What are the best cruise ships for exploring the UK's historic ports?

Embarking on a cruise is a unique adventure that promises endless opportunities to experience diverse cultures, delicious cuisines and breathtaking sceneries. The UK, with its rich history and iconic landmarks, is a popular destination for cruise enthusiasts worldwide. From the Viking heritage of Scotland to the regal charm of London, it offers a myriad of experiences. If you're considering exploring the UK's historic ports, here is a guide to some of the best cruise lines and ships that can offer you a remarkable journey.

Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Infinity

Celebrity Cruises is renowned for its luxurious offerings and exceptional service. Their ship, Celebrity Infinity, is a standout option for cruising the British Isles. This vessel is part of their award-winning Solstice Class, known for spacious accommodations and innovative culinary options.

Infinity's 12-night British Isles cruise takes you to some of the UK's most historic ports, including Dover and Liverpool. In Dover, famous for its white cliffs, you can explore the grand Dover Castle. Liverpool, the city of The Beatles, is a UNESCO World Heritage site with rich maritime history.

Infinity's sailings also include a stop in Edinburgh, Scotland. The port city is known for its majestic castle that towers over the city and the legendary Royal Mile.

Viking Cruises: Viking Star

Viking Cruises is synonymous with destination-focused voyages that provide an immersive cultural experience. Their ocean ship, the Viking Star, is a treat for history buffs who wish to explore the UK's ports.

One of the notable stops on Viking Star’s itinerary is the Orkney Isles. Here, you can unearth Scotland's Viking past at the ancient site of Skara Brae and the historic Ring of Brodgar. Another highlight is the port city of Invergordon, known for its stunning views and the famous Loch Ness.

The Viking Star also takes you to the historic city of Belfast, where you can visit the iconic Titanic Belfast museum and discover Northern Ireland's maritime heritage.

P&O Cruises: Britannia

P&O Cruises, one of the oldest British cruise lines, offers a unique blend of traditional and contemporary cruising experience. Their ship, Britannia, is a modern classic with a royal touch, christened by Her Majesty The Queen.

Britannia's 14-night British Isles cruise promises an intimate exploration of the UK's ports. This includes a stopover at the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off the Cornish coast known for its pristine beaches and exotic wildlife. Another highlight is the city of Dublin, where you can indulge in authentic Irish cuisine and visit the historic Guinness Storehouse.

Britannia also sails to the city of Cobh, which was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic. Here, you can visit the Cobh Heritage Centre and step back in time to trace the city's maritime history.

Cunard Line: Queen Victoria

The Cunard Line, with its rich maritime history dating back to 1840, is a popular choice for luxury cruise enthusiasts. Their ship, Queen Victoria, exudes timeless elegance and the grandeur of a classic ocean liner.

Queen Victoria's 12-night British Isles cruise includes a visit to the historic port of Greenock, the gateway to Glasgow. Here, you can explore the city's Victorian architecture and vibrant arts scene.

The voyage also includes a stop in Newcastle, a city renowned for its historic sites including the Norman-era castle and the iconic Tyne Bridge. Additionally, you can enjoy the serene beauty of the Scottish Highlands with a visit to Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Isles.

Princess Cruises: Royal Princess

Princess Cruises is known for its innovative ships and wide array of onboard amenities. Their ship, Royal Princess, offers a fantastic itinerary for exploring the UK's ports.

The Royal Princess's British Isles cruise includes a visit to the historic city of York, where you can explore the city's Viking roots at the Jorvik Viking Centre. The cruise also includes a stop in Guernsey, a beautiful island with a rich maritime history and scenic beaches.

The voyage concludes in the city of London, where you can visit iconic landmarks like the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

Choosing the right cruise line and ship for your journey can make all the difference in how you experience the UK's historic ports. Each of these cruises offers a unique perspective on the UK's rich maritime history and culture, making your voyage a truly unforgettable experience.

Seabourn Cruises: Seabourn Sojourn

For those looking for a more intimate cruising experience, Seabourn Cruises offers a small ship experience with the Seabourn Sojourn. This luxury yacht-like ship, boasting all-suite accommodations, is renowned for its personalized service, world-class dining, and enriching onboard activities.

The Sojourn’s 14-night Northern Europe cruise takes you on a riveting journey through the British Isles, stopping at some of the most historic and picturesque ports. This includes a stopover at the bustling city of London Greenwich, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of London’s iconic skyline, visit the Royal Observatory, or explore the historic Cutty Sark.

An exciting part of the Sojourn's view sailings includes a visit to the charming town of Bergen, Norway. Known as the "Gateway to the Fjords," this UNESCO World Heritage city offers a fascinating blend of natural beauty and historical attractions.

For those interested in Northern Ireland's history, the Seabourn Sojourn also stops at Belfast. Here, you can explore the city's maritime heritage, visit the historic Harland and Wolff shipyards, or take a shore excursion to the stunning Giant's Causeway.

Fred Olsen Cruises: Balmoral

Fred Olsen Cruises is a family-run company known for its friendly, home-from-home atmosphere onboard. Their ship, Balmoral, is the largest in their fleet yet maintains an intimate, small ship charm. With its traditional British ambiance, the Balmoral offers guests a more personal and relaxed cruising experience.

Balmoral's 10-night British Isles cruise features a visit to the scenic port Dover. Here, you can take in the breathtaking views of the famous white cliffs, explore the grand Dover Castle, or take a shore excursion to the nearby historic city of Canterbury.

The Balmoral also sails to Lerwick, the capital of Shetland Islands. This port city is steeped in Viking heritage, with attractions such as the Shetland Museum and Archives and the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement.

The cruise concludes with a stop in the historic city of Newcastle, known for its impressive architecture like the iconic Tyne Bridge and the Norman-era castle.


Selecting the right cruise line and ship is paramount to your enjoyment and understanding of the UK's historic ports. From the luxurious offerings of the Celebrity Infinity and Seabourn Sojourn, the traditional British charm of the Britannia and Balmoral, the cultural immersion provided by the Viking Star, to the innovative amenities of the Royal Princess - each cruise promises a unique and memorable journey through the British Isles.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a fan of charming landscapes, or simply looking to experience an unforgettable journey, these cruises offer a broad range of experiences to cater to your interests. So, pack your bags, choose your preferred cruise line, and prepare to set sail on an exploration of the UK's rich maritime history and vibrant culture.

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