It’s been a year, and it’s felt like a lifetime, but the time has finally come; the seas are restarting.
This month marks the beginning of the return to cruising we’ve all waited for. Staycations, Seacations, English Coastal Cruises and Summer Soirees; whatever you choose to call them, summer sailings around the UK are happening in a matter of days and we’re ready for the embarkation of a lifetime.
Have you booked yours? Probably. If not, why not? Here’s our ship-by-ship guide to the return of cruising, with all the cruise lines sailing from the UK over the next few months rounded up in one place. Which will welcome you back to sea first? (Also, it’s fine to book more than one, right? Asking for a friend…)
It’s finally here – the return of cruising – and May doesn’t just bring ships back to the seas, it brings the debut of two brand new vessels, both of which are spending their summer on our home shores.
It’s been a long, hard slog of home schooling, with family holidays cancelled, lockdown birthdays, grandparent hugs on hold and a distinct lack of babysitters. We hear you. MSC Virtuosa is set to remind us all how to holiday hard, banishing all memories of the mundane on short cruises from Southampton in May. The new MSC Cruises flagship will be the first back to sea and there are longer 7-night British Isles itineraries sailing from Southampton, Liverpool and Greenock. Best of all, kids sail from as little £59pp, which seems even better value when you think about all the money you’ve saved on birthday parties over the last year…
It’s safe to say that most of us could deal with being ensconced away in the Scottish Highlands, our days a mix of wild rambles and whisky distilleries. Hebridean Princess is a slip of a ship, comfy, cosy and quintessentially Scottish with an abundance of tartan and a wee dram before bed. She’s the Queen’s cruise ship of choice and she’s back in May with sailings around Scotland’s Highlands and islands.
Viking Ocean ships are some of the most serene we’ve had the pleasure of sailing on over the years. Viking Venus is the latest fleet arrival, Scandi in design and with a LivNordic Spa considered by many to be the best seen at sea. We love waffles for breakfast in Mamsen’s and afternoon tea in the Wintergarden, an airy space with raffia everything and something relaxing in the air. The steaks in Manfredi’s rival any steak house at home and we’re yet to find a better place to watch the sun set than from the infinity pool on a Viking ship. When the sun does go down, live jazz and blues in Torshavn rounds off the night nicely. Viking’s ‘England’s Scenic Shores’ itineraries sold out to past passengers alone, but thankfully they’re back with more availability if you missed your chance first time round.
While Celebrity Apex warms up ahead of setting sail in Greece this summer, her fleetmate Celebrity Silhouette will be calling UK waters home for a while. She’ll visit the cities of Kirkwall and Glasgow, the Inverness highlands, sail along the Jurassic Coast from Portland, and pop into Liverpool, where live music, good food, shopping and perhaps the odd boozy beverage will remind you why we all love a city break.
SAGA SPIRIT OF DISCOVERY
Loyal Saga fans love the cruise line’s inclusive offering that even stretches as far as chauffer driven door-to-port transfers within 250 miles. They’ve made their summer 2021 sailings all-inclusive too. Sadly, they’re all sold out, but Spirit of Discovery will be here late into the year if you fancy seeing what all the fuss is about in September.
This summer of sailings has a ship for all and P&O Cruises Britannia is one for contemporary cruise lovers. Olly Smith will bring the wine and Eric Lanlard has the pastries on 6-night sailings between June and September. P&O Cruises summer staycations come in from under £300pp with all your food included, making them a great alternative to the hotel stays that have skyrocketed in price.
While Celebrity Apex warms up ahead of setting sail in Greece this summer, fleetmate Celebrity Silhouette is returning to Southampton for the first time since her multi-million-pound ‘revolution’. She’ll sail 6 to 8-night itineraries and visit the cities of Kirkwall and Glasgow, the Inverness highlands, sail along the Jurassic Coast from Portland, and pop into Liverpool, where live music, good food, shopping and perhaps the odd boozy beverage will remind you why we all love a city break.
