The British cruise business has undergone several sea changes in recent years but perhaps none more far reaching than the rise in the popularity of “homeporting”. It was not so long ago that most people opting for a holiday afloat would have little choice but to endure a flight to and from their ship.
Apart from the cost, the consequence was often that the calm and serenity acquired by a relaxing stay on a luxury liner was brutally destroyed by the anxiety and distress of air travel.
A recent poll by the world’s largest cruise news and review website 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.
Homeporting (a word borrowed from the US) is, as the name implies, taking a cruise from your home port. 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. Last year the strikes and ash clouds compounded 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 25 percent to the total cost. Currency is also a major consideration in these days of the weak 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.”
5 Homeport Cruises
5-Night Western Europe Cruise (Bruges, Amsterdam, Paris) on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, sailing roundtrip from Southampton on 30 April, 2011. £499 per person for an outside cabin.
7-Night Norwegian Fjords Cruise on P&O Cruises’ Ventura, sailing roundtrip from Southampton on 13 May, 2011. Prices start at £549 per person for an inside cabin.
8-Night Spain and Portugal Cruise from £579 on Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca, sailing roundtrip from Liverpool on 23 April, 2011. Prices start at £579 per person for an outside cabin.
12-Night Baltic Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, sailing roundtrip from Harwich on 30 May, 2011. Prices start at £1,049 per person for an inside cabin.
14-Night Western Mediterranean Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, sailing roundtrip from Southampton on 14 May, 2011 with stops including Rome, Florence, Seville and Provence. Prices start at £1,112 per person for an inside cabin.
What would inspire you to sail from the U.K. instead of flying?
Avoiding air travel aggravation: 52.55%
Lower costs: 24.09%
Good choice of destination: 15.33%
I prefer to fly to my cruise: 8.03%
source: cruisecritic.co.uk, March 24, 2011.