Make Britain your port of call for a European summer escape: Cruise report

 

Crowded departure lounges, lost luggage, looming air-traffic controller strikes and the threat of having your mobile phone confiscated if the battery goes flat is enough to make you give up and stay at home, but there's one way to avoid such holiday hassles – take a cruise from a UK port. And it isn't too late to book for August.

Andrew Davies of Go Cruise (gocruise.co.uk) says: "It may seem surprising that availability is still pretty good but there are more and larger ships than ever sailing from UK ports. There's also plenty of choice left in the Med, with one-week cruises for as little as £400. At this late stage, direct flights that fit your itinerary could double the price. A no-fly cruise from a UK port can be cheaper – and simpler to organise."

Numbers joining cruises at UK ports passed a million for the first time in 2013 and Southampton is now Europe's largest cruise port. Up to four ships a day will depart in August.

In addition to the six P&O ships (pocruises.co.uk) sailing from Southampton, American lines Royal Caribbean (rccl.com), Princess (princess.com), Celebrity (celebritycruises.co.uk) and Holland America Line (hollandamerica.com) all have ships based in Southampton, Dover and Harwich.

One- to two-week no-fly cruises can reach western France, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia and Russia, and as far as Italy and the Canary Islands. Fred Olsen (fredolsencruises.com) offers departures from 10 UK ports this year and next, including Liverpool, Avonmouth, Greenock and Belfast. They say 90 per cent of Britons live within 90 minutes' drive of one of their cruises.

* Big ship Adventure of the Seas, with inline skating and a climbing wall, sails to the Mediterranean from Southampton on 3 August for two weeks. The cost is from £1,299pp with Royal Caribbean (0844 493 2061; royalcaribbean.co.uk).

* Sail on August 17 from Liverpool aboard Boudicca to circumnavigate Iceland, with overnight stay in Reykjavik. Prices for the 11-nights start at £749pp with Fred.Olsen (0800 035 5242; fredolsencruises.com).

* A seven-night voyage to the Norwegian fjords aboard Ryndam departs Dover on 23 August with fares starting at £699pp. Excursions offered include sea kayaking and mountain biking. Book with Holland America (0843 374 2300; hollandamerica.com).

* A Canary Islands cruise aboard P&O's Aurora, calling at Madeira and Lisbon en route, departs Southampton for 12 nights on 11 August. Fares are from £1,089 for adults and from £725 per child aged 2-16 sharing their parents' cabin (0843 373 0111; pocruises.co.uk).

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