Cruise Report: Forget the Med and go British island hopping instead

 

With talk of Britain's hottest summer to come, what better way of putting the wettest winter on record behind us than booking a cruise in home waters? Touring by ship is a good way of avoiding the seething motorway jams that accompany fine weather.

The big ports of Southampton and Dover are popular starting points for cruises to Europe and beyond, so it might be surprising to learn that there are 49 more cruise ports around the UK. Last year, more than 100 ships from 49 different lines brought 866,000 passengers in on day visits (a 20 per cent increase on 2012).

A classic circumnavigation of Great Britain will include a side trip or two - to the Republic of Ireland, often to the Channel Islands and sometimes over to Europe, too - so you can't leave your passport at home.

* Small, luxury Hebridean Princess is based in Oban for one-week, scenic cruises of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, from March to October, with all-inclusive fares from £2,610pp (01756 704700; hebridean.co.uk).

* Fred. Olsen (0845 421 3719; fredolsencruises.com) has an 11-night Highlands & Islands cruise departing Rosyth on 23 August for an 11-night round trip. Black Watch makes calls in Orkney, the Hebrides, the Isle of Man, Belfast and the Shetland Islands, then back to Rosyth. The cost is from £1,199pp.

* Saga Sapphire's non-stop Coastal Voyager is a six-night round trip from Dover on 13 May - with no ports of call. From £1,216pp (0800 056 8986; saga.co.uk/cruises).

* There will be a more international group of passengers, many American, on the Seabourn Legend, sailing from London on 27 August. The 14-night voyage calls at the Isles of Scilly, Greenock (for Glasgow), Cherbourg and Ostend before returning for an overnight stay in London. It costs from £4,799pp with open bars and gratuities (0843 373 2000; seabourn.com).

* Queen Victoria will celebrate 175 years since Cunard (0843 374 2224; cunard.co.uk) was founded in Liverpool with fireworks and visits to the Clyde and Cobh. The round-Britain cruise departs Southampton for 13 nights on 23 May. Fares from £1,429pp include parking or on-board credit of US$110 per cabin. Book by 30 April and receive John Lewis vouchers for £240 to £990 (depending on cabin grade).

* On a seven-night cruise from Dover to Dublin aboard Crystal Symphony (020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.co.uk), golfers will have the chance to play at clubs such as Faithlegg (from Waterford), Carden Park (Liverpool) and Turnberry (Greenock). The cost, from £2,724pp, includes drinks, gratuities and flight back from Dublin. Golf extra.

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