The British Isles aren’t the first place you think of when planning a cruise but, although there are a few reasons why this is the case, there are also lots of reasons why cruising around the British Isles is a great idea. The UK and its islands have some of the most diverse scenery and the most varied coastlines you’ll ever see, and what better way to experience it than from the sea and the waterways? If you’re new to the UK, this is a great way to get an overview of the landscape. If you already live here, it’s the perfect way to see your own country through an entirely new lens. As with anything, there’s good and bad to be said about this. Here’s my take on the pros and cons of cruising around the British Isles.
Pro: Experience The UK Coastline From A Whole New Perspective
With its stunning headlands, bays, peninsulas, and islands, the UK has a whole world of varied views and experiences to enjoy. You won’t find a better way to take in more of this stunning scenery than from the water, and even if you know the UK well, you’ll never see it quite like this. On a cruise, you’ll experience the UK and its islands from outside of it, rather than from being within it, and the perspective this gives you on a country is unique. The rugged cliffs, the sandy beaches, the harbors and ports, will all give you a view of island life you haven’t witnessed before. This makes cruising around the UK an entirely different kind of trip, and a new experience.
Con: British Weather Is Unpredictable
There’s no doubt that the British weather can be an issue. Everyone knows Brits go on about the weather a lot, but that’s because it alters so much. The changeable nature of it makes it difficult to know what to pack and you can end up taking something for every season. It’s certainly not simple and you might end up with bulging luggage. Fortunately, there are no luggage restrictions on a cruise so you can pack as much as you need to cover clothing for all eventualities. There are also lots of indoor activities to take part in on a cruise ship if the weather isn’t great while traveling between destinations; a spa treatment, taking part in a Zumba class, a wine tasting session, or hitting the casino. You’re likely to catch some rain on deck, but you can still have fun below.
Pro: Spotting Coastal Wildlife
The coastal seas of the UK attract some wonderful marine life. You can look out for Minke whales off the West Coast of Scotland and over the Irish Sea, and bottlenose dolphins near Land’s End in Cornwall. Or you can spot Harbor porpoise near the North Coast of Wales. Gray seals are also common around UK waters. On the Cornish Coast, you may even be lucky enough to see a basking shark. The UK also has a rich seabird population, affording you the opportunity to view birds you wouldn’t normally get the chance to see. Cruise ships put you right in the middle of the action and give you a much better chance of spotting something unusual. The balcony rooms on Princess Cruises give you the perfect place to keep watch from.
Pro: UK Cruises Are Often Specialist And Themed
You’ll find that cruise ships journeying the British Isles are offering something a little bit different. For example, Ambassador Cruises is running a special Jubilee Cruise in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee this year. This gives you the chance to experience something you’ll never again get the chance to experience, making it completely unique. Guests get to be part of a specially-designed itinerary in celebration of the Queen’s 70th year on the throne. Those onboard the ship, Ambience, will not only enjoy a range of destinations, but will also be joined by royal historians Dicky Arbiter and Penny Junor, who will be mingling and sharing stories about the Queen with first-hand accounts of what she is like.
Con: Specialist Cruises Are Often Not Repeated
With the Queen only celebrating her Platinum Jubilee once, this will be the only time to join this cruise. You have one opportunity only to enjoy the story of her reign and the country she is the queen of, in this unusual way. This particular cruise sets sail in May of this year. And it won’t happen again. This is great if you manage to book a place — you’ll experience something totally unique — but if you don’t, you’ve missed it forever. There’s something to be said for cruise ships that offer a uniform experience, you always know what you’re getting so you know what to expect and you won’t miss out. On the other hand, one-off trips that can’t be replicated have their own charm and give you something you won’t forget.
Pro: The Waterways Are Quiet
Cruising on the UK Coastline definitely beats being stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. If you’re exploring the UK by road, you’ll soon find out how busy it gets, how frustrating it can be being stuck in jams, and how inconvenient it can be having to find motorway services. Even trains can be busy, delayed, and sometimes not running at all. On a cruise ship, you won’t have any of those concerns. From the moment you board, everything is right there at your disposal, and you don’t have to worry about where to eat, where the facilities can be found, and whether your transport is running on time. Your ship is your transport, your hotel, your restaurants, and your entertainment, all in one. And you can do it all in peace and calm. Especially in the UK, you’ll find cruising is quiet and less busy than any other form of transportation.
Pro: UK Cruises Can Go Where Liners Can’t Go
Specialized and local cruises, like the ones run by Hebridean Adventures, take place on a small converted fishing boat. Cruising on a boat like the MV Monadhliath means you can visit remote and quiet sea lochs that are miles from any roads, and also where larger ships cannot enter. Because UK cruises aren’t traveling through large portions of the ocean, you get to see the tucked away bits of the coastline and you can cruise into waterways and lakes. I recommend taking along a copy of Amelia Dalton’s book, Mistress and Commander, her story of how she converted an Arctic fishing boat and ran cruises around the remote Scottish Islands. If you want an adventure, a Hebridean cruise is the perfect way to experience the seas and islands.
Con: You Won’t Get Sandy Beaches And Sunbathing
If you like cruising, but you usually take cruises around the Caribbean or the Mediterranean, this one will be a little different. If you love sunbathing on deck and dipping in the pool while the sun beats down above you, be prepared, you won’t get that on a UK cruise. Well, you might, as the weather is unpredictable, but by no means guaranteed. However, if you think you’ll miss out on sandy beaches altogether, you’d be wrong. Some itineraries visit Scotland’s most pristine and largely empty, sandy beaches complete with sand dunes and turquoise water. And the Channel Islands like Guernsey certainly offer stunning beaches and, quite often, sunny weather.
Pro: It’s A More Intimate Experience
Cruise ships traveling around the British Isles and river cruise boats in particular, are smaller than regular cruise ships, so cruising feels more intimate. English Holiday Cruises take passengers along some of Britain’s most beautiful waterways where life runs at a slower pace. While they do have the largest boat hotel in the UK, The Edward Elgar, even this one is small and cozy. It has just 11 cabins, so you can really get to know the other guests onboard if you want to. It’s a bit like a floating boutique hotel, with a generous dining room and a compact little bar. If you like the idea of cruising, but also like your getaways to be quiet, this could be the perfect choice.
Con: It’s Not Foreign Travel
It really depends what you’re looking for from your cruise and from your trip, but it has to be said that cruising the British Isles isn’t exactly exotic. As mentioned before, the sun and cocktails on the beach might be in short supply and if you want a “foreign” holiday, this might not be what you’re looking for. However, cruising the British Isles will introduce you to places in the UK and its islands that you wouldn’t normally see. If you’re traveling to the UK from another country for a vacation and taking the cruise while you’re here, you’ll get to see a lot more of the country than you would by staying in one place.
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