13 of the best no-fly cruises to book now
By Cruise International | 4 Mar 2022
From voyages departing the UK to rail-and-sail packages, no-fly cruises are booming. Laura French picks out 13 of the best no-fly cruises to book now for anyone looking to skip airport queues this spring and summer.
There’s something magical about casting off from UK shores, watching the British coast fade into the distance as you head off for an adventure on the high seas. Throw in the added bonuses of going flight-free – among them seamless travel, no airport queues and no need to feel the flush of flight-shaming – and it’s not hard to see why demand for cruises departing the UK is booming.
And with an ever-greater number of cruise lines getting in on the trend, from the all-new Ambassador Cruise Line sailing from Tilbury in April to MSC Cruises extending MSC Virtuosa’s UK season, you aren’t short on choice.
13 of the best no-fly cruises to book now
No-fly cruises don’t only have to mean departing from the UK. More and more operators are packaging up Eurostar or coach travel with continental river cruises, bringing the likes of the Seine, the Rhone, the Rhine and the Moselle to your fingertips without requiring a flight.
So whether you’re looking to sail along the Seine, navigate the Norwegian fjords or cast off to Croatia, we’ve sought out some of the best and most enticing no-fly cruises to get excited about for this spring and summer.
An Icelandic Escape with Ambassador Cruise Line
Spluttering geysers, smoking volcanoes, bubbling mud pools and crashing waterfalls – Iceland’s extraordinary topography has put it on the map for adventurers the world over, and there’s nothing quite like eyeing its majestic fjords and mountain-framed bays from the comfort of a cruise ship.
Ambassador Cruise Line will be taking passengers around the island on a round-trip voyage from Southampton in June as part of its maiden season, exploring Reykjavik, Grundarfjordur, Isafjordur and Akureyri, with a stop in the Faroe Islands and Lerwick thrown in for good measure. The new line is marketing itself as ‘premium value’, with talks, entertainment and five restaurants on board the 1,400-guest vessel, Ambience.
The 14-night Land of Ice and Fire voyage departs June 7 from Tilbury, with prices from £1,199
Mediterranean Moments with Saga
Saga’s ship Spirit of Adventure – which debuted last summer – will be heading for Italy, Croatia and beyond
in August on an epic 22-night voyage from Southampton, taking in Gibraltar, Valletta, Split, Ravenna, Venice, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Palermo and Cadiz.
Excursions range from a dolphin-watching trip around Gibraltar’s bay to visiting the emerald-pooled Plitvice Lakes National Park, with plenty of time at sea to sample the amenities on the vessel – which include two speciality restaurants, a theatre and spa. It’s one of several ex-UK itineraries on Adventure, with other itineraries running from Dover and Tilbury.
Saga’s 22-night Croatia and Cities of the Central Mediterranean cruise departs August 7 from Southampton, with prices from £5,999 (travel.saga.co.uk).
The Emerald Isle with Stena Line
Closer to home, Ireland beckons with windswept cliffs, billowing hills and tucked-away towns, and Ramblers Walking Holidays has a cruise trip taking in the best of it.
Cruising Emerald Ireland sandwiches scenic walks in between time on board a five-night Fred Olsen Cruise Lines departure on Borealis from Liverpool. You’ll sail to Cobh, travel by coach to Ballycotton cliffs, then on to Galway for a walk in Connemara National Park. The cruise ends in Belfast with a stroll along the Giant’s Causeway, as famous for its basalt columns as for tales of the giants said to have put them there.
Ramblers’ five-night Cruising Emerald Ireland trip departs August 24 from Liverpool, with prices from £1,085 (cruiseandwalk.co.uk). For a no-fly return, Stena Line runs ferries from Belfast to Liverpool from £129 (stenaline.co.uk).
New York, New York with Cunard
A no-fly cruise doesn’t have to mean staying in Europe; for a longer-haul getaway that’s all about the journey, Cunard’s 14-night Roundtrip Transatlantic Crossing from Southampton is an excellent option.
