Cruise news and review website Cruise Critic is predicting a surge in cruise bookings from UK ports as travellers are reminded again of the stress and disruption caused to holiday plans by the ash cloud.
A recent poll by Cruise Critic showed that just over half of cruisers stated that avoiding air travel aggravation would be the biggest plus in choosing to leave from a UK port. Another quarter of respondents cited lower cost as the best reason for sailing directly out of Britain, with 15% selecting the choice of destinations now available. Only 8% preferred to fly to their cruise.
According to the Passenger Shipping Association, this year more than one in three British cruise holidays will sail from a home port. There is of course nothing new in ex UK cruises but the choice of ports has boomed. Not so long ago the vast majority of cruises would be available from three main ports – Southampton, Dover and Harwich.
Southampton, the self styled Cruise Capital of Northern Europe is reaping the rewards of a £19m investment in a new Ocean Cruise Terminal and reports a 16 percent increase in cruise ship visits for 2011. However in addition to the “big three”, this year you can also take a cruise from London Tilbury or Tower Bridge, Portsmouth, Falmouth, Liverpool, Greenock (Glasgow), Leith (Edinburgh), Rosyth, Newcastle or Hull.
As well as ports there is also a wide choice of cruise styles and itineraries on offer from cruise lines this year. In addition to traditional “British favourites” Cunard, P&O and Fred.Olsen, ex-UK cruises are available from Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, MSC, Princess, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Seabourn, Holland America, Silversea, Costa, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas. Collectively these lines have more than 600 UK homeport cruise holidays on offer.
Example prices range from £179 for a two night Liverpool- Dublin-Greenock cruise with Fred. Olsen in June to £22,999 for a suite on 109 night world cruise with P&O out of Southampton.
Talking about the growth in homeport cruises, Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of cruise news and reviews website Cruise Critic says it’s down to a combination of factors. “First-off most people no longer find flying with its delays and three hour check-in a pleasant experience and will try and avoid it if at all possible. Airport strikes and the eruption of further ash clouds will compound the situation driving more people to seek out a home port option.
“Conversely the investment by ports in improving passenger facilities has made sailing to and from the UK a much more pleasurable experience.”
“Then we have the cost. On average the fly part of a fly cruise holiday will add 30 percent to the total cost. Currency is also a major consideration in these days of the weaker pound. Most ex-UK cruises will be paid for in pounds and on-board costs will be charged in pounds.
“Finally and perhaps most importantly there is the huge increase in choice. The choice of ports, ships, cruise lines and itineraries is greater than ever before fulfilling a latent demand for homeport cruising.”