Cruising from the UK

Lesley Bellew / 21 July 2017

More people than ever are choosing to take a cruise from the UK ports of Southampton and Dover, among others, and it is easy to see why.



Forget the stressful queues and long security checks at airports, say goodbye to luggage restrictions and drive straight into an easy access port terminal when taking a cruise from the UK.

The trend is catching on and the number of passengers taking advantage of starting a cruise holiday from a UK home port rose from 840,000 in 2015 to 912,000 in 2016, according to cruise industry body CLIA UK & Ireland.

Don't miss your chance to book our late availability ocean cruises! Hurry, as cabins are limited and they will soon be setting sail. Find out more here.

The benefits of cruising from the UK

Cruising from the UK has many benefits, not least the fact that you don’t have to endure the painful airport experience and a flight before you can kick back and relax. 

You can even start you holiday from the moment you leave home if you choose a cruise line that includes a chauffeur service from your front door to the ship!

Saga guests arrive in comfort with a chauffeur service from home to the port and the car stops just outside the terminal entrance. 

Luggage is loaded straight onto the ship so it’s just a matter of going to the check-in desk and through security, before stepping onto the walkway to the ship where the crew are waiting to welcome you.

On the return journey, a chauffeur is waiting to take you home so once again all luggage porterage and hassle is taken taken away. After a relaxing cruise you arrive at your front door in style.

Cruising from the UK can be particularly beneficial if you have problems flying. Whether it’s a personal preference not to or that you can’t fly for health reasons, choosing a cruise that sails from one of the UK’s many ports means you can avoid boarding a plane! 

Which also means you can take as much luggage as you like! So if you want to pack the kitchen sink, you could (not that we’d recommend it!).

Find out what's included on a Saga Cruise Find out more here.

Choice of UK cruise ports

The UK is home to a number of beautiful ports you could sail from. Here’s a short guide to the most commonly visited.

Cruising from Dover

Set against the iconic White Cliffs, sailing in and out of the Port of Dover is always a special sight with the imposing Dover Castle watching over you.

The port has two cruise terminals, the historic Grade II Listed Terminal 1 and the modern-style Terminal 2. With easy access from the M2 and M20 the port is within easy reach of London and the southern counties. 

Find out more about cruising from Dover

Cruising from Southampton

Southampton is the UK’s biggest port with four dedicated cruise terminals and the smart Queen Elizabeth II terminal has recently seen a multi-million-pound investment. 

The Westquay shopping centre houses some of the biggest names in fashion and you won't be stuck for a bite to eat in one of the City's hundreds of restaurants.

The port has easy motorway access from the M27 from the M25.

Find out more about cruising from Southampton

Cruising from Portsmouth `

Portsmouth has a smart new £16 million cruise terminal. The new £16 million passenger terminal is light and airy and is close to the M275 which leads to the port from the M3 and M27. 

Guests sailing from Portsmouth enjoy magnificent views of the Spinnaker, Southsea Castle and ships that line the Historic Dockyard including Admiral Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory.

Find out more about cruising from Portsmouth

Cruising from Liverpool

Liverpool Cruise Terminal is actually in the city and guests can walk from the ship to cafes, restaurants, bars and museums in the restored Albert Dock.

Ships moor close to the Three Graces – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building which symbolise the city’s significance as a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest influence in the 19th century. 

Road access to Merseyside is excellent from the M6 to the M56 or M62.

Find out more about cruising from Liverpool

Port of Dover seen from the White Cliffs
The Port of Dover seen from the famous White Cliffs.

Cruising from Dover

The Port of Dover is well-positioned for sailings to Norway, the Baltic, round Britain, Iceland, the Mediterranean and the Canaries.

The cruise port is the second busiest in the UK and Cruise Terminal 1, formerly the Old Marine Railway Station, is an architectural masterpiece.

After a two-year renovation which included a £10 million replacement roof, this Grade II terminal which served through two world wars now combines history with a smart, comfortable departure lounge.

Cruise Terminal 2 is a larger, modern building which was built in 2000 and from the first-floor departure lounge there are panoramic views over the harbour, the White Cliffs and Dover Castle.

