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8 of the best small ship cruises from UK ports in 2024 and 2025

Cruise Advice

Many of us would like to avoid the hassle of airports and stress that can come with 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! These are the best small ship cruises from UK ports for 2024 and 2025.

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.

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 a favourite of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (she 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.

Also of interest to many will be Lord of the Highlands, a recent addition to the Hebridean Island Cruises fleet and infused with the same relaxed house party atmosphere as the Hebridean Princess. Operating along the intricate waters of the Caledonian Canal, with the elegant appeal of a vintage Pullman carriage, it caters to just 40 guest and is perfectly in keeping with the line's unmistakably Scottish heritage. Sailings depart several times a month with options on both ships; we like the Footloose itineraries that focus on gentle hikes and sailings that mix in calls in to Ireland.

Hebridean Princess

2. Silversea

In 2024, two spring sailings depart on 6th April and 20th April on board brand new expedition vessel Silver Endeavour, travelling between London and Edinburgh exploring the dramatic Scottish Islands including Iona, Skye, St Kilda and more. Using the ship's Zodiacs, discover a haven for birds including Atlantic puffins, razorbills, common guillemots and northern fulmars as well as seals and basking sharks.

Then on 14th May Silver Dawn, the newest classic Silversea vessel, featuring incredibly popular Sea And Land Taste (S.A.L.T.) culinary programme of excursions and venues, enjoys a more sedate sailing around the British Isles from Southampton.


3. Ponant Explorers

Ponant's sleek 184-guest Explorer class yachts bring a touch of French flair to the coastlines of Scotland, Wales and Ireland in 2024. You can enjoy a 7-night voyage on 11th May from London to Glasgow on Le Champlain visiting the charming towns of Darmouth and St Mary's as well as Dublin and Belfast. Then on 21st May Le Dumont d'Urville teams up with Smithsonian Journeys on an 8-night voyage between London and Glasgow exploring the rich history and culture on both sides of the Irish Sea.

On the 18th May a brand new itinerary will be operated on the slightly larger 264-guest Le Boreal, exploring the Shetlands, Orkneys, Hebrides and the wild and spectacular Faroe Islands on a Glasgow round-trip journey, while on the 15th June Le Champlain sets forth between Glasgow and Bergen visiting the magnificent Scottish archipelagos of Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides, as well as the stunning scenery of Norway's fjords.

2025 sees the London to Glasgow sailing repeated on the 4th May as well as some lovely Norwegian fjord voyages in summer 2025 and a fabulous London to Lisbon itinerary on 30th August.

Ponant - Le Champlain and Le Dumont d'Urville

4. Seabourn Ovation and Sojourn

In 2024 the lovely 450-guest Seabourn Sojourn delights with two excellent sailings from Dover. The first sailing on 27th July is a 14-night round trip to circumnavigate Iceland, the second on 10th August is a breathtaking voyage to the North Cape, the northernmost point of mainland Europe, and the tranquil Norwegian Fjords.

In 2025, Seabourn Sojourn will head on a genteel UK round-trip on 31st May both departing and returning to Dover. A similar 14-night 26th July round Britain voyage again focuses on our own nation's highlights with calls in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, England and Ireland, while for something more adventurous a 24-day 9 August departure from Dover sees you also call in to Iceland and Greenland's wild shores, ending in Canada.


5. Oceania

In 2024 Oceania have a choice of vessels and itineraries operating from the UK, with a notable sailing on the 656-guest Sirena. On this unusual itinerary, sail southwards out of Southampton to explore the perimeter of the Bay of Biscay as you visit France and Spain departing 22nd April on a 23-night itinerary. Highlights include two magnificent days exploring around Bordeaux, and a late evening to enjoy the amazing food in Bilbao. A similar 30-night sailing operates on the new 1200-guest Vista departing on 15th August, calling to Bruges and enjoying the same overnight in Bordeaux and late night in Bilbao.

Shorter options include a 12-night Southampton round-trip exploring our shores on 29 August on 1238-guest Marina, with 2025 offering a similar 11-night voyage on Vista. For further exploration there are several ex-UK sailings from Southampton that explore Scandinavia, such as a 15-night Norway itinerary on Vista on 15 June 2025 and an Iceland-focussed departure on Marina on 30 June.

Oceania Insignia pool deck

6. Seven Seas Splendor and Grandeur

In 2024 Regent's lovely ship Splendor, launched in 2020, offers an appealing little hop across the channel departing 12th August exploring beautiful Bruges, the Normandy beaches, Honfleur, Rouen and even Paris, not to mention the spectacular scenery of Brittany from Cherbourg.

Regent's magnificent newest ship, the 746-guest Seven Seas Grandeur, joined the fleet in November 2023, offering spacious accommodation, huge range of dining options, beautiful observation lounge and inviting deck areas are perfect if you wish to explore, with ex-UK options in 2025 including exploring UK and Scottish shores on a Southampton-round trip on 11 June 2025 or an Ireland, Greenland and Iceland voyage from Southampton on 23 June. And remember, on Regent all your shore excursions are included in the fare.

7. Crystal Symphony and Serenity

The elegant, newly-refurbished 606-guest Crystal Symphony and 740-guest Crystal Serenity returned to the water in summer 2023. Previously widely acclaimed as the 'World's Best', these stylish vessels are once again loved by guests for their spacious lounges and public areas, flexible dining options, and outstanding programme of activities on board.

Choose a short 8-night round trip from Dover on 18 September in 2024, with overnights in Amsterdam and Rouen, or in September 2025 why not explore the wild shores of Scotland, the Faroes and Iceland as you sail from Liverpool to Reykjavik?


8. European Waterways

The magnificent 8-guest luxury barge Magna Carta sails serenely along the River Thames between Hampton Court and Henley-on-Thames. You will get the chance to explore your own country as a tourist, visiting picturesque riverside towns, pretty villages and numerous royal palaces.

European Waterways - Magna Carta
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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