Anthony Pearce on the benefits of being able to circumvent the hassles of flying, stepping on board a ship at a UK port and sailing to anywhere in the world.
Airports are stressful. The battle against traffic to arrive on time, the bother of getting through security, overcrowded departure lounges (with overpriced restaurants), uncomfortable airplane seats, the long and anxious wait for your luggage to appear at the other end, then having to navigate your way to your final destination. Compare that with an ex-UK cruise. All you have to do is get to the port, whizz through security, and that’s it: you’re on holiday, smiling staff greeting you with champagne.
While there are clearly advantages to spending a few hours on a flight to Barcelona rather than a few days on a ship, ex-UK cruises offer a romantic “Old World” way to travel. Even at this steady pace, sailing from the UK makes every holiday feel like an adventure. And for older and less mobile customers they make perfect sense, particularly when you consider lines such as Saga, which offer door-to-port pick-ups.
There are also some incredible cruises to choose from. This year, there are 742 departures from 25 cruise lines spread across 18 ports, from Southampton up to Invergordon. Of course, the south-coast city remains the king of ex-UK with more than 400 of these departures heading from there. This means it’s also where you’ll find the greatest diversity: from boutique ships such as Azamara Journey through to the enormous 4,370-passenger Independence of the Seas and the ultra-luxury Seven Seas Explorer, which features handmade chandeliers, some 2,500 works of art and palatial suites.
Those living in the south still have much more choice, but there remain some great options from the north and Scotland. Cruise & Maritime Voyages has six departures from Hull, including its Baltic Cities & St Petersburg on Astoria, while it has eight cruises departing from Liverpool and eight from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Fred Olsen, another ex-UK specialist, with a focus on regional ports, also has 21 from Liverpool and 16 from Newcastle, while there are a total of 51 cruises from Scotland, many of them with Hebridean Island Cruises.
Many assume that, aside from Cunard’s iconic transatlantic voyages, ex-UK cruises only cover the Eastern Mediterranean, Norwegian fjords and Baltics. While these are undoubtedly the bread and butter of the no-fly industry, there really is an incredible amount on offer. Take, for example, Viking Sun’s 245-night Ultimate World Cruise London, which departs from London Greenwich on August 31, or Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Canada in the Fall epic on the historic Marco Polo, departing from London Tilbury on September 1. Your customers will have just missed World Voyages (which can be taken in segments) from Cunard and Cruise & Maritime, which are worth looking out for in 2020. The latter’s Grand Round the World Cruise 2020 on Columbus, which departs on January 6, 2020, from London Tilbury starts from just £17,999pp for 120 nights – £150 a day. It’s staggeringly good value when you think that it takes in Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo and Petra. Fred Olsen’s 22-night Amalfi Coast, Tuscany & Italian Riviera on Boudicca, which departs from Dover on April 26, 2020, is also a fabulous way to see the Mediterranean. In fact, longer cruises are definitely a common theme – this year there are 89 that are 20 nights or longer.
This year also marks the very exciting introduction of Spirit of Discovery, the first of Saga’s new-build ships, and next year promises to be even more exciting. Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas will return to the UK for the first time since its launch; Princess Cruises’ ex-UK capacity for 2020 will be 30 per cent more than in 2019; and Saga’s Spirit of Adventure will launch.