The £120 million Dover Western Docks Revival is under way and the single biggest investment ever undertaken in the Port of Dover will deliver shops, bars, cafes and restaurants alongside a new marina by 2018.

Pedestrian and cycle routes will link the cruise terminals to the new development and passengers will be able to enjoy a vibrant waterfront.

The town is also receiving a facelift – the eyesore office block Burlington House has been demolished and the former Charrington’s site will soon feature a 108-room Travelodge, a six-screen Cineworld, restaurants including Frankie and Benny’s, Bella Italia and Nandos, a Next store and M&S Simply Food.

Find out about Saga's cruises departing from Dover, including cruises to Norway, Sweden, Spain and the Canary Islands.

Things to do in Dover

Dover Castle

While in Dover, visitors can take the opportunity to visit magnificent Dover Castle which served as the control centre for the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.

Dover Museum

Dover Museum, home to the Dover Bronze Age Boat, the world’s oldest known seagoing vessel, is in the centre of town and an easy walk from the cruise terminal.

Dickens trail

Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens with a short stroll from the port along Dover’s esplanade to see 10 Camden Crescent, the Georgian terrace where the author stayed in 1852 while writing Bleak House.

In 1861, Dickens stayed at the Lord Warden Hotel, in Dover, and from there enjoyed walks along the cliffs to Folkestone. Walking cliffs from South Foreland Lighthouse remains an attractive option for visitors, with further walks to St Margaret’s Bay and Kingsdown, which both boast a pub on the beach.

Walking along the White Cliffs

The White Cliffs Country is framed by sandy beaches, coves and secluded bays. Camber Sands, Broadstairs, Joss Bay and Dymchuch all feature sweeping golden sands.

From Dover, the Garden of England awaits with a landscape of orchards and hop gardens to view on short journeys to Canterbury Cathedral, Leeds Castle and Hever Castle.

How to get to Dover cruise terminals

The Port of Dover
Western Docks (Cruise Terminals)
CT17 9DQ

Dover Cruise Terminals are conveniently situated just off the A20 at the Western Docks and are clearly signposted. Car parking is available at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Directions by Road: Both the M20/A20 and M2/A2 roads link to the M25 London Orbital Motorway. The postcode for Dover cruise port is CT17 9DQ. Upon turning off the A20 for Western Docks, drive over the bridge and take the second left at the next roundabout to the cruise terminals.

Directions by Rail: Frequent, direct services operated by South Eastern Trains to Dover Priory run from London St Pancras International (journey time approx 1hr 10mins) and London Charing Cross (journey time approx 1hr 50mins). Both cruise terminals can easily be reached by taxi from Dover Priory Station.

Directions by Coach: Regular coach services run to the Dover Ferry Port (Dover Eastern Docks) from London Victoria Coach Station. Operated by National Express, journey time is approximately 2hrs 30mins. A short taxi ride from the Dover Eastern Docks to the Dover Cruise Port (Western Docks) should only take a few minutes.

Discover why Saga Cruises are the perfect holiday option for solo travellers Find out more here.

Southampton
Southampton docks.

Cruising from Southampton

Southampton is one of the UK’s busiest deep-water ports and recent investment has transformed the Queen Elizabeth II Terminal so passengers can breeze through the clean, bright terminal in comfort.

The state-of-the-art building has a sheltered drop-off area, a new layout to aid passenger flow through check-in and an enlarged security x-ray area.

Within the larger baggage hall is a huge lift, creating a step-free alternative to stairs and the escalator, plus a new ship-to-shore walkway.

Passengers sailing from Southampton will find the city is a vibrant hub for leisure and shopping. Just along from the WestQuay Shopping Centre which houses 150 shops including a John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, is the WestQuay Watermark with a 10-screen cinema, Hollywood Bowl and around 20 restaurants including Byron, Five Guys, Bill’s Restaurant and Jamie’s Italian.

A new public plaza is also planned to open views of the city’s medieval walls and unite Southampton’s Old Town with the newer developments. Southampton also has a Cultural Quarter with restaurants, cafes and bars around Guildhall Square. Studio 144, a £25 million arts complex is due to open in 2017.

