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10 of the best small ship cruises from UK ports

Cruise Advice

As people begin to travel again, many will be looking to avoid airports and stressful or complicated travel arrangements. The perfect solution is a relaxed UK departure, allowing you to drive to the port for an easy embarkation, and hey presto, you are already on holiday!

In our opinion, nothing could be nicer than to take a small ship cruise from the UK, although of course 'small' is a relative term. Whether you want to avoid the crowds and queues of the megaships while still enjoying excellent facilities and entertainment on a resort-style ship, or you prefer the intimacy of a tiny but spacious vessel such as the 50-guest Hebridean Princess, there is going to be an appealing voyage for you in 2021.

Options include longer cruises and itineraries visiting the Baltic, Norway, Iceland and even Greenland, or southwards to France and Spain. For many, a British Isles cruise will have a magic all of its own. Here is our pick of the best small ships cruising from UK ports:

1. Hebridean Princess

This little gem of a ship, known to many as the Queen's favourite (she has chartered it twice for family celebrations), is the perfect choice if you want to explore the beauties of Scotland's Western Isles and more. Just 50 fortunate guests can travel in cosseted country house style, with plenty of tables for two at dinner, and tiny group tours ashore including walking and cycling, visiting private stately homes, and enjoying a wee dram at a remote distillery. Inclusive fares, whilst high, cover every detail of your trip from the moment you embark, and you will travel in unpretentious style as truly welcome guests.

Hebridean Princess

2. Crystal Endeavor

Newly created Crystal Expedition Cruises, part of the award-wining Crystal group, brings the stunning Crystal Endeavor to UK waters in 2022. With just 200 guests, this is the most spacious cruise ship in the world. Her itinerary takes you from Greenwich to Edinburgh, and she will explore the Scilly Isles, Wales, Ireland and Scotland as well as the Shetlands and Orkneys. Grab this rare chance to experience such an extraordinary ship close to home.

Crystal Endeavor

3. Silver Wind & Silver Spirit

Silversea's nimble Silver Wind, with a guest capacity of just 274 following her November refurbishment, will depart Tower Bridge on 31st May 2021 for a magical 14-day cruise with some truly off-the-beaten-track ports of call, perfect for exploring the wildlife and rich history of these beautiful islands. Alternatively, for a more classic cruise experience, the 608-guest Silver Spirit will operate two 12-day itineraries from Southampton on 3rd September and 15th September 2021, giving you the choice of a round Britain cruise or a more southerly exploration in the English Channel.

Silver Wind sailing through Tower Bridge, London

4. Star Legend

Star Legend, one of Windstar's three newly stretched motor yachts, with a new capacity of just 312, will set sail on a London round-trip around the British Isles on 4th September 2021. Inquisitive travellers will love Windstar's laid-back style, combining beautifully spacious accommodation with relaxed and unpretentious open seating dining and a low key friendly vibe, perfectly suited to its unusual port-intensive itineraries.

Windstar's Star Legend in London

5. Seabourn Quest

Seabourn Quest's 14-day roundtrip from Dover departing 22nd July 2021 takes 450 guests on a magical exploration of Ireland. Along the way you will visit castles, prehistoric fortresses, medieval churches and abbeys, and stately homes, all alongside extraordinary natural beauty including the unforgettable Giant's Causeway. If you've more time to spare, join Seabourn Quest's unmissable 45-day itinerary departing Dover on 7th June 2021 for a totally comprehensive exploration of the British Isles, Iceland, northern Norway and Greenland - an experience you'll never forget.

Seabourn Quest

6. Sirena

Oceania's pretty little 684-guest Sirena has lots of ex UK itineraries to choose from in early and late summer 2021. If you enjoy the unpretentious style and excellent dining options on the Oceania ships, you have so many options with various 10- and 12-day cruises, which can be combined to create 20- and 22-day explorations. Tour the British Isles or try south, east, north or west: you are spoilt for choice on this mouthwatering range of Southampton round-trips.

Oceania Insignia pool deck

7. Seven Seas Splendor

Regent's magnificent new ship, the 750-guest Seven Seas Splendor, joined the fleet in February 2020. Her spacious accommodation, huge range of dining options, beautiful observation lounge and inviting deck areas are perfect if you wish to explore from the UK in style, with options in May and September 2021 either southwards to France and Spain's northern coast, or a detailed circumnavigation of the British Isles. And remember, on Regent all your shore excursions are included in the fare.

Regent Seven Seas Splendor - Pool deck

8. Crystal Serenity

The elegant 980-guest Crystal Serenity comes to the UK in summer 2021. Widely acclaimed as the 'World's Best', this stylish vessel is loved by her guests for her spacious lounges and public areas, her flexible dining options, and her outstanding programme of activities on board. Choose your itinerary from 7-, 9- or 14-day round-trips, and look out for options in 2022 as well.

Crystal Serenity pool

9. Spirit of Discovery & Spirit of Adventure

Saga's new boutique style vessels, Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, have been purpose-built for the UK market, each carrying 999 guests. Cruising year round from the UK, these ships offer a range of itinerary durations and destinations, enabling you to travel the world, or indeed closer to home, without having to negotiate any complicated arrangements. Indeed, Saga will even send a chauffeur-driven car to collect you and take you to the port, and travel insurance is included in your fare. There are great rates for solo travellers too, and every single guest on board enjoys their own balcony.

Saga - Spirit of Discovery in Dover

10. Tradewind Voyages

Debuting the world's largest square-rigged sailing vessel, the Golden Horizon, in May 2021, brand new cruise line Tradewind Voyages has designed an inaugural season of ex UK cruises exploring Iceland, the Norwegian Fjords and the UK. A highlight is the 4th August 2021 English South Coast and Islands voyage, a 10-night sailing that includes time to soak up the unique atmosphere of Cowes Week. This maritime-themed itinerary includes an overnight stay in Cowes, with plenty of time to enjoy the regatta and explore the beautiful Isle of Wight, plus calls at the historic harbours of England's south coast, ample opportunities for fish and chips, and time on both Jersey and Guernsey.

Tradewind Voyages - Golden Horizon
Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina
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