Guests will sail to New York over six days, taking time to enjoy the entertainment on board the iconic Queen Mary 2 – from live musicians to West End-style productions, aerial performers to illusionists – before arriving in the Big Apple on day eight to explore the ‘city that never sleeps’.
The following days are spent on the return leg across the Atlantic, with ample time to check out the facilities – which span a planetarium, cinema, kids’ play zone, theatre and more.
Cunard’s 14-night Roundtrip Transatlantic Crossing departs from Southampton in April, May, July, August and October, with prices from £3,298 in April (cunard.com).
Petit Paris with Royal Caribbean
Dip your toe into cruise with this weekend mini-break on Anthem of the Seas, sailing from Southampton to Le Havre on a Friday, spending a sophisticated Saturday in Paris, then arriving home in time for work on Monday. It’s the perfect taster trip to find out if cruising is for you without the commitment of a longer break, plus you’ll get to explore one of Royal Caribbean’s most action-packed ships.
Get 360-degree views from the North Star observation capsule, grab a surfboard and try your luck on the 40-foot-long FlowRider or feel the rush on the RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator. Alternatively, enjoy more sedate pleasures such as dining at Jamie’s Italian then settling in for an all-singing, all-dancing performance of We Will Rock You or Spectra’s Cabaret.
Royal Caribbean’s Two-Night Weekend Getaway Cruise sailing from Southampton on May 13 starts from £405 for an Interior cabin or £451 for a Balcony (royalcaribbean.com).
Atlantic Island-hopping with MSC Cruises
MSC Virtuosa has extended its UK season this year in response to soaring demand, with a selection of itineraries casting off from Southampton throughout spring and summer. Among the highlights is a 12-night itinerary pairing the Canaries with Madeira, stopping in Funchal, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote before throwing in a dose of Camino culture in Spain’s Santiago de Compostela.
It’s not just about the destination, though; on board, guests can head to the aquapark, try out the Formula One simulator or sample the just-added MSC Starship Club – an immersive entertainment experience complete with 3D holograms, digital art and a robotic bartender that’s futuristic to the core.
MSC Cruises’ 12-night Northern Europe cruise departs May 1 from Southampton, from £1,049 (msccruises.co.uk).
Norman Conquest with Avalon Waterways
For a river cruise that puts the emphasis on the experience, try Avalon Waterways’ nine-day Active & Discovery on the Seine itinerary, which sails from Paris to Normandy with three included excursions to choose from at each stop.
Learn how to make an original Chantilly cream, see Monet’s Garden at Giverny, visit the landing beaches of Normandy or head out on a kayak tour. It’s all about immersion on this idyllic sailing via Vernon, Rouen, Caudebac and Le Havre, and why not tag on a few nights in Paris to top off your adventure with some capital culture to boot?
Avalon’s eight-night Active & Discovery on the Seine departs from Paris in April, May, July and August, with prices from £1,743 (avalonwaterways.co.uk). Eurostar fares from London to Paris start at £35 each way (eurostar.com).
Wine on the Rhine with Great Rail
If it’s more fairytale castles, vineyard visits and quaint country villages that spark your interest, look to Great Rail Journeys’ Magic of the Moselle and Rhine river cruise, which combines Eurostar travel from St Pancras with a six-night cruise on Amadeus Brilliant.
You’ll get the chance to sample the wines of the Moselle, sip a Rüdesheimer kaffee (a creamy, brandy-infused coffee concoction) and wander the Roman-built streets of Trier as you sail to Luxembourg, Rüdesheim, Cochem, Koblenz, Speyer, Strasbourg and beyond on a scenic journey to remember.
The six-night Magic of the Moselle and Rhine itinerary departs August 15 from St Pancras, with prices from £1,795, including rail travel (greatrail.com).
French Fancy with Just Go Holidays
If getting picked up by coach and letting a guide and driver do the rest sounds tempting, Just Go Holidays’ coach-and-cruise packages might be just the ticket.