Find out about Saga's cruises departing from Southampton, including cruises to the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Canary Islands.

Things to do in Southampton

Walk the Walls

Visitors can pick up echoes of the Southampton’s past by following Walk the Walls signs from the Bargate, the 12th century entrance to the Southampton. Around half the original medieval walls survive making the walls second only to York in the UK.

Pass through the Westgate and follow the path of Henry V who left Southampton for the battlefields of Agincourt in 1415. Two hundred years later, in 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers set off for the New World.

Solent Sky Museum

The term ‘airport’ originated from Southampton because the port played a major part in the early days of aviation. With sea planes taking off and touching down on Southampton Water, it was no longer just a sea port, it was an air-port.

The story of those days is told in the Solent Sky Museum and dominating the space is the huge Beachcomber, the last of the giant flying boats that flew on week-long flights to all corners of the British Empire.

Much smaller, but even more important is the Spitfire. The iconic war plane was developed and produced at the Supermarine factory in Southampton.

Seacity Museum

Most of RMS Titanic’s crew were from Southampton and the scale of the loss is displayed with a wall of cards. The ship sailed from Southampton on April 10, 1912 en route for New York and after hitting an iceberg only 710 of the 2,214 on board survived.

How to get to Southampton cruise terminals

Mayflower Cruise Terminal
Berth 106
Dock Gate 10
Southampton
SO15 1HJ

City Cruise Terminal
Western Docks
Southampton
SO15 1BS

Ocean Cruise Terminal
Berth 46/47
Cunard Road
Southampton
SO14 3QN

QEII Cruise Terminal
Berth 38/39
Dock Gate 4
Southampton
SO14 3GG

Directions by road: From Winchester, London and the North and West – Use the M3 (South) signposted Southampton, then the M27 (West) signposted Bournemouth, the West, Southampton Docks.

From Portsmouth, Brighton, Guildford – Use the A3 or A27 to join the M27 (West) From Bournemouth and the West – follow the A31 to join the M27 (East) and from Bristol and Salisbury follow the A36 (South) to join the M27 (East) at junction 2.

Leave the M27 at junction 3 (signposted Southampton Docks M271) and follow the M271 spur until the end of the motorway (approx 2 miles). At the roundabout follow the signs for the Waterfront for approximately three miles and then follow the signpost for Dock Gates 10 and 4 which will appear on the right hand side. Follow signs for Dock Gate 10. Once inside the dock complex turn left to proceed to the City Cruise Terminal or turn right for the Mayflower Cruise. Car parking is available opposite the terminals.

Directions by rail: Frequent, direct services operated by Southern Trains to Southampton Central run from London Waterloo and London Victoria (journey time approx. 1hr 30mins if taking a fast train). If travelling from the West, services operated by First Great Western and South West Trains require you to change, normally at Reading. All cruise terminals can easily be reached by taxi from Southampton Central Station at a cost of between £6 - £11.

Directions by coach: Regular coach services run to Southampton Coach Station from London Victoria and number of stations in the West. Operated by National Express, journey times vary depending on the departing station. When coming from London Victoria, you can expect the journey to take approx. 2hr 30mins. All cruise terminals can easily be reached by taxi from Southampton Bus Station at a cost of between £6 - £11.

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HMS Victory
HMS Victory at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, flagship of the Royal Navy and captained by Admiral Nelson © mary416 / Shutterstock.com.

Cruising from Portsmouth

As well as importing most of the bananas eaten in the UK, the Portsmouth Cruise and Ferry Port has grown from small beginnings to become an impressive cruise terminal.

The new £16 million terminal is light and airy and offers a personal touch that many passengers appreciate. It also has the advantage of being close to the M275 which leads straight onto the M3 and M27.

For cruise passengers, sailing in and out to Portsmouth offers memorable views including Southsea Castle, where Henry VIII is said to have watched as the Mary Rose sank in 1545 during a battle with the French.

HMS Victory and HMS Warrior are lined up alongside Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and can also be seen from the cruise ship so passengers should ensure they are out on deck on sail-aways and when sailing in.

