the globe. For a full range of deals from Cruise1st UK, head over to our homepage, here.
There are numerous dates for all of the itineraries on this list of the seven best round trip cruises from the UK. If any of these cruises have taken your fancy, please contact the Cruise1st UK team on 0808 274 6777 for the full list of dates and prices as well as additional information.
Image credits: Roderick Eime