The best UK ports on no-fly cruises - Cruise International

The best UK ports on no-fly cruises

By Deborah Stone | 4 Apr 2019

Whether you want a hassle-free start to your holiday or simply don’t want to get on a plane, sailing from a British port on a no-fly cruise opens up a world of possibilities, as Deborah Stone reveals. 

There is a fantastic variety of no-fly cruises, which sail from and arrive back at a UK port. Here are some of the best options available.


Britain’s best-known port has bold plans to transform its waterfront with new shops, bars and cafés to welcome even more ships to its historic cruise terminal. It may not be as busy as Southampton, but it’s important to British-market cruise lines such as Kent-based Saga Cruises, which will launch new ship Spirit of Discovery there in July.

Other major lines offering no-fly cruises with itineraries departing from Dover include Holland America Line and Disney Cruise Line, which sails from the South Coast port to the Norwegian Fjords, inspiration for the hit film Frozen.

Historic buildings line the River Moyka in St Petersburg as seen on a no-fly cruise with Saga

Historic buildings line the River Moyka in St Petersburg

London Tilbury

As well as Empire Windrush and the first post-war Caribbean immigrants from Jamaica, this London cruise terminal has welcomed writers Mark Twain and George Orwell in its time. Now its cheerful staff send off thousands of British cruisers every year to sail under the M25’s Queen Elizabeth Bridge and Southend’s world’s longest pier into the North Sea.

The Northern Lights can be visited on a no-fly cruise with Viking

Tromsø’s location and mild weather make it one of the best places to see the Northern Lights

At Stavanger, there’s the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, which is far more interesting than it sounds, or you can learn curling, go fishing or take a boat trip down Lysefjord to the famous 2,000ft Pulpit Rock.

There are overnights at Tromsø and Alta, both Northern Lights hot spots, and an overnight in colourful Bergen. Unfortunately, this is where the cruise finishes, but as Norway is not in the EU there’s no change anyway. Departing 10 January 2020, from £3,790pp, based on two people sharing, including return flight (0800 298 9700;


This is Britain’s busiest cruise port with the most departures from the UK and no-fly cruises that go all over the world including the Caribbean as well as offering excursions to some of the most quintessentially British landmarks.

Southampton has four separate cruise terminals along its two-mile waterfront and all the major cruise lines call here but, in particular, it’s home to P&O Cruises, one of the most popular British-market cruise lines.

Yellow funicular in Lisbon takes guests on no-fly cruises up to the city's finest viewpoints

Lisbon’s yellow funicular will take you up to its finest viewpoints


Unlike most other British cruise terminals Liverpool is just a few steps from Unesco-listed buildings and world-class tourist attractions. Sailing up the mighty River Mersey looking back at Liverpool’s skyline as your ship follows the sun to the Mediterranean or Canary Islands, around Britain or north to Iceland and Scandinavia, is almost as uplifting as sailing down-river into the city. Because arriving in Liverpool, next to Pier Head and the Albert Docks, is like arriving on a film set. New York has its Empire State and Chrysler buildings, but Liverpool’s got its Three Graces – Royal Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings.

pool deck on Amazara Journey lights up at night

Amazara Journey

If you want to see the countryside try a ship’s excursion to the Lake District, or Port Sunlight and its wonderful Lady Lever art gallery – even north Wales and Conwy Castle.


The International Passenger Terminal has recently been refurbished to speed up embarkation and disembarkation, making it an ideal departure point for those living in the North who want to sail to Northern Europe on one of the great no-fly cruises available. It saves getting all the way down to the south coast then sailing all the way up again – at least a day or two – and while it’s usually British-market cruise lines that leave from Newcastle, it’s growing in popularity as a port day for international companies.

Houses in Gamla Stan, Stockholm, visited during no-fly cruises with Saga

Red Ribbinska Husetin old Gamla Stan, Stockholm

Most ships will have an excursion to the Unesco-listed Hadrian’s Wall. The other must-see excursions are to Northumberland’s Heritage Coast, where you can explore dramatic Bamburgh Castle in the sand dunes, and the handsome market town of Alnwick, where a visit to Alnwick Castle is magical – not least because of its Harry Potter films connection.


Cruise-ship visits to Belfast Harbour will be up 31 per cent this year, with 151 ships expected. Norwegian Cruise Line alone is increasing its calls here, from one in 2018 to 11, and it will be the first Irish port of call for Saga’s new ship, Spirit of Discovery. So why is Belfast the UK’s third most visited port? Of course it has a lot to do with the popularity of British Isles cruises, but it’s also down to Belfast’s growing tourism profile.

It all began when the Titanic Quarter first opened on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in 2012, one of the world’s largest urban waterfront regeneration schemes. There are historic ships to see, fascinating tourist trail boards to read and, of course, the shiny multi hull-like Titanic Belfast with its interactive galleries about the doomed ship that was built there.

Belfast City Hall can be visited on one of Silversea's no-fly cruises

The grand Belfast City Hall

But it’s the explosion of interest in the Giant’s Causeway, a drive away along the Antrim coast, that has really helped to elevate this spectacular region to must-visit status. Back in Belfast, get a better understanding of the city’s social history at Belfast City Hall, with its free permanent exhibition and Titanic Memorial Gardens. And watch out for the modern street art around Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter – witty and joyful works are found among some of the city’s best pubs and restaurants.  


Plans for a £15million expansion to Greenock’s Ocean Terminal mean a new visitor centre, restaurant and museum open by 2020. It will be a much-needed boost to attractions in this River Clyde town, where most cruise passengers are likely to jump on a train for the 40-minute rail journey to Glasgow or book on to a ship’s excursion. 

And sailing into the sunset down the Clyde from Greenock is one of the most beautiful sections of a round-Britain cruise, where the islands merge with the mainland into one magical experience. And this can be experienced on one of the amazing no-fly cruises available from the port.


The Scottish capital is so popular that there are four cruise ports, so more passengers on no-fly cruises can visit the Unesco city: Rosyth, South Queensferry, Leith and Newhaven on the Firth of Forth. Leith in particular has good shops, interesting bars and restaurants, with the former royal ship Britannia permanently moored there. Edinburgh’s Old Town is a labyrinth of streets full of boutique shops, restaurants and pubs, topped by the castle and the Royal Mile. The Scottish Natonal Portrait Gallery in the elegant Georgian New Town is worth a detour, as is the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

But while you can’t ‘do’ Edinburgh in a day, you can see a lot of Scotland on a round-British Isles cruise – certainly more than you could see by car in just a few days. Take the Orkney Islands, off the north coast, an archipelago of some 70 islands – the largest is called the Mainland, and Kirkwall is the largest town and capital of the Orkneys. It’s here that cruise ships stop to see the oldest prehistoric houses in Western Europe, at Bay of Skaill.

Norwegian Spirit cruising on one of its no-fly cruises

Norwegian Spirit

The 5,000-year-old stone houses have stone beds and seats, and were discovered after a storm in 1850. And it’s just one of several Neolithic sites, including the standing stones of the Ness of Brodgar, that has brought record numbers of visitors to the island. Kirkwall itself is dominated by the 12th-century Norse cathedral of St Magnus, built about the same time as the Bishop’s Palace, which was later incorporated into a Renaissance palace. 

For help planning your next holiday and discovering other no-fly cruises, take a look at our cruise finder.

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