The new Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to be berthed in Portsmouth in 2017. She will be an amazing sight, with a huge flight deck, and cruise ships will be passing within a few hundred metres. Her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales will follow in 2018.

Passengers who decide to arrive early or stay in Portsmouth after their cruise will find the city is brimming with maritime attractions.

Find out about Saga's cruises departing from Portsmouth, including cruises to Continental Europe, The Canary Islands and South Africa.

Things to do in Portsmouth

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to some of the most important sea vessels in British naval history.

Mary Rose

After a multi-million-pound investment the Mary Rose reopened in 2016 to allow visitors to get closer to the 16th century ship. She can now be viewed from nine galleries through floor-to-ceiling glazing on the lower and main decks.

HMS Victory

Celebrated warship HMS Victory underwent her biggest change in 2016 with a new visitor route to enable visitors to ‘follow’ Admiral Lord Nelson, as HMS Victory embarks on her defining voyage to Cape Trafalgar.

The ship has been gloriously returned to her Georgian heyday and visitors can watch the drama of the battle unfold, deck-by-deck, hour by hour, as the ship sets sail on September 14, 1805.

HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior was launched in 1860 and is the only surviving member of Queen Victoria’s Black Battle Fleet. Powered by steam and sail, she was the largest, fastest and most powerful ship of her day.

She was built in response to the French frigate La Gloria, the first armoured warship, and is recognised as one of the Royal Navy’s most historically important warships.

HMS M.33

HMS M.33 is a unique survivor. Launched in May 1915, she is the last remaining British veteran of the World War One Gallipoli campaign. The ship sits in No.1 Dock alongside HMS Victory and visitors start their tour with a six-metre descent into the bottom of the dock before stepping aboard.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy

The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) is also within the Dockyard and devoted to the ships of the Royal Navy and the men and women who served onboard. Visitors can discover how the Royal Navy helped shape the modern world through stories of courage and determination, enterprise and endeavour, heroism and sacrifice.

Royal Navy Submarine Museum

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum is on the site of the submarine service’s 20th century base, on the Gosport side of Portsmouth Harbour. It is home to the Royal Navy’s first submarine Holland 1 and the only surviving Second World War-era submarines in the UK, the mighty HMS Alliance and midget X24.

The Royal Marines Museum

The Royal Marines Museum is in the Officers’ Mess of the former Royal Marines Barracks in Southsea, Portsmouth. The seafront museum explores the history of the Royal Marines from their start in 1664 as Sea Soldiers through to 21st century operations around the world.

Ben Ainslie Racing Team

Portsmouth is the base for the America’s Cup World Series and passengers can see the Ben Ainslie Racing Team out on the water most days, practising off Southsea. It is a wonderful sight when they get on the foils and speed along at 30 knots. The Ben Ainslie visitors centre is at The Camber Quay, so cruise passengers can take a look and see the new carbon fibre boat racing yacht which weighs less than a tonne.

Emirates Spinnaker Tower

The Emirates Spinnaker Tower is a beautiful place to relax by the harbour entrance and watch the warships, tankers, ferries, cruise ships and yachts go by. On a clear day, across the Solent, visitors can see the whole of the Isle of Wight.

How to get to Portsmouth cruise terminal

Porstmouth International Port
George Byng Way
Portsmouth
PO2 8SP

Directions by road: From Winchester, London and the North and West – Use the M3 (South) signposted Southampton, then the M27 (West) signposted Bournemouth, the West, Southampton Docks.

Leave the M27 at junction 3 (signposted Southampton Docks M271) and follow the M271 spur until the end of the motorway (approx 2 miles). At the roundabout follow the signs for the Waterfront for approximately three miles and then follow the signpost for Dock Gates 10 and 4 which will appear on the right hand side. Follow signs for Dock Gate 10. Once inside the dock complex turn left to proceed to the City Cruise Terminal or turn right for the Mayflower Cruise. Car parking is available opposite the terminals.

Directions by rail: Frequent, direct services operated by Southern Trains to Southampton Central run from London Waterloo and London Victoria (journey time approx. 1hr 30mins if taking a fast train). If travelling from the West, services operated by First Great Western and South West Trains require you to change, normally at Reading. All cruise terminals can easily be reached by taxi from Southampton Central Station at a cost of between £6 - £11.