Step aboard A-Rosa Stella on its 10-day Cruising the Rhone, Burgundy, Provence & the Camargue itinerary and you’ll find yourself wandering the labyrinthine alleys of Lyon, glimpsing the rolling vineyards of Burgundy and passing the purpled landscapes of Provence, with a bike tour around picturesque Chalon-sur-Saône, a visit to historic Avignon and a stop in Arles – former home of Van Gogh – among the delights.
The 10-day Cruising the Rhone, Burgundy, Provence & the Camargue sailing departs June 10 and September 9 and 23, with prices from £1,449, including coach travel from various UK departure points (justgoholidays.com).
Best of Britain with Hurtigruten
Domestic voyages exploded in popularity last year, and the trend isn’t over yet. Among the best of the bunch is a 13-day British Isles trip with Hurtigruten that explores some of Britain’s most remote coastal treasures, passing through Devon, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Scottish Isles, with the line’s expedition team on hand to guide guests through the wildlife and dock in rarely visited corners of the country.
Highlights include St Kilda, the Unesco-listed archipelago home to Europe’s largest seabird colony; Islay, famous for its peat-smoked whisky; and Fingal’s Cave, etched into the Isle of Staff and known for its echoing ocean sounds.
Hurtigruten’s 13-day British Isles – Remote Islands, Natural Wonders and a Diverse Coastline cruise departs from Dover in April, May, August and September, with prices from £2,849 (hurtigruten.co.uk).
Scandi Cool with Celebrity Cruises
Guests will witness Copenhagen’s colourful architecture, explore St Petersburg’s shimmering canals and admire Tallinn’s baroque buildings on a 12-night voyage, docking in Stockholm to see its myriad islands and winding up in Visby, a walled Viking city situated on the Swedish island of Gotland that is known for its medieval art.
Celebrity Cruises’ 12-night Scandinavia & St Petersburg cruise departs May 30 from Southampton with prices from £1,499 (celebritycruises.com).
Valiant Exploration with Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages’ second ship Valiant Lady will make its inaugural trip on March 18, sailing from Portsmouth to Bruges on a mini ‘mermaiden voyage’.
Guests (or ‘sailors’, in Virgin speak) will have three nights on board to sample its Insta-friendly features – among them 20 eateries, a glitzy nightclub, casino, immersive theatre and slew of lively bars – with a day in the historic Belgian city, where options include a day trip to Ypres and a scenic sail through Ghent.
Virgin Voyages’ three-night Long Weekender in Zeebrugge departs March 18 and April 1 from Portsmouth, with prices from £898 per cabin (virginvoyages.com).
Fording the Fjords with P&O Cruises
Drifting through Norway’s mirror-like fjords, mountains towering above as clouds dapple the peaks, is magical – and it needn’t require a flight to get there with P&O Cruises’ round-trip voyage from Southampton on new ship Iona.
Expect aqua-blue glaciers, crashing waterfalls, colourful Viking-era settlements and remote fishing villages as you venture to Stavanger, Olden, Alesund and Haugesund. Thirty dining spots, three entertainment venues, a spa and multiple pools mean you’re unlikely to get bored on board, either.
P&O Cruises’ seven-night Norwegian Fjords voyage departs from Southampton on various dates from April through to September, with prices from £549 (pocruises.com).
What are the benefits of a no-fly cruise?
Arguably one of the biggest attractions is the fact that you don’t have to enter an airport or worry about Covid entry requirements. Plus, there’s no baggage allowance restrictions. Just imagine the liberating feeling of packing as much as you like without incurring an additional fee?
The options for getting to and from your chosen port are also quite simple. If you drive, you can leave your car securely at the port for the duration of your cruise; it will even be unloaded and parked for you so all you have to think about is checking yourself in. If you prefer, there is also the cruise link option – some lines collect you from your home, others meet you at a designated service station. It varies per cruise line.
Families travelling with young children are also being drawn to this form of cruising. Rather than contemplate the onerous challenges of airports, they are more than happy to embrace the less stressful option of the no-fly cruise, especially when there are several youngsters in tow.