Hurtigruten’s cruises from Dover this summer aren’t just a leisurely amble along the coastline, binoculars in hand. The expeditions will see you delve into some of the UK’s most remote islands and diverse coasts, with an expedition team on board to share the stories behind what you see. Powered by biofuel and redesigned in 2021, uber-sustainable MS Maud will be the most eco-friendly ship sailing the UK this summer.
FRED OLSEN BOREALIS
Borealis joined the Fred Olsen fleet from Holland America Line last year and has spent the months since being refreshed. She’ll bring the traditional ‘home from home’ cruise experience with a smile that we know and love Fred Olsen for from July.
ANTHEM OF THE SEAS
Royal Caribbean has the soundtrack to your best summer yet, with Anthem of the Seas poised to cruise from Southampton in July. Anthem is the action-packed thrill-seeker family holidays are looking for, with everything from dodgems to skydiving, authentic Broadway shows, surf simulators and all the live music and meals out your heart could desire after a year of neither. We love Izumi, but you can’t go wrong with Jamie’s Italian for hearty fare – fortunately you’ll have time to do both on a choice of itineraries ranging from 4 to 8 nights.
CUNARD QUEEN ELIZABETH
Cunard were one of the first to announce their summer cruises and the scenic sailings have an air of elegance about them. The ‘Summer at Sea’ series features 13 cruises around the British coastline and what a coastline it is. All will be hosted by Queen Elizabeth and itineraries will range in length from 3 to 12 nights, so you can spend a long weekend or nestle in and make yourself at home for a long, leisurely holiday.
SAGA SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE
Talk about delayed anticipation – 2021 brings a whole host of ships that should have taken to the seas for the very first time last year. Saga’s Spirit of Adventure is the first to debut and she brings boutique cruising to UK cruisers from July on sailings from Tilbury on her sell-out sailings. Saga will sail five British Isles cruises in 2021, each all-inclusive and with a shared chauffeur service to the port from within 250 miles.
Little did Princess Cruises know that when they launched the Ocean Medallion, they were unwittingly getting ahead of the curve in terms of social distancing. The forward-thinking tech does everything from ordering drinks and food by the pool to opening your cabin door and paying for those little boutique spending sprees. Regal Princess will sail from July, before being joined by her fleetmate, Sky Princess, in August.
VIRGIN VOYAGES SCARLET LADY
She’s set to shake things up with a little sass and Scarlet Lady will finally make her debut in those sultry days of summer. She launched to the press way back in February last year and she’ll finally show us what all the fuss was about with a series of ‘Summer Soirees’ sailings. This isn’t a ship for the classic cruise lovers, more a sea of change for those who like late nights and lazy morning afters. There’ll be a taste of the good life with everything from upscale Mexican eats to divine vegan intervention, plus cocktails with the best soundtrack of your life – live! Oh, how we’ve missed live music. But live music on a cruise? Where do we sign?
FRED OLSEN BOLETTE
Like Borealis, Bolette joined Fred Olsen from Holland America Line, with the two ships replacing the recently retired Black Watch and Boudicca. Fred Olsen’s ‘Welcome Back’ holidays are just that – a return to everything we know and love about the ever-friendly cruise line. Bolette will join Borealis in sailing scenic cruises of the British Isles and, unlike any other operator, will stretch its legs as far as Norway too.
Royal-class Sky Princess is the latest addition to the Princess Cruises fleet and news of her ‘Seacation’ sailings brings the opportunity to finally discover what she’s all about. There’s a stellar line-up of guest speakers and entertainment on a mixture of scenic sailings and itineraries with port calls in Belfast, Liverpool and Greenock.
Just like Scarlet Lady, P&O Cruises Iona should have made her sparkling debut last year. But we don’t talk about 2020 anymore, we’re leaving it way back in cruising’s wake where it belongs. Instead, we’re looking forward to summer, when Iona finally joins the fleet. She’s the ship designed to bring the outside in and she’ll come into her own on the British coastline, sailing where the sun shines brightest on an itinerary that’ll adapt to make sure you’ve plenty of time to catch the rays.