Directions by coach: Regular coach services run to Southampton Coach Station from London Victoria and number of stations in the West. Operated by National Express, journey times vary depending on the departing station. When coming from London Victoria, you can expect the journey to take approx. 2hr 30mins. All cruise terminals can easily be reached by taxi from Southampton Bus Station at a cost of between £6 - £11.

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The Three Graces on Liverpool's waterfront
The Three Graces on Liverpool's waterfront, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cruising from Liverpool

At the mouth of the River Mersey, where it meets the Irish Sea, Liverpool played an important role in the growth of the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries and is now recognised by UNESCO as a Maritime Mercantile City.

By the late 19th Century, 40% of the world’s trade was passing through Liverpool’s docks and the World Heritage Site stretches along the waterfront from Albert Dock, through the Pier Head to Stanley Dock and the RopeWalks area to St George’s Quarter.

During the sail-away from Liverpool Cruise Terminal passengers can admire the historic skyline of buildings, including the Three Graces; The Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building which symbolise the city’s significance as a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest influence.

The cruise terminal on Princes Parade is a few steps from Albert Dock, once an important store for valuable cargoes such as brandy, cotton, tea, silk, tobacco, ivory and sugar.

Things to do in Liverpool

Albert Dock

Albert Dock now makes a beautiful backdrop for a quayside stroll with restaurants, galleries and museums including The Beatles Story, dedicated to the Fab Four which follows John, Paul, George and Ringo from their early beginnings to Beatlemania and beyond.

Magical Mystery Tour

Fans of The Beatles will also find Albert Dock is the starting point for the Magical Mystery Tour, a two-hour bus ride taking in landmarks such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. The National Trust also runs a joint tour of the childhood homes of John Lennon (Mendips) and Paul McCartney (20 Forthlin Road).

The Cavern Club

Visitors to Liverpool can also visit the Cavern Club which remains one of the city’s top music venues. The Beatles played there nearly 300 times and live music continues to be played every day of the week.

Further key attractions, all within a stone’s throw of each other, are the Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum.

Tate Liverpool

Tate Liverpool is the home of the National Collection of Modern Art in the north and has a changing programme of exhibitions. In recent years artists featured have included Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, René Magritte and Claude Monet.

The gallery also offers large displays of work of artists L.S. Lowry, Marcel Duchamp, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and William Blake.

Merseyside Maritime Museum

Boats, paintings, ship models and shipwrecked objects bring Liverpool’s nautical history to life at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. As well as discovering the city's pivotal role as the gateway to the New World there are exhibitions on the World War Two Battle of the Atlantic. Visitors can also book a tour of the Old Dock, the world’s first commercial enclosed wet dock, and during the summer months, the Edmund Gardner pilot ship.

Museum of Liverpool

The funky Museum of Liverpool is the largest newly-built national museum in Britain. The distinctive Danish-designed building showcases 6,000 objects that highlight Liverpool’s heritage and achievements from its earliest days through to pop culture and the 21st century. Exhibits include the first Ford Anglia from Ford’s Halewood car production line and Chris Boardman’s Lotus sport bike.

How to get to Liverpool Cruise Terminal

Liverpool Cruise Terminal
Gate 2
Princes Parade
Liverpool
L3 1DL

Directions by road: From Manchester take the M62 to Liverpool. From Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent and the South take the M6 until Junction 21A and join the M62. Follow the M62 to Bowring Park Road/A5080 and follow the signs to the city centre and waterfront. Once you reach the Liver Building the cruise terminal should be visible.

Directions by rail: Liverpool Cruise Terminal is a 20 minute walk or five minute taxi journey from Liverpool Lime Street, Liverpool’s main station, with good connections and regular trains to and from Manchester, London, Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Directions by coach: National Express coaches run from Leeds, Manchester and London to Liverpool ONE Paradise Street Bus Station, a 15 minute walk or five minute taxi ride to the Cruise Terminal. Megabus also provides coaches to the Paradise Street Bus Station from a variety of cities across the